By Amy Nicole Tangel
Many people know of the famous pink feather hat worn by Pamela Anderson at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards, but many don’t know the designer behind the hat, a true artist at her core, and now Ivy “Supersonic” Silberstein is setting the record straight after her recent settlement with Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Blue Sky Studios, Inc., over a character, she said she created, was stolen for use in the popular family film, Ice Age.
A battle lasting over 20 years recently ended for the artist/fashion designer when she and said companies, both acquired by Disney in March 2019, came to terms this past December, and although she cannot speak of specific details of the settlement, she is moving forward and putting her fight for justice to rest by finally obtaining the final trademark rights to bring her character, “Sqrat,”(known in the Ice Age films as “Scrat”), to life in the way she has always envisioned.
“This is remarkable. Disney didn’t steal it, but it’s like they are running around with stolen merchandise. It’s like if you bought the Louis Vuitton bag off the street, you knew it was stolen, you know what’s real and you have a fake one,” she said.
According to an article in Forbes magazine in 2016, the original Ice Age movie had grossed $383 million worldwide. This amount reflects only the earnings for the first film and doesn’t account for the hundreds of millions earned on each film in the series of Ice Age movies that followed. In a story that has more twists and turns than the yellow brick road, Ivy has been on a path seeking justice for over two decades taking her fight to court and the streets petitioning the world to hear her truth.
It all began in 1999 when Ivy said one day she was walking in the park in NYC and she saw this creature that looked like a combination of a squirrel and a rat. She said she thought to herself, “What is this a sqrat?,” and watched it as it climbed up the tree until she got stuck to the sky seeing a vision of an animated character that was going to make millions.
With the momentum of being in the height of her career as a fashion designer of feathered hats and party planner to the stars along with her I.B.I.V Jeans’ appearance on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) to her credit, and legal help from her late father, attorney Jerome Silberstein, Ivy said she immediately went into action to bring this character to life and started pitching to everyone she knew in the entertainment business.
The character was taking life in print promotions and making news across the country when Ivy appeared in a segment with Jeanne Moos February 29, 2000 on CNN where they reported in headlines, “Move over Mickey, here comes Sqrat.”
Steve Azzara, renowned photographer, author and founder of 247 Ink Magazine; a tattoo lifestyle magazine with 77 million views in five years, and co-founder of the new Azzara Magazine, said he remembers seeing Ivy’s Sqrat posters and banners at events in 1999 and how happy she was when one of the banners made it on CNN. Steve, who is president and editor-in-chief of both of his publications, also remembers her going to Los Angeles to show Fox her character, and said he was outraged when he saw Ice Age hit the theaters with their version of her Sqrat with not one credit to Ivy.
“After that, I voluntarily shot all of her campaigns in her fight against Fox. Even if you look at it like she got screwed; they made billions of dollars with that character. At some point after fighting it for so many years they could have given her even $5 million to go away, but instead they used that negative publicity as positive publicity for their movies and they should really be ashamed of what they did to her,” he said.
People in the entertainment industry who worked with the 53-year-old entrepreneur on Sqrat’s development years ago, like Matt Sternberg, who was working as vice president of Market Development at Universal Music Group in 1999 when he first met Ivy, are speaking out in her defense and have supported her claim to trademark rights of Sqrat. Matt said he first met Ivy when he was tasked by his company to come up with ways to leverage the internet and broadband on behalf of their artists. When he first saw the Ice Age movie a few years later, he said he was astounded to see Sqrat.
“I came up with the idea to illustrate Ivy as a cartoon character that would interview our artists both as a cartoon and in real life. She told me all about her idea for Sqrat, and Sqrat was prominently featured in my pitch to senior execs. While we did commission a brilliant illustration of her, the project never got off the ground,” he said.
Ivy is grateful for the support of those who have stayed true to her and now that the case is closed, she said she truly wants to set the record straight. In November of 2019, Matt and Ivy’s former boyfriend Mike Anderson, who was a live event producer hired by Fox Family in 1999, were subpoenaed to court and both spoke over the phone on her behalf to defense attorneys. Following the conversations, Ivy said everyone’s depositions were canceled.
