As some of you know, for two summers out of high school (1973 and 1974), I was an animal character at Kings Island Amusement Park. They were probably the best two summers of my life. So when I saw the report of a counterpart at Disney World punching out some kid posing with him for pictures, I took a good look at the video clip the whole world has seen by now. I suggest the geniuses at Disney take a closer look.
Pause the clip about halfway, to see the character's side view. Notice the tail. I know that tail, because the last time I looked, Hanna-Barbara's "Scooby Doo" has one exactly like it. It's an erect piece mounted on a harness that is strapped around the waist and groin area of the person inside, before the outer costume is put on. If you pull down on the tail from the outside, the base end on the inside goes up. Guess where it goes if the wearer is a male.
Add to that the poor visibility (the flesh-colored part of the animal's jaw is see-through foam), and the one-hundred-plus degree temperatures inside the unit (which is why they're only out for 30 to 45 minutes at a time, at least back in my day), and you have an accident waiting to happen. Especially when some kid decides you're a cuddly little punching bag. Sometimes they don't even realize they're hurting you. And since you're not allowed to speak while in costume...
How do you get around this problem? Easy. At KI, our guys were escorted by young ladies from the Guest Relations department while in the field. These gals were chosen for appearance (oh yes!), charm, poise, and the ability to handle small crowds of tourists. Assuming there isn't more to this story (and there usually is, so what the hey), this incident could have been avoided by park managers looking one step ahead. Disney is the king of the amusement park trade, the one which sets the standard for everyone else. If they haven't thought of this stuff, why has everyone else? I hope that guy gets his day in court. His explanation probably won't surprise this retired animal character.
[UPDATE: This piece got picked up by Allahpundit of Hot Air. Probably because (ahem!) I sent it to him. Viewing the combox, some of the respondents are on to something. The clip shows the kid's left arm reach behind the character. It doesn't show what that arm was doing. And so, the plot thickens.]