Friday, July 9, 2010

The Pains of Fur Characters

Note: please keep this post away from small children.

No Walt Disney World theme park visit or character meal is complete with some of the well-known and favored members of the magical community - the Disney characters. To me (and many Disneyphiles who frequently get their Disney fixes), merely seeing those characters are just too important because they add to that magical atmosphere. Some of them can sign with pen or marker, some can just stamp, while others just pose with no autograph.

There are two types of meetable characters at the resort - face and fur, and the latter has their pains and perks.

So what are fur characters? They involve Cast Members covering themselves from head to toe as the characters they portray. Because of the name, a majority of them are workers in animal suits - and the animals I'm referring to in terms of Disney are those who can either talk, wear clothing, or both. Examples of the obvious type are the Sensational Six (namely Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Donald, and Daisy), Brer Bear, Pooh, Piglet, Chip, Clarice, and Dale. Not all of them are just talking animals (or in the case of Stitch, talking aliens) - a handful of human characters of animated Disney movies, like the Queen of Hearts and Woody, are in their fur counterparts to keep their cartoonish features.

Sadly, for many a Cast Member who has to act as fur character, there are a few advantages. One of them is not fussing around with makeup like those face characters do to look their best - fur characters use masks or helmets to conceal their human heads. Like them, they appear during select mealtimes, parades, stage shows, and designated meeting spots where people pose for pictures.

But then again, playing roles as fur characters is tough - they wear more fur, fabric, and padding than face types, who tolerate the Florida-hot sun and sauna-like humidity slightly better. Also, they are heavier, causing Cast Members to skillfully maneuver their movements like getting around a portion of a park (or restaurant, as character meals go) and signing an autograph for collectors like me. Speaking of getting around, they have limited vision once their heads are covered, making peripheral vision difficult. Their injury rates are higher not only due to weight, but because rowdy children and teenagers target them as someone that they can harass.  Because they look larger than their actual film and television counterparts, they are more intimidating to children than face characters with light makeup.

Worst of all, fur characters have to keep their heads or mask in place unless backstage and out of sight from Guests. Unless they work at a cheap knockoff of, say. the Magic Kingdom, they have to keep everything covered or else they will ruin the magic. Accidents do happen, but even if they trip and lose their head or mask in a spot visible to Guests (especially young children who are doing Disney for their first times), they already cause emotional trauma - readily proving that they are really make-believe. (Of course they are, but Walt Disney World is keeping the illusion that everything is real.)

I have to admit that fur characters are my favorite types of Disney Characters because I can associate Walt Disney World with them easily. As for you, fellow Guest, please give them respect - they work hard to keep the magic going.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What Not to Wear at the Walt Disney World Resort Theme Parks!

Anything goes at the good old Walt Disney World Resort - well, almost anything goes, in terms of dress. Having been there several times, I have seen various types of clothing people wear, from more conservative burqas (even under the hot Florida sunshine) to the scanty short shorts and tank tops. If you think that you can wear just about anything in any of their theme parks, think again - it has a dress code. Here's some things you shouldn't bother wearing while you're meeting Mickey and the gang or riding something like Splash Mountain at their theme parks.

  1. First and foremost - save your Disney Princess gown for a costume party outside of Walt Disney World. I understand that it's a place where you can be a princess and you see girls (with 9 being the maximum age they can wear it) in their said dresses, but dressing up as one can confuse other guests for face-type Disney characters and they may ask you to sign their autograph books and pose for pictures. (The same thing holds true if you're a man wanting to do Disney dressed as a pirate!) What's more, your costume might get torn or soiled and you'll risk it especially at rides like Kali River Rapids. Please dress in more mundane, casual clothing - you don't want to be escorted for wearing Cinderella's gown just like one woman who did just that at Disneyland Paris, do you?
  2. Wear shirts that are clean - not only in appearance but in image. Walt Disney World prides in family-friendly fun, so what's the use of wearing a shirt that says "(expletive) you" or with pictures of unclothed girls there? If you want to look all cool in a family resort, at least wear a T-shirt with an image of Mickey wearing sunglasses. Same thing with tattoos - at least show off one with Pooh on it.
  3. Please wear whole clothing with clean hems. In other words, wear something that does not have a lot of holes, rips, or tears. Frayed jeans are OK, but for the love of modesty at Disney hemmed jeans are much, much better. Plus, they don't get caught in the gears of the ride as much as their counterparts with holes or exposed fringes of threads.
  4. If you are a woman, watch what you wear. I have seen women taking off their casual tops, revealing their halter or bandeau bikini tops on Splash Mountain or Kali River Rapids - to make things worse, they strip their casual clothing to ride them in full-blown bikinis. (The main and obvious reason why is because they fall under the "water ride" category.) As many theme parks at Walt Disney World and elsewhere remind you, shirts and shoes are supposed to be on at all times. I understand that there are times when the weather is Florida hot, but at least wear a camisole and shorts during those times - the parks are not Blizzard Beaches or Typhoon Lagoons! Also, wear something that doesn't show too much skin - I suggest that you choose a top that covers your chest area (covering most of the cleavage) and wear shorts that are fingertip-length. I prefer that you wear Bermuda shorts, even at outdoors-y park Disney Animal Kingdom - I love the way that they are hemmed at the knee and they are modest. Oh, and ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, please keep your flutin' shirts on!
Walt Disney World allows everyone to dress comfortably, but they dictate on what to wear and what to avoid. When planning to do Disney - a day trip or a vacation - please keep in mind that the resort is not a fashion show or a character convention. Keep those guidelines in mind when meeting Mickey. (Just don't dress like him!)