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  #1  
Old 09-27-2011, 08:33 PM
Cryptic C62 Cryptic C62 is offline
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AMA: Former Walt Disney World Character Performer

A few years ago I worked as a character performer at Walt Disney World. The topic came up in another thread, and a Doper suggested that I start an AMA about it.

So, yeah, here we are! Through a series of minor coincidences, I ended up applying for the Disney College Program, as well as auditioning for a character role. Once hired, I spend most of my time portraying Tigger and Eeyore. I had one shift as Tweedledee (or maybe Tweedledum?), as well as a handful of shifts as a van driver. Later on I was cast as a Toy Soldier in the Christmas parade, which was tons of fun. Anything you'd like to know?
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Old 09-27-2011, 08:36 PM
Shirley Ujest Shirley Ujest is offline
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How hot was it in those suits?
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Old 09-27-2011, 08:38 PM
Baker Baker is offline
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What about the smell from other wearers of the suit?

Do some characters get paid more than others? Like, is being Mickey considered a plum job?
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Old 09-27-2011, 08:41 PM
Ferret Herder Ferret Herder is offline
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How often did you get punched in the crotch? (And how often was it by someone above age 12ish?)
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Old 09-27-2011, 08:46 PM
Cryptic C62 Cryptic C62 is offline
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How hot was it in those suits?
Hot as balls. There are no fans or ventilation systems of any kind. During the hot summer, it gets so dangerously hot that each outdoor shift only lasts 20 minutes before the performer has to be brought inside and another performer is sent out. In these situations, there are typically 3 performers working the same character. An average summer work day would be 8 rotations of 20 minutes on set and 40 minutes off. When it cools off, the shifts change to 2 performers rotating 30 minutes on and 30 off. Even so, overheating and dehydration are always major concerns. I would sweat so much that during each and every break I would drink a liter of water without ever having to pee.
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Old 09-27-2011, 08:54 PM
Cryptic C62 Cryptic C62 is offline
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What about the smell from other wearers of the suit?
During each shift, every performer gets their own costume. At the end of the day, every costume that was used gets washed and sanitized. The only odors you have to worry about are your own.

Do some characters get paid more than others? Like, is being Mickey considered a plum job?
Two-part answer. First, performers don't get hired for a particular role, they get hired for a height range, which often includes multiple characters. The shifts available for that height range all pay the same regardless of how uber the character is. I mainly worked Tigger and Eeyore, but in theory I also could have been assigned to a shift as The Sheriff of Nottingham, Foulfellow, Kenai and a bunch of others. Performers working as Mickey don't get paid more, they're just shorter.

However, there are also some roles that require specialized training, which results in a higher pay grade. For example, there are some special performances with a Mickey costume that can shoot fireworks out of his hands. This requires that the performer be pyro certified. The more specialized and dangerous the skill, the more it gets paid.
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Old 09-27-2011, 08:57 PM
Cryptic C62 Cryptic C62 is offline
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Originally Posted by Ferret Herder View Post
How often did you get punched in the crotch? (And how often was it by someone above age 12ish?)
I sustained only one crotchal injury during my tenure. On one miraculously slow day, I was spacing out, thinking about some of the gorgeous women in the College Program. I got an erection, though it wasn't visible from the outside. It was, however, quite erect -- until a little kid smashed his head right into it. Joy unending!
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Old 09-27-2011, 09:00 PM
Ruby Ruby is offline
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What does "AMA" stand for? (I must have missed that memo)

Are Disney employees as happy to be employed there as Disney would like us to believe?
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Old 09-27-2011, 09:01 PM
Ruby Ruby is offline
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I sustained only one crotchal injury during my tenure. On one miraculously slow day, I was spacing out, thinking about some of the gorgeous women in the College Program. I got an erection, though it wasn't visible from the outside. It was, however, quite erect -- until a little kid smashed his head right into it. Joy unending!
That made me cringe and I'm a girl. Ow.
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Old 09-27-2011, 09:09 PM
Cryptic C62 Cryptic C62 is offline
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What does "AMA" stand for? (I must have missed that memo)

Are Disney employees as happy to be employed there as Disney would like us to believe?
"AMA" stands for "Ask Me Anything".

As for the happiness thing, it's a bit tricky to give a definitive answer. There are aspects of the work environment that make it very unique in a positive way: free access to the parks, meet interesting people from all over the world, lots of opportunities to move around within the company and learn new skills.

There are, of course, some serious downsides to working at WDW. They are incredibly rigid about how they expect their employees to look and behave, and some of the rules are ridiculously specific: you're allowed to dye your hair, but only to a color that could naturally be grown out of a human head. Girls are allowed to have earrings, but no other visible piercings. In the training process, they scare you into believing that you will be fired on the spot for stealing even a single roll of toilet paper or hot dog bun. I never tested this system.

If you ever hear a former Disney employee refer to an organization as "Disney-esque", they're not talking about sunshine and happiness, they're talking about how retardedly strict the organization is with its employees. That said, I absolutely loved what I did there, though I doubt I would ever find any lasting happiness or satisfaction working there.

Last edited by Cryptic C62; 09-27-2011 at 09:10 PM..
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Old 09-27-2011, 09:14 PM
janis_and_c0 janis_and_c0 is online now
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How much did you get paid?

Did you have to deal with scared/upset kids? How did you handle that?

