As the Walt Disney Company gears up to expand 20th Century Studios and Blue Sky’s Ice Age with a Disney+ Series, it will do so without the IP’s arguably most iconic character: Scrat.
The reason: A copyright and trademark battle that spans the entirety of the computer-animated period.
It appears that artist Ivy Silberstein originally created the nut-crazed character in 1999 and began fighting for recognition and rights since 2002, claiming that the prehistoric-looking sabretoothed squirrel was actually a half-squirrel, half-rat hybrid she drew and began marketing. On January 28, 2022, Silberstein announced her victory by tweeting a picture of her holding her trademark certifications, declaring, “No #Scrat in #Disney #IceAge 6!”
No #Scrat in #Disney #IceAge 6
Thank You @WaltDisneyCo @abigaildisney for Respecting My Trademarks & Character#Sqrat I Created May 19, 1999. 20 Years Ago March 12, 2002 The First Ice Age Released, it's been a 20 Year Fight! I WON! https://t.co/kqanxC0YkI https://t.co/ptM6UgfqJ7 pic.twitter.com/MHq39xOBex
— IVY SUPERSONIC (@IWantJustice) January 28, 2022
According to an article tagged in the tweet that was originally published November 10, 2020, Siberstein’s fight began as follows:
It all started as a drawing of a squirrel-rat hybrid animal she created in Madison Square Park.
“It was my child and they kidnapped it,” Silberstein said.
Soon after, Silberstein started creating merchandise for the weird creature, which got noticed by Fox News in March 2000. She was ready to start promoting her new character, when in March 2002 “Ice Age” debuted and Sqrat was on the screen.
“They stole my cartoon because they could,” Silberstein said. “I had a problem with my trademark and when you sue someone, you’re suing for intellectual property which is the trademark.”
Silberstein’s initial trademark was accidentally abandoned by her lawyer in March 2001. They realized the incident in November 2001, but couldn’t get the trademark reinstated. Silberstein had to start all over again and file for a new trademark.
The mishandling of the trademark led her to file a lawsuit against then-20th Century Fox for copyright infringement.
On July 1, 2003, a judge ruled that she and Fox were equal owners. But she continued fighting and was able to trademark the name “Sqrat” in June 2012.
Flash-forward to October 2019. Disney and Fox come together in the historic acquisition merger. As the new conglomerate sorted through the treasure trove of additional IPs, Siblerstein’s fight came to their attention, and they asked if she would like to settle. The two parties came to an agreement, and Scrat/Sqrat’s original creator received her principal trademark on July 7, 2020.
Related: Everything coming to Disney+ in February 2022
Bringing it back to the present-day (January 31, 2022), Disney elected to develop and release Blue Sky Studios’ Ice Age story with The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild on Disney+, making this the first installment of the Ice Age saga without Scrat.
Since the first teaser trailer of its first movie, the Ice Age saga has always led with Scrat/Sqrat. Theaters around the world erupted in childish laughter as the poor squirrel produced the purest slapstick physical comedy as he struggled to find one place he deemed a safe enough place to bury his acorn. Only time will tell if Manny, Sid, Diego, and the other characters can hold their own without him.
The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild is now available for streaming on Disney+ with Simon Pegg voicing the title character. Ray Romano and Queen Latifa did not return to reprise their mammoth roles.
Related: Confirmed: “Percy Jackson” Series Green-lit for Disney+
It will be interesting to see how Ivy Silberstein’s copyright win will have a ripple effect across the motion picture industry.