LOS ANGELES (AP) – Warner Bros. has recovered more than 3,000 “Tiny Toon Adventures” cartoon drawings worth as much a $500,000, studio executives said.
Warner said it learned the cels, or individual frames, were missing when an employee noticed the hand-painted material being sold at an October swap meet.
It hired private investigators who identified five people who allegedly had some of the cels secretly filmed meetings and made a “buy,” according to records filed in U.S. District Court.
The studio filed five lawsuits claiming copyright infringement. It also sought court orders allowing seizure of the property and recovered all but three cells, said studio attorney David L. Burg.
Three lawsuits have been settled, Burg said. He said the studio had not decided whether to file a criminal complaint.
Travis Cowsill, 20, said Thursday he took some material while working as a free-lance animator at the studio’s Sherman Oaks center in October. A lawsuit against him is pending.
“I wasn’t trying to steal anything,” he said. “I found some in boxes marked ‘Outtakes for Disposal.’”
The studio said it would never dispose of the artwork. “It is kept indefinitely,” Burg said.
The syndicated show is produced jointly by Warner Bros. and director Steven Spielberg. The initial two-year contract, which began in the fall of 1990 called for 65 half-hour episodes.