What was the funniest thing that happened? The worst? Most Bizzarre?
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Old 09-27-2011, 09:15 PM
ZipperJJ ZipperJJ is offline
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Did you ever speak accidentally? How hard was it to not speak?
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Old 09-27-2011, 09:46 PM
Cryptic C62 Cryptic C62 is offline
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Originally Posted by janis_and_c0 View Post
How much did you get paid?

Did you have to deal with scared/upset kids? How did you handle that?

What was the funniest thing that happened? The worst? Most Bizzarre?
I was paid $7.88 per hour. Keep in mind that this was in 2009 and that, as a member of the College Program, I had access to a lot of stuff for free: cable, internet, transportation to/from work, gym, pool, tennis court, beautiful women.

Dealing with scared children is a topic that is covered in depth during the training process. We were taught to get down on one knee and bring our arms close to our body to make ourselves appear as small as possible. No sudden movements, very small inviting hand motions, and hope for the best. Sometimes they overcome their fear and venture closer, sometimes it doesn't work at all.

It's hard to pick one story as being the funniest, but here's one that I remember fondly: I was working in the Crystal Palace restaurant as Tigger. I went up to a table and a very small child climbed out of his seat to talk to me. He must have been just barely learning how to talk, because whatever he said was just total gibberish. I slowly turned to look at each of his parents, then shrugged. They both knew exactly what was going on and started laughing their asses off. I trotted away happily.

Another good one was when I was working at Pooh's Playground, again as Tigger. There was a marching band that performed nearby, and one day after my rotation was done, I went over to go play with them instead of going inside to cool off. I was dancing and having a good time, but when I tried to get one of the drummers to let me play with his drum, he lightly pushed me away. Dejected, I turned around to march back to the break room. What I hadn't realized was that a huge flock of children and parents with baby strollers had coalesced directly behind me while I was fooling around. I just started walking without realizing that anything was in my way, and I stumbled and smashed into at least 3 baby carriages as I slowly worked my way through the wall of meatbags and strollers. It was not graceful in the slightest. For months after the incident, the nearby attractions employees referred to me as "that Tigger who tripped over all the strollers."

The worst work-related moment was also when I was working at Crystal Palace. Usually, each rotation there ends with a "Celebration", in which all of the characters march around the room with the kids. During this particular shift, which I had never worked before, there was a rotation that didn't end with a Celebration. An attendant gave me the super secret high five signal near the end of my rotation. What she meant was "five more tables, then you're done," but I misinterpreted it to mean "five more minutes, then I'll bring you inside," which is what the signal means for outdoor sets. I just kept on going, not keeping any track of time or the number of tables I had visited. Eventually I knew something was wrong, as I was starting to feel a bit wobbly and out of focus. I felt like I was just about to collapse when I looked up and saw an attendant, who came over and said "Tigger... have you had your bouncing lessons yet?" which I knew referred to my scheduled break. I shook my head and she brought me inside. Indoor sets are a maximum of 40 minutes, but I looked at the clock and realized that I had been left on for nearly an hour. I was too tired to do anything but drink water, but the other performers were pretty annoyed that the attendants had let that happen to me.

The most bizarre thing... another Tigger shift at Pooh's playground. This time I had a pretty nasty cold, so there was snot running out of my nose all day. It was pretty gross to feel my face slowly becoming covered with a wonderful mixture of sweat and snot. To combat this, I had the bright idea to stuff a wad of tissue in the offending nostril during one of my breaks. At first, it worked great, but as I bounced around, the tissue wad slipped out of my nostril and was free to fly around the inside of my character head. So now, not only did I have snot running down my face, but there was also a giant snot-soaked half-dissolved tissue blob floating around inside my costume. Lovely!
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Old 09-27-2011, 09:50 PM
Cryptic C62 Cryptic C62 is offline
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Did you ever speak accidentally? How hard was it to not speak?
For the most part, it was pretty easy to switch off the talking as soon as I got into costume. Some character performers (myself included) would just never talk at all once they put their head on, even when standing backstage. It just becomes part of your world: head on, talking off.

I only have one memory of accidentally talking. While on set, a kid held out his autograph book to have me sign it. I reached out to take it, but unlike all of the other kids out there with functioning brain cells, this little guy decided that he wasn't going to let go. Frustrated, I yanked it out of his hands like a boss and accidentally muttered "Gimme that fucking thing", but it definitely wasn't loud enough for anyone to hear.
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Old 09-27-2011, 11:23 PM
dzeiger dzeiger is offline
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So, I've heard that the international workers at Epcot can get pretty wild and frisky off-hours. Did you get to party with them at all?
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Old 09-28-2011, 12:24 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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Did you ever convert to Islam and request to wear a headscarf on the job?
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  #17  
Old 09-28-2011, 02:48 AM
shantih shantih is offline
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Tigger! Eeyore! It's entirely possible I gave you a hug at the Crystal Palace at some point. I love Eeyore and Tigger!

How long do you have to practise the autographs for each character before they come out right? Is it a huge charge being the focus of so much love and excitement from the guests? How long do character Cast Members generally work as characters before moving on to different jobs? How much training did you get in each character, and what kind of training -- ie, physical training in how to move like the character, films of the characters cartoons or movies, etc?

