LOS ANGELES — Carlton wants his dance back. Actor Alfonso Ribeiro is suing to stop two video game developers from selling a dance popularized by his “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” character.
In two lawsuits filed Monday, Ribeiro said the companies have “unfairly profited” from using his likeness and from exploiting his “protected creative expression.” The suits name Fortnite developer Epic Games Inc., and Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., creator of the NBA 2K series, and several of its subsidiaries.
Epic Games and Take-Two subsidiary 2K Games did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
The lawsuits ask a California federal court to bar the game developers from using, selling or displaying the dance. The suits state that Ribeiro is in the process of copyrighting the dance.
Ribeiro, best known as Carlton Banks from the 1990s “Fresh Prince” sitcom, says in the court filings that he is “inextricably linked” to the dance – a joyous, arm-swinging boogie often performed to Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual.”
The lawsuits say Ribeiro first performed the dance during the show’s 1991 Christmas episode.
“Twenty-seven years later, The Dance remains distinctive, immediately recognizable, and inextricably linked to Ribeiro’s identity, celebrity, and likeness,” the lawsuits say.
Ribeiro also performed his signature move during his 2014 run on “Dancing with the Stars.”
He is currently the host of “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”
According to the suit, Ribeiro says Epic is faking endorsements. He is asking the court for damages and that both companies stop profiting from the dance.
The games are among the most popular video games in the world. Epic recently announced that 78.3 million users logged in to play Fortnite in August. The NBA 2K series is critically acclaimed as one of the best sports games on the market.
‘Fortnite’ calls it the ‘Fresh’
“Fortnite Battle Royale” is a game that pits up to 100 players against each other in a frenzied fight for survival, the last one standing wins.
The game provides in-game purchases like dances called “emotes,” which have become so popular that teens all over the world post videos of themselves doing the dances with the hashtag #fortnitedance or #fortnitevideos, according to the lawsuit against Epic. The game sells what Ribeiro claims is his dance under the emote name “Fresh.”
“Epic intentionally induces others to perform these dances and mark them with those hashtags, which give attribution to and endorse Fortnite the game,” the lawsuit states. “Epic has consistently sought to exploit African-American talent, in particular in Fortnite, by copying their dances and movements and sell them through emotes.”
Similarly, the lawsuit against Take-Two Interactive says the basketball game NBA 2K sold the game many refer to as the “Carlton dance” as an in-game purchase. It was sold under the name “So Fresh.”
Ribeiro is not the first celebrity with a signature dance to sue the makers of the popular Fortnite game. Attorney David L. Hecht says he and his firm are also representing rapper 2 Milly and Russell Horning, also known as the “Backpack Kid,” in lawsuits against Epic Games over Fortnite’s use of their signature dances within the game. Horning created a dance called the “Floss” in 2016, while 2 Milly created the “Milly Rock” around 2015.
“More plaintiffs are coming out of the woodwork each day,” Hecht said.