Thursday, October 7, 2010
Dora the Exploited?
The little girl who gave voice to the lovable "Dora the Explorer" cartoon character claims in a lawsuit that she was pressured into signing a dubious, complicated contract and then ripped off for millions of dollars.
Lawyers for Caitlin Sanchez, 14, of Fairview, N.J., charged that she and her parents were duped into signing an "unconscionable" contract that allowed producers of the Nickelodeon hit to exploit her.
"I've never seen as convoluted and inscrutable contact as I've seen here," Caitlin's lawyer, John Balestriere, told the Daily News on Wednesday night.
Balestriere said Caitlin was cheated out of "millions, perhaps tens of millions."
In addition to not being compensated for hundreds of hours of recording sessions, Caitlin was forced to fly around the country promoting the show for a "meager travel stipend of $40 a day," the suit charges.
Caitlin and her parents, Hilda and Kevin Sanchez, filed the suit in Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday, naming Nickelodeon, MTV Networks and Viacom International as defendants.
She became the voice of the wildly popular, kid-friendly Latina character Dora in 2007, when she was 12, and promised $5,115 per episode and compensation in residuals and merchandising.
"Defendants used Caitlin, unjustly enriching themselves of millions of dollars in profits from the series and branded products, which Caitlin preformed and promoted," the suit claims.
He said they tried to work out a resolution, but talks were called off when Nickelodeon and Viacom began negotiating in bad faith.
The suit charges Caitlin and her parents where pressured by Nickelodeon and her own agent - Jason Bercy of the Cunningham Escott Selvin Doherty Talent Agency - into signing a 14-page contract without the aid of a lawyer.
Bercy, who is not named as a defendant in the suit, gave the Sanchez family 22 minutes to review the contract, threatening that if they didn't sign Nickelodeon would "pass on Caitlin for the part of Dora," the suit claims.
When Caitlin's parents later complained about the pay, Bercy threatened them, saying, Nickelodeon "will fire her if she pushes too much," the suit charges.
"I have no comment right now," said Bercy when reached last night at his Marlboro, N.J., home.
Michael Fricklas, executive vice president and general counsel for Viacom, scoffed at the lawsuit.
"We knew this was coming," Fricklas said. "It is completely without merit."