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Friday, April 10, 2009


Megan asks: I am looking to make my Disney trip much more memorable than all of the others, and doing normal Disney-World things will just not cut it. Any ideas for making Disney-World more fun than ever before?

If you’ve read this blog of mine for any extended period of time, you will know my feeling about rides. That is to say—I am generally against them. Disneyworld has a few rides I can get behind, largely because they are designed for three year olds. But I always feel that the true joy in a place like Disneyworld lies not in its coasters, but in the many social experiments that can be performed.

The first thing you do is read and make a few copies of the list of incidents at Disney theme parks. Familiarize yourself.

In looking at that list, it seems that the most dangerous part of Disneyworld is playing a character. There’s a whole list of incidents in which people dressed as beloved Disney characters are accused of punching and fondling people—and all brought to court and acquitted. Incidents like this:

In 1976, a woman filed a lawsuit claiming one of the Three Little Pigs ran up to her at the "it's a small world" attraction, grabbed at and fondled her, while exclaiming "Mommy! Mommy!" She claimed to have gained 50 pounds as a result of the incident, and sued Disney for $150,000 in damages for assault and battery, false imprisonment, and humiliation. The plaintiff dropped charges after Disney's lawyers presented her with a photo of the costume, which had only inoperable stub arms.

I feel for the pain of The Costumed.

I once had to play The Cat in the Hat at a big theater festival in Philadelphia because the actor they had hired to do it was too big, so I, the lucky dramaturg, got the call at 6am to drive downtown as fast as I possibly could, with a bathingsuit. It was 98 degrees that day, and the costume weighed about 50 pounds and was more or less made of carpet. The only place I could see was out of a small whole in the neck, which meant zero peripheral vision. Also, do you know who usually approaches costumed characters, aside from children? Only the worst people in the entire world. The drunk, the angry, the people who think they’re funny, the assorted insane. And there’s nothing you can do about it, because you’re in something you can barely control. You can hear yourself breathing in there. It’s like being in a spacesuit or one of those old-fashioned diving outfits, but without the light, easy grace.

This is why you’re always supposed to go out with a non-costumed handler when you’re in one of those things. But the festival wasn’t on top of that, so I was sent out alone to wander the streets of Philadelphia, overwhelmed by heat, barely able to walk or see, more or less to my death, except that I didn’t die. Which was lucky. I mean, I worked at Sesame Place as a wayward teen, and I can tell you firsthand about Grover getting punched smack in the face by a crazy dad—and Grover was being played by a 16 year old ballerina who ended up with bruises all over her face, and the cops had to come.

Plus, this one time, I got snowed in at my friend’s house, and out of boredom played Rollercoster Tycoon for six hours, during which time I was obsessed with building food stands and not maintaining my rides. But even worse—I hired many Costumed Ones, including a little dude in a tiger suit who danced around and entertained people in lines. And I picked him up with the big claw you use to make changes and I accidentally dropped him into one of my ornamental lakes and he struggled and DROWNED, and my friend said, “I didn’t even know the game could DO that.”*

So I FEEL for the costumed people of Disney. So let me fold my suggestions for how to have fun into a suggestion on how to improve the lives of the Costumed—our brothers and sisters in furry chains.


Spend your day wandering the park, lingering around places with The Costumed. Watch for kids who are rude to them—jumping on them, pulling on their costumes, yelling at them. It won’t take long. These people are everywhere. Follow the first ones you see. Make sure to get right behind them in one of those crazily long lines for some ride. When you’re finally at the front of the line, maybe just minutes from being seated—pull out your phone and say something like the following:

YOU: Yeah, hey, I’m finally in line for [insert name of ride here]. I know, right? I never thought they’d reopen it after what happened, but . . . Yeah, I heard it took them a week just to get all the blood and stuff off. Yeah, well, what I heard was, there was this kid . . . he was like [insert child of the same sex and approximate age as the child or children in front of you] . . . and I don’t know EXACTLY what he was doing, but . . .

At this point, make sure they can hear every word of what you say. Learn down to tie your shoe or adjust something. Get to their ear-level.

YOU: . . . I don’t know if they were leaning out or what, I don’t even think they were. Something just went wrong. There was this lour popping noise, and then a little flash, and one of the gears . . . all I heard was that it got the kid’s arm and [he or she, as appropriate] was sucked in to the mechanism. They tried to stop it, but it was too late. It just kept GRINDING AWAY, and he was screaming and screaming but no one could hear it over the music. Like, even the kid’s parents didn’t hear it. And I heard there was, like, nothing left, because you know how the ride turns . . .

[Wait for imaginary person on other end to say they know what you mean.]

. . . right, that part, well, that’s where his WHOLE FACE came off. They found his face later and they had to keep it in some ice from one of those lemonade carts . . .

And by this point, you should be on the ride.

It goes without saying that you have on your person something that makes a popping noise and makes a little flash. I am sure something can be obtained in a gift shop—some sort of magical fairy princess wand or something. At the first thing that even sort of looks like a turn, let loose with that thing!

They found his face . . .

