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Disney Agrees To Stop Selling ‘Steve The Tramp’ Dolls

December 19, 1990

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Bowing to pressure from advocates for the homeless, the Walt Disney Co. has decided to stop selling a toy figure of a tramp.

The Rev. Christopher Rose, rector of Grace Episcopal Church, inspired the protests early this month when he cited ″Steve the Tramp″ as one of the most offensive toys of the 1990 Christmas season.

″I’m glad somebody there got a conscience,″ Rose said Tuesday when he learned of Disney’s action. ″But I feel it is a hollow victory because it is only a week before Christmas.″

The 5-inch-high plastic figure is one of a series of 14 ″coppers and gangsters″ based on the movie ″Dick Tracy,″ which was produced by Disney- owned Touchstone Pictures.

The tramp is described on the package as ″hardened and bitter after a life on the mean streets ... a lout who would just as soon take your life as your wallet ... (and) will use and abuse any young, helpless prey he comes across.″

″We feel that the action figure, when viewed outside the fantasy world of ‘Dick Tracy,’ is being misunderstood,″ said a statement Monday from Disney in Burbank, Calif.

Joining in the statement were Playmates Toys Inc. of La Mirada, Calif., which is licensed by Disney to manufacture and market the toy, and the National Coalition for the Homeless, based in New York City.

″Playmates has decided to discontinue production and distribution of the doll. Disney has removed the figure from shelves at its chain of retail stores and theme parks,″ the statement said.

However, Disney spokesman Chuck Champlin acknowledged Tuesday that it was too late to recall the toy from other retailers a week before Christmas.

Some chains discontinued sale of the tramp doll after advocates for the homeless protested and picketed stores.

Rose brought the figure to the attention of advocates for the homeless in his annual ″Warped Toys for Christmas″ display at his church Dec. 2.

A nationwide chain of 1,200 stores, Kay Bee Toy and Hobby, pulled the figure from its shelves Dec. 7 after activists picketed its stores in the Stamford Town Center.

Marvin Minkler, an organizer of the Stamford protest, said Playmates Toys has donated more than 800 toys to his organization, Gateway Communities Homeless Outreach, to give to poor children.

A Disney representative also promised to meet with Gateway in January to see how they might collaborate on a program to help homeless people, Minkler said.

″As you see, in the end we agree the product is indefensible,″ said Champlin, who two weeks ago released a statement defending sale of the figure.

Michael Stoops, assistant director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said: ″We appreciate the responsiveness of both the Walt Disney Co. and Playmates Toys in withdrawing the Steve the Tramp doll from store shelves and ending production and distribution.″

Rose said his Steve the Tramp figure is joining other offensive toys, which he has been collecting for four years, in a church storeroom.

Someday, Rose said, he hopes to open a museum of tasteless toys ″as a sad commentary on late 20th-century culture.″

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