Bill Nye, of the popular TV alter ego the Science Guy, has been given the green light to take his case against Walt Disney Co. for $28 million in damages to a jury trial.
A judge in Los Angeles County Superior Court ruled that a 10-day trial would take place in May, when Nye can bring his claims that Disney improperly held on to millions of dollars in profits from his popular 1990s TV show that ran on PBS and in national syndication.
The dispute is the latest in a string of high-profile profit participation cases winding through the Los Angeles courts.
The case dates to 2017, when Nye filed suit against Disney, alleging that he and the other owners of the show were shortchanged and questioning Disney’s Buena Vista Television accounting over the series.
Buena Vista Television struck a deal to distribute, market and promote the series starting in 1993, according to the suit. Nye and his partners say that under the deal, they were entitled to 50% of net profits from the series and allege the Burbank-based studio shortchanged them by $28.1 million. Nye claims he personally is owed at least $9.4 million, according to filings.
“Bill Nye the Science Guy” ran for five seasons, from 1993 to 1998. The series became a popular educational tool in grade schools nationally. Some of its episodes were still available on Netflix until earlier this year.
The other partners on the show include the Seattle PBS affiliate KCTS-TV, Rabbit Ears Productions and producers James McKenna and Erren Gottlieb, according to the complaint.
Nye’s attorneys said they welcomed the opportunity to litigate parts of the case at trial and recover damages for Nye and his fellow producers.
“It is our hope that this case, which Disney has fought so hard to stall, will finally shine some light upon the improper accounting practices that Disney utilizes to unjustly deprive profit participants, like our clients, of their fair share of revenues from the programming that they work so hard to create,” the law firm Hamrick & Evans said in a statement.
Disney, and its attorneys, declined to comment.