Editor’s note: This article was originally published July 29, 2013
Austin singer-songwriter Eliza Gilkyson and her two siblings are suing the Walt Disney Co., claiming they’re not being paid royalties for a well-known song penned by their late father.
Terry Gilkyson wrote "The Bare Necessities," which is prominently featured in Disney’s "The Jungle Book," according to the suit filed in Travis County District Court. He died in 1999.
The animated classic grossed $140 million at box offices worldwide when it was released in 1967, court documents indicate, and the song was nominated for an Academy Award.
The deal with Disney, signed in 1963, called for Terry Gilkyson to get a "modest" one-time payment of $1,000, as well as royalties, the suit alleges.
Disney hasn’t paid Eliza, Nancy and Tony Gilkyson, Terry Gilkyson’s heirs, all the royalties they claim they’re entitled to receive, according to the lawsuit. Those include royalties for a 2007 re-release that has reportedly sold an estimated 4 million DVDs, resulting in "substantial profits."
The suit does not list the specific amount of royalties the Gilkysons believe they’re entitled to receive.
A Blu-Ray version of "The Jungle Book" is expected to hit stores next year, the suit says, and "on information and belief, Disney does not plan to pay Terry (or his heirs) any royalties from the sale of the film on Blu-Ray."
"This case is important for all songwriters who feel powerless at the hands of big corporations like Disney," Alan Milstein, one of the lawyers handling the case for the Gilkyson family, told the American-Statesman. "Disney has sold millions of recordings of Terry’s work and needs to honor the spirit of the agreement they drafted and had him sign."
The Walt Disney Co. did not respond to a message seeking comment on the lawsuit.
In addition to "The Bare Necessities," DVDs sold as part of the 2007 re-release include several additional "Jungle Book" songs written by Terry Gilkyson – packaged as special features – that ultimately weren’t included in the finished film. Royalties are due for those tunes, as well, the Gilkysons’ attorneys argue.
"Despite the fact that ‘The Jungle Book’ DVD contains all or substantially all of the ‘Jungle Book’ songs in audio-only form; contains two instrumental versions of ‘The Bare Necessities’ in audio-only form; and contains ‘The Bare Necessities,’ which can be played and replayed by purchasers and their children to their hearts’ delight, Disney has failed to pay Terry (or his heirs) any mechanical or other per-unit royalties from the sale of the DVDs," the suit says.
The suit, which alleges breach of contract, unjust enrichment and breach of fiduciary duty, seeks payment of all royalties, punitive damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, court costs and attorneys’ fees. A trial date has not been set.
Well-known to fans of the Americana and folk genres, Eliza Gilkyson has toured with Patty Griffin and Mary Chapin Carpenter, has performed on the "Austin City Limits" TV show, and was inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame.