Disney tells park guest to look less like Santa Claus

Posted at 9:15 PM, Jul 25, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-25 21:23:38-04

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (WKMG) -  Visitors to Disney theme parks expect to see people in costume. But the company's written policy ensures park officials control who's dressed up. Last month, Disney World officials didn't let a teenage girl dressed like Tinkerbell into the Animal Kingdom.

Now Disney enforced its "no adult costumes" policy against someone who wasn't even dressed like a Disney character. A man who looks like Santa said he was asked by Disney to change -- while he was visiting the park.

Thomas Tolbert said wherever he goes, people stop and stare at time. During a recent family trip to Disney World, Tolbert said people at the park asked for his autograph. That changed, he said, on the last day of his trip when a Disney representative saw him in the middle of a crowd.

"He said, 'You can't be portraying Santa,'" Tolbert recalled.

Tolbert said Disney asked him to change into something less Santa-ish.

"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," he said. "They're looking at my face, and they're looking at my features."

He said Disney also told him to turn curious children away.

"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,"'" he said.

A Disney spokesperson released a statement on the matter:

"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 added representatives asked Tolbert to change, because guests are not allowed to wear costumes. Tolbert said he was not wearing a costume or trying to attract attention.