Over the weekend we got a mailing from animator Mark Simon leading to a story in the Orlando Sentinal about an animator named Jeffrey Varab who it is claimed has defrauded hundreds of people. The story has cycled off the Sentinal website, but the Google cache is here and you can read a bit of the sad story surrounding an animated film called TUGGER: THE 4X4 JEEP WHO WANTED TO FLY that received limited release in Florida in 2005, and is now the basis of a bunch of lawsuits.
Tugger’s production and failed distribution efforts to date created a trail of angry investors, contractors and ex-employees who say they didn’t get paid. There are now eight lawsuits against Genesis or its founder, Jeffrey J. Varab, including a move by 11 investors last month to have the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Orlando declare an involuntary bankruptcy of the company and wrestle away its assets — notably Tugger.
There’s a bit more at this blog posting. It seems that the animators who worked on the film floated production costs on their credit cards, and the man who came up with the story of Tugger, Woody Woodman, wasn’t invited to the premiere, and has lost all copyright, etc etc. Like we said, sad. What’s remarkable from where we sit is how, given the enormous complexities of bringing an animated film to the screen, so many people could have gone along with what sounds like a very unstable situation for so long.