An older Disney Park story of when the beloved Winnie the Pooh was taken to court for hitting a child recently resurfaced in the news and is making the rounds again.
As many Disney fans know, the Walt Disney Company is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. In honor of this milestone, the Mouse House has announced new shows, spectaculars, new decor at the Disney Parks, and even new outfits for the famous duo—Mickey and Minnie Mouse. But along with this, what has been coming to the surface are also news stories of happenings at the Parks from decades ago.
While bad behavior on the part of Guests and Cast Members is news to us now, these kinds of occurrences are age-old, in fact, once a Disney Cast Member ever had to take to the stand for their actions. SFGate shared the story.
We set the scene in 1970s Disneyland.
In 1974, Robert Hill, who played the Disney Character Winnie the Pooh, arrived at his shift and started getting ready. Per the article, Pooh’s costume was fairly different from what it is today — the bear was a little less furry and a lot more plasticky, with short, stubby arms and a “hunny” pot atop his yellow head. (Taking it one step further, the actor’s head was inside that pot.)
After dressing, Hill headed into the Park for Pooh’s usual meet-and-greets. The Disney Cast Member would later say he first felt someone “tugging at him from behind”— a 9-year-old girl visiting Disneyland with her family—but that’s when the story starts to change. According to the girl’s family, after this, Hill intentionally struck the child with his Pooh arm, leaving her with bruising and headaches that didn’t subside for months.
Hill told a very different story. In a recent interview with Disneyland historian David Koenig, Hill said the girl was purposefully acting out when the incident occurred. “I saw her winding up for a second run on me, so as she closed in for the kill, I spun around to scare her,” Hill told Koenig, “but she was already on top of me. I spun around, and Pooh’s ear caught her in the side of her head.”
The family lodged a complaint in Disneyland City’s Hall, then filed a suit against Hill for damages. Disney, infamously tight-lipped about legal matters, never gave a public statement about the case, but Hill said his supervisors, who had also formerly worked as costumed actors, backed him from the start. Fast-forward six years and Pooh took the stand.
As the article details, in retrospect, putting Hill in his Pooh costume on the stand seems inevitable. But at the time, it must have been a tremendous risk, a bold and almost facetious move that could have quickly earned the contempt of the judge.
Stories like this are interwoven into the Parks’ history and are a notable part of Disney history.
Disneyland Resort is one of two Disney Resorts in the United States. The other is the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida which is home to four Theme Parks, including the famed Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom among others.
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