Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Once Upon A Time...

For three years I had the best job ever...




Reliving my glory days with Snow White and the Queen

My senior year of high school, I decided on a whim to go with a girlfriend who was auditioning for Disneyland’s face character department.  I had absolutely no idea what to expect but thought it would be neat to say I had tried out.  I couldn’t believe the turn out, there were nearly 400 people there, I was surrounded by some amazing talent!  I was 17, still in high school and the youngest of the group.  They lined us up as auditions began, I got separated from my girlfriend as cuts were immediately made.  It was a whirlwind and I thought for sure I heard wrong when they called my number.  Round after round of auditions and interviews followed, and after each cut I’d call my parents and tell them they wanted me to stay a little longer.  It was so exciting to be performing backstage at Disneyland!  After a full day, the time came to try on the wigs.  They sent us to the dressing rooms with a character in mind.  I sat back and watched as the hair and makeup people worked their magic, some of the girls were completely transformed!  My turn was up, they fitted me in a couple different characters, but I could immediately tell they weren’t a match.  I was all but certain my audition was over when someone suggested they try Snow White’s wig.  They got me ready and turned me around to take a look.  It was startling and a little eerie in a “oh my gosh, I look just like Snow White” kind of way.  I was asked to come back for day 2 with directions to go home and review the movie.  My family sat around with me that night as I watched it…we watched the scene over and over where she scolds the animals saying, “no, no no, not under the rug!” joking about her high-pitched voice as I tried to mimic the line.  I crossed my fingers as I headed back for day two.  In my last audition I was reading stories in character.  The voice was a struggle until one judge asked me to say, “no, no, no, not under the rug!”  It must have been hearing it all those times the night before because as I recited it, something just clicked.  I knew that my chances were slim, I was younger than they usually hired and I assumed they’d just invite me back the following year.  I sat in a room with 12 other girls and about fell off my seat when they welcomed us as their newest cast members.  I just remember thinking, are you kidding me?  You are going to pay me to dress up, meet kids and tell stories while I take pictures and sign autographs?  Best. Job. Ever.

I was trained extensively on all things Snow White, and knew how to act in any situation.  I couldn’t believe all the little things they trained us on- sneezing, bending over, cultural differences of guests and what to expect…even how to dance the Macarena in character.  The number one thing they stressed was ensuring that we kept the magic alive with each guest, no matter their age.  It was amazing to step foot into the park and feel completely transformed into the character.  I love, love, love how hard Disney works to keep everything genuine and how much their guest’s experience means to them.  The days were long and hot, it was not always comfortable wearing stage make up and 15 layers in the hot California sun…but it was all so rewarding to see the reactions on the kid’s faces as we would chat for a minute before taking a picture and signing autographs.  I loved playing along as they asked about the Prince and the Dwarfs and what I thought about the Queen.  Some were shy, some were sweet and a few were naughty.  I dreaded days when the junior high kids came for school events.  I loved doing story time as I acted out Snow White’s story with a story teller.  It was a more intimate setting with a lot of interaction with families.  My parents would often come just to watch it or to see me do a set by the castle and I’d just wink and wave and think how funny it was that none of these people know they’re standing next to my parents and I have to pretend I don’t know them.

There were so many wonderful, memorable parts of my job, but above all was the opportunity I had to meet with the Make a Wish Foundation children.  It has been quite a few years since I worked at Disneyland, but I can still to this day remember, in detail, some of the children I met.  They were bittersweet moments filled with laughter and dancing and make believe.  Nothing was more difficult than saying goodbye and hugging the child and their mother.  I cherished the chance I had to help create memories for a family that was experiencing something so unimaginable.  I know that I will remember those moments for the rest of my life.

I love seeing Gracie in her Snow White dress and I do feel kind of cool when she watches the movie over and over again (I may or may not have led her to believe that Snow White is way better than all the other princesses).  It is so fun to go back to Disneyland and watch my girls interacting with the characters, especially Gracie who is old enough now for the princesses to seem truly magical.  I can’t wait for the day I can pull out all my pictures and tell them about how cool Mom was.





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