From our early childhood, we have all grown up with fairy-tales, where the dragons being slain have instilled in us the faith that evil can be defeated. Disney has brought to life our favourite characters, princes and princesses, and retold their stories in ways that help children get new values and ideas. We see women like Elsa and Ariel take their own fate in their hands, while the characters like Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse still receive as much love as the young ones like Olaf and Mumble. The Disney Theme Parks have taken a step closer to bring the magic that the movies create on screen to the palpability of people. Anyone and everyone can go to these parks scattered around the world and meet their favourite princesses and characters who are there to greet the visitors. But, we know very little about the people inside the costumes or the beautiful dresses and tiaras. Let us read about 10 facts about Disney Theme Park Princesses and Characters that you probably didn’t know before:
1. Process of Selection
One might think that walking around in fancy clothes, make-up, costumes, etc. doesn’t require skill. But, the interview process is pretty strict. It primarily involves a dance competition. In the next level the applicants are graded on the basis of an ‘animation’ test, i.e. how well he/she can play an animated character and emulate such movements. The ability to sing and do accents is also a part of the selection process.
The selected candidates have to go through rigorous trainings, which includes watching the movies, in order to have a better understanding of the mannerisms, accents, movements, etc. of the characters they are playing. Every candidate is selected to play the role of a character in a fur costume, first. Then, once the training is complete, they can move to play face characters, and are again placed under specialized face-trainers so they can behave and talk appropriately during meet-and-greets.
3. Male And Female Classes
In the character training, both male and female classes are incorporated. This is because, no matter what the gender of the actor is, he/she is required to be able to play both, based on the character he/she will be playing. Especially when it comes to the characters like Mickey or Daisy, where the actor is covered in a costume completely, it can be a boy or a girl playing the role. So, right in the initial stage, they are taught to play both.
4. The Signatures of The Characters
It is mandatory for all the actors to know the signatures of the characters with absolute flawlessness. So, essentially, all the characters are required to know the signatures that have been in vogue since the start of the Disney parks. In case, a person have come a decade ago, and visits again, he will expect the autographs of the evergreen Mickey and Donald to be just the same. Besides, the actors also have to learn to do the signatures with both the hands.
5. Character Selection For Actors
There is a casting team in place which decides which character is going to be assigned to an actor. The audition round for the actors involves playing different characters, dressing up like them, and having their photos taken as the characters. Then, the long wait for the actors begin as they keep their fingers crossed to hear that they have been approved. Another important factor is the vacancy. If there is no need for a Mulan, an actor won’t be assigned that character even if she looks the part.
6. The Rumours About Character Selection
The applicants are assigned characters solely based on their skills, and the vacancies. But, most candidates who do not make it through come out of the process to give reasons for their rejections which are just false rumours. Disney never says that someone is too fat or too dark-skinned to play a character. Their answer is a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and, while it is not entirely unimaginable that a person’s physical aspects might play a part in his/her selection, Disney doesn’t spell it out.
7. Meeting Princesses And Characters At Different Spots
Visitors wait for hours to meet their favourite characters at special locations. Apart from Pocahontas, princesses hardly come to the Animal Kingdom. Only Sofia the First meets visitors at the Hollywood Studios. In Norway, Aurora, Cinderella, Ariel, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty can be met at Akershus. Mulan waits in front of China Town, Jasmine in Morocco, Belle and Aurora in France, Cinderella, Anna and Elsa at the Princess Fairy-tale Hall in Cinderella’s Castle, etc.
8. They Are Not Allowed To Sing
At the meet-and-greets which have become the tradition at the parks, the princesses or such ‘face’ characters are not really allowed to sing. So, if the visitors expect that their princess will break into a song anytime, they are in for a rude shock. Only certain actors are allowed to sing, such as the one playing Belle in the Beauty and the Beast Show at Hollywood Studios. But, they, too, are under an equity contract.
9. Costumes, Dresses And Accessories
Wool and polyester are the key components of the costumes, making the insides extremely hot for the actors. These absorb sweat and start to stench. The full body costumes are quite a hot mess inside. Besides, some of the costumes and accessories are so elaborate and heavy that they may even injure the wearer. The wig of Megara, for instance, put such strain on the wearer’s neck that they had to seek medical attention.
10. They Often Get Molested And Humiliated By The Visitors
More often than not, the visitors like to molest and humiliate the characters. People are often found making obscene gestures like touching the characters in inappropriate places of the body, mainly in case of the costumed characters, making crude remarks especially to the princesses, slipping them the occasional tissue paper with phone numbers, etc. are common for them. Sometimes, they are punched or hit, too. People also try to de-bunk the whole idea of ‘magic’ at Disneyland.
The job of playing the characters at the Disney theme parks might look like a dream job, but, it isn’t all that magical, because there are lots of restrictions, hardships, etc. that the actors have to go through. Besides, their experiences, too, are not always enjoyable. A lot of people bring their ailing children or infirm elderly members who end up wishing for their maladies to go away. Sometimes, they also hear strange and heart-breaking confessions from people. On the other hand, some people are horrible enough to fake their or their children’s diseases, just to get a specialized tour or get ahead in the line. American pop sensation, Justin Bieber, recently took the help of a wheelchair to go ahead in the line (as if there were not enough reasons for the world to hate him.) Of course, humiliation from people and pressure from the management is always there. Yet, these actors do their job with a happy face every day, to put a smile on the visitors’ faces. That is probably the greatest remuneration they get.