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A Disney rap sheet thatâ??s for the birds



It was a showdown at Toon Town when Disney security called Orange County deputies on Dec. 15 to arrest or subdue a woman and an 8-foot-tall chicken.

The woman, whose name was not released by officials, was reported to be a producer working on a television show with filmmaker and political rabble-rouser Michael Moore. The chicken was "Crackers, the Corporate Crime Fighting Chicken," the mascot of Moore's former show, "TV Nation."

According to a dispatch from Moore's listserve, Crackers will appear in a new series called "The Awful Truth," set to premier on the Bravo cable channel in April. The e-mail describes the incident as "our first arrest ever. Crackers, our Corporate Crime Fighting Chicken, and our producer, Tia Lessin, were taken away in handcuffs when Crackers confronted Mickey Mouse down in Orlando at Disney World. It was an historic meeting of the two great animal mascots, but the Disney people (the subject of our story) did not see it that way."

Actually, there was no arrest, says Deputy Robert Larson, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Office. "Disney didn't want to press charges, so they unarrested her," Larson says. "What they ended up doing was trespassing her from Disney."

According to Larson, Lessin was videotaping the chicken "bugging the guests about contracts or something." Larson sounded skeptical about Lessin's claims to be working on a TV show for Bravo: "When you watch the Bravo channel and surf around, they show old movies. They don't have a show with people in chicken suits."

Bravo's website has a link confirming that "The Awful Truth" will commence at 9 p.m. April 14 and run for 12 weeks.

Disney spokesman Bill Warren said the pair "offered no proof" of their affiliation with Moore, whose 1989 documentary, "Roger and Me," made more money than any previous documentary.

"TV Nation," which ran for two seasons on NBC and Fox, regularly featured Crackers confronting corporate evil-doers. In one episode he marched into a New York bank to ask why the bank took $50 million in tax breaks with the promise it wouldn't lay off people, then did so anyway. (Guards threw him out.)

Although many authorities say they aren't familiar with the electric-yellow, red-caped bird, he has achieved a sort of cult following. Moore says in his book "Downsize This" that Crackers' corporate-crime tip line once generated 30,000 calls in two days.

Crackers' specialty is spotlighting labor stories, making Disney an obvious target. Disney recently pushed through a contract that offers hourly workers a modest raise that may be offset by higher insurance costs. Additionally, Disney-owned ABC has locked out several thousand technical workers in an apparent bid to break their union.

Efforts to reach Lessin, Moore and Crackers, the Corporate Crime Fighting Chicken, were unsuccessful.

"They were walking around trying to interview guests," Warren says. "We have the right to ask them to leave." Disney policy does not allow soliciting, hand-billing or "anything else" that might bother people on their vacations, Warren says. "If you want to come in and want to talk to guests, we escort you."

Although Larson said that specific guests complained, Warren said he knew of none. Nonetheless, says Larson, "Even if it was all legit, if you don't have permission to film at Disney, you're in deep."

"We were satisfied when they left the park," Warren says. "Our goal was to protect the guests' right to have a good time."


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