Disputes on a newly-released Chinese animated film, which critics claim plagiarizes a hit Pixar film, have escalated following heated online statements between the filmmaker and Net users.
The Chinese animated feature, The Autobots, aired on Friday and produced by a Fujian-based animation company, created an uproar for allegedly plagiarizing the Walt Disney film, Cars.
Netizens said the race car characters, the Chinese title and the film's posters are strikingly similar to those in Cars.
Some netizens also quoted a Japanese news program, Sukkiri, which said the Chinese film could be a copycat.
The Global Times tried to reach the film director Zhuo Jianrong Wednesday. His assistant said "Zhuo has disconnected himself from the Internet and has moved to the mountains."
The company denied the allegations on Sunday and said in a statement that its film was "produced independently" and "has no similarity to any likeness or trademark of any other film."
However, it failed to convince people who criticized the filmmaker with hundreds of thousands of comments on his personal Sina Weibo page.
Zhuo then said on his Weibo, "which part did you say I copied? Can you give me a report on the items I copied from?" He slammed netizens who quoted a Japanese news program as "traitors."
Zhuo later apologized for his "angry" response in an interview on Tuesday with the Nandu Daily and said that box office receipts of 4.6 million yuan ($741,060) as of Tuesday were below expectations.
In an interview with CNN, Zhuo said that he never saw the movie Cars and his movie has a copyright. "Aren't the cars you see in the streets similar? If somebody else looks like you, does that person violate the law?" he asked.
A spokeswoman for Disney, which owns Pixar, told CNN that "we share the same concerns as many netizens and movie fans in China but have no further comment at this stage."
"Considering the popularity of 'Cars', the posters are suspected of unfair competition but whether or not they violate copyright laws depends on the court's interpretation of the plot and characters," Xu Xinming, a Beijing-based lawyer specializing in patents, told the Global Times.