A Walt Disney World guest who looks like Santa Claus was asked by Disney officials to be less “Santa-ish” because he was a distraction at the park, FLORIDA TODAY news partner WKMG Local 6 reports.
Thomas Tolbert, who was visiting Disney while on a family vacation, said he was wearing “Santa-related” clothing but not a full Santa suit while recently visiting the park.
Tolbert said people, including children, were asking for photos and autographs, something he said he’s used to.
“Do you approach people or do people come up to you?” Tolbert was asked.
“I never approach a person,” he said.
Tolbert said he signed autographs at Disney World until a Disney representative saw him in the middle of a crowd.
“He said you can’t be portraying Santa,” said Tolbert, adding that Disney asked him to change into less “Santa-ish” clothing.
Tolbert said changing clothes did not help.
“I never had a red suit on. I never had a hat. I didn’t have fur boots on, but that doesn’t make Santa. The face and the persona is what makes Santa,” Tolbert said. “They’re looking at my face and they’re looking at my features.”
Tolbert said Disney told him to continue to turn children away — no matter how curious they were.
“They said, ‘You need to say I’m sorry. I’m not who you think I am. I’m on vacation and you need to leave me alone,’ ” Tolbert said.
In a statement, Disney said, “The guest was asked to change his attire because it was disruptive to our operations and confusing to our other guests, particularly children who asked to take photos with him. He was not asked to leave, instead, we tried to work with him so that he could continue his visit.”
“Disney does not own the image of Santa,” Tolbert said. “Santa Claus is not owned by anybody, except for the world.”
Because of the hassle, Disney gave Tolbert some tickets for a future visit, but he said he’d likely encounter similar problems if he returned.
Tolbert said a possible solution is for Disney to treat look-alikes like celebrities so they are not seen by other guests.
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