With his rosy cheeks and bushy white beard, Thomas Tolbert can't help but remind people of a certain beloved Christmas mascot.
But that didn't matter to officials at Disney World, who ordered Tolbert, a senior activities director from Georgia, to change out of his "Santa-related" clothing because his appearance was confusing the other guests.
Tolbert, who was visiting the park with his family, says he was confronted by a Disney rep and told he wasn't allowed to portray Santa. He was ordered to change out of his clothes immediately. "I had a shirt that had—it would be like a collage—and it had Santa faces and it had sayings from 'The Night Before Christmas,'" Tolbert, told Orlando's Local 6.
The Dunwoody man, who occasionally dresses up as Santa for professional gigs, acknowledged that people had been asking him for his autograph and that he obliged, but said he was not purposely impersonating Saint Nick. "Disney had informed me that I must inform anybody who came up to me that 'I am not who you think I am, I am on vacation and please leave me alone,'" said Tolbert.
Disney released a statement confirming that Tolbert had been asked to put on different clothes "because it was disruptive to our operations and confusing to our other guests."
Tolbert was compensated for his inconvenience with free passes for a future visit, but he still has a bone to pick with the park over the incident. "Disney does not own the image of Santa," he said. "Santa Claus is not owned by anybody, except for the world."
[screengrab via Local 6]