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Academy Apologizes, Disney Drops Snow White-Oscars Suit

April 7, 1989 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The movie family squabble over a song-and-dance routine by a Snow White lookalike at the Oscars ceremony ended amicably Thursday with an apology and Walt Disney Co.’s withdrawal of a lawsuit.

Shortly after Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences president Richard Kahn released a statement of apology, Disney announced it was withdrawing its federal trademark infringement suit filed a week earlier.

″The academy sincerely apologizes to Disney for the unauthorized use of Disney’s copyrighted Snow White character and for unintentionally creating the impression that Disney had participated in or sanctioned the opening production number on the Academy Awards telecast,″ said Kahn.

Disney alleged in its lawsuit that Oscar producers lacked permission to use the Disney fairy tale character.

In agreeing to drop the lawsuit, Disney said there will be ″an appropriate court stipulation in which the academy agrees not to reuse the segment ... featuring Disney’s Snow White for any purpose.″

″Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs″ was released by Disney in 1937 and was the studio’s first feature-length animated cartoon. Critics praised the film, calling it a turning point in Disney’s career and a milestone in movie history.

The spoof was created by Steve Silver, producer of the camp ″Beach Blanket Babylon″ revue which moved this week from Club Fugazi in San Francisco to Las Vegas. Disney is also unhappy with that production, which includes a Snow White character played by the same actress.

″We haven’t ignored it. We’ve had discussions and that’s all I can really say,″ said Erwin Okun, corporate spokesman for Disney. No lawsuits have been filed against Silver so far, he said.

The Oscars broadcast, seen in an estimated 27 million American homes, began with actress Eileen Bowman, dressed as Snow White, following a chorus line of dancing stars into the Shrine Auditorium.

In a squeaky Betty Boop voice, Bowman then launched into a rendition of ″We Only Have Stars for You,″ to the tune of ″I Only Have Eyes for You.″ She also sang a rendition of ″Proud Mary″ with actor Rob Lowe.

″We pride ourselves on our meticulousness in obtaining the proper legal clearances for all music, film and other material used on our show and regret that we didn’t do it with Disney,″ Kahn said in his apology.

Oscars producer Allan Carr called the disputed opening number ″magical,″ but media critics assailed what was seen as an orgy of overindulgence.