We’ve all known that Bill Nye was more than a “Science Guy.” He’s a bow tie aficionado! He’s a pop culture icon! He’s a bestselling author (though hopefully he didn’t scam his way in like SOME people…). He’s even the CEO of The Planetary Society, which is NOT a clandestine organization for aliens or a federation of cosmic bodies like I’d hoped (it has something to do with Carl Sagan, funding, education, and space).
And now he’s also the dude who’s suing The Walt Disney Company and its subsidiaries (including Buena Vista Television, LLC and Touchstone Television Productions, Inc.) for more than $37 million. Because Bill Nye does not fuck around. Over the span of 5 seasons and 100 episodes (running from 1993-1998), Bill Nye the Science Guy — the show, not the man — became a hugely influential educational series while racking up 19 Emmy awards. It also made history as the first television program concurrently aired in national syndication while also broadcast on PBS. Though it was produced mainly by PBS and funded primarily by the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and other organizations, Disney was on board as a distributor. And according to Nye’s suit, they owe him a boatload of dough.
Nye claims not to have received his fair share of the program’s net profits — and it’s worth noting that the program STILL airs in limited syndication, not to mention having some episodes available on Netflix (the home of his new series, Bill Nye Saves the World). Apparently Nye has been disputing the finances with Disney’s subsidiaries since an accounting error was revealed in 2008. In April of that year, he received a statement regarding the previous year’s profits and the corresponding payment for his share, which came to $585,123.00. And just a few months later, in July of 2008, he received another letter claiming the prior calculation was a mistake and that he owed back $496,111.000. Until he returned the money, Buena Vista refused to pay any additional royalties to Nye. But naturally the size of this accounting error raised some red flags, and what followed was years of futile attempts at a settlement and conducting a formal audit, during which time key documents were allegedly withheld.
You can find the entire doozy of a lawsuit linked over at Deadline, and it’s a pretty fascinating read. If even half of it is true, there was some seriously fishy accounting going down at the Mouse House. And if nothing else, Bill Nye is a very patient man who has been working for almost a decade to get some clarity on all this. We’ll see how it all plays out, but in the meantime we can keep practicing how to tie a bow tie the Nye way: