Even I have to admit this one is a head-scratcher. When 8-year-old Ethan visited the happiest place on earth, AKA Disneyland of California, last Thursday, he never imagined that a gigantic hug from a favorite character would land him in the hospital.
By now, we all know what these giant Disneyland characters do: a lot of waving and a little hugging and probably a few photo ops. Whoever was inside the Pluto costume that day didn’t get the memo that small children are kind of fragile. Bystanders caught cell phone footage of a young boy near tears just seconds after receiving a big hug from Pluto.
Ethan’s family claims the hug went too far, causing muscle strain severe enough to warrant a trip to the hospital. Laurie, Ethan’s mother, said she was brushed off by park workers immediately after the hug and was not granted access to a wheelchair. Following a quick visit to the hospital, Ethan was diagnosed with muscle strain. Disneyland took responsibility for all medical expenses.
This is a tough one. I truly believe every child should be heard and that it is never OK to brush off a child’s concerns or injuries. But. But. We are talking about a hug from a friendly character here. I can only assume the magnitude of this hug would be no harder than a big bear hug young Ethan might receive from an annoying uncle at Christmas.
Mom Laurie claims she was not given a wheelchair upon her request, but was offered a stroller instead, because Disneyland did not want to draw attention to Ethan’s injuries. Based on what we know of the events, that argument is far-fetched. In the few chaotic minutes after the “hard hug” occurred, the odds are that park workers truly did not understand Ethan may have been injured. Disneyland is even taking the high road on this one by paying for the boy’s medical expenses without argument.
Once Ethan made it to the hospital for treatment of his injury, Disney made all the right moves. According to the family, a Disney representative showed up at the hospital and apologized for how the incident was handled. The rep offered to pay the hospital bills and bought the family dinner at El Pollo Loco. The rep also confirmed Pluto was disciplined for “roughing up” Ethan. A Disneyland rep told TMZ that they do not believe the family was refused a wheelchair after the painful hug.
In the video, it’s clear to see that Pluto’s happy hug could have hyper-extended Ethan’s back, causing muscle pain. But that is the risk we all take when visiting a super-happy, fun theme park with our kids — character employees are doing their best to entertain and interact with excited children. There’s no way an oversized hug from a costumed character could be malicious. Even Pluto makes mistakes.