ORLANDO, FL—Saying they were working diligently to address the problem, Walt Disney World officials acknowledged Wednesday that several dozen unauthorized characters, none of which have ever appeared in a Disney film or cartoon, had been found in recent weeks wandering throughout the theme park.
Company sources confirmed that at least 60 separate individuals in costumes, including various woodland creatures, several fairies, and what officials described as a walrus in a lab coat, have been spotted greeting visitors, hugging children, posing for pictures, and meandering into daily parades alongside sanctioned Disney characters.
“I want to assure Disney World visitors that these unaffiliated characters are being rounded up as we speak and removed from the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios,” said company spokesperson Wesley Aldridge, noting that patrons may still encounter certain individuals wearing ox costumes, Belgian peasant girl costumes, or any number of other unfamiliar outfits for the time being. “However, before approaching any costumed individual in our park, you should ask yourself whether you recognize this character from an officially licensed product in the Disney or Pixar catalog. If not, please let security know immediately.”
“If you are taking your picture with Chompers the Iguana, for example, you are not taking a picture with an official Disney character,” Aldridge continued. “That’s just a man in an iguana suit. That man does not work for Disney. He doesn’t belong here.”
Aldridge emphasized that none of the non-Disney-brand characters appeared intent on causing any harm and noted with astonishment that not a single one had been found charging money for photographs, concluding that such individuals seemed to “just enjoy being at the park.” Indeed, officials speculate that each offender pays full price for a ticket, enters with their costume stowed in a bag, changes in a Disney restroom, and then emerges to greet crowds or perform short dance routines they have prepared themselves.
While security reportedly kicks out an average of 20 unauthorized characters each day from the theme park and Disney Family Breakfasts at onsite hotel properties, sources stated that nearly all return to the premises. Disney workers claimed that some reenter park property within just hours of their expulsion, citing in particular a muskrat named King Stumpy as well as a boisterous prospector character calling himself Grandpappy Gizzards, who has been forcibly removed from Frontierland every day since mid-February.
“My daughter and I spent 45 minutes in line waiting to meet someone named Princess Maureen,” said 34-year-old Faith Gosselin of Nashua, NH, one of many visitors reportedly duped by the 15 or so unlicensed Disney princesses and emperors that park officials allege are wandering Fantasyland at any given time. “She told my daughter she came all the way from the Diamondonia Kingdom on her flying shark to meet us. It didn’t make any sense, but I just figured she was from a new movie or something.”
“But then I saw Captain Hook come up to her and tell her really sternly that she needed to leave,” Gosselin added. “He was pretty mad.”
In an effort to appear more genuine to park patrons, sources reported that many of the unsanctioned characters have developed their own intricate mythologies and unique, non-Disney-affiliated catchphrases such as “Jumpin’ juniper” or “Wowie-kazaam!”
“There was this squirrel over by Splash Mountain who said he was one of the Scurry Brothers and asked if we’d been on his ride called the Admiral Acorn Adventure,” said father of two Troy Milizia from Auburn, NY. “When we said we hadn’t, he brought out a mountain bike with a little wagon chained behind it and asked us to hop in. He told us it was just like the scene from his movie where he travels down the mountain pass in search of acorns.”
“The kids loved it, but I had no idea what he was talking about,” Milizia continued. “Once he stopped pedaling and asked us if we wanted to go again, I just grabbed my girls and got out of there.”
While Disney officials reiterated that most fraudulent characters posed no threat, they singled out a possum with a cane and top hat as particularly troublesome, noting that the ornery character is often seen sitting on the Main Street, U.S.A. curb and is known to go by the names “Portly Possum,” “Prickly Possum,” “Patty O’Possum,” “Possum Pete,” or “Pop-Pop Possum.”
“There has never been a Disney film that has featured a possum, and we would like to make it abundantly clear to visitors that no licensed Disney character will ever chew tobacco or wear an orthopedic back brace on the job,” said Aldridge, holding a photograph of the counterfeit character. “And we urge you not to purchase the Possum-Time Hoedown DVD he’s selling out of his backpack. It’s really very bad.”