Village People file $20M lawsuit against Disney for allegedly stiffing group, blackballing them

Disney is being sued for over $20 million by the wife of the leader of the Village People, who claims that the House of Mouse stiffed the performers and then blackballed them from performing at Disney World.

Karen Willis, who is the wife of lead singer and co-founder Victor Willis, is asserting that the 70’s disco group was treated poorly by Disney and that they were not paid promptly. Due to the dispute, the group has been allegedly banned for years from performing at Disney World.

“According to legal docs, obtained by TMZ, Karen Willis — the wife of Victor Willis and manager of the VP trademark for live performances — filed suit against the Mouse House late last year for what she claims was outright hostile treatment of her hubby and another original member,” TMZ reported.

“Her husband Victor Willis is the sole original member of the group who still performs under the Village People name, and he co-wrote and sang lead on most of the group’s classic albums and hit singles, including Y.M.C.A., Macho Man and In The Navy,” the outlet noted concerning the iconic group.

The dispute began after the group was booked for a couple of performances in 2018 at Disney World in Florida. For the first time in years, the performance during the two-day gig reportedly did not go well.

“Willis says the Village People and Disney had a good relationship up until this year — saying the band had performed there annually for at least a decade — but in recent years … there’d been a fracture in the band with old members, who were trying to keep the yearly gig going,” TMZ wrote.

“According to Karen Willis, she tried to enter the front-of-house sound booth to make sure that the audio was as good as possible during the Village People’s show, but Disney employees allegedly blocked her from entering and then ushered her away. It’s unclear if she had previously been allowed by Disney to assist the band in that capacity,” the Daily Mail reported.

“She claims that later during the band’s time at Disney World, she and Victor were attacked by a group of ‘overzealous fans,’ who she claims were ‘planted’ at the park by a group of feuding ex-Village People members,” the outlet added.

(Video Credit: High Score Kevin)

Willis originally left the Village People early on after the group’s success. He returned to live performances in 2017. The singer previously sued the group’s record label and production company to obtain the right to perform with a new group under the Village People name.

“The group that had been performing as the Village People for decades at that point — which included several dancing and singing members of the Village People that were formed to back up Willis’ lead vocals — then had its rights to perform under the name revoked,” the Daily Mail recounted.

“Karen Willis claims in her suit that the members who were cast out of the Village People were feuding with her husband, and so they planted the dangerous fans at Disney World who attacked her and Victor, though it’s unclear if she has any evidence of that alleged conspiracy,” the media outlet stated. “She says the Village People’s contract stipulates that they be given extra security, but she accuses Disney of not providing that required security when they were in the park.”

The biggest bone of contention was not getting paid. Disney reportedly sent out checks in payment for the show but they were made out to the wrong recipient, making it impossible for the group to get the money they were owed.

(Video Credit: The Village People)

When the lead singer and his wife spoke with Disney about the issue, they were allegedly brushed off. It is unknown if the payment issue was ever rectified or how long that could have taken.

“Following the performance fiasco, the lawsuit accuses Disney of not booking the Village People in the six years since the 2018 show, despite having booked the group annually for years before that,” the Daily Mail reported.

“Karen Willis says in the Village People’s suit that she believes the House of Mouse is intentionally not booking the group, possibly as retaliation for the response to the allegedly substandard performances surrounding the 2018 show in Disney World,” the outlet continued.

Disney has filed a motion to have the case dismissed. The company claims it has the right to not rehire the Village People. Unfortunately for Disney, that motion was rejected and the lawsuit continues.


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