A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit former Donkey Kong world record holder Billy Mitchell filed against Cartoon Network over the alleged misuse of his physical likeness.
Mitchell, who played the role of antagonist in the 2007 documentary film King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, claimed that the Cartoon Network animated series Regular Show stole his likeness for a villain featured in one of its episodes.
The episode in question centers around Garrett Bobby Ferguson, or “GBF,” a giant floating head from outer space who holds a number of universe-spanning records for fictional arcade games. The story features many nods and references to King of Kong, and GBF’s characterization is similar to how Mitchell was portrayed in the film.
In King of Kong, real-world Donkey Kong record holder Billy Mitchell appears to antagonize upstart player Steve Wiebe throughout, one-upping his rival frequently as the pair battles for score supremacy.
Currently, neither Mitchell nor Wiebe claim the world record for Donkey Kong. Robbie Lakeman achieved the current world record score of 1,172,100 in September, beating Wes Copeland’s previous record by less than 2,000 points.
Reviewing Mitchell’s claims, New Jersey Federal District Judge Anne Thompson threw out the case on the basis that Regular Show is protected by the First Amendment. Thompson ruled that GBF’s “cartoonishly evil” appearance and exaggerated personality did not match Mitchell’s physical likeness.
“The television character does not match the plaintiff in appearance: GBF appears as a non-human creature, a giant floating head with no body from outer space, while Plaintiff is a human being,” Thompson wrote in her decision. “And when GBF loses his title, the character literally explodes, unlike Plaintiff.”
Mitchell achieved the world’s first perfect score in Namco’s 1981 arcade game Pac-Man, and previously claimed world record scores for Donkey Kong Jr, Ms. Pac-Man, and BurgerTime.