Disney reportedly follows 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."
Four-year-old Ollie Jones was a big Spider-Man fan. He died from a rare genetic disease at a very young age and his father wanted to honor his son's memory. 36-year-old Llyod Jones from Maidstone, Kent, wanted to put an engraving of the superhero on his son's tombstone as a memory, but surprisingly, Disney, known for its relationship with children, refused to give Jones permission to do so. The film giant said it wanted to preserve Spider-Man’s “innocence”, according to reports by The Sun. Jones initially approached Maidstone Council about having the etching on the headstone, but he was informed that he would have to seek permission from the copyright owners - which ultimately led to Disney denying his request.
Jones said that Disney denied his request, claiming that they did not want their characters to be associated with 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 honored. 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. This was something the father-of-six just could not accept, and said, “I really wasn’t expecting this – it’s another massive blow. I felt sure they would allow it.”
"I think this is all about money. Ollie's last holiday was at Disneyland. He loved Spider-Man and we had bought him all the toys. But now he has died and we won't be spending any more money, they don't care," he added. Ollie died in December last year from genetic disorder leukodystrophy, which affects the brain and nervous system. His sister, six-year-old Laillah, also suffers from the same disorder.
Ollie’s funeral procession took place in Maidstone, Kent, and was led by someone dressed up as Spider-Man. The character was present on his coffin, too. “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," Ollie's uncle, Jason Jones, 37, said.
“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.” The New York Post reports that the family's last trip together had been to Disneyland so Ollie could meet his favorite superhero for one last time.
A Maidstone Borough Council spokeswoman said they would do “everything they can” to help the family. “Maidstone Borough Council is trying to help a family who has 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 is complying with their terms and conditions," she added.