LONDON - Children's author Alan Davidson is suing Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks studio for damages, saying it stole his story for the 2000 animated film "Chicken Run."
Davidson argues that the movie, produced by DreamWorks and animators Peter Lord and Nick Park, infringed on a copyright protecting "Escape From Cold Ditch," his children's tale of a hen that leads an escape from a chicken farm.
The author claims the movie, credited to Lord and Park, infringes on his moral right to be identified as the author.
DreamWorks and Lord's Aardman Animations, based in Bristol, are named as the main defendants in papers filed Tuesday at Lewes County Court in southern England. The papers point to a number of similarities between the film and the book, published in 1995.
"We deny that there is any basis whatsoever for Mr. Davidson's claim and we intend to defend the litigation," said a spokesman for Aardman, where Park animated "Chicken Run" and the "Wallace & Gromit" films.
DreamWorks in Los Angeles did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment Thursday.
Davidson, who lives near Hartfield south of London, refused comment Thursday, but a family spokesman said the lawsuit "is a matter of principle and honesty."
Both stories feature a rebellious hen who leads her clucking friends in a World War II-style breakout across fields and barbed wire.
Davidson's title is a play on Colditz Castle, where the Germans held Allied prisoners during World War II.
"According to Nick Park ... when Park and Lord pitched the idea to DreamWorks in January 1996, `all we had was this one joke: an escape movie with chickens,'" the court papers assert.
"When the defendants released `Chicken Run' ... however, they had much more - they had a story strikingly similar to `Escape From Cold Ditch,'" the papers say.