Disney has refused to allow a grieving dad to put a picture of Spider-Man on his four-year-old son's grave – 'because of a policy started by Walt Disney himself'.
Spider-Man superfan Ollie Jones tragically lost his lengthy two-year battle with a rare genetic disorder last year, and his family gave him a superhero-themed funeral.
But when his grieving dad Lloyd Jones tried to get permission for an etching of his son's favourite superhero, Spider-Man, on his gravestone, he was told by the council to contact the character's owners – children's entertainment giant Disney.
The Walt Disney Company – which owns the Marvel franchise – refused to give the go-ahead because they wanted to preserve “innocence” and “magic” around their characters.
A rejection email from the US-based giant offered the devastated family, from Maidstone, Kent, a "personalised cel" showing a scene from Spider-Man with a hand-written message to Ollie.
Lloyd wanted the Spider-Man image to remind him of Ollie when he visits the grave at Maidstone cemetery in Kent.
Dad Lloyd was baffled by the movie giant’s ruling who thinks it was “all about money.”
The dad-of-six said: "I really wasn't expecting this – it's another massive blow.
"I felt sure they would allow it."
Lloyd said the movie firm is trying to “disassociate their characters with death.”
He added: “That makes no sense to me – characters die in their films all the time.
"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."
Ollie passed away last December after a two-year battle with leukodystrophy, a rare genetic disease, also shared by his six-year-old sister Laillah.
His funeral was led by the Marvel character and featured a horse drawn carriage decorated in red and blue balloons.
Writing on Facebook to rally support to reverse the decision, Lloyd said: “Kids only matter to Disney when there alive and spending money with them.”
Lloyd's brother Jason Jones, 37, communicated with Disney on his behalf because the dad was struggling to deal with his son's 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 honoured.
"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.
"Although we cannot grant the family's request, we would be pleased to commemorate your nephew with a hand-inked, hand-painted, personalized that recognises his love for Spider-Man, which will read: 'For your ___ (nephew's name), Thank you for letting us share in the magic of your life. Your friends at the Walt Disney Company.
"We feel privileged to have had him as a fan.'"
American animator Walt Disney famously founded the company in the 1920s and passed away in 1966.
Since then the number of characters Disney owns has expanded hugely, particularly after buying Marvel and Star Wars
Ollie's uncle Jason said: "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.
"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.”
A Maidstone Borough Council spokeswoman said they would do “everything they can” to help the family.
She added: "Maidstone Borough Council is trying to help a family who have 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 are complying with their terms and conditions.”
Meanwhile, an online petition by Lloyd’s old school friend Michael Farrow urging Disney to change its mind has gained more than 1600 signatures.
And Lloyd was moved by an offer by Maidstone building firm Gallaghers to donate the headstone if permission was granted.
Ollie died of leukodystrophy which effects one in 40,000 people in the UK, and is brought on by a genetic fault affecting the brain, spinal cord and surrounding nerves.
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