Claim: Disneyland was sued by the parents of children who were traumatized after glimpsing cast members costumed as Disney characters walking around backstage with their costume heads removed.
Origins: Although Disneyland has twice been
the target of lawsuits over incidents that included children viewing headless Disney characters, both lawsuits were based on larger complaints and only included claims about headless characters as afterthoughts or secondary claims.
In October 1989, Lonnie and Karen Boozer of Idaho Falls came to Disneyland with their 5-year-old daughter Lyndsey and their 2-year-old daughter Melissa. During their visit the family was confronted outside the Space Trader gift shop by a security guard who accused them of stealing a piggy bank and took them to the Disneyland security office. While the Boozers were being detained for questioning, Lyndsey supposedly glimpsed costumed cast members walking around backstage with their costume heads under their arms. The $1-million dollar lawsuit accusing the Walt Disney Company of false arrest and false imprisonment subsequently filed by the Boozers claimed, among other things, that "Lyndsey Boozer was shocked to see that her favorite characters (with) whom she was hugging and shaking hands minutes before had lost their heads in the meanwhile." The Boozers alleged that Lyndsey became "depressed and withdrawn" after her experience at Disneyland and spent three months in therapy as a result. The lawsuit was reportedly settled out of court for an undisclosed
On August 17, 1995, 52-year-old Billie Jean Matay (who was once a performer on Disney's Mickey Mouse Club TV show) visited Disneyland with her daughter and three grandchildren. Matay claimed that when they returned to their car in the Disneyland parking lot that afternoon, they were accosted by a man with a gun who took their credit cards and $1,650 in cash before fleeing on foot. She maintained that Disneyland security officers did nothing to assist her after the hold-up but instead took her and the others to a security office, where they were held for hours against their will. The lawsuit filed by Matay four months later alleged that Disneyland failed to provide sufficient security, that park officers held her and her family for questioning against their will, and that cast members dressed as Disney characters removed parts of their costumes in front of her grandchildren, traumatizing them by "exposing the children to the reality that the Disney characters were, in fact, make-believe." The case finally went to trial in August 1997, where Matay admitted on the witness stand that what had happened backstage (i.e., her grandchildren's glimpsing headless characters) was unimportant. Her suit against Disney over their failure to provide adequate security was dismissed by the trial judge at the conclusion of a weeklong trial on 22 August 1997.