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  • Feb 20, 2020

Singapore Illustrator Accuses Toy Company Of Plagiarism

DJOHAN HANAPI accused collectibles manufacturer Mighty Jaxx of copying his design for a figurine of a nude Ariel from Disney’s The Little Mermaid (1989). Images (left to right) via the official Instagram accounts of @mightyjaxx and @djohahn.

Singaporean artist Djohan Hanapi’s allegations of plagiarism against toy collectibles manufacturer Mighty Jaxx has sparked online outrage among artists as well as consumers.

Hanapi made the accusation in an Instagram post dated January 22 in which he stated that “confused” fans had brought to his attention Mighty Jaxx’s figurine of a naked Ariel from Disney’s 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid. The product, titled Happy Ending Under The Sea and marketed as “an original design by Mighty Jaxx,” bears a striking resemblance to Hanapi’s series of illustrations of nude Disney princesses in seductive positions, which he has been creating since 2012.

According to Hanapi’s statement, he had agreed to a collaboration with Mighty Jaxx back in 2017 to produce figurines based on his drawings of “sultry fairy tale princesses.” However, Hanapi was greatly displeased by the repeated delays in the manufacture of the series’ first product, a nude Snow White titled The Fairest of Them All, which eventually took two years to release. Hanapi elaborated: “Buyers were left hanging and were not properly updated on the production status of the figurines . . . These two years were both disappointing and frustrating and the ordeal had even put me in a bad light with some of my fans.” Speaking to ArtAsiaPacific, Hanapi also criticized Mighty Jaxx for “manipulations with edition numbers” for The Fairest of Them All, which was supposed to have a limited run of 200 editions; Mighty Jaxx allegedly produced 625. The artist discontinued the collaboration, a decision that he claims he made “clear” to the company.

Regarding the copied Ariel design, Hanapi told AAP: “I approached Jackson Aw [founder and chief executive officer of Mighty Jaxx] demanding an explanation when I discovered that Happy Ending Under the Sea had been advertised on their Instagram account. I did not hear back from him. Through others, Mighty Jaxx stated that they saw no issue with making unauthorised copies as they believe that I am not in the business of toy collectibles anyway.”

Hanapi’s denunciation of the company’s bad faith on Instagram prompted a raft of angry comments criticizing Mighty Jaxx for “ripping off” the artist among other questionable practices, such as delivering damaged goods, keeping customers waiting too long for pre-orders, and making multiple changes to mock-up images of pre-order products in the interim.

The figurine Happy Ending Under the Sea is currently sold out on Mighty Jaxx’s website. Although the site names Hanapi as the creator of the earlier Snow White collectible, the page for the new figurine, at time of writing, has not been amended to credit the artist in spite of the plagiarism furor.

Kylie Yeung is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

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