LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL. (CNN) – Visitors to Disney theme parks expect to see people in costume. But the company’s written policy ensures park officials can control who’s dressed up. Last month, Disney World officials didn’t let a teenage girl dressed like Tinkerbell into the Animal Kingdom.
And now, Disney has enforced its “no adult costumes” policy against someone who wasn’t even dressed like a Disney character.
A man who looks like Santa says he was asked by Disney to change — while he was visiting the park.
Thomas Tolbert says wherever he goes, people stop and stare. Children ask for photos.
(Do you approach people or do people come up to you?)
“No. I never approach a person.”
And when he came for a family trip to Disney, people asked for autographs, which he signed, until his last day, when a Disney representative saw him in the middle of a crowd.
“I went, ‘What?’ He said, ‘You can’t be portraying Santa.'”
He says Disney asked him to change into something less santa-ish. But he says that didn’t help. People still pointed and shouted “Santa!”
“I never had a red suit on. I never wore a hat. I didn’t have fur boots on. But that doesn’t make Santa. The face, and the persona, and then, the heart, is what makes a Santa. They’re looking at my face, and they’re looking at my features.”
He says Disney even told him to turn children away if they were curious.
“They said, ‘You need to say, “I’m sorry. I am not who you think I am. I am on vacation, and you need to leave me alone.”‘”
But that’s not something Santa would say.
In a statement, a Disney spokesperson 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. Santa Claus is not owned by anybody except for the world.”
Disney says representatives asked Tolbert to change, because guests are not allowed to wear costumes.
Tolbert says he was not wearing a costume or trying to attract attention.
But he did switch clothes like Disney asked him to, and he was even offered special perks for his troubles.