Allegations of Donald Duck Molestation: Scary or a Scam?

Things get freaky at Disney World

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A 27-year-old Pennsylvania woman is suing Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, alleging that she was sexual assaulted by a Disney employee dressed up as Donald Duck. She says the incident took place at Disney World in 2008 and that it caused her post-traumatic stress disorder. Her $50,000 lawsuit, which says Donald Duck grabbed her breast then "made gestures making a joke indicating he had done something wrong," contends negligence, battery, and infliction of emotional distress. But how likely is it that this is legitimate? Observers are looking at the details of the case, and at Disney's history, to evaluate her case.

  • What Victim Claims  The Philadelphia Daily News' William Bender reports, "Beyond the humiliation of being groped by an anthropomorphic duck in a sailor suit, Magolon claims that the incident caused 'severe physical injury,' a 'shock to her entire nervous system,' 'muscle contraction headaches,' 'acute anxiety,' 'nausea, cold sweats, insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, digestive problems' and other conditions that are 'permanent in nature.' The episode also forced her to spend 'large sums of money for a ruined vacation' with her children and fiancé, according to the suit."
  • Disney Employees 'Not To Be Trusted'  Gawker's Maureen O'Connor writes, "We hug them, we kiss them, we put our children in their arms. Who are the strange people in the furry costumes at Disney World, and are they pervs? ... The legal papers includes a helpful list of other Disney character transgressions, like the time Tigger molested a 13-year-old girl. In other news, a guy just wrote a memoir about dealing drugs while costumed as Winnie the Pooh at Epcot, and how his co-workers were furries who liked to have kinky sex in their costumes. (And he's not the first Disney character to dish: a former Disneyland Pluto wrote a play a few years back about much the same stuff.) Moral of the story: Men who wear masks are not to be trusted." A number of Gawker commenters reported similar incidents in the comments section of O'Connor's post.
  • ...But Tigger Was Found Innocent  Law blogger Kashmir Hill writes, "As recounted in [the complaint put forth by Donald Duck's accuser], Disney employee Michael Chartrand — who was dressed up like Tigger — was 'arrested and charged with one count of lewd and lascivious molestation of a child and one count of simple battery.' ... The complaint mentions the incident but doesn’t recount its outcome." Tigger was acquitted, Hill finds. "So Tigger bounced right out of those charges. Will Donald do the same? ... We’ll find out. Disney is moving to have the case transferred from Pennsylvania’s Court of Common Pleas to federal court in Philadelphia."
  • Likely Scam or 'Copycat Claim'  Slate's William Saletan warns, "We've seen this pattern before: an allegation of groping, followed by a bunch of other people recalling similar abuse. The initial charge makes the rest of the claims credible. But sometimes the allegations, and even the triggered memories, are false. That's what happened to Tigger. Don't let it happen to Donald. ... The [Tigger] case seems to have been a total scam. The girl's mother planned to sue Disney for money and lied to prosecutors about her plans. The cops conned Chartrand into writing an apology to the girl even though he had no memory of her, much less groping her. The girl's stepfather testified that nothing untoward had happened." Saletan, citing the work of scientist Elizabeth Loftus, suggests that many of the claims of similar incidents are "copycat claims" based on fabricated memories.
  • Former Disney Manager Weighs In  Gawker commenter trojanjustin writes, "Worked at Disney in various levels of management, so I can tell you: It was definitely a woman in that costume, as the height range to play Donald is very short. Mickey, Minnie, Chip and Dale are also almost exclusively portrayed by little tiny girls/ladies/Asian women. Also, the visibility in those costumes is so incredibly poor, you can only see straight ahead basically (not up or down), so it's very possible that the character brushed her breast by accident and then apologized. Since they get in trouble if they speak out loud, an apologetic motion was all that could have been done."
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