Thomas Tolbert was confronted by Disney World employees after his Santa Claus-like appearance caused a commotion. Tolbert was forced to turn away children who wanted his autograph and was asked to change his clothing to "appear less Santa-ish."
Tolbert bears an uncanny resemblance to the beloved Santa Claus, which caused problems at the child-friendly Disney World. Children were fascinated by Tolbert's appearance and continually asked for a photo and autograph, prompting Disney officials to step in and make a significant request to Tolbert.
"Do you approach people or do people come up to you?" officials asked Tolbert. "I never approach a person," he responded. "You can't be portraying Santa," the official responded before asking Tolbert to "appear less Santa-ish."
"I never had a red suit on," Tolbert told WKMG. "I never had a hat, I didn't have fur boots on, but that doesn't make Santa. The face and the persona are what make Santa. They're looking at my face, and they're looking at my features."
The Disney official then told Tolbert to deny children the opportunity for a photo or autograph of their hero.
"They said, 'You need to say I'm sorry. I'm not who you think I am. I'm on vacation and you need to leave me alone,'" Tolbert said.
Disney issued its own statement about the ordeal and described Tolbert's appearance as "disruptive to its operations and confusing to other guests, particularly children who asked to take photos with him. He was not asked to leave. Instead, we tried to work with him so that he could continue his visit."
Tolbert was not satisfied, however, and told WKMG, "Disney does not own the image of Santa. Santa Claus is not owned by anybody, except for the world." And Tolbert will not do anything to change his personal appearance, which got him named one of the three best Santa Clauses at the national convention this year.