The Disney Parks may be some of the most magical vacation destinations, but what is it like to be one of the famous faces whose job is to create "the Happiest Place on Earth?"
We already know that working at Disney World can be taxing, but is it any different for the lucky few who perform as the classic characters we know and love? In an exposé for Los Angeles Magazine, a former Jack Sparrow revealed what it's really like to be a face character at Disneyland. While this isn't exactly new news, it's another example of just how good Disney is at making all things appear perfect.
Based on Brandon Hillock's account, here are some of the harshest realities you'll face performing as a Disney character.
1. Being too sexy can get you fired
According to Hillock, Disneyland had to get rid of Esmerelda because she was too "flirtatious" and men "found her too sexually arousing." So, you're telling me that a slew of actresses lost their jobs because too many guys couldn't keep it in their pants? Did they not even see The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a movie that features a lascivious man hungering after Esmerelda as its villain?
Apparently, female guests at Disneyland don't behave any better. After an excessive amount of butt-pinching, Tarzan met the same fate as Esmerelda. I'm sure more than a few of them felt that Tarzan was "asking for it" by wearing only a loin cloth. The unwanted touching problem is so prolific, managers supposedly instructed characters to "see women as trouble." Yikes.
2. Harassment is possible, if not common
The Esmerelda and Tarzan accounts probably made this point clear, but I was completely shocked to read about the way some park guests treat certain face characters. Hillock recounts a number of women slipping him notes that promised him certain, er, "favors", with one woman even humping his leg. Those who smuggled in alcohol or had a few beers at California Adventure were particularly aggressive, thinking that a drunk womanizer like Jack Sparrow would be all for a fling.
The worst part: Hillock felt like he couldn't report any of this for fear of the character being nixed from rotation.
3. Some essential character traits are toned down
This may not apply to the more family-friendly characters in the park, but for a boozy, Keith Richards-inspired pirate, some watering down needed to occur. Yep, they took Keith Richards out of Captain Jack. Hillock was instructed to refrain from mentioning alcohol, despite the fact that Jack Sparrow's preferred method of transportation is drunken stumbling.
Hilariously, the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song, "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" is ALL ABOUT DRINKING. I suppose no child has ever considered an animatronic robot to be a role model, but still, what is Jack without his rum? Nothing, that's what.
4. Rules. Rules. Rules.
It should come as no surprise that Disney Parks run on a steady diet of rules and regulations. As one of the cast members, however, these rules can make your job even more difficult. For example, the park has a no facial hair policy for employees—and that includes the quintessential Sparrow goatee. As a result, instead of wearing his natural beard, Hillock needed to glue on a mustache as part of his everyday routine.
Additionally, Hillock needed to take down any social media accounts he had connecting him to Jack Sparrow, even though he dressed as the character at conventions and Renaissance Faires. You know you're in big trouble if you begin seeing one of the park's "leads" in the corner of your eye. These are the park's assistant managers who call upper management at the slightest infraction. Think a smiling Eye of Sauron in colorful polo.
5. Dating other characters is no laughing matter
For all of you out there who dreamed of having Jasmine or Shang as a significant other, I'm sincerely sorry. Even if you manage to get lock down one of the competitive positions as a park character, Disney is STRONGLY opposed to their characters canoodling, so they make it extremely difficult. In fact, Disney cast members even have a saying: "DDD" - as in "Don't Date Disney." It sounds like the aversion to romance is instilled into the culture, making any coworker a potential spy for higher-ups - at least the teacher's pets.
Alas, the difficulty did not stop Hillock from dating a girl who played Ariel. They had to sneak around hidden underneath jackets in order to avoid the cameras of their fellow employees. When a picture of them kissing in costume was found on his private Facebook page, one of his fellow cast members turned it into the boss, and he was forced to take it down. If only forbidden love didn't make such a great story.
6. Breaking character is a cardinal sin
This rule is necessary for preserving Disney magic, but staying in character goes way beyond acting the role when on the job. Face characters are contractually forbidden from revealing their alter-ego even when out of costume or on downtime. When lingering in the park out of costume, characters can never admit to being the person that they play. Instead, they have a canned response that goes something along the lines of "Jack Sparrow is a friend of mine." Like I haven't heard that one before...
Hillock was ultimately fired for revealing his stage name while being unknowingly filmed (more on that in a bit!). When the video ended up on YouTube, it took only a week before he was fired.
7. The dressing room has a pecking order
And, naturally, the princesses are at the top. According to Hillock, the hierarchy starts with dividing face characters and "fuzzies" (characters in costume) into two separate groups. The dressing room mainly consists of a long table and a mirror that spans a huge wall. Princesses end up primping right in front of the mirror, the most coveted spot. Hillock and his fellow Jacks were relegated to the back corner (maybe post-Disney Renaissance characters still need to prove themselves).
If dressing room politics don't excite you yet, consider the fact that it takes over an hour to get the Jack costume on. Now imagine Maleficent and Merida fighting over a make-up brush after grueling hours of prep. This needs to be a new Bravo stat.
8. Smart phones can be your worst enemy
In an age when everyone has a camera in their pocket, non-stop surveillance is a major worldwide concern. For characters at Disney Parks, a YouTube video of even the most innocuous offense can mean an immediate termination. Hillock reports that a video of him sitting in a stroller (a gag he often did to get laughs from surrounding parents and kids) ended up on the internet. When the casting department got ahold of it, they told him that the joke made it seem like he was "sitting down on the job."
In another example, Hillock discusses a time when a friend of his, who played Pluto, came over to his section for some photo-ops. Because characters from different movies are not allowed to be seen together, a video of this encounter spelled bad news for Pluto. He was eventually let go. Say cheese!
Of course, most of these items are taken from one person's experience, so take them with a grain of pixie dust. It's still a magical freakin' place. Would you still want to work as a face character at a Disney Park?