In a viral TikTok, a creator famous for his replica of Lightning McQueen from the Disney Pixar movie Cars claims that he’s being sued by the Walt Disney Company. While some users are outraged by the allegation, others think it may be a prank.
The video, which has a whopping 8.6 million views, was posted on April 1 by Lightning McQueen creator Nine Five Garage (@ninefivegarage). Nine Five Garage is named after the “95” on the side of Lightning McQueen, a fictional character from the Disney Pixar movie Cars.
The fan account is run by a man obsessed with the movie, who has designed and created a real-life car version of Lightning McQueen. Nine Five Garage has been posting videos about his Lightning McQueen replica since 2020, and has amassed over 1.3 million followers.
But now, the creator claims he received a letter in the mail saying he is being sued by the Walt Disney Company.
“Some of you warned me about this when I started this journey a year and a half ago. Like, ‘Aren’t you afraid of upsetting the mouse?’ I was like, ‘They have bigger fish to fry than me.’ But viral hit after viral hit and a year later I somehow have the biggest Lightning McQueen themed account in the world. Which is cool but now I gotta deal with stuff like this,” the creator says in his video.
“Basically, Disney doesn’t like my car, they say it too closely resembles their intellectual property so I got to figure out what to do about it. I just want to get back to making content for you guys,” he explains.
He then says that fans who want to help fund his legal defense should donate to their favorite charity in the name of Lightning McQueen instead, because the creator is “not in this for the money.”
However, it’s not totally clear if the lawsuit announcement is a prank. Since the video was posted on April Fool’s Day, with #AprilFools in its caption, many viewers speculated it is just a joke.
“Wait is this April fools?” one user commented.
“Read the last hashtag,” another responded.
The creator has not responded to comments saying the video was a prank.
Artists are legally allowed to build designs based on copyrighted movie characters. However, if they sell their designs without permission or extensively use creative capital, it’s possible they can be sued, according to the Harvard Business Review. This law could apply to creators who grow large social media followings and make money based on their fan adaptations.
In a follow-up video posted over a week later, Nine Five Garage said viewers suggested he change small things about the car in order to keep posting videos—like altering the numbers on its side, its name, shape of its eyes, stickers, and so on.
“One of you suggested I re-name it. So from now on, this is not Lightning McQueen, just to be clear,” the creator said in the video. “This is now Thunder McKing.”
Although it appears the lawsuit might not be real, some users were nevertheless angry at Disney.
“Disney really out here going after cars in cosplay,” one user commented.
“Disney, a billion dollar company, is really going after some random dude,” another replied.
“They were caught stealing a [TikToker’s] art and are trying to get away with it but do this,” a third responded.
Disney has faced multiple accusations of stealing designs from fan artists. In 2019, a YouTuber accused Disney’s Marvel Studios of stealing Star Wars fan art. And in a viral TikTok posted in February, a sculptor said that Disney stole his fan art, pointing out strikingly similar details between his work and merchandise being sold at Disney World.
According to the sculptor, he was allowed to create the fan art based on a Creative Commons License so long as he did not sell it, according to reporting by the Daily Dot.
The Daily Dot reached out to Nine Five Garage and the Walt Disney Company for comment via email.