Walt Disney World demands kid-attracting guest be less ‘Santa-ish’

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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6 thoughts on “Walt Disney World demands kid-attracting guest be less ‘Santa-ish’

  1. I like your option! I bet he likes being Santa! If he didn’t wouldn’t he cut his hair shorter or shave the beard off or something? Heh.

  2. He probably gets looks and attention year-round where ever he goes, but he should really play down any attention at a Disney Park. He should know better! A simple finger to the lips and SHHHH! with a wink to kids (and an added “I’m on vaction” to further questioning) when they look at him could help quell attention and questions.

  3. I can understand Disney. They don’t know him or how he is with children. They couldn’t do a background check or anything. But for him to want celebrity status – puh-leese! That just means that anyone will dress up as a character to try to get “celebrity status”. Remember the article about the 15 year old girl dressed up as Tink? They asked her to change and gave her and her family fast passes.

  4. I’m putting my two cents in with yours Tracy. I was kind of on the fence until the “celebrity” comment. He may not have approached anyone, but it certainly seems like he didn’t try to dissuade anyone either.

  5. Honestly I understand Disneys position if he were to do anything wrong they would be held accountable. and with his statement of “treating look alikes like celebraties” he is just looking for attention and benefits!!

  6. ohhh, so he wants to be treated like a celebrity and taken on rides and things from back stage? Now I get it. He doesn’t realize what law suits could happen because of him trying to be Santa at Disney. Imagine the parents reactions when they find out he doesn’t work for Disney and their little girl sat on his lap for a photo?? To many things to go wrong here, so he needs to understand and stop be a celebrity at a park he doesn’t work at. Just my two cents.

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