Have you ever seen Buzz Lightyear or Cinderella walking around the Disney World theme parks and wondered what it was like to be an actor living out those iconic roles? Or maybe you’ve dreamt of playing these classic characters for a day? Well, we talked to former actors from Disney parks who experienced first-hand what it’s actually like.
From having tourists ask strange questions to deal with wardrobe malfunctions – they had plenty of stories to share. Get ready for some wild experiences as you read all about their adventures.
1. Nick Wilde From Zootopia
A Redditor shared his experience as Nick Wilde from Zootopia and posted, “I was one of the performers for Nick Wilde from Zootopia a few years ago, And if you’re not aware; a large number of people in the furry community find him highly attractive.You can just imagine the number of people in that community who flirted with me and/or Judy and whispered some pretty [nasty] things to us. I think I also had a guy grab Nick’s tie like in that flirty way, we had to get him escorted out of the park. The moral of the story is: don’t be inappropriate with the characters, we are real people underneath, and there are legitimate consequences for that kind of behaviour.”
One user replied, “You wouldn't go up to a random stranger in public and assault them; them being dressed as a cartoon character doesn't make that okay.”
Another responded,”People assault random strangers in public all the time. I work in retail, and it happens almost daily. I think you, like most people, overestimate the goodness in others.”
A user posted, “Dated an actress, the weirdest she had was a man asking for him to be in the suit for an hour. He offered her 3k.”
One user asked, “Which suit?”
The original poster answered, “Piglet.”
One user exclaimed, “OMG.”
Another user added, “What the actual heck!”
Another user also asked, “Did she do it? 3k is 3k.”
One replied, “I doubt Disney would let her take the costume off property, lol.”
One user also shared, “Not exactly the same situation, but where I work, there was this girl working on a golf course who got fired because a group of old guys bribed her with $200 to flash them and she did. One of the guys took a picture and their wife found it, which almost got the resort into major trouble. So the question is do you take $3k and lose your job or not?”
A user shared, “I was playing Goofy inside a restaurant and I got swarmed Aliens-style by a hoard of kids [less than 10 years old]. Unfortunately, while I was playing around with them the inner hood below the mask slipped over my eyes, and I was completely blinded. We had assistants around whom we could signal for help by flapping our arms, but the kids had made it a game of attaching themselves Tarzan-like to both my arms, and to raise them I would have had to lift 3-4 kids per arm (dangerous even if I'd been strong enough to do that).
“I found myself blind and completely rooted to the spot, unable to ask for help and with nobody realizing that I was in trouble. I spent like a solid 10-15 minutes in that sort of limbo reflecting on the life decisions that had taken me there until the assistant came over and whispered, ‘Set is over, dude,' and I finally managed to signal something was wrong.”
Another user chuckled and replied, “I’m sorry, but I’m laughing imagining Goofy, rooted in place, contemplating life decisions in the middle of a restaurant.”
The original poster answered, “There's remarkable room for thinking inside those suits.”
“Man. That sounds exhausting,” one user replied.
The original poster shared, “Playing Goofy in general, was mostly physically ok other than the big weight of the mask on your neck. The real grind was Sully from Monsters & Co. The mask is so big it's basically an architecture strapped to your waist and shoulders, the boots are huge and flatfooted, and there are no gloves, instead, you hold these two artificial arms from inside the costume and wave them about (not too bad at first but do it for 30 minutes straight and those things really begin to weigh). That shift was a proper workout.”
One user posted, “I dated a girl that played one of the fairies for the Tinkerbell place. Beyond the pretty much daily occurrence of old dads hitting on her (she was 19 at the time), the weirdest thing to happen to her was a woman with a 4yr old little girl was all excited to get a picture with Tinkerbell, who was busy, so my ex volunteered to do pictures and entertain the little girl while they waited.
“The woman was [very rude] about that idea, rudely saying she was here to see Tinkerbell and not ‘off-brand' fairies. So just shrugging it off, my ex moved on. A bit later, she hears a commotion, and Tinkerbell is obviously upset, and security shows up. Apparently, this woman was Tinkerbell's bio mom and had taken her granddaughter to Disney, just to violate the restraining order against her. Disney Jail is a real place.”
5. Mickey Mouse
One user stated, “I was a ‘mouse height' performer at Disney World around 2013. Can unfortunately confirm g- happened from time to time, and it was incredibly uncomfortable. We were trained to move away if we could and signal to the character attendants to move the guest away if it happened. One time some guy thought it appropriate to pick me up completely off the ground in a bear hug. The head pushed back and because the inside is connected to us with headgear and a chin strap, my neck bent back with it, and it hurt like h-.
Not a weird story, but one of my most memorable guest experiences was meeting a little blind boy as Mickey in Epcot. I gently guided his hands to the soft ears, then the nose, and bow tie, and he was laughing, and his smile lit up the whole room. I still get emotional thinking about it! Interactions like that made it all worth it to me at the time.”
