Ex-Universal executive sues Disney, claiming it stole ride design for Rise of the Resistance

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A former director with Universal Creative is suing Disney, claiming the company used his design for a themed drop ride mechanism in its Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride without compensating him after he pitched the design to Disney years earlier.

Louis Alfieri, now the chief creative officer of entertainment design company Raven Sun Creative, is seeking an unspecified amount in damages from Walt Disney Parks and Resorts for allegedly infringing on his patent for a “tower ride,” according to a lawsuit filed in Orlando’s U.S. District Court last week.

Alfieri claims his company submitted a proposal to Walt Disney Imagineering in 2014 for an “Ultra Tower Show Experience” that would use the technology of Alfieri’s then-pending patent, according to the lawsuit. Disney used Alfieri’s technology without consulting his company, the suit contends.

The lawsuit alleges Disney prominently advertised the new ride system technology in Rise of the Resistance and profited from the ride’s popularity without compensating Alfieri or Raven Sun Creative for the design.

According to the lawsuit, Raven Sun Creative notified Disney of the patent infringement in March 2020 and Disney responded that November saying they would continue to operate the ride without compensating the company for the alleged infringement.

Representatives for Disney did not respond to a request for comment, and lawyers for Raven Sun Creative said they had no further comment beyond the lawsuit.

The patent, filed in 2013, is for a “vertically-aligned amusement ride apparatus” that moves in time with video on a screen to make riders feel like they are moving through an environment, records show.

Rise of the Resistance, a trackless dark ride based on the Star Wars sequel trilogy, has several ride systems that simulate a journey through a Star Destroyer. It culminates in riders dropping into a motion-simulated escape pod that moves in sync with a projected video.

Though the patent acknowledges the existence of other rides that show imagery while simultaneously moving riders vertically — including the Tower of Terror ride, also at Disney’s Hollywood Studios — the lawsuit claims its technology improved these ride systems and allows for “enhanced illusion and improved experience.”

The lawsuit mentions that Bob Iger, then-CEO of the Walt Disney Co., said in an early 2020 earnings call that the debuts of the ride in Walt Disney World and Disneyland increased visitor attendance and spending at the parks.

Alfieri worked as a creative director at Universal for four years, leaving the company in 2010, according to his LinkedIn page. His work includes the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster at Universal Orlando and other attractions at the company’s international parks.

Court records did not list a lawyer representing Disney.