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Frames of Time...

064_04 - A Tale of Tigers
After a recent performance as Tony the Tiger, I discussed the topic of mascot abuse. I mostly covered a case of a sport mascot hit with a baseball bat. However, all costume characters can be the victims of such abuse, even the ones at amusement parks.

While at Disneyland, I only received "minor" injuries. The worst was probably when a young military man wanted to show his girl what a "man" he was by crushing Chip's paw. He squeezed for several minutes, but I refused to cry out or yank my hand away. Afterwards, the nursing facility wrapped my hand and I was given the rest of the day off.

The worst cases involved friends performing as Robin Hood and Mickey Mouse. Robin had a group of kids give him a bear hug, while another part of their group tried to pull his tail off. None knew the tail was attached to the person inside with a set of belts. End result: Robin received several broken ribs.

As for Mickey, he was the unknowing pawn of a gang initiation. The newbie was to stick his knife in Mickey's back. They knew Mickey wouldn't feel anything with all the padding. Ironically, the Mickey was a survival trainee and heard the sound of a switchblade. He turned as the gang member lunged. Mickey grabbed the kid's wrist and twisted him to the ground. A security guard ran to the aid of the "child" until he saw the blood pouring out of Mickey's side. (Not only was the gang member jailed, he probably lost face having been beaten by a mouse.)

However, as horrible as those might seem, a new danger is coming to those who don a costume. It is the fear of lawsuit and imprisonment. Papers are covering the story of a Tigger at Walt Disney World accused of molesting guests. The investigation and media are beginning to resemble the circus around 911.

The first guest came forward almost a month after the alleged incident. (I say, "alleged" to give all parties benefit of a doubt and a fair legal system.) Suddenly others came forward saying the same Tigger molested them. Some of these new incidents occurred before the accused person even worked at Disney World. Should it be believed all Tiggers were prone to such molestations? Even the one in the photo from the 1970s?

Some ex-costume workers talking to press have described the alleged action (touching a breast) as an accident, others as something done on purpose. Knowing the Tigger suit, both are equally possible scenarios. Sadly, as more guests come forward with complaints, none have come forward in support. Where are the thousands of guests who received happy handshakes and hugs from Tigger? Where are current workers who understand the suit's abilities and limitations? (Actually, they are probably afraid of falling under a similar scrutiny by the press.)

This incident will become a temporary black mark, and late night topic against all costume performers. Other local parks are now being asked about possible past complaints. Companies wanting to use mascots now have to consider bad publicity or legal action. Eventually the circus will come to various conclusions, and probably none that will enhance the ability of a child to meet their favorite cartoon character.

You can read one of the reports here.

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