How long did you work for Disney?
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  #18  
Old 09-28-2011, 06:30 AM
Typo Knig Typo Knig is offline
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Please tell us about dealing with special needs kids.
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Old 09-28-2011, 08:00 AM
VunderBob VunderBob is offline
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Did you have any oddball experiences in character? I'm thinking of something such as having to do CPR, or maybe rounding up a kid that got lost from Mom and Dad.
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Old 09-28-2011, 08:14 AM
HeyHomie HeyHomie is online now
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Originally Posted by Cryptic C62 View Post
For the most part, it was pretty easy to switch off the talking as soon as I got into costume.
Mrs. Homie and I were at 1900 Park Fare and Grand Floridian, and were being entertained by Cinderella and her friends. A female mouse character (Perla?) came by our table, put her lips up against my cheek, and made a kissing sound. I asked "That's a girl in there, right?" From within the costume I could hear a young woman valiantly trying to stifle a snicker.

Do they generally try to assign women to female characters, and men to male characters? Can I be sure that the actress inside Jessie is really an actress, and that the actor inside Woody is really an actor?

What's the most off-the-rails thing you've ever seen a guest do? Have you ever seen anyone get hauled away by Security?

---

Thanks for this thread! There are lots of "Ask the Cast Member" threads on the Disney message boards, but those are often full of woo.
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Old 09-28-2011, 09:10 AM
Hello Again Hello Again is offline
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Originally Posted by Cryptic C62 View Post
"If you ever hear a former Disney employee refer to an organization as "Disney-esque", they're not talking about sunshine and happiness, they're talking about how retardedly strict the organization is with its employees. That said, I absolutely loved what I did there, though I doubt I would ever find any lasting happiness or satisfaction working there.
When I worked as a bank teller at Chase Manhattan, in our training we had to watch this video about how they provide superior customer service at Disney by controlling every possible controllable variable, and making their workerbots employees conform very closely to a standard that encompassed dress, appearance, training, physical skills, etc.

It was meant to be inspiring, but actually, it was fairly disturbing.
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Old 09-28-2011, 09:26 AM
muldoonthief muldoonthief is online now
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Thanks for starting the thread!

I'll actually be in Disney World with my kids in a few days - any advice on how to have them approach the characters? Any code words or secrets I should know about, either to get extra perks or just brighten a sweaty college student's day?

This is probably going to make me sound like a perv, but do they give the princesses any sort of training on what to do if any guys get a little too frisky with them?

Any truth to the rumor that you'll be fired on the spot if you remove your headpiece for any reason?
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Old 09-28-2011, 09:28 AM
DigitalC DigitalC is offline
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Hot as balls. There are no fans or ventilation systems of any kind. During the hot summer, it gets so dangerously hot that each outdoor shift only lasts 20 minutes before the performer has to be brought inside and another performer is sent out. In these situations, there are typically 3 performers working the same character. An average summer work day would be 8 rotations of 20 minutes on set and 40 minutes off. When it cools off, the shifts change to 2 performers rotating 30 minutes on and 30 off. Even so, overheating and dehydration are always major concerns. I would sweat so much that during each and every break I would drink a liter of water without ever having to pee.
As the guy who works for the company that washes your costumes let me tell ya, you guys seriously stink. I know its not your fault, but damn i don't think i could stink that bad if i tried. And working in basically a steam bath in Florida is no picnic either.
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Old 09-28-2011, 11:36 AM
Cryptic C62 Cryptic C62 is offline
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So, I've heard that the international workers at Epcot can get pretty wild and frisky off-hours. Did you get to party with them at all?
I spent most of my time with other people in the Disney College Program, which includes a very large number of international students. The cool thing about Epcot is that each country's exhibit is staffed entirely by people from that country. I don't actually party, so... yeah. But any time you get a bunch of college kids together, two things happen in copious amounts: Sex and drinking, and the College Program apartment complexes were no exception.

Did you ever convert to Islam and request to wear a headscarf on the job?
Nope! Me am atheist. Got has no God.

How long do you have to practise the autographs for each character before they come out right?
The training process lasts 5 days, and a decent amount of that time is spent working on signatures. It's tougher than you might think -- first you have to learn how to replicate the handwriting of each character in your height range, then you have to practice wearing character gloves, and then for some characters you have to practice signing blind. Tigger, for example, sees out of his nose, but you have to make it look like he sees out of his eyes when signing, and that means that you can't actually look at whatever it is that you're signing. Popular characters typically have to give a few hundred autographs per day, so it all becomes second nature pretty within a few weeks.

Is it a huge charge being the focus of so much love and excitement from the guests?
I suppose that for some people, the prospect of being the center of attention and excitement would be overwhelming, but I found it quite natural. I suppose that's part of the reason why I auditioned in the first place -- I've always been comfortable performing and being crazy in front of lots of people.

How long do character Cast Members generally work as characters before moving on to different jobs?
I really have no way of giving a general answer for that, as it completely depends on the person. Some people start off working in other areas (attractions, merchandise, ticketing, etc.) and then audition to try to get into entertainment. Some people do the entry level stuff just as a leg-up to try to get into management, as Disney is really big about recruiting from within. Some performers do it for life because they love it so much. Some dancers just bide their time at Disney to pay the bills, but on days off they attend auditions for more legitimate dance companies, as the choreography at Disney is so ridiculously easy that it can be really dissatisfying for a well-trained dancer.

