Disney World Tells Santa Claus Lookalike to Be Less ‘Santa-Ish’

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For most of us, a vacation can be a great way to escape the stresses of work life and briefly shed our professional personas. But for Thomas Tolbert, a professional Santa Claus, his looks make it a bit harder to separate his work self from his vacation self. Even when he’s not sporting a red suit and black boots, Tolbert screams St. Nick with his bushy white beard, thick white hair and rotund shape.

So on a recent trip to Disney World, excited young park-goers surrounded Tolbert, mistaking him for Kris Kringle and requesting photos and autographs. Though he wasn’t dressed up in full Santa regalia, he was looking fairly Christmassy in red high-top sneakers with green laces and a shirt adorned with Santa Claus heads and quotes from The Night Before ChristmasNBC News reports. When park officials noticed a crowd had gathered, an employee quickly intervened.

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“He told me, ‘You cannot be Santa and you can’t wear that shirt in the park,’” Tolbert told NBC News. “He asked if I had any clothes in my hotel room that were less ‘Santa-ish’ and took me into a shop and pulled a 3X t-shirt from the rack to see if it would fit me.” Disney officials also asked Tolbert to tell park-goers, “I’m not who you think I am. I’m on vacation and you need to leave me alone.” Tolbert, however, refused, as he said he felt Santa would never say something like that.

When asked to confirm these events, Walt Disney World Resort told NBC News, “It was disruptive to our operations and confusing to our other guests, particularly children who asked to take photos with him.” To compensate for the inconvenience, park officials offered Tolbert complimentary park hopper passes, but the offer didn’t appease him.

“Disney doesn’t own the character of Santa,” Tolbert said. “The world does.”

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27 comments
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Little Dog
Little Dog

You know, they could have done a background check then offered him a castmember agreement.  Anyone who has the temperament to be a professional Santa and looks the part enough that people think he's Santa when not in costume would probably be a good addition to the team.

Hopper passes are such a small part of a Disney vacation that I understand why he's miffed.  Now, if they offered him, say, a 2 person magic your way pass, then he'd be even.

ThomasNeidhart
ThomasNeidhart

as friends of a former rat employee, this doesn't shock me at ALL.  they're gestapo-like about things like this.  what's hysterical is he wasn't in a santa outfit, only wearing a shirt that had Santa on it from TNBC movie.  So he looks like Santa, so what?  It's up to each parent to mind their OWN kids, and if they think someone not even in costume looks like Santa, they need to mind their own, and let people meet each other, and kids to talk to adults with parents watching closely.

If adults want to let their kids "climb all over" him and he's not touching them in inappropriate places, then it's none of your business, ma'am!  I feel sorry for him having be treated like this!  I, too, cannot go to parties without kids wanting to be around me, so I scoff at the negative nancys who scream pedo every time someone's kid wants to play with an adult for a few minutes that they're fascinated by. 

 If a parent lets their kid climb up in my face to play, I'm not going to be asking them down unless I want them away from me for them being too playful (like pulling on me, or pinching, or literally trying to climb up on me). 

Seriously, what the heck is wrong with people anymore?  Yes, there's bad people out there, but if you're minding your OWN kids, and you can tell a person doesn't mind your kids attention, and you can watch them be loving and friendly with an adult that treats them sweetly and properly, then these meddling people need to mind their own lives, and shut up and go stand in line to meet the Disney Villains they're behaving like!

CarolinaMaggie
CarolinaMaggie

What he did was misleading in a place where parents expect 'characters' to behave like we expect Disney 'characters' to behave. I am concerned about a grown man who cant separate himself from his character for a day. I understand why Disney shut him down. He knew better when he dressed that day.

Endgame69
Endgame69

That's crazy, Disney should give their head a good shake and wakeup to the fact they don't own every character right. No doubt in this instance, Disney played the part of Goofy to the tee.

Michelle Kimberly
Michelle Kimberly

Disney does not allow anyone in a costume in the park because it is dangerous. You could have pedophiles dress up like characters and have children climbing all over them. I think it makes perfect sense to ask your guests to just dress like normal people and not try to be some sort of attraction in themselves. They are responsible for the conduct of their employees, not guests posting as childrens characters.

jeb085
jeb085

I don't know if you read the article or not, but it says he wasn't dressed like Santa.

jp11248
jp11248

 How many times during the year do you go out with a shirt that has Santa Claus heads, red shoes , green shoelaces?

KK
KK

Yeeaaaaahhhh and how is THIS conversation going to affect the children's experience of the park? They go home and tell their friends "Guess who I saw at Disney parks?? SANTA CLAUSE!!! And he was being HARASSED by the mean people at Disney. Then he left. :( " leaving that bad taste in the child's mind to taint the magical experience of Disney parks. THAT'S GOING TO AFFECT THEIR EXPERIENCE!! What COULD have happened was.. 

