Donald Duck tends to be cranky; he’s not the most friendly of the Disney characters. But a Pennsylvania woman, 27, contends that Donald got way too friendly with her during a 2008 trip with her family to Epcot Center.
In a complaint posted by the Smoking Gun, April Magolon claims that she asked Donald for an autograph — who actually asks people in costumes for autographs? — and that he then grabbed her boob, “molested her,” and then made gestures “indicating he had done something wrong.” Magolon’s suing in excess of $50,000 for negligence, battery, and infliction of emotional distress. More bad news for Donald: We’ve heard that Daisy Duck is considering filing for divorce.
Gawker picked up the story and pointed out that creepy behavior on the part of Disney’s costumed characters is a bit of a trend.
The legal papers includes [sic] a helpful list of other Disney character transgressions, like the time Tigger molested a 13-year-old girl. In other news, a guy just wrote a memoir about dealing drugs while costumed as Winnie the Pooh at Epcot, and how his co-workers were furries who liked to have kinky sex in their costumes.
Disney characters are not without their defenders, though. As Mickey Mouse has not appeared to put in a good word for his furry and feathery friends, William Saletan at Slate stepped in and did some investigative reporting. He says that this may in fact be a false Tigger trigger…
Gawker’s story led a number of its readers to recount similar tales of molestation by the Costumed Ones. Saletan rounds those up:
One recalled: “When I was in High School the Shamu at the Sea World in Ohio freaked me out. He kept giving me these big bear hugs that were really hard and rough. He also kept my face covered with his fins while he was doing this. Very creepy. I can understand why this lady was totally offended.” Another agreed: “Similar experience in high school with a crash test dummy at Disney (near the test track). Creepy.” A third added: “When my family visited Magic Mountain in the 70s, a horny person dressed up as a grape pinched my dad’s ass and then scampered away.” A fourth wrote: “UGH! I remember going to Disney with my brother and sister. I was like 16 and they were like 12 and 10—so I was confused that all the characters seemed to want to kiss ME on the cheek and hug ME more than my siblings.”
Since I grew up in Florida, I attended theme parks more frequently than most well-adjusted American kids. Unfortunately, I was never molested and have no Goofy-touched-me-inappropriately tale to tell.
But maybe that’s just because I’m less susceptible to falsely-triggered memories. Saletan argues that these Gawker readers may in fact be digging up false memories, and cites the work of Elizabeth Loftus. It’s an interesting read.
But we’ll stick to the law stuff. Saletan dug up the court records in 13-year-old v. Tigger. As recounted in Magolon’s complaint, Disney employee Michael Chartrand — who was dressed up like Tigger — was “arrested and charged with one count of lewd and lascivious molestation of a child and one count of simple battery.” Police were told that Tigger/Chartrand had “fondled the breasts” of a 13-year-old girl and her mother while their pictures were being taken at the Magic Kingdom’s Toon Town. Bouncing breasts is what Tiggers do best?
The complaint mentions the incident but doesn’t recount its outcome. Saletan decided to look it up. What happened to too-touchy Tigger?
Answer: Chartrand was acquitted. The case seems to have been a total scam. The girl’s mother planned to sue Disney for money and lied to prosecutors about her plans. The cops conned Chartrand into writing an apology to the girl even though he had no memory of her, much less groping her. The girl’s stepfather testified that nothing untoward had happened. At trial, the defense attorney put on the Tigger outfit to show jurors how severely it limited its occupant’s vision and range of motion, making the alleged groping impossible.
So Tigger bounced right out of those charges. Will Donald do the same? Saletan points out an interesting comment from a reader at Gawker:
Worked at Disney in various levels of management, so I can tell you:
It was definitely a woman in that costume, as the height range to play Donald is very short. Mickey, Minnie, Chip and Dale are also almost exclusively portrayed by little tiny girls/ladies/Asian women.
Also, the visibility in those costumes is so incredibly poor, you can only see straight ahead basically (not up or down), so it’s very possible that the character brushed her breast by accident and then apologized. Since they get in trouble if they speak out loud, an apologetic motion was all that could have been done.
This lawsuit nonsense.
We’ll find out. Disney is moving to have the case transferred from Pennsylvania’s Court of Common Pleas to federal court in Philadelphia. We’d urge the entertainment company to find Donald some pants if he must make a court appearance. He’ll seem like less of a pervert that way.
Grope Claim Against Donald Duck [The Smoking Gun]
Donald Duck Accused of Molesting Lady at the Epcot Center [Gawker]
Sick Duck [Slate]