Behind the Mask: Working in the Entertainment Division of a Theme Park
Many, many years ago, I worked at Sesame Place for four years.
- •There are NO fans inside these costumes.There are also no water fountains. All time spent inside a costume is physical suffering. Please don't whisper to characters or say "I can't hear the fan."
- •Performers (especially those in character costumes) do pretty much whatever we want on stage.Have you ever noticed one character of the cast acting deranged? Or for some reason all you furry friends keep doing yoga poses? I bet the cast is playing a game. We used to have the staff in the tech box tally things for us like # of "falls" to the ground, # of karate kicks, etc., and the winner didn't have to partake in theater cleaning chores at the end of the day.
- •The parade floats are NOT automated. But they do have fans inside.This is what it looks like to drive a parade float down Main Street at Sesame Place. They can technically go in reverse but it's a big no-no.
- •Often, floats are driven by kids with a learner's permit.Which is why I was once hit and dragged by one...right in front of about 30 five-year-old loading onto the special-guest float. It was not great...I'm pretty sure the EMTs were stifling laughs on the way to the hospital. (This occurred about 45 minutes after this picture was taken.)
- •The character heads are held on just like bike helmets.We each got our own "chin strap" that hooked into the helmet and under our chin. This way when we profusely sweated it all got on our own chin strap, that made it somehow less gross? I don't know.
- •The mouth on a character is controlled by the performer's hand using a device called a "mech."It's basically a hand break from a bicycle but when you squeeze it, the mouth opens and when you let go, the mouth closes. I promise you all the performers in those costumes have strong yet nimble hands. I've heard rumors that high-budget costumes (looking at you, Disney) have a mech for each hand: one controls the mouth, the other controls the eyes.
- •Character breakfasts are the worst. (And a waste of your money.)Basically we "have to" visit every table so all we do is run around and pose just to get done faster. If you want a better interaction/more genuine picture with a character meet them in their walk zone. (Or meet and greet spot.) When characters are out of walks they have to be their for the whole time so they are more likely to make it interesting and fun.
- •Every character has his/her own autograph. If you are an "unsanctioned" character - you absolutely can not sign autographs no matter how much a child cries.As a "parade dancer" children would beg for my autograph and all I could say was, "Let's take a picture!" Once I just signed one because of an angry parent...I thought I might get written up. (but I didn't huurah!)