The admin says nothing and allows the children to enjoy him (he's an adult and knows how to hide himself if he deems it necessary.. trust me.. santas know how to hide at Christmas time when they are shopping) and the child goes home to tell their friends.. "GUESS WHO I SAW AT DISNEY PARKS?!?!? SANTAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!" and their friends are excited that there is another attraction at the park. Most likely excitedly talking about Mikey and the princesses and all the other gang too. 

KK
KK

Isn't Disney all about being true to yourself? If not maybe I should be removing them from my collections. So a gay couple can be true to themselves.. and a woman can be true to herself.. and a chubby kid can be true to themselves.. but a grown white man with a beard can't be true to himself? sounds a bit judgmental to me. Reverse prejudice is still prejudice 

ThomasNeidhart
ThomasNeidhart

 oh, gay couples can't be true to themselves at the mouse...  if he was kissing his boyfriend they'd be all over him for that too.  They're just meddlers, plain and simple.  And I was at a gay event at the mouse, and half the men looked like the grown white man with a beard who'd ride Hogs, so don't have some pre-determined vision of what a gay man looks like, they're every type of person you can imagine, every color, religion, age, weight, etc... I think in this story, it's a good example of meddling!  If a parent of a kid wants to let a kid say hi and hug a guy who looks like santa, and he's a proper and nice man, and is happy to do so, let them!

RichBeeatch
RichBeeatch

You go Santa!!! Disney workers were wrong to try and stop you being you, particularly since they CLEARLY did not believe you were you. What a laugh! All together now: Santa is not only REAL he is entitled (and expected!) to go on vacation in the summertime. Only now maybe he won't be bringing any kids 'Mickey and Minnie Mouse' dolls.

Wellington Green Santa
Wellington Green Santa

So Disney is Anti-Santa Claus. I suppose it's because they couldn't make money from him being there. As a Santa Claus myself, I strive to always conduct myself according to the "Santa Claus Oath."

I will seek knowledge to be well versed in the mysteries of bringing Christmas cheer and good will to all the people that I encounter in my journeys and travels.

I shall be dedicated to hearing the secret dreams of both children and adults.

I understand that the true and only gift I can give, as Santa, is myself.

I acknowledge that some of the requests I will hear will be difficult and sad. I know in these difficulties there lies an opportunity to bring a spirit of warmth, understanding and compassion.

I know the "real reason for the season" and know that I am blessed to be able to be a part of it.

I realize that I belong to a brotherhood and will be supportive, honest and show fellowship to my peers.

I promise to use "my" powers to create happiness, spread love and make fantasies come to life in the true and sincere tradition of the Santa Claus Legend.

I pledge myself to these principles as a descendant of St. Nicholas the gift giver of Myra.

                                                                                                                                        

- "Santa" Phillip L. Wenz

jp11248
jp11248

 I guess the request by Disney to stop creating a scene was difficult, and telling the press is the sad part.  You can be nice to people and children without having a photo op and signature party.

Lori Lee
Lori Lee

Disney folks are loco. If the kids are having a good time with Santa then so be it.

f_galton
f_galton

Kudos to Disney for shutting down this fruitcake before something bad happened.

Wellington Green Santa
Wellington Green Santa

 What are you? Some kind of Scrooge? There's rarely a day that we don't go out into public without bringing joy to children and adults alike.

ozfozzy
ozfozzy

I think for liability purposes, Disney just doesn't want people thinking they had anything to do with this guy who hasn't been given the background checks that normal Disney employees go through.  If this guy had turned out to be a pedophile, then Disney would be sued for allowing him to run around attracting kids with his Santa costume.  The only way for Disney to protect themselves and their guests, was to ask him to change into something else, and give him complimentary passes for cooperating.  Disney is a privately owned park, and they're within their rights to do this.

Wellington Green Santa
Wellington Green Santa

 I am just one of over a thousand "Santas" who dedicate a great deal of our time trying to bring joy to people everywhere. We donate our time in the off season visiting hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices to cheer up patients. Some of us are members of an amazing organization called santa-america.org and many others like myself work independently doing the same thing.

f_galton
f_galton

Who is we, you and Mrs. Claus? You and some elves?

RichBeeatch
RichBeeatch

Bah humbug! You leave Santa alone! He's about the only thing this side of God worth believing in (okay, the tooth fairy too).

Bj Meadow
Bj Meadow

And what bad could happen???

JeffinIL
JeffinIL

Disney believes it owns the rights to all fantasy characters.

ozfozzy
ozfozzy

I think they own the right to decide which attractions are featured in their privately owned parks.  If Disney were sending cease and desist letters to Santa Clauses outside of the park, then you would be able to argue that they think they own the rights to all fantasy characters.

Bj Meadow
Bj Meadow

Just one more reminder that the people who own Disney have lost their minds. Walt Disney is rolling over in his grave.