Disney loves to encourage devotion or obsession among its fans. That makes it mind-boggling, then, that last week a girl was kicked out of Disney World for wearing a Tinker Bell costume. The justification park execs gave? Her costume was too good. Tampa Bay Online has the details.
Fifteen-year-old April Spielman worked and saved for over a year in order to afford tickets herself to Disney World. She also put a lot of dedication into creating her own rather realistic Tinker Bell costume. The plan was for her and her boyfriend to go to Disney World on their own money dressed as Tinker Bell and Peter Pan.
Spielman’s costume was so good that other guests started to ask her if they could take pictures with her. Seems harmless enough to me; maybe it’s because I’m immersed in geek culture, where cosplaying (costume role playing) is a big thing and cosplayers love to take pictures with each other, bonding over their shared enthusiasm. But that’s where it crossed the line for Disney World staff.
When Spielman tried to get in line for a ride, she noticed a bunch of employees coming up behind her. They told her that she wasn’t allowed to wear the costume. That confused Spielman and her parents; there were other girls around Spielman’s age dressed in Disney costumes, so what was wrong with hers?
Spielman’s costume was too good. The suits at Disney World were concerned that other guests at the park would mistake her for an actual cast member. Apparently the problem is that because Spielman isn’t actually an employee she might not uphold all of the rules that cast members have to follow, and that could potentially cause a problem in the park. It sounds ridiculous but people seem to like to sue Disney World, so maybe it’s not that far off of the mark.
Disney World’s reaction still seems extreme. They escorted Spielman out among a number of guards, like she’d committed some kind of crime. They forced her to buy clothing at one of their shops that she could wear in place of the costume. After she returned more appropriately garbed she was given a number of passes to get first in line for rides, but it’s safe to say that Spielman’s experience was ruined at this point.
Disney World’s famous dress code apparently applies to its guests as well (beyond the typical no shirt, no shoes ban), because in the fine print it says that guests over the age of 10 are not allowed to wear Disney costumes, for this very reason. The rule isn’t often enforced because costumes aren’t usually good enough, but in Spielman’s case hers was; her father even alleges that he asked a staff member that if her wings were crooked would that have been OK, and got “yeah, possibly” as a reply.
I just don’t see the big problem: Spielman is 15; anyone who got close enough to her must have seen that she wasn’t actually a cast member. And even if they continued to think so, couldn’t she just tell them that she wasn’t? That seems like an easy enough solution to keep everyone happy.
The current marketing campaign for the Disney Parks is “Let the Memories Begin.” What a memory Disney World has created for one of its young fans.