Disney sued by Village People for more than $20 million for allegedly failing to pay for a performance and then banning the group from Disney World

Thursday, June 27, 2024
 - A lawsuit has been filed against Disney alleging the company subjected the Village People to a hostile work environment and banned the iconic 70s group.

The wife of the Village People star, Victor Willis, initiated the legal move that seeks $20 million in compensation for a litany of claimed wrongs.

Karen Willis, the wife of lead singer and co-founder Victor Willis, and the manager of the group's trademark for live performances filed a lawsuit against Disney late last year on behalf of Victor and the group, according to documents obtained by TMZ, and they are requesting more than $20 million in damages.

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.

Karen says that the Village People were booked for a performance at Walt Disney World in Florida in 2018, following about a decade of annual performances at the theme park.

But she alleges that the performance during the two-day job went poorly for the first time in years.

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.

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.

In a complicated twist, Willis, who left the Village People after the group's early success but returned to live performances in 2017, had sued the group's record label and production company to reinstate himself and give him 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.

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.

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.

But the biggest issue with the 2018 performance revolved around the group's payment or lack thereof.

Although Disney sent out checks for the show, they were allegedly made out to the wrong people or groups, so Victor and the Village People couldn't get the money they were owed.

Karen alleges that when she and Victor alerted Disney to the payment issue, they were brushed off. It's unclear if proper payments were ever made, and if so how long it took before the proper checks were sent out.

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.

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.

In response, Disney filed a motion to have the case dismissed, as it said it had a right not to rehire the Village People, though it's unclear if it gave a reason why the invitations ceased after 2018.

However, Disney's motion was recently rejected, so the Village People's lawsuit will be able to continue.

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