The family that owns the rights to cartoon characters Alvin and the Chipmunks filed a $105-million lawsuit Monday against Universal Studios, claiming it failed to adequately license products based on Alvin and his singing friends.
The suit, filed in Superior Court in Los Angeles, alleges Universal executives told members of Chipmunks creator Ross Bagdasarian Sr.'s family that the studio would make Alvin, Theodore and Simon (the Chipmunks) “a cornerstone” of the company’s various endeavors.
But the suit said studio executives only wanted rights to a Chipmunks movie that was being talked about with director Robert Zemeckis in the mid-1990s as many previous licensing deals for rights to the Chipmunks began expiring.
The suit asserts that Universal vowed to promote the Chipmunks within all divisions, which include a movie studio, theme parks, home video and various other product groups, but failed to do so.
Based on its promises, the Bagdasarian family sold a 35% ownership interest in the Chipmunks for about $12.5 million to Universal in exchange for the exclusive right to license the Chipmunks.
“After development of the Zemeckis film was halted, Universal had no further interest in distributing, licensing or otherwise exploiting the Chipmunks and thereafter intentionally buried the Chipmunks in lieu of other properties,” the suit said.
A spokeswoman for Universal Studios said the company as a routine matter does not comment on pending litigation.