Disney refuses grieving father’s request to put Spider-Man on son’s tombstone to preserve character’s ‘innocence’

‘We can’t move on until we have his headstone done – Spider-Man was Ollie’s entire life’

Gregory Kirby,Alan Smith
Friday 05 July 2019 14:11 BST
Disney refuses grieving father’s request to put Spider-Man on son’s tombstone to preserve character’s ‘innocence’

Disney has refused a grieving father’s wish to put a picture of Spider-Man on his four-year-old son’s gravestone, in order to preserve the character’s ”innocence”.

Ollie Jones’ family gave him a superhero-themed funeral after he died from a rare genetic disorder last year, however when his father tried to get permission for an etching of his favourite character on the tombstone, the council told him to contact the copyright owners first.

Disney, which owns the Marvel franchise, refused the plans, citing a policy “that began with Walt Disney himself” to preserve the “innocence” and “magic” of their characters.

Father Lloyd Jones wanted the Spider-Man image to remind him of Ollie when he visits the grave at Maidstone cemetery in Kent and was baffled by the movie giant’s ruling.

The father of six said: “I really wasn’t expecting this – it’s another massive blow. I felt sure they would allow it.”

While Mr Jones believes the company is trying to “disassociate its characters with death”, he said: “That makes no sense to me – characters die in their films all the time."

Lloyd’s brother Jason Jones, 37, communicated with Disney on his behalf because the father was struggling to deal with his son’s death.

A representative from The Walt Disney Company’s permissions department wrote: “We extend our sincere condolences. If we played a small part in Ollie’s happiness we are honoured.

“Generations of fans have responded to our characters with the same wonder and delight that Ollie did. In fact, many believe the characters to be real.

“We have striven to preserve the same innocence and magic around our characters that brought Ollie such joy.

“For that reason, we follow 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.

“Although we cannot grant the family’s request, we would be pleased to commemorate your nephew with a hand-inked, hand-painted, personalised celluloid that recognises his love for Spider-Man, which will read: ‘For your _______ (nephew’s name), Thank you for letting us share in the magic of your life. Your friends at the Walt Disney Company.

“We feel privileged to have had him as a fan.’”

Ollie passed away last December after a two-year struggle with leukodystrophy, which his six-year-old sister Laillah also shares.

His funeral was led by the Marvel character and featured a horse drawn carriage decorated in red and blue balloons.

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Jason Jones said: “This meant everything to us. My brother’s life has been shattered, it has shattered the whole family.

“We can’t move on until we have his headstone done – Spider-Man was Ollie’s entire life. He loved it so much.

“I didn’t expect it to be an issue – my funeral director, who’s also my friend called me and told me they can’t do it. I thought he was joking at first.

“We understand copyright but I don’t see why Marvel would have any issues with this.”

A Maidstone Borough Council spokeswoman said they would do “everything they can” to help the family.

She added: “Maidstone Borough Council is trying to help a family who have asked whether they can place a Spider-Man headstone at the grave of their young son.

“Sadly, these types of stones have to adhere to copyright and while we understand this is a very emotional time for the family we have made contact with Marvel to ensure the family are complying with their terms and conditions.”

Leukodystrophy affects one in 40,000 people in the UK and is brought on by a genetic fault affecting the brain, spinal cord and surrounding nerves.


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