On June 10, 1999, Mike, who said he worked for Fox Family for a few years, but wasn’t internal to them, said he brought Ivy along with him to the Jacob Javitz Center to attend a licensing show he produced and to network with people in the industry. He said he was just hoping she would have a good time, but Ivy ended up making the most of the moment and a lasting impression with Sqrat amongst those in attendance, and earned herself free publicity that movie studios had paid millions for that week of the show.
“I brought Ivy into the licensing show at the Javitz center with the hopes that she would just have a good time and maybe meet a few people. By the end of the night the entire community was talking about Sqrat!,” he said.
Throughout the court battle, Ivy has maintained her belief that media billionaire Rupert Murdoch, who was the owner of Fox and Blue Sky at the time, knew Sqrat was her character from the beginning and allowed it to be used without her permission. Ivy said she attended a party at Rupert’s while she was promoting Sqrat and pitched her work to executives in attendance, specifically to, award-winning composer and television producer best-known for his co-creation of Power Rangers, Shuki Levy. She said she went as far as distributing a script and trailer throughout Fox Family.
Ivy said even though she is vindicated by the final settlement and thrilled to have obtained the Sqrat trademark she has been hoping for this past July, she still feels like she didn’t have a chance to fight fair in court, because she just didn’t have the money anymore or power to fight such a dominant force. Ivy was not awarded a monetary settlement, and in spite of years of pleading publicly for the truth and countless personal accounts in her defense, at the end of the day documentation is everything.
“They (Fox) thought they could steal it, because I had a problem with my trademark and a problem with my copyright, so I had two problems which legally they felt I couldn’t sue,” she said.
In an article published by Soo Theatre News in November 2009, Michael J. Wilson, screenwriter and creator of Ice Age, claimed his daughter gave him the idea for the movie’s “Scrat” and helped him with the pitch. He said she came up with the character, came up with the pitch and coined the name. Ice Age was released on March 12, 2002 and Ivy created her Sqrat in 1999. There is no public information available to confirm the age of his daughter to compare with the timeline of character creation, but even if it is just an ironic coincidence it could draw reason for question.
In a court document dated March 3, 2008 filed in New York, United States District Judge Richard J. Holwell indicated the following prior to his conclusion in a previous lawsuit against Fox Entertainment Group, Inc.:
“Plaintiff’s (Ivy) claim was not baseless, however, for as the Court noted, had plaintiff sufficiently commercialized her creation she may well have been entitled to protection.”
Although Ivy is infamous for wearing her heart on her sleeve and letting everyone know exactly how she feels, at the root of Ivy, beneath the word “justice” tattooed across her chest, lies a dedicated and passionate artist who just wants the truth to be known. A turning point recently came in her life creatively, when she said she suffered back to back losses of loved ones in her family and turned to her spirituality as she began painting through her grief and praying for healing. Her process went from painting to photographing the paintings to finding through her photographs a paranormal art which she describes as something that has just taken a life of its own.
As Ivy’s life would seem to have it, she has built on what she created once again, and morphed one piece into the next when she premiered her new documentary, Ivy’s Paranormal. The film closely takes a look at her paintings and discusses the images appearing in her photographs which seem to have messages from beyond. The film is produced by documentary cinematographer Bryan Sarkinen and made its official premiere at Great Neck’s Squire Theater on November 20, 2019. The film first showed at The Cutting Room International Short Film Festival October 19, 2019 winning Best Short Documentary.
“God is behind these paintings. The spirit is speaking through me in what I see,” she said.
For the time being, Ivy is waiting it out like many others artists living in New York and hoping when everything opens back up she will find the right people to help her finally bring Sqrat to new life, but she is ready for conversations to start happening now.
You can follow Ivy on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up on upcoming events and for more information about Sqrat. Watch Ivy’s 2000 CNN interview with Jeanne Moos here: https://youtu.be/83j05-eiaXQ
Photos courtesy Ivy Silberstein and Steve Azzara Feature Photo: Charlie Salidino