Disney World is known as the happiest place on Earth. And some have heard the rumor that all employees must go through intensive smile training before they can hit the park running when they take on a job there. While tourists certainly seem to enjoy themselves at what is considered one of the world's premiere destinations, have you ever wondered what it is like to serve those people? Now, imagine that scenario, only you are hiding behind the mask of a legendary cartoon character everyone wants a picture with. Is that your idea of heaven or hell?
Disney employees don't often talk about their work behind-the-scenes. Especially when it comes to playing one of the park's many characters. These actors are usually sworn to silence. And as anyone who's watched Jon Favreau in Swingers twenty times knows, it is not the most coveted acting gig on the planet. In a rare turn, one of Disney Park's former employees is speaking out about their time under the mask. This actor, who wishes to remain silent, may just surprise you with what they have to say.
Disney World, while it may be the happiest place on Earth, also has to succumb to the intense Florida heat, which can be irritating and very tiresome for those tasked to walk the park in four hundred pounds of fur with a giant piece of plastic on their head. But one former park employee, who spent 20 years portraying the iconic Disney cartoon character Goofy, has revealed that it's not such a bad gig...Once you get used to it.
This particular 'Goofy' did something unprecedented, conducting a Reddit AMA, where you could literally ask this person anything as s/he pulled the curtain back on Florida's premiere tourist destination. We learn that the masked madman still holds Disney in high esteem, even after being fired for a questionable reason. There really isn't too much backstage scandal, but the answer to some of the questions asked are quite fascinating. The first order of business, Goofy was asked if the park employees hate their job, or if they remain filled with the Disney spirit at all times.
"It's really like any other job. I went through phases myself. At first, every time I farted Pixie Dust would blow out of my butt but after several years I got kind of bitter. It was all management stuff though. On set I was fine and loved it but backstage stress got to me for a while and I was big on holding Disney accountable. After about 10 years though I calmed down. I loved every single minute while on set (for the most part) and some of my co-workers will be friends for life. You get out of it what you put into it."
Goofy goes onto break the age old rumor that a character actor is immediately terminated if he shows up on grounds at the same time as another actor in the same costume. It happens all the time, mostly by accident. And if that's the case, no, there isn't any termination papers. Perhaps if someone did this on purpose, they'd be asked to walk out of the park and never come back. More importantly, and this is crucial information for anyone considering a job as a park character, how does one brave the cruel Florida heat. Goofy says this.
Practice actually. It was absolute torture the first month (and especially the first parade) but after a few months I got used to it and after a few years I would forget I had the costume on."
People are weird, and Disney World brings every type of human imaginable together in one tightly confined space where irritations grow along with the very long lines. Some people have odd requests when approaching these costumed characters. And this particular Goofy has seen some weird tourists come and go. He explains.
"A guy once asked me to choke him for a picture (I didn't). That's a hard one because guests routinely do stupid weird things. I think the worst of them is when people bring their newborn infants to the parks and ask us to hold them for a picture. I can't see shit in Goofy let alone other costumes and I'm wearing giant gloves or paws or whatever depending on what character I am. Why would you let me hold your baby? Yeesh!"
It's not all bad. It's not all sunshine and roses either. There have been great times in the Goofy costume. But the sun must set, and the dark days are always nearby. Goofy goes onto describe the best and worst guest experiences ever encountered during his run.
"Ugh. Worst guest experience? It's a tie between having my life threatened at a Grad Night party one time and one time I had to tell a guest that their son was in jail for stealing from one of the stores and she did not take it very well. Best guest experience? I've got too many to mention. One that stands out is when I was working at Mickey's Character Spot at Epcot. There was an older gentleman that came up in the queue but didn't come see me, he just sort of stood in the back and watched me for a while. After about 20 minutes he came up to me and said "Goofy, I had a special friend that would want you to have this." In Goofy you have to look down in order to make it look like Goofy is looking at you so I couldn't see him but I heard him holding back the tears. He was shaking a bit but he gave me a hug anyway. I will never forget that hug. It was one of those hugs that last with you. He was crying in my arms. He had given me this which is a pin they give to family members or friends of POWs and MIAs. It's become one of my most prized possessions."
What most people want to know about is the inner-workings of the Disney Theme Parks. The happiest place on earth has to have a dark cloud hanging over it behind the scenes, right? Goofy delves into the backstage antics and what he's seen behind the curtain.
"Oh my god I could go on for days about that. One thing that stands out was a special event where they needed 16 Mickeys all set out in various rooms and seeing all of them backstage was really weird."
Perhaps that's not as scandalous as one might think. Neither is the reason this Goofy got fired. It was mostly for ripping on the jerk that is Donald Duck. Apparently the actor in the Donald costume is always cast to type. Goofy tells what happened the day he was let go after 20 years of service.
"I was fired. To make a complicated story short, Donald Duck was, as usual, being a jerk and wouldn't leave my area because I had signed "Luv, Goofy" right over the bill of a Donald Duck hat. He threw a temper tantrum and as I was dragging him across the floor to get him back to his position a little kid ran out from behind the curtain at Pete's Silly Sideshow and we knocked her on her butt. The kid was fine and no one complained but Disney didn't really appreciate me dragging the costume on the carpeted floor so they terminated me."
Goofy goes onto say this about his co-workers, and whether or not the Princesses are the 'Mean Girls' of the park. S/he equates time spent at Disney World to being back in high school all over again.
"Some of the break rooms are like the high school cafeteria where the "cool" princesses (elsa and anna) sit on one side and make eyes at the "old" characters (snow and poppins). It's really childish. Other face performers think they're on Broadway and demand respect and they hate not getting it. But those are extreme cases of a few bitches. For the most part the face performers are as much a character as any of us. Some of them are the sweetest people I've ever met in my life. Contrary to popular belief there aren't many furries in the character department. I know there are a few (I knew one of them) but it's not something that's out in the open for sure.
Finally, Goofy goes onto answer perhaps the most important question of all time when it comes to his character. What exactly is he. Well, as this person puts it, 'He's an anthropomorphic dog.' So Stand By Me aside, that should put that question to bed for eternity. If this all sounds exciting and worth while, know that Disney usually only hires trained actors for the costumed characters walking the park. If one is interested in a career as a costumed character, perhaps they can find an internship on Hollywood blvd first, where one needs only the costume and the ability to beg for dollar tips.