Disney World: Not the Happiest Place on Earth

Recently a two-year-old boy was wading in a lake at Disney World when an alligator surfaced, grabbed the child, and despite efforts by nearby adults, held him under water until he drowned. Disney officials at the Florida resort responded to the tragedy—and public relations nightmare—by closing down for a day and later posting the sign below telling employees how to respond to questions about the event.

Photo by Orlando Sentinel

Photo by Orlando Sentinel

Intern Shannon Sullivan tweeted a photo of the sign because, as she told the Orlando Sentinel, she was uncomfortable about misleading the public and was willing to lose her job if that’s what would happen as a result of publicizing the sign. It did.

As soon as park officials became aware of her Twitter post, they informed her that her participation in the Disney College Program was prematurely over and escorted her out of the park. That night a reporter at the Orlando Sentinel questioned officials about Sullivan’s dismissal. The next morning, Magic Kingdom vice president Dan Cockerell visited Sullivan at her home and offered her job back.


  1. Why should Disney officials have had the foresight to know that the sign would be made public?
  2. Why do you think Cockerell traveled to Sullivan’s house instead of phoning her?
  3. Do you think business leaders like Cockerell should admit mistakes? Why or why not?

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