Another added, “The second story, the blind kid… great story. Thanks for making his day.”
Another user asked, “I’m slow… what’s a “mouse height” performer?”
A Redditor answered, “It was to imply they played Mickey or Minnie in the Parks, probably due to their height being right for the costumes. Also, Disney can get weird about performers mentioning their past work, so a lot of times, people will hint at who they played rather than outright say.”
One user also added, “They’re not supposed to ever say who they played, just that they were friends with the character.”
6. Minnie Mouse
One user commented, “I knew a friend (a guy) who wore a Minnie Mouse costume. He told me almost all guys would put their hands around his waist. He wouldn’t dare to talk, or else they will hear his manly voice, and that might [make them mad]. Edit: this blows up quickly. I feel I need to let people know that it’s not okay to touch the Disney characters… All I can tell you is that they will make a disgusting face under the mask and talk… about you later after work.”
One added, “I’d have waited till they tourched then in my deepest gruffest voice said “how YOU doin’?”
The original commenter replied, “He sometimes wanted to take off the Minnie Mouse headpiece off and look straight at the guy’s eye with a straight face and say ‘Stop it.'”
One of the Redditors posted, “I had a female friend who played Pluto for a few years. Even though her gender was indistinguishable because it’s a fully body Pluto costume, she would regularly share how often she was felt by kids and adults alike. In costume, she looked like she was 6’6”, but was only 5’8” in real life. You couldn’t tell the gender of any of the 3-4 in Pluto rotation and you could barely tell them apart.”
Another user also shared, “We met an absolutely amazing Pluto… many years ago. Our daughter was about 5, and was absolutely besotted with Pluto, to the extent that was all she asked for for Christmas. Just Pluto… The whole time we were at Disney, she was looking out for him without any luck. On our last full day there, we booked a character breakfast, but he didn't turn up there, either. But as we were leaving and about to go down the stairs to the exit, who should be coming up them but the dog himself?
“I have no way of knowing who was in that costume, but I am so grateful to them. They must have seen something in our daughter's face, because they got to the landing, went down on one knee and opened their arms to her. She absolutely FLEW down the stairs, and was given the longest hug. We took a photo (this was before cell phones, when everybody had those little disposable digital cameras). It's one of my favorites; you can't see her face because it's buried in orange plush, but you can tell how much it means to her. So whoever you were—thank you. You absolutely made her day—she still mentions it now.”
“Reminds me of Marry Poppins. My daughter had just watched the original and learned the supercalifragilistic song. She was obsessed. Then when we were on It's a Wonderful World ride, we saw her walking away. She couldn't get off the ride fast enough. And ran to find her at the carousel. They waved at each other, and when Mary and Bert got off the ride, they came over. She walked with my daughter hand in hand, and they had a conversation…
“She invited her to come to the show in front of the castle and brought her up to sing and dance. Then later there was a parade. Mary spotted her in a nearby balcony we were watching from. She seemed genuinely excited to see my daughter. Mary made the trip awesome,” one user responded.
8. Easter Bunny
One user posted, “I used to be the Easter Bunny at a function hall, and people were just…weird. I've been threatened by a guy that told me he was going to throw me down the stairs. It's hot, too. Some kids were really happy to get a picture, so it made it all worthwhile.”
One added, “I read that second sentence as a completely different kind of ‘hot' in the context of the prior sentence, and was deeply concerned for about a second.”
Another user confirmed, “I've done some volunteer work in costume, and I agree. People are weird. And adults are always worse than the kids.”
9. Goofy, Mickey, and the Parade
One Redditor shared, “Repost from a guy who played Goofy from a couple of years ago. ‘I have one moment that stands out above all the rest. I was waiting for someone to ask me this question. It's the reason I left a good job as a VIP Tourguide and moved to the Character Department.
“I was working at City Hall… when two guests came in with two little girls. One was in a wheelchair, and the other one looked like she had just seen death. Both were cut and bruised and the one in the wheelchair had her arm in a cast. The two women were… nurses from a hospital and were asking for a refund on the girl's tickets… When I asked why they told me the story. The two girls were with their mom and dad at Epcot and on the way home they got into a horrible car accident. The mother [passed away] right in front of them. The father… died too, but the two girls didn't know that yet.
“They were from overseas and had no money and no contact information for anyone they knew. They were bringing the tickets back to get the girls some much-needed money to help get them back home. My heart absolutely sunk. [Those girls] were truly traumatized. I refunded their tickets and got permission to be their private tour guide for the rest of the day… I walked them to the VIP viewing area for the parade which was as far as I could walk them in the costume we used to wear at City Hall… On the way down I pulled out every kid joke I could think of. I was a REALLY good tour guide… and I knew how to make kids smile.