How much training did you get in each character, and what kind of training -- ie, physical training in how to move like the character, films of the characters cartoons or movies, etc?
First, we received some very broad training that applied to every character: how to move in a masculine way, how to move in a feminine way, what the acceptable photo poses were, how to convey a story without words, how to do everything in a "big" way. Then we would move on to training sets in full costume, though the characters that we portrayed in training not the same as the characters that we actually get shifts as. The problem is that there are already so many locations and times at which guests can see the popular characters that it's nearly impossible to squeeze in a training group unless they're portraying the lesser-known characters.

How long did you work for Disney?
I worked there from August 2009 to January 2010. The Christmas parades lasted from early November to early January, if memory serves.

Last edited by Cryptic C62; 09-28-2011 at 11:37 AM..
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  #25  
Old 09-28-2011, 11:45 AM
Capitaine Zombie Capitaine Zombie is offline
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Originally Posted by Cryptic C62 View Post
So, I've heard that the international workers at Epcot can get pretty wild and frisky off-hours. Did you get to party with them at all?
I spent most of my time with other people in the Disney College Program, which includes a very large number of international students. The cool thing about Epcot is that each country's exhibit is staffed entirely by people from that country. I don't actually party, so... yeah. But any time you get a bunch of college kids together, two things happen in copious amounts: Sex and drinking, and the College Program apartment complexes were no exception.
I'm not that interested in you as Tigger participating in a Main Street parade, but I would love to hear more anecdotes about that, especially if it involves you in your Tigger costume.
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Old 09-28-2011, 12:23 PM
Cryptic C62 Cryptic C62 is offline
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Please tell us about dealing with special needs kids.
Sure! I typically dealt with a handful of special needs families each day, and it was often the most rewarding part of the day. A lot of kids like Disney characters, but for some of the special needs kids, Disney characters are their entire world. They love characters at the most fundamental level. I fondly remember going up to a table at Crystal Palace that had a young man in a wheel chair, and I planted a big Tigger kiss on the top of his head. He immediately croaked "I just got a kiss from Tigger!" and everyone at the table was absolutely beaming. It's really nice to see that happen.

The tough part about working with the special needs kids is that sometimes there are physical limitations on how you can interact with them. Hugging a person in a wheelchair without whacking them with your oversized kevlar character head is not an easy task. But yeah, other than that, it was usually pretty normal.

Did you have any oddball experiences in character? I'm thinking of something such as having to do CPR, or maybe rounding up a kid that got lost from Mom and Dad.
There was one time that I was juking around like a mofo and I accidentally crashed right into an old man. My character head knocked into his cranium hard enough to knock him over. A manager quickly appeared to take care of the situation, and I later found out that he made a full recovery after ingesting some complimentary ice cream, but I was really embarrassed and worried and ashamed of myself for letting that happen.

One time at Crystal Palace, my Tigger tail fell off in the middle of a set. I quickly spun around to find the nearest attendant, then gave her the secret distress signal, which is one hand covering an eye with the other hand waving up in the air. She came over and said "Tigger, do you have something in your eye?" I just turned around and wiggle my butt. She got the message and brought me inside to fix me up.

Do they generally try to assign women to female characters, and men to male characters? Can I be sure that the actress inside Jessie is really an actress, and that the actor inside Woody is really an actor?
Nope. Face characters (princes and princesses, mostly) are gender-specific, but fur characters are only height-specific. Because women are generally shorter than men, they usually staff the shorter characters, including Mickey. The opposite is also true, leading the hilarious fact that Queen of Hearts is usually played by men. However, I did meet one guy who was short enough to play Mickey and Minnie, and I dated a girl who was tall enough to play Tigger. Two Tiggers smooching... fancy that!

What's the most off-the-rails thing you've ever seen a guest do? Have you ever seen anyone get hauled away by Security?
During a Christmas parade, a little kid scooted under the crowd-control rope and ran right across the parade route, just a few feet away from us Toy Soldiers. The dad went to chase after him, but an attendant stopped him. I guess the attendant saw the dad but hadn't seen the kid, and the dad was trying to explain that he had to run after his son. We marched past all of this before I saw how the situation was handled, and I really have no idea what the attendant would have done to resolve the issue.

I'll actually be in Disney World with my kids in a few days - any advice on how to have them approach the characters? Any code words or secrets I should know about, either to get extra perks or just brighten a sweaty college student's day?
Hee, just be enthusiastic and the characters will make it magical for you. Do them a favor and avoid saying anything like "Is it hot in there?" It's distracting and not funny. On the other hand, I always appreciated positive feedback. Even something as simple as leaning in close and whispering "Thank you." can really make a performer's day.

This is probably going to make me sound like a perv, but do they give the princesses any sort of training on what to do if any guys get a little too frisky with them?
I actually don't know! I was never good friends with any of the princesses, so I never really heard about that kind of stuff. For the most part, it's the attendant's job to make sure that guests don't behave inappropriately with the characters, but I wouldn't be surprised if face characters received specific training on how to deal with frisky mofos.

