Last December, Lloyd Jones, 36, of Kent, England, lost his four-year-old son, Ollie, to a rare genetic disorder called leukodystrophy, which affects the brain and spinal cord. The little boy’s favorite superhero was Spider-Man, and the family’s last trip together had been to see him at Disneyland. It only made sense that the family wanted to place an etching of the beloved character on Ollie’s gravestone as a way of honoring his memory. But when Lloyd’s brother, Jason Jones, reached out to the Walt Disney Company for permission, they said no on the grounds of copyright infringement.
“I was emailing Marvel for months before someone who applied gave me the right email for Disney,” Jason told Best Life, when reached by phone. “I still have the original reply, which was a refusal.”
In the email, the Disney representative expressed “sincere condolences” to the family for their “heartbreaking loss,” but said they could not grant the family’s request “due to a policy that began with Walt Disney himself that does not permit the use of characters on headstones, cemetery, or other memorial markers or funeral urns.” The representative explained that the no-gravestone policy was borne out of a desire to “preserve the same innocence and magic surrounding our characters that brought [Ollie] such joy.”
Instead, the Disney rep offered to “commemorate” the little boy with a “hand-inked, hand-painted personalized” drawing of the superhero on a transparent piece of material.
Regardless, the Joneses took the rejection hard.
“Ever since Ollie died, my brother’s life has been crazy,” Jason said. “Ollie was severely disabled, and Lloyd was always having to take him to different appointments and specialists. It was his whole life. When Ollie died, it killed him. When I told him Disney had said no, he was dumbstruck. He didn’t think there was any possibility they would say no. I’d understand if they didn’t want to license out their characters to be on the side of a truck selling something, but for a child’s grave?”
Ever since the story began receiving attention over the weekend, some fans have been slamming Disney for their decision to deny the request.
One fan even started a Change.org petition urging the Walt Disney Company to make an exception to their policy and grant the family their wish. At the time of publication, it had more than 900 signatures.
“We just thought we would get the headstone and that would be that,” Jason said. “Lloyd is happy that [the story is] getting attention, but we never expected it. He said to me, ‘Everyone’s seen Ollie’s face now, no one is ever going to forget him.’ It’s just broken his heart.”
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