“Nothing worked. These girls were too far gone for that. I left them at the bridge to go change… and bawled my eyes out. I just had never seen something so horrible. I [had] a terrible feeling of powerlessness not being able to fix the situation. When I came back I brought them to get ice-cream, take them on rides… but they never smiled, not once. The nurses were loving it and were trying to get them into it but it just wasn't working. We went back to the bridge to watch the parade. It was there that I honestly saw true magic. Real magic, not [fake].
“I… called the parade department to… set up a private meet and greet after the parade. As the parade was coming around Liberty Square I told the girls that I had called Mickey and told him all about them. I told them that Mickey asked to meet them after the parade. The little girl in the wheelchair smiled. “Really?” she asked. My heart skipped. “Yes, really! He told me to tell you to look out for him in the parade and to follow the float back to City Hall.” The other girl smiled. “You mean right now?” she asked.
“It worked. They were talking… It was the first time I had heard them speak. Every single parade performer came up to them on the bridge and told them to look out for Mickey. Every one of them told them that. When Mickey's float came up Mickey (who was attached to a pole at the top of the float) managed to turn her body sideways, look down at the girls and point towards Main Street. That was all it took. The girls were excited now. They had forgotten about death. They were lost in a magical world and… I was watching it unfold in front of my eyes.
“We followed that float all the way back to City Hall, singing “Mickey Mania” the whole way. I took them in [the VIP celebrity lounge] and showed them the book where all of the autographs were. They were eating it up. The girl who was Mickey that day got down off her float and without even taking her head off walked up to me backstage and said “Let's go.”
I walked in with Mickey behind me so I got to see the exact moment the girls met their new friend. They got shy but Mickey was in control now. Those girls met the REAL Mickey Mouse that day. Every single parade character stayed dressed to meet those girls. One by one they'd come in and play… We were in that lounge for over an hour. Mickey stayed in costume the entire time (which is hard to do after a parade). When Mickey finally said goodbye I had two excited girls on my hands that couldn't stop smiling… We had a wonderful day after that but what I remember most is when we walked by the rose garden, the older one said “Oh, my mommy loves roses! I mean…” and she stopped.
“I held out my hand and walked her to the gate, picked her up and put her on the other side and said “Pick one!” She looked happy as she picked out her favorite rose. She didn't say anything more and she didn't need to. I said goodbye to the wonderful nurses and the wonderful girls then walked backstage behind the train station. This time I didn't cry. It felt so good to be a part of that. I realized that as much as I liked helping guests at City Hall, the true magic of Disney was in the character department. I auditioned, transferred, and never looked back. Thanks for letting me relive this. It was a special day for me.”
One user replied, “I can’t imagine it… I lost both my parents last year and I’m in my 30s. The pain, impossibility of it, loneliness, fear, the MISSING them is all so intense. I can’t imagine being that young and witnessing such a thing and then having to walk through it. My first birthday without them is coming in 10 days, and I feel as devastated as when they first passed. I hope those girls have found comfort and love.”
“I’m so sorry. Much love to you on your birthday,” another user responded.
10. Chip ‘n Dale
One user said, “I was Chip ‘n Dale in Land, and some dad came up with his kids, I was doin my thang and having fun with them. When it came time for pics the dad came over to join us and all was well until after the picture when he asked for a hug so I gave him one. He squeezed, pulled away, grabbed his kids hands, smiled and said, ‘I didn't know Dale was a girl under all that fur.'
“I played it off at the time but it made me really uncomfortable that he had actually squeezed hard enough to feel me under my costume… decided to wear binders while I was in character so that no one else could ever feel my chest again through the suit. This was back in 2019.”
Another one responded, “I have a similar story as Smokey Bear. I used to work for the US Forest service and when I was an intern I got to be Smokey (I thought it was a high honor, turns out I was just the unlucky fool to volunteer). Still there was a bunch of training and rules before I was allowed to do it. Regardless I had a few dads grab my waist, which was actually just a pair of massive jeans and realize I was a girl and make really lewd comments. It was weirder with the handful of women who would try to grab my cr***h and make jokes about what I had down there.
“Being Smokey was a lot of fun otherwise (except also that every dog hated you) but it had its moments. Lots of weird comments, luckily I wasn’t allowed to talk at all and had handlers (fellow employees) to manage the people. It definitely always made me uncomfortable how weird people can be with someone in that situation where you’re kind of held hostage by your environment and the persona you’re inhabiting.
“Although the scariest moment was when one overzealous person tried to tackle me and the head almost came off, I don’t know what I would have done since it was in front of a crowd of like 150 children.”
One added, “That's a gross way to phrase it, but as a teen I was shocked to realize I could see through the mesh of the character heads when close up. It looks so opaque from a distance and the accidental eye contact inside a cartoon animal's mouth felt super awkward.”
Another user concluded, “As someone who does a lot of different character work, kids love to press their faces against the mesh mouth and try to get a look of whoever's inside. Nothing I can really do about that, unfortunately.”
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