Any truth to the rumor that you'll be fired on the spot if you remove your headpiece for any reason?
100% true. That is one of several actions that can result in immediate termination. Two others that I remember: striking a guest and "double exposure" -- when two of the same character appear on set at the same time.
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Old 09-28-2011, 12:26 PM
Capitaine Zombie Capitaine Zombie is offline
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Any truth to the rumor that you'll be fired on the spot if you remove your headpiece for any reason?
100% true. That is one of several actions that can result in immediate termination. Two others that I remember: striking a guest and "double exposure" -- when two of the same character appear on set at the same time.
That's bloody hilarious.
Has there been any piece of fiction where a character working at Disney (and the corporate nightmare linked to it) was the main focus of the book?
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Old 09-28-2011, 12:29 PM
Capitaine Zombie Capitaine Zombie is offline
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Originally Posted by Cryptic C62 View Post
One time at Crystal Palace, my Tigger tail fell off in the middle of a set. I quickly spun aound to find the nearest attendant, then gave her the secret distress signal, which is one hand covering an eye with the other hand waving up in the air. She came over and said "Tigger, do you have something in your eye?" I just turned around and wiggle my butt. She got the message and brought me inside to fix me up.
I think I saw that in the "Furries" episode of CSI.

Last edited by Capitaine Zombie; 09-28-2011 at 12:29 PM..
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  #29  
Old 09-28-2011, 12:33 PM
Cryptic C62 Cryptic C62 is offline
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I'm not that interested in you as Tigger participating in a Main Street parade, but I would love to hear more anecdotes about [sex and partying], especially if it involves you in your Tigger costume.
There was no way to bring a costume off of Disney Property, as their security is tight and efficient. It may have been possible to sneak off during a break for some surreptitious fornication, but that never happened for me.

However, the character costumes were quite helpful for getting dates with fell cast members. My typical strategy: if I met a female cast member backstage who seemed like a saucy minx, I would just write my name and number on a piece of paper, get into costume, and hand it to them without saying a word. Every single time I tried this, it worked: the girl would always text me within the next 24 hours. How could you possibly say no to Tigger? Also, it helped that there was a huge imbalance in the dating pool within the entertainment department. The overwhelming majority of the male performers were gay, so it was just too freaking easy to meet available, eager women. And better yet, it was also easy to find a fun thing to do for a first date. Just take her to the parks! Cast members get in free and it was always a great balance of fun activities and just wandering around getting to know the person.

(tl;dr) Straight guys struggling to get girls? Work at Disney World. Problem solved.

As for the partying: I don't drink. As a result, I only go to parties if I am coerced by my chums. So, while I was aware that there was a shit-ton of booze being consumed by my cohorts, I don't have any first-hand accounts of the debauchery.
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Old 09-28-2011, 12:42 PM
Capitaine Zombie Capitaine Zombie is offline
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Originally Posted by Cryptic C62 View Post
I'm not that interested in you as Tigger participating in a Main Street parade, but I would love to hear more anecdotes about [sex and partying], especially if it involves you in your Tigger costume.
There was no way to bring a costume off of Disney Property, as their security is tight and efficient. It may have been possible to sneak off during a break for some surreptitious fornication, but that never happened for me.

However, the character costumes were quite helpful for getting dates with fell cast members. My typical strategy: if I met a female cast member backstage who seemed like a saucy minx, I would just write my name and number on a piece of paper, get into costume, and hand it to them without saying a word. Every single time I tried this, it worked: the girl would always text me within the next 24 hours. How could you possibly say no to Tigger? Also, it helped that there was a huge imbalance in the dating pool within the entertainment department. The overwhelming majority of the male performers were gay, so it was just too freaking easy to meet available, eager women. And better yet, it was also easy to find a fun thing to do for a first date. Just take her to the parks! Cast members get in free and it was always a great balance of fun activities and just wandering around getting to know the person.

(tl;dr) Straight guys struggling to get girls? Work at Disney World. Problem solved.

As for the partying: I don't drink. As a result, I only go to parties if I am coerced by my chums. So, while I was aware that there was a shit-ton of booze being consumed by my cohorts, I don't have any first-hand accounts of the debauchery.
Really? I thought Disney has some problems in the past with its managing of gay employees (I remember protests). Any explanation as to why the job draws gays (maybe just like you find more gays in "artist-like" jobs)? Also, does that mean if there are lots of gays on the job, and some hot sex on week ends, that the staff apartments turned into gay orgies every week end?
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Old 09-28-2011, 01:07 PM
Cryptic C62 Cryptic C62 is offline
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Really? I thought Disney has some problems in the past with its managing of gay employees (I remember protests). Any explanation as to why the job draws gays (maybe just like you find more gays in "artist-like" jobs)? Also, does that mean if there are lots of gays on the job, and some hot sex on week ends, that the staff apartments turned into gay orgies every week end?
Well, character performers and parade performers generally have some background in dance. Male dancers are frequently gay. Why that's the case is not something I'm qualified to answer, but yeah, that's pretty much the whole story as far as I can tell.

I never heard of any legitimate orgies, but a fellow parade performer did claim to have had an all-male threesome in his apartment. Ooh la la, menage a trois!
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  #32  
Old 09-28-2011, 01:30 PM
muldoonthief muldoonthief is online now
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However, the character costumes were quite helpful for getting dates with fell cast members.
So you dated Maleficent? Nice!

Are there secret schedules that the characters follow for the "random" encounters throughout the parks (i.e. not the planned character meals and all that), or are they truly random?

You've mentioned attendants a few times - are they just the regular park workers, or does each full costume character have a full time attendant just for them?

