Former Disneyland Character Shares Insider Secrets That Made Her Job Harder

For many of us, some of our happiest childhood memories were made at either Disneyland or Walt Disney World.

And whether they want to recapture the magic of those days or spread that joy on to the next generation, you're likely to find a lot of Disney fans itching to become one of the characters they met years ago at any given time.

But while some may find that any daily frustrations are worth the reward of putting smiles on so many faces, we can sometimes hear tales from park employees that make it clear it's not always the happiest place on Earth for them.

And in the case of one former character at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, these secret drawbacks only revealed themselves once she started the job.

Not long after a woman named Melanie (not pictured) started working as a Disneyland character in March of 2012, she felt like she could be fired at any time.

As she wrote in an article for Insider, it took her 13 auditions before she was allowed to play one of Cinderella's stepsisters, Drizella Tremaine.

This was because casting staff kept telling her she didn't have the right look, but similar concerns were why she kept worrying about being "disapproved" as a character.

In some of the most common cases, this happened when an employee "aged out" of their character, which is a particular concern for those playing Disney princesses.

But as Melanie wrote, "The most common fear for cast members was getting called into a meeting for a 'silhouette issue.'"

As she explained, this was Disney's way of saying that they felt cast members were no longer at the appropriate weight to play a character.

Apparently, this was a particular problem at Ariel's Grotto, where character actors were known to wear mermaid tails and bikini tops. If one of them were considered "too chubby," they'd be temporarily disapproved until that changed.

However, this wasn't the only way someone could have a "silhouette issue" as Melanie said she couldn't be Pluto because of the shape of her shoulders. Height restrictions also tended to be strictly enforced.

Another problem was that while she was expected to be available at any time, the parks were very inconsistent on how many hours she would work.

Since she was considered a seasonal employee at Disneyland, she had hoped that moving to Walt Disney World would improve this situation as her characters had multiple shifts.

However, she still wouldn't be considered a full-time employee and sometimes found herself working six days a week for "barely" above minimum wage with no benefits.

There were also weeks where she'd have no hours at all and relied on others to give her shifts or get sick to stay afloat.

As she wrote, "I felt guilty, but this was my only job because if I picked up another one outside Disney, I felt like I wouldn't have a chance at becoming full time or being offered other roles."

Finally, remember those height and other bodily restrictions Melanie mentioned earlier? It turns out they didn't matter if someone in casting liked you.

This tended to foster jealousy and suspicion among cast members who seemed to get fewer characters and chances to be featured in a parade than others.

And while it would ultimately be the pandemic that made Disney part ways with Melanie, she would be hesitant to return anyway because "Disney magic didn't pay my bills."

This was a hard reality for her to face as she said there wasn't a single day she didn't want to do her job because she loved the guests and loved playing her characters.

h/t: Insider

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