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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