Boing! Tigger accused of hitting child at Disney
He's flouncy, bouncy, full of vim and vigour and loves to leap in your lap, or so the song says. But Winnie the Pooh's Tigger has landed in trouble at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida – he stands accused of hitting a child while posing for a photo.
Jerry Monaco of New Hampshire was filming his son Jerry Jnr as he posed with Tigger at the Orlando theme park. But what he saw through the viewfinder was Tiger delivering Jerry an out of character whack. The footage, since circulated on the internet, shows the boy, two other children and his mother posing for a photo with Tigger.
A few seconds later, Tigger grabs and locks Jerry Jnr's arm, then throws a punch at the teenager's face. Understandably perhaps, the boy lashes back.
"At first I was mad at my son. I thought he did something to Tigger, but then you review it and it is pretty clear he clocked him in the face," said Mr Monaco.
Officials at Disney World have suspended their employee Michael Fedelem while they investigate the accusations. "Naturally, physical altercations between cast members and guests are not tolerated," a Disney World spokeswoman said.
This is the second time that a Tigger actor has been investigated over allegations of serious misconduct at Disney World. A 13-year-old girl and her mother reported being groped and molested by a British employee dressed as Tigger in the Magic Kingdom's Toontown zone in February 2004. A jury found the employee, Michael Chartrand, not guilty and he returned to work.
Six months later, Mr Chartrand was suspended again over allegations he attacked two fellow employees, this time while dressed as Goofy. At the time, his lawyer, Geoff Kauffman, said "Of course he was goofing around because he was Goofy! That's the joke about this. You're supposed to goof around, be animated"
None of the quieter, more contemplative Hundred Acre Wood characters – Piglet, Eeyore or Pooh – has ever come under investigation.
Arlie Russell Hochschild, an American sociologist, believes the work is a form of tough "emotional labour", with employees required to produce moods, facial expressions and body language on demand.
Wes Robinson, who portrays Goofy and Tigger at the Florida park says: "You don't retaliate no matter what's happened to you – and believe me we get it."
Jerry Jnr was recovering at home in New Hampshire yesterday. " Disney is supposed to be a safe place, a place where you are supposed to spend time with your family" he said.
"At first, I thought he was kidding and all, just playing around, and then he actually grabbed my arm. He hit me pretty hard. I could still feel it through the padded gloves," he said.
The family says their holiday was ruined by the incident. "Tigger won't be a man about it. Get out of the costume and apologise to my son," Jerry Snr said.