January 25, 2010 / 8:10 AM / 9 years ago

The Sundance movie no lawyer should see

PARK CITY, Utah (Hollywood Reporter) - Imagine a film copyright-clearance lawyer’s absolute worst nightmare. It could look something like “Logorama,” an Oscar-shortlisted animated short that screened at the Sundance Film Festival.

French filmmakers Francois Alaux, Herve de Crecy and Ludovic Houplain spent four years creating a violent, profane, action-packed caper set in a world comprised entirely of well-known corporate logos and iconic mascots.

How familiar are the stars? An evil Ronald McDonald goes on a shooting spree on a street overflowing with 7-Elevens and U-Hauls and Wal-Marts and Pizza Huts. The Michelin Men are bumbling, foul-mouthed cops on his trail. Bob’s Big Boy picks his nose and flings it on an unsuspecting victim.

The entertaining 17-minute ride effectively satirizes the global corporate culture and our scary familiarity with the tools of pervasive marketing. But why has no lawyer for any of the hundreds of copyrights and trademarks featured in the film tried to shut it down? After the screening, two of the filmmakers were asked if any brands had attempted to stop it.

“Not yet,” they answered, a bit nervously. “We hope there’s no CEO of McDonald’s here tonight.”

It’s an interesting legal question. The film is clearly satire, and a casual viewer can tell the brands are used to send up corporate oversaturation. But considering the millions of dollars invested in a character like Ronald McDonald, seeing him dropping f-bombs on a murderous rampage made us wonder whether the satire crossed over into disparagement.

The movie’s audience has been so small, it’s probably not on the agenda in corporate boardrooms, but that could change if it wins the best animated short at the Academy Awards in March. Who knows, maybe the in-house lawyers will play along with the joke. The filmmakers said they heard from one brand executive who was just happy that his company’s logo was featured prominently in the center of town.

It’s unlikely that executive was a lawyer.

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