Bill Nye, the TV personality known to his fans as the "Science Guy," is suing Walt Disney Co., claiming that the entertainment giant improperly held onto millions of dollars in profits related to his popular TV series that ran in the 1990s on PBS and in national syndication.
In the complaint filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Nye claims that Disney's Buena Vista Television engaged in questionable Hollywood accounting over the series "Bill Nye, the Science Guy," and has failed to cooperate with Nye's numerous attempts to audit the earnings of the show.
Buena Vista Television struck a deal to distribute, market and promote the series starting in 1993, according to the suit. Under the deal, Nye and his partners were entitled to 50% of net profits from the series.
Nye alleges that Disney swindled him and the other owners of the show out of no less than $28.1 million. Nye himself is owed at least $9.4 million, the suit states.
A Buena Vista Television spokesperson said in a statement: "This lawsuit is a publicity ploy and we look forward to vigorously defending it."
"Bill Nye, the Science Guy" ran for five seasons from 1993-98. Some of its episodes are still available for viewing on platforms including Netflix and iTunes. The series became a popular educational tool, shown in grade school classrooms around the country.
Nye claims that he was prompted to reexamine his earnings from the series in 2008, after Buena Vista Television sent him a notice that revised downward his profit participation for the previous calendar year, from $585,123 to $496,111.
The error left Nye "suspicious of the veracity of the accounting statements he had been receiving from Buena Vista Television over the years," according to the suit. Moreover, Nye claims, Disney asked him to repay money to the company or allow it to deduct from his future earnings.
Nye alleges that Burbank-based Disney failed to act in good faith to resolve the matter and later obstructed his numerous attempts to conduct an audit of the series between 2013 and 2017.
Nye's partners on the show include the Seattle PBS affiliate KCTS-TV, Rabbit Ears Productions as well as producers James McKenna and Erren Gottlieb, according to the complaint.
The TV personality is accusing Disney of improperly concealing money and breaching its fiduciary duty and contract with the owners of the series. He is seeking a return of profits as well as damages.
4:40 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from Buena Vista Television.