Disney has a Times Square Problem

When you think of Disney in Times Square, NYC. the company wants you to think of this

04-nyc-abc-marquee

and this

04-nyc-aladdin-marquee

and this

04-nyc-disneystore-marquee

But what a large portion of the 1.4 million tourists that pass through Times Square see every week is this

04-nyc-mickey

and this

04-nyc-iron-man2

It’s not a good situation. A half-decade or so ago in New York, there was just an occasional Mickey Mouse hanging out near the ABC studios trying not to look bored, a few years ago Elmo joined in the fun, but now there’s dozens of these costumed characters (often many duplicates of the same characters) just hanging out hoping that someone will give them a tip after posing for a picture with them.

You may have heard about the Elmo that got arrested for harassing a family for tips or that the city is trying to make the public aware of the nuisance. That’s true, but it’s mostly a few undercover cops and this sign:

04-nyc-sign

Of course, there’s also the issue that many of the characters, and I use the term loosely, are poor facsimiles of the original. Sometimes just Halloween Costumes re-purposed and sometimes an actual attempt to recreate a famous character like Mickey Mouse, that inevitably falls short. Parents probably know the difference, but I’m not sure that the kids do.

Yeah, it’s a free speech issue. And I’d certainly rather see this than someone standing on the side of the road with a cardboard sign. Everybody has the right to grind out a living, even if it’s busking as a Disney character.

Still it’s an eyesore and a potential black eye for Disney and Marvel and definitely not a good representation of the City of New York nor Disney brand that I know and love. The only hope to make them go away is if people ignore them. Which I know is a hopeless wish. So Disney, New York, and America are stuck with this shoddy representation of our culture to the world.

What would your solution be?

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7 thoughts on “Disney has a Times Square Problem

  1. Diane Wilshere

    I am in favor of requiring licenses. The issue becomes you don’t know who is in the costume hugging you or your child. Okay, you do know because they constantly remove their heads. The signs that tips are optional have helped as the characters have had protests about their income going down. Like Hollywood Blvd, or even a square in Madrid, they are part of the landscape, and I think that it doesn’t affect Disney ( or Nickelodean/Sesame Street, etc) image as badly as people think it does. Now, the charlatan monks that sell bracelets there and berate people for not donating enough money are just as bad.

  2. Ann T

    There are also a ton of them on the Vegas Strip. When I was there in August “Mickey” was sitting on a curb I’m sure overheating and “Chewbacca” had a suitcase with him and a nicely matching brown satchel that read tips. The “iron man” and “captain America” were well done and willing to give directions to lost tourists.

  3. David

    I think that Disney is perhaps missing an opportunity here. Why not have official meet & greets in their flagship store or on the street outside? If someone sees a real Mickey and a fake one, I’m pretty sure where they will go to get a picture.

  4. Jen

    Ha, welcome to the big city. Who is really confused about these characters being “official”? I doubt many people are too confused.

  5. Cheryl Ciannavei

    Vegas has lots of minions!!! A few Mickeys, Minnies and others as well. Not too much business, we wondered how they could manage the heat in those costumes without attracting many customers.

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