Copycat movie? Filmmaker denies knocking off Pixar's 'Cars'

The Chinese movie poster for "The Autobots," left, and the Chinese-language movie poster for Pixar's "Cars 2."

Story highlights

  • Poster for new Chinese animation resembles Pixar's "Cars"
  • Director says animation is original and he has never watched "Cars"
  • Disney, which owns Pixar, says it shares movie goers' concerns

Beijing (CNN)Is this poster promoting the Chinese edition of animated movie "Cars"? No. But some say it's a knock-off.

Critics and disappointed movie goers say a newly-released Chinese animation is a copy of Pixar's hit film franchise, but the filmmaker and production company have denied the accusations, insisting it is "independently produced" and an "original" film.
"I know of the movie 'Cars', but I have never seen it. I don't even know the names of its characters," Zhuo Jianrong, director of the movie and executive director of the film production company, said when reached by CNN.
    In the movie poster of "The Autobots," released in theaters on July 4, the race car protagonist closely resembles that in the 2006 and 2011 "Cars" movies. The Chinese title of the movie is similar too to that used by "Cars."
    Disappointed and angry viewers took to the Internet, saying the movie "shamelessly" copied "Cars".
    On Douban, a Chinese social media website allowing users to score and review movies, it received an average of 2.1 points by around 3,900 viewers on a five point scale.
    "Many innocent movie goers took their kids to the movie theater, believing it to be 'Cars'," Douban user 501 commented.
    "The animation was so poorly made that it is no match for the average domestic cartoon series, and far worse than its not-so-good poster."
    A spokeswoman for Disney, which owns Pixar, said: "We share the same concerns as many netizens and movie fans in China but have no further comment at this stage."

    Denial

    Zhuo told CNN the cars in his movie were imitations of toy cars and have been copyrighted.
    "Aren't the cars you see in the street similar?" he asked, adding that this is his first animation work.
    "If somebody else looks like you, does that person violate the laws?"
    Zhuo, who is vocal on Chinese social media, says his critics are too harsh on a domestic film production.
    "We hope people can be more tolerant, as Chinese animation just started not long ago, and is nowhere near the Hollywood productions," he said. "I can only say we learned from Disney, but we would never copy."
    Zhuo said that his company had received legal letters from the Walt Disney Company, which owns Pixar. Disney declined to comment on whether it had sent the letters.
    He added that his production company has responded with evidence that "The Autobots" isn't a copycat.
    "The main storyline of our move is completely different than Disney's," he said. "Our goal is to teach children about thinking and innovation."