Frozen Was Once Sued for $250M As Woman Claimed Disney Plagiarized Her Life Story

Frozen Was Once Sued for $250M As Woman Claimed Disney Plagiarized Her Life Story
Image credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Some writers have to justify themselves and explain that they did not steal anything. Screenwriters who wrote the plot of a hit movie have to do this especially often.


  • The idea for Frozen originated in the 1940s, when Walt Disney wanted to adapt Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, but work on the script did not begin until 2011.
  • Isabella Tanikumi sued Disney for $250 million for plagiarizing her 2010 memoir, Yearnings of the Heart, which chronicles Isabella's relationship with her sister, who tragically died.
  • The court considered the claim, but dismissed it because both works used common plot devices and topics.

Back in 1940, Walt Disney had the idea to create an animation based on the fairy tale The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen. But Disney animators couldn't adapt the character of the evil queen for modern audiences – they felt that the story about initially bad character would not be successful. In 2000, the studio became interested in the project again, and in 2011, work on the film began.

History of Frozen Plot Creation

The project was first called Anna and the Snow Queen, where Elsa was conceived as a negative character and Anna was a prototype of Gerda from the original fairy tale. However, the Disney team did not like the original script, and after much selection and deliberation, it was decided to make Anna and Elsa sisters.

The main task of the team was to come up with a fascinating story with an educational and fairytale ending. But at first, the whole plot resembled a rather dark adventure for a children's audience.

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Elsa freezes Anna's heart, kidnaps her from the wedding, separates her from Hans and wants to attack the city with an army of snowmen. Because of all this, Anna suffers, the viewers sympathize with her, and Elsa... Well, Elsa is still an incorrigible villain.

We already know what happened with the final version of the plot – after numerous rewrites, Elsa became a vulnerable girl held hostage by a great gift, while Anna became straightforward, honest, and lived with love for the world and the people around her.

Isabella Tamikumi Sued Disney for Plagiarism

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In 2014, Isabella Tanikumi bought Frozen and arranged a family viewing with her daughter. Isabella grew up in Peruvian Alps next to her sister, who died tragically – the girl was hit by a drunk driver. Isabella described her life story in the book Yearnings of the Heart, published in 2010.

The longer Isabella watched, the more it seemed to her that the animation was based on her own memoirs; in both works there were two sisters, a close friendship between the two, and the death of one of them. Isabella saw Frozen and filed a lawsuit for $250 million.

The court examined the claim, took it seriously, and concluded that the two works share only common plot devices and topics. And even though both the animation and the book contain a strong bond between sisters, untrue love, and the fact that the main character solves her problems without the help of men, copyright law does not apply to such cases.