Disneyland Faces Backlash in China After Its Beloved Fox Was 'Rude' to Fans

Chinese fans have accused a Disneyland performer of ruining the perfect image of their beloved fox, LinaBell.
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A Disney fox called LinaBell has attracted a cult following in China. Photo: Xinhua via Getty Images

Despite her recent emergence, Disney’s pink fox character LinaBell has already developed a cult following in China and is fast becoming one of the country’s hottest celebrities. But her rising star lost some shine this weekend after she was caught on camera behaving rudely to fans. 

LinaBell impressed young Chinese fans with her furry tail and sweet demeanor when she debuted at the Shanghai Disney Resort in September as a member of the Duffy and Friends plush toy line. 

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Fans call the fox their collective daughter, turn her pictures into cute messaging stickers, line up for hours to greet her at the Disney park, and pay inflated prices to get plush toys from agents who specialize in purchasing LinaBell merchandise for those who are not able to visit Shanghai—the only location in which the items are sold. 

But the star fox is now facing the biggest controversy of her short career in Chinese showbiz. 

Over the weekend, a video of LinaBell’s apparently rude behavior at a Disneyland meet-and-greet went viral on Chinese social media. In the clip, the character was seen responding to fans’ request for her to shake her tail by pointing at the way out. 

After a fan was heard asking her to “give me a kiss,” LinaBell blew a kiss but then made gestures of throwing it onto the floor and stamping on it. 

The clip sparked outrage among some fans, who accused Disney of letting a poorly-trained performer ruin the warm persona of their favorite fox. 

“She is supposed to be a brave, adventurous little fox, but some performers are making her look so rude,” a commenter posted on microblogging site Weibo.

“Can’t even give a kiss?” said one of the most liked comments the same site. “Then why spend money visiting Disney? To get offended?”

“The performers are working hard no matter what,” another top-voted comment said. “But please treasure visitors’ sincerity in visiting from afar and queuing for hours, just to exchange a few words with her.” 

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The Shanghai Disney Resort didn’t immediately respond to Vice World News’ request for comment. 

Despite not featuring in a Disney animation, the Duffy and Friends line, first introduced at the Tokyo Disney Resort in 2010, has been a massive marketing success for the company. Other members of the line include Duffy the Disney Bear, female teddy bear ShellieMay, and a lavender rabbit called StellaLou. 

LinaBell has also generated huge revenue and internet traffic for the theme park in Shanghai since her September debut. Topics about her regularly make it to the trending lists on social media, while clips of her waving hands and dancing boast millions of views on China’s TikTok. Toys often sell out, prompting local merchants to come up with copycat items.  

Some fans have become so invested that they assign nicknames to individual performers inside the costume and have favorites. Fans speculate that at least three people have acted as LinaBell, since the costume appears to fit slightly differently on each performer. When a LinaBell video gets posted, people attempt to guess who’s inside by closely studying how the fluffy pants measure with the performer’s legs. 

Some believe the rude LinaBell was played by a new member of staff, and are demanding Disney give more stringent training to cast members. Other internet users have advocated for more empathy for the performer, who had likely worked long hours in a heavy costume.

“No perfect human exists in this world,” a Weibo user wrote. “You don’t want to admit LinaBell is a human, but she is indeed played by humans.” 

Follow Viola Zhou on Twitter.