Do Disney World character performers who die while in costume remain in costume until the park closes? No, that's not true: There is no evidence that such a policy exists, according to historians of The Walt Disney Company.
The claim appeared in a Facebook post (archived here) on June 15, 2021 that features a vintage picture of a man and two kids interacting with Mickey and Minnie Mouse character performers. The text above the picture reads:
When Disney employees dies while in their suit at Disney world, another employee must sit them on bench so it looks like they are just sitting down until closing time. So all those pictures of happy children sitting next to Disney characters, there's a chance the person in the suit is dead.
This is what the post looked like on Facebook on June 17, 2021:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Jun 17 23:21:43 2021 UTC)
In an email to Lead Stories on June 17, 2021, Sam Gennawey, an author who specializes in Disney history, said:
That is not the policy at Walt Disney Productions. These are union employees and negotiated standards have been set for their health and welfare. The photo are not even from the parks (except one TV show). Those were from the ice capades and used during the grand opening broadcast.
True to Gennawey's point, Disney's safety and security policy documents do not mention that this claim is a part of its policy. Additionally, at least 38,000 Disney employees are union members of the Service Trades Council Union, which has an agreement with Disney that does not mention such a policy.
Gennawey's information about the image included in the Facebook post is also correct: it was taken on Disneyland's opening day, which was televised. The picture is captioned:
Jerry Colonna and Bob Hope's children, Linda and Tony July 17, 1955
Jim Fanning, a Disney historian and author who has written officially commissioned projects for the company, responded on June 17, 2021, to a direct message on Twitter from Lead Stories:
I have never heard this before. The Disney Parks undoubtedly have a protocol regarding safety and privacy and protecting both Cast Members and Guests in place should such a tragedy take place. The safety of both Guests and Cast Members are always the priority of the Disney Parks.
Lead Stories reached out to Disney for more information. We will update this story with any response.