Exclusive Investigation: Disney Enforces Weight Standards for Princess Performers, Extra Pay Offered to Maintain Silhouette

in Disney Parks

Two performers dressed as princesses stand on a parade float in front of a fairy-tale castle. the princess in a gold gown waves, while the one in a red dress smiles, under a bright blue sky.

Credit: : Brian McGowan/Unsplash

Details on Disney’s cast member termination policies have been taking over the internet recently, and after speaking to former performers at The Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort, it seems that there is a lot more to unpack regarding the standards that Belle, Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, Gaston, and other “face characters” must adhere to if they want to keep their jobs.

That includes getting paid more to stay at their current weight and keep their physical appearance the same during their entire time with The Walt Disney Company.

A family enjoying a meal in a retro-styled diner while capturing a memory with a character performer as Tiana.
Credit: Disney

When Disney casts for a performer role in the park, the audition notice often states that they are looking for “look-alike” characters. For example, right now, if we look at the Disney Auditions page, we can see that they are casting for Princess Tiana at Disneyland Resort.

The audition notice reads, “Disney Live Entertainment is excited to be seeking candidates for the Character Look-Alike role of PRINCESS TIANA, to be portrayed at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA. These roles are based on the main character in the film, “The Princess and the Frog”. Characters appear each day in character greetings before thousands of guests, signing autographs, posing for pictures, and helping to create magical moments with guests of all ages. ”

For those looking to audition for Tiana, they must send in four photos