NEW YORK – In the 67 years since its debut, "When You Wish Upon a Star" has been recorded by more than 100 artists and orchestras.
But the song's owner is irate about what it calls an unseemly spoof of the familiar tune, saying the dreamy classic was twisted into an anti-Semitic ballad and widely distributed as part of a comedy television program.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, music publishing house Bourne Co. aims to stop the program's distribution. The suit accuses Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., Fox Broadcasting Co., the Cartoon Network and others of copyright infringement. It seeks unspecified damages.
The lawsuit said that in 2000, the defendants included the parody, "I Need a Jew," in an episode of the Fox television animated series "The Family Guy."
The episode, titled "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein," relied on the premise that the main character could not manage his family's finances and needed to hire a Jewish person to take care of his money, the lawsuit said.
During the episode, the main character, Peter Griffin, sings "I Need a Jew," which the lawsuit called a thinly veiled copy of the music from "When You Wish Upon a Star," accompanied by new anti-Semitic lyrics.
Fox hadn't seen the complaint as of Wednesday afternoon and had no comment, spokesman Chris Alexander said.
According to the lawsuit, Fox initially withheld the episode from distribution because of its content but eventually earned large sums of money by distributing more than 1 million copies of it to the public in various home video formats.
It said the Cartoon Network first aired the episode on Nov. 10, 2003. A message for comment left with the network was not returned Wednesday.
"When You Wish Upon a Star," written by Ned Washington and Leigh Harline, appeared in 1940 as part of the Walt Disney motion picture "Pinocchio." It won the Academy Award that year for Best Original Song.
"With its theme of wholesome hopefulness, the song has gained worldwide status as a classic," the lawsuit said. "By associating Bourne's song with such offensive lyrics and other content in the episode, defendants are harming the value of the song."
Bourne is the sole U.S. copyright owner of "When You Wish Upon a Star."