Now, if the offender is a parent—and it is often the parent—you could try the same trick with a different script, something like this:

Yeah, hey, I’m in line for [insert name of ride]. Yeah, I was late getting in because I was out in the parking lot watching someone get his car Small Worlded.

[Pause while imaginary person on other end asks what this is.]

YOU: You haven’t heard of this? Oh man . . . it is so sweet. See, all of the characters have cameras in the costumes. And if anyone messes with them, the feed goes back to some central station. They have some insane software—facial recognition, I guess—and then they can actually trace all of your movements back to the parking lot. And then they find your car and plant this chip in it that plays “It’s a Small World” over and over, but at really low volume, so you can barely hear it. So low that you think you’re imagining it. But you aren’t, and you can never find the chip and take it out. They’re really smart with it.

[Pause while imaginary person is astonished and asking about legalities.]

YOU: No, they can. There’s this little sign when you come in that no one ever notices, and it says that by continuing to drive on to the property, you give Disney the right to enter your vehicle. Seriously. I saw it on the way in, but only because I looked for it and someone told me where it was. Oh man . . . they are going to be so sorry. You can never turn it off. It makes your car worthless, and it drives some people insane . . .

These are just a FEW suggestions of how you can spend your time at the Magic Kingdom. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!**

* I know I’ve told this story before but I’m still not over it.
** Which is akin to saying, “Don’t leave the hotel!”

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question for you MJ:

Does being an auther get you any perks? You know like free ice cream and stuff.

1:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, I'm Les. I worte the question.

1:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sesame Place! I live 5 minutes from Sesame Place! I know nearly everyone of the people who are characters/work there now because they went to my high school. So I indirectly know their pain as well via one of my best friends. They do have fun though. That wikipedia article is kind of frightening.

1:21 AM  
Anonymous saradod said...

as someone who has played costumed characters at Universal Studios, i think these are all acceptable ways to go about treating those that mistreat their "favorite" characters.

1:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just wondering...have you ever actually done this?

2:58 AM  
Blogger Sierra said...

I have to say I've done this to a big black man on the line for Kingda Ka. Except we did the kid verison and I was just talking to my friend Kaitlyn next to me. So her father, Kaitlyn, and I were all getting into it and this big black man started to cry. And told us he was doing this for his kids. We go him good, made the line go fast and we made a new friend. Tons of fun!

3:47 AM  
Anonymous Raelyn said...

okay, i've got an ask mj question for you. i know this quesiton has been overdone, but i don't think i've heard an answer from your perspective (forgive me if i'm wrong), and i think it could be amusing. WHY do girls insist on liking assholes? WHAT is the attraction?

3:49 AM  
Anonymous Ayla said...

Question! It is deep!

Is there a point to life? If so, what is it?

I am sure you can help my with your infinite wisdom.

4:42 AM  
Blogger Kathleen Noud said...

Great idea Maureen.

I have worked as a character and my days would swing from having photos with the most adorable kids as Dorothy the Dinosaur to being picked up in the air and carried as Belinda the Koala by a bus load of over-enthusiastic tourists.

I've also been hit and groped way too many times working as part of a scare attraction. Not cool when they can see your face and are ten times bigger than you.

It was the best job but getting assulted for a living is really tiring. Give costume characters a hug - they are there to make you smile!

7:15 AM  
Blogger delightfully mediocre said...

The worst part about Disney World is the other people. It's unbelievable the lack of manners in the world.

7:37 AM  
Blogger Knubbsy-Wubbsy said...

It's not just Disney World that the costume characters are plagued by ignorant tourists. My favourite story to tell of my servitude to the Hershey Company are the times when dressed as the Reese's that tourists have thought they were so so very clever and "pretended" to bite me. The foam padded sleeves only protect so much from their sharp, nasty teeth. Then there are the teenagers who don't want to be in “the sweetest town” so they retaliate by trying to knock over the poor blind Reese's who is 4" too short to properly support the weight of the costume. Having a spotter isn't much good either when they just spend their time flirting with said teenagers.

It’s not even limited to the “official” costumed employees. Apparently dirty old men from the deep south find great amusement out of hitting on/and or groping Kissworks employees in their oversized jumpsuits and poor ushers in uniforms that would fit in at an Aggie game (I’ve also been bitten wearing said Aggie vest…)

Employees of the tourist industry are glutton for torture.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Talia said...

Silly girl. That's not at ALL what the employees do to cars. Piss off the parking attendents and they just grab a few handfuls of saltines from the salad bar when they are on their lunch break...They leave them crumbled all over your car so that you come back to a vehichle covered in bird poop.

Ah. I miss working in the parks.

12:38 AM  
Blogger Brad Ferguson said...

OH wow, I love how your mind works, you are a devious deliteful woman...don't ever stop.

12:52 AM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Thank you for your service! More people need to understand how to treat us poor costumed characters. I worked as a character dancer for a summer and it's probably the most physically uncomfortable job available to 16 year old ballerinas in the western world. It's even more uncomfortable than pointe shoes, which is saying something. Great post!

1:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you tell the truth to the police after you've tricked them for the purpose of a social experiment, to avoid getting your record marked?
I hate extra credit and overly ambitious college students..

2:07 AM  
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