Where did you go on your 40 minute break? Are there hidden break rooms all over the park?
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  #33  
Old 09-28-2011, 01:54 PM
astorian astorian is online now
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"If you ever hear a former Disney employee refer to an organization as "Disney-esque", they're not talking about sunshine and happiness, they're talking about how retardedly strict the organization is with its employees. That said, I absolutely loved what I did there, though I doubt I would ever find any lasting happiness or satisfaction working there.
A female friend of mine who worked for a Disney-owned magazine said employees referred to the company as "Mouse-schwitz."
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Old 09-28-2011, 02:39 PM
Pyper Pyper is offline
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Fourteen years ago, I worked as a merchandising hostess in Frontierland. As I was going on stage near the restaurant where you can have breakfast with the characters, I saw Tigger turn around and sweep a tableful of dishes to the ground with his tail. He then looked at me and made a hands-over-mouth exaggerated "Oops!" gesture.

Was that you?
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Old 09-28-2011, 02:42 PM
AClockworkMelon AClockworkMelon is offline
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:O

I'd heard that the costumes used tubes of cold water to keep the actors cool. Was that true in any of the costumes or was I told a lie?!
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  #36  
Old 09-28-2011, 04:02 PM
HeyHomie HeyHomie is online now
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Was fraternizing with guests prohibited? Did any guests ask you to meet them after work for drinks, etc.?

Did you ever hang out with employees from Universal, Sea World, etc?

Have you been back to WDW since your experience in the college program? If no, do you plan to go back, as a guest, someday? If yes, is experiencing WDW as a guest somehow less "magical" since you know that, say, behind this door is a row of lockers and a coffee machine, behind that door is a dumpster, etc.?
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Old 09-28-2011, 04:23 PM
Wheelz Wheelz is offline
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Surely you've seen this video supposedly showing Tigger hitting a teenage kid. (This happened before your tenure so I know it wasn't you!) Personally, it looks to me like the stupid kid pulled Tigger off balance and his arm swung up while trying to right himself. What is your take on what happened there? How often did older kids try to screw with you and how did you handle that?
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Old 09-28-2011, 05:24 PM
AClockworkMelon AClockworkMelon is offline
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Surely you've seen this video supposedly showing Tigger hitting a teenage kid. (This happened before your tenure so I know it wasn't you!) Personally, it looks to me like the stupid kid pulled Tigger off balance and his arm swung up while trying to right himself. What is your take on what happened there? How often did older kids try to screw with you and how did you handle that?
It doesn't look to me like the kid pulled him off balance. Looks to me like Tigger grabbed the kid's arm with one hand and socked him with the other. The kid was saying something right before the "attack" so my guess is he insulted the employee.
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Old 09-28-2011, 06:28 PM
Cryptic C62 Cryptic C62 is offline
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Are there secret schedules that the characters follow for the "random" encounters throughout the parks (i.e. not the planned character meals and all that), or are they truly random?

Where did you go on your 40 minute break? Are there hidden break rooms all over the park?


These two questions seem to indicate a fundamental misconception of how characters are distributed through the parks. There may be some theme parks that have "random" encounters, and it may even be true that Disney had a "random" system in the past, but that's not how it works. There are specific locations at which specific characters appear at specific times. It's not a secret and it's not intended to appear "random". The areas at which characters appear are, for the most part, clearly marked, and you can ask an attended what times the characters will be available and they'll happily tell you.

As for break rooms, each character location has one break room associated with it. Sometimes one break room will be used for characters working in several different nearby areas, but in any case, there are typically about 10 performers who use any given break room during any given shift. They are hidden in the sense that they are indoors and not visible to guests. They are not hidden in the sense that their purpose is made quite obvious to nearby employees.

You've mentioned attendants a few times - are they just the regular park workers, or does each full costume character have a full time attendant just for them?
Each character location has a group of attendants associated with it for the whole day. The number of attendants vary based on the location, but from my experience there were always at least 3: one at the front of the line, one at the back of the line, and one backstage helping performers change in and out of costume. The attendants are assigned one park to work in (EPCOT, MK, AK, or HS), but other than that there is no restriction on which attendants work with which performers.

A female friend of mine who worked for a Disney-owned magazine said employees referred to the company as "Mouse-schwitz."
Lol. I've also heard Disney employees refer to it as "working for the rat," which I like.

Was that you [who broke a bunch of shit 14 years ago]?
Nope, I was only 8 years old at the time.

I'd heard that the costumes used tubes of cold water to keep the actors cool. Was that true in any of the costumes or was I told a lie?!
You were lied to. There is exactly one role that involves a water cooling system, and that's the drivers at the Lights Motors Action! stunt show. This isn't a secret though; they explain the cooling system and a few other tidbits during a break in the action. There was one female costumer who claimed to have seen an experimental Baloo suit with a water cooling system, but she was a compulsive liar.

Was fraternizing with guests prohibited? Did any guests ask you to meet them after work for drinks, etc.?
Hrm, I suspect it may have been prohibited for other departments, but it wasn't really relevant for character performers. It's hard to fraternize when you're not allowed to talk...

