By Mike Patrick, Jr., M.D.
What do you get when you cross a short-fused friend of Winnie-the-Pooh and a New England teenager? A whole bunch of controversy, that's what.
For those who haven't seen the latest video from the Disney-MGM Studios, let me fill you in. The clip, shot with a home camera, depicts a common scene occurring every day at every Disney theme park: A photo opportunity with one of those world-famous Disney characters.
In this particular sequence, a family is gathered around Tigger. Mom is squatting on the ground, holding a toddler in place. The middle child is standing next to Mom, directly in front of Tigger, and the teenage boy is standing on Tigger's right side. Dad has the video camera and is capturing the moment.
The video clip starts as you would expect. Everyone is standing still. Tigger has his left paw on middle child's shoulder and his right paw around teenager's shoulder, and the teenager has his left arm around the back of Tigger. It's a nice family moment. Then, Tigger suddenly takes his paw off middle child's shoulder, takes a step back, turns sideways, puts the teenager in a martial-arts-style arm hold before whacking him in the side of the face.
According to an Orange County Sheriff's Report, the "struggle" resulted because Tigger, who had lost sight of his spotter during the photo shoot, felt the teen pulling his costume back. Apparently this knocked Tigger off-balance and made it difficult for him to breathe.
The teenager and his father claim Tigger was completely unprovoked. They say Tigger hauled off and clocked the boy for no reason.
Are you buying that?
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying the father is intentionally lying. But something must have happened, don't you think? I mean, really, would Tigger just freak out and hit a kid out of the blue? Was the teen messing with Tigger's zipper? Was he intentionally pulling on the back of his costume? Was he messing with the head? The teenager, despite having a huge grin on his face and immediately hitting Tigger back (on top of the character's head), denies doing any of these things.
I'll ask again. Are you buying that?
The family reported the incident to Disney management by showing off their video. Management agreed something appeared amiss. They initiated an investigation and suspended Tigger from employment pending the outcome of an inquiry.
A few hours later, Jean Erik Redrupp, General Manager of Park Operations at Disney-MGM Studios, contacted the family and said, "I just wanted to follow up with you and let you know that we have spoken to the cast member in question and have reacted very strongly toward him."
Reacted very strongly toward him? Okay.
Well, that wasn't good enough for the family. Their lawyer claims the boy and his father want a personal apology from Tigger. That's all they're after. A simple apology. And they ran to their lawyer to get it.
Are you buying that?
The family releases their video to the media, they go to an Orlando-area emergency department where a doctor conveniently records the boy's neck pain complaint in a legal record, and they make an appearance on the CBS Early Show to describe what they call an unprovoked "sucker punch."
But all they want is an apology? I don't know about you, but I'm not buying it.
Something smells funny here, don't you think? Tigger punches a kid, dad catches it on video, the family lawyer makes a statement, and a rival network provides national coverage--all within a couple days.
Something tells me we haven't heard the last of this one. Trouble is, we shouldn't have heard about it in the first place!
Dr Mike is a board-certified pediatrician and host of Pediacast: A Pediatric Podcast for Parents. You can read his blog, listen to the podcast, and sign up for his newsletter at www.pediacast.org.
COPYRIGHT 2006 MIKE PATRICK JR