Being a Disney princess is nearly every little girl’s dream. Frilly gowns, sparkly shoes, and apparently weather-proof hair- what’s not to love? Unfortunately, getting this coveted job is not as simple as the wave of a fairy godmother’s wand. There are many steps in the journey, and the very first one is auditioning.
On Disney’s website, there is a basic description of what’s like to be a Character Performer: “Your main responsibility will be to interact with our guests as one of the world-famous Disney Characters. Your day will include lots of autograph signing, posing for photos, hugs, kisses and animated storytelling.” The site goes on to inform prospective performers that’s it’s not all fun and magic, and that wearing potentially heavy costumes in the dreadful Florida heat will be a challenging, but rewarding job. Next up, the site reminds people to wear comfortable clothing, get there on time, and most importantly, smile. As the advice continues, the subject of the Disney Look comes into play.
One of the most common misconceptions is that Disney is only concerned with how attractive their performers are. While physical appearance does play a role, it’s a lot more complex than a certain standard of beauty. Two current performers, one brand new and the other a veteran of the game, describe their beginnings at the company. As both want to maintain the magic and integrity of their current roles, both have decided to remain anonymous. The new performer will be referred to as Princess P, and the longtime performer as Princess L. Princess P began her career as a performer in the spring of this year, and Princess L. has performed in various roles for the last five years, having to audition for each role every time she is cast.
As she started recounting her audition, Princess P remembered the first thing the judge said when entering the room was “This isn’t about how pretty you are, this about our needs and about all the stars aligning just so, and you being exactly what we’re looking for when we’re looking for it.” Princess L recalled a similar experience of not being sure what they were looking for: “My initial audition process consisted of a type- out, where we all stood in rows of 10 and the casting directors looked at our faces. From there, they decided who would fit into whatever random mold they decided they needed that day.”
As the Disney article continues, it confirms these sentiments: “Understand that there are many factors that must be taken into account when determining who gets kept, and who does not. Just do your best and feel good about your performance. The rest is out of your hands.” The writer then emphasizes that every performer will be judged by their ability to tell a story, move effectively, and bring an animated character to life. The last two qualifications they mention are height and build, which they realize “are out of your control, but play a big part in who gets kept because of available positions.”
After the audition, both performers spoke about another challenge: waiting for the news. Princess L had to be incredibly patient after being told she would receive in answer within two weeks. “Three months went by, and I assumed that I hadn't gotten the position. Then, out of the blue, I was called and asked to attend a call back audition in Orlando. My callback consisted of make-up & costumes, and memorization of a small slide. From there, I waited yet another month until I found out that I had the position.” Princess P, on the other hand, had nearly the opposite happen. “They said, ‘We’ll let you know in a week.’ And I’m like, okay, I’ll just be waiting.” It turns out she was contacted in a week, and they let her know that she was on waiting list to be hired. After five months, they finally had a job for her.
At the end of their recollections, both Princesses L and P emphasized that remaining optimistic is one of the important challenges about the audition process. Princess P simply recalled a costume and make-up trial thinking “My dream is coming true right now. Even if I don’t get the job…that was all I needed. This will satisfy me for years to come.” While Princess L emphasized “You never know what the casting director is looking for. You could have the best audition of your life, and they won't even look at you twice,” she said, “The key is being persistent and constantly working at your craft. Take dance classes, get to the gym, take vocal lessons, and be prepared for what you want. And, after all of that, if you don't get the role, don't take it personally! The world of characters is incredibly strange and difficult. Love yourself.”