Did you ever hang out with employees from Universal, Sea World, etc?
There was one costumer I met at WDW who was also a performer at Universal, and I went a couple dates with a chick who had worked attractions at both parks. When I went to visit Special K (see next question), I learned that one of her roommates worked at Sea World, but I brought my guitar with me and she was deaf, so we didn't have a whole lot to talk about. :P

Have you been back to WDW since your experience in the college program? If no, do you plan to go back, as a guest, someday? If yes, is experiencing WDW as a guest somehow less "magical" since you know that, say, behind this door is a row of lockers and a coffee machine, behind that door is a dumpster, etc.?
Ah, I must give quite a bit of background info to fully answer this question, so bear with me. On the very last night of my college program, I fell wildly in love with a parade performer who shall be referred to as Special K. A very sudden and powerful connection emerged between us, so we curled up in each other's arms on the couch and whispered sweet nothings until 2:00 in the morning. Getting up at 5:00 for my flight home was awful. "Why am I awake? Also, why am I leaving this woman behind?"

While my other Disney friendships fizzled and faded (sad, but not particularly surprising), my friendship with Special K got stronger and stronger as time went on. We had never been particularly close during the program, but we would sometimes call and chat for hours and hours, just getting to know each other better and reminiscing and stuff. At some point during Summer 2010, I decided to push all of my chips in. I called her up, and after another long heartwarming conversation, I told her that I loved her. After some tortuous hesitation, she told me that she loved me too. It was implicit that this was not meant to be a "Let's start a long distance relationship" kind of "I love you", but more of a "I'm really happy you're in my life and I want to see you again" kind of "I love you."

A few weeks later, I took a few days off work and flew down to Orlando to spend time with her. At first it was absolutely wonderful, and every moment I spent in her presence was like a birthday present and a lottery ticket rolled together. Sadly, however, there weren't very many of those moments. In the five days that I was there, despite her best efforts to give away shifts, she wasn't able to get a single day off. I spent a lot of time sitting by myself playing guitar.

My last full day there was very weird. She had had an overnight rehearsal (something I can explain in more depth if anyone is interested) which was supposed to end around noon, after which we could romp through the parks together before she had to go back to work later that night. The rehearsal ended several hours later than anticipated, thereby cutting into that last window of hope for spending some considerable time together. We went to Hollywood Studios, and it was a very unusual blend of emotions. There was the thrill of being at the parks again, the joy of being with Special K, the frustration with the fact that rehearsal had gone late and she was so tired she could barely keep her eyes open, and the heartache of knowing that I would have to leave the next day. That was the only time I have gone back since the program ended, and that one jaunt at the parks really does not accurately reflect the frame of mind that most visiting cast members would be in, so I'm afraid I don't really know how to answer this question.

(tl;dr) Cryptic fell in love, visited the parks, got distracted, the end.
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  #40  
Old 09-28-2011, 08:04 PM
JoelUpchurch JoelUpchurch is offline
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I had friends that danced for the Luau show at the Polynesian hotel in the 80s and 90s and I remember feeling sorry for the people in the Character show. Dancing was hard enough for the Polynesian dancers in the summer, much less the characters.

Dancing for Disney was considered a pretty sweat deal and most of the dancers are pretty bummed when they don't get another contract, even when Disney manages to place them in another position.
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  #41  
Old 09-28-2011, 08:04 PM
Sandra Battye Sandra Battye is offline
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Ever been in one costume, forgotten who you were and started signing the wrong autograph? (Eeyore instead of Tigger) Does anyone?
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  #42  
Old 09-28-2011, 08:35 PM
Cryptic C62 Cryptic C62 is offline
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Ever been in one costume, forgotten who you were and started signing the wrong autograph? (Eeyore instead of Tigger) Does anyone?
There were a handful of times that I would start signing the wrong autograph by accident. It's not that you forget you you're portraying -- the costumes themselves are so different that there's really no ambiguity. It was usually just a momentary brain fart resulting in the wrong letter. Instead of "E", I would write a "T", or vice versa.

My strategy for dealing with this: since there was no way for me to turn the page myself, I would just "accidentally" drop the book on the ground. 9 times out of 10 the kid would pick it up, flip to a clean page, and I'd be good to go.
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  #43  
Old 09-28-2011, 10:12 PM
Autolycus Autolycus is offline
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Hey, thanks for starting this thread. I lived in Orlando for a few years, had a Disney pass, and would probably go to the parks every other weekend. It got to the point that if I went to the park in a polo, people would occasionally come up to me and ask for directions, mistaking me for a cast member Around that time, started Drinking Around the World on weekends, met a bunch of people, dated a girl from the China Pavilion a while, and due to my Japanese studies ending up hanging out with the Japan Pavilion peeps quite a bit. While their parties were pretty standard, I heard many sordid tales. The College and International Programs also really did attract some of the finest women I've seen. Ah, those were fun times.

Now that I've forced you to hear my reminiscing , a few questions. I've heard on great authority that it is grounds for termination to reveal the fact that you are a character to any non-Disney employee. Yet, at karaoke one time, I heard this beautiful singer singing Disney songs amazingly well. We ended up doing 'A Whole New World' together, which she nailed. After I asked where she studied voice. She said she was Belle. We chit-chatted for a while, and she complimented me by saying I was better than some Gastons she's worked with (patently untrue, but nice of her to say). I figured this might be so much drunken tall-tales, but sure enough I went to Hollywood Studios a few weeks later and there she was.

I also met a Japanese girl who played Mickey. Did you know in Japan there is only one Mickey active at any one point in time?

