Tugger Director Responds to Fraud Charges
As we got closer to completing the film, we secured the talents of Jim Belushi to do the voice of Tugger after abandoning early voice tests with Donny Osmond. And Scott Thompson (AKA: "Carrot Top") agreed to voice Tugger's sidekick character.
Finally in the spring and early summer of 2005 we raised the last "post production" funds we needed to package the film ready for distribution! “Tugger the Jeep Who Wanted To Fly” was premiered on July 4th 2005!
Through the process of making the film, a dear friend and supporter of Orlando animation, Roy Disney would often (when asked) offer his opinions and reviews of the film. Roy was even at our first Los Angeles 20th Century Fox screening of "Tugger," which resulted in our first distribution contract. But, as Roy would reveal to me after the film was completed, distribution is a monster that often eats up 90 percent of all independent filmmakers and production companies if they are not prepared and/or properly protected.
And that is was happened to "Tugger!" 20th Century Fox Home Video was happy to give us a contract with a million dollar up-front payout, but primarily because our contract with Chrysler gave them the option to purchase 250,000 DVD units at a set price. When Chrysler balked at the idea of shelling out to Fox for the purchase before the film was completed Fox got scared and did everything possible to get out of our signed contract!
We quickly received other offers from Paramount Home Video and The Weinstein Company, but eventually settled happily with the then smaller Anchor Bay in 2006. It was at this time that we suddenly discovered that two investors had moved to force our film and company into chapter 7. Our law firm moved quickly and was able to protect the majority of investors by keeping the film in Chapter 11.
I resigned from the company I had started and that made the film shortly after the bankruptcy in was filed in 2006 and gave up any and all ownership and rights.
The combination of being crippled by this bankruptcy and the deliberate attacks by these two investors were devastating to everything we had hope “Tugger” would be! Over the following years I had to fight off personal lawsuits by these two investors and Tugger’s former story board artist Woody “Beryl” Woodman, (who falsely claimed he created the Tugger story) and successfully had them thrown out and reversed, but the damage had been done! These actions also hurt the films chances of attaining a fair and honest distribution deal by a qualified distributor. The bankruptcy court initially abandoned our signed Anchor Bay deal, only to reinstate a new deal with the same Anchor Bay over a year later, but on terms weaker for the investors than in the original deal!
As the financial records and contracts were meticulously reviewed by all sides both legal and private over the following five years, at no time was there even the hint of evidence of any fraud. But through all this, the same two investors who brought down this little film and company never stopped trying to cause continued damage. In fact, they had threatened the board of directors early in 2006 that they would destroy the film and company, (as confirmed in notarized sworn statements by the board members at the time) because as they said at the time “we don’t care about the money, the film or the other investors.” It was a personal vendetta against me for failing to have secured distribution of the film in the timeframe they had expected.
Earlier this year, about six months ago, friends of mine notified me that after all these years the state's attorney's office had decided to re-examine the complaint by these same two investors. My lawyer contacted the attorney who at that time stated that they saw no real issues to pursue. Then just a few months ago my lawyer was notified that after five years they would now pursue a case against me. Late last month I arrange a simple “walk through” which was quick and respectful, (I was not chased down and arrested as the Orlando headline implies!) and I declared my innocence.