Well, my question is, did you ever tell people you were Tigger, etc?
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  #44  
Old 09-28-2011, 10:31 PM
Cryptic C62 Cryptic C62 is offline
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Did you know in Japan there is only one Mickey active at any one point in time?
I did not know that, though it's not particularly surprising. Everything I've heard about Tokyo Disney suggests that they do things very differently from WDW. Guests aren't even allowed to touch the characters there. Wtf?! No hugs? Very weird.

Well, my question is, did you ever tell people you were Tigger, etc?
We were indeed trained to avoid explicitly mentioning our role. Instead, the code phrase that we were instructed to use was "I'm friends with Tigger." I always used this phrase, not because it was the rule, but because I really liked it. It's cheeky and it provides the perfect level of secrecy: Cast members all know what it means, adults usually get the hint, but children have literally no idea what's going on. Another alternative was to just say "I'm in entertainment." and leave it at that. I honestly don't remember if it is grounds for termination to reveal that one is a character, but that's such a hard thing to enforce that it really wouldn't matter. What are they going to do, tap into your cell phone?

There were a some rules that could be broken or circumnavigated as long as you acted like you knew what you were doing. There are so many employees at WDW that nobody knows everybody, so nobody has any idea what you should or should not be doing at any particular moment. The clearest example that I can think of is entering the park: technically, cast members who are off the clock must enter the parks through the main entrance just like everyone else. We were not supposed to go through the backstage entrances unless we were working. It didn't make a difference financially since cast members can get in for free either way. I quickly learned that as long as I walked with a purpose and kept my ID handy, no one would ever stop me if I walked through the backstage entrances in civilian attire.

Last edited by Cryptic C62; 09-28-2011 at 10:33 PM..
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  #45  
Old 09-29-2011, 06:52 AM
HeyHomie HeyHomie is online now
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I've heard on great authority that it is grounds for termination to reveal the fact that you are a character to any non-Disney employee.
I don't think that's true. Mrs. Homie and I struck up a conversation with a Cast Member one visit and he told us in pretty exacting detail about his job; which characters he played, even what shifts he was working that day! He told us to look out for him in the afternoon Hollywood Studios parade (I forget what it was called at the time); he'd be driving Mickey and Minnie's convertible. Sure enough, when Mickey & Minnie came by he noticed us in the crowd and gave us a nod and a smile.

---

As a Cast Member, did you get an employee discount on food, merchandise, hotel stays, spa treatments, golf games, etc.? Is there a particular food spot that is popular with off-duty CM's and/or is known for exceptionally good food? Were you even on duty when any VIPs (like celebrity guests) were in the park?

Last edited by HeyHomie; 09-29-2011 at 06:53 AM..
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  #46  
Old 09-29-2011, 08:47 AM
muldoonthief muldoonthief is online now
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Originally Posted by Cryptic C62 View Post
Are there secret schedules that the characters follow for the "random" encounters throughout the parks (i.e. not the planned character meals and all that), or are they truly random?

Where did you go on your 40 minute break? Are there hidden break rooms all over the park?


These two questions seem to indicate a fundamental misconception of how characters are distributed through the parks. There may be some theme parks that have "random" encounters, and it may even be true that Disney had a "random" system in the past, but that's not how it works. There are specific locations at which specific characters appear at specific times. It's not a secret and it's not intended to appear "random". The areas at which characters appear are, for the most part, clearly marked, and you can ask an attended what times the characters will be available and they'll happily tell you.
Ah, that's completely different from my last trip, which admittedly was during the Reagan administration. My guidebook says they changed from random to tightly scheduled encounters changed a few years ago.
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Old 09-29-2011, 09:04 AM
Wheelz Wheelz is offline
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Ah, that's completely different from my last trip, which admittedly was during the Reagan administration. My guidebook says they changed from random to tightly scheduled encounters changed a few years ago.
I had a picture, circa mid-'80s, of my then-girlfriend posing with Goofy, whom we'd just happened to meet while strolling up Main Street. This was indeed how it used to be done.
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  #48  
Old 09-29-2011, 09:09 AM
PacifistPorcupine PacifistPorcupine is offline
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I used to date a girl that was absolutely bonkers about all things Disney. Every year she and her family would vacation at Disney World and take all the backstage tours. I remember there was a very specialized role, that of the Tinkerbell that zipped down a line a couple of times a day. How did that work? How many people were trained for that, and how much did they get paid?
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  #49  
Old 09-29-2011, 09:25 AM
Mama Zappa Mama Zappa is online now
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Hot as balls. There are no fans or ventilation systems of any kind. During the hot summer, it gets so dangerously hot that each outdoor shift only lasts 20 minutes before the performer has to be brought inside and another performer is sent out. In these situations, there are typically 3 performers working the same character. An average summer work day would be 8 rotations of 20 minutes on set and 40 minutes off. When it cools off, the shifts change to 2 performers rotating 30 minutes on and 30 off. Even so, overheating and dehydration are always major concerns. I would sweat so much that during each and every break I would drink a liter of water without ever having to pee.
I can imagine. We were there in summer 2006 and got pics of the kids with Piglet right before he went off duty - as his handler said, "one more minute, and he'll be roast pork!".
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Old 09-29-2011, 09:54 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Getting back to something said in the OP, what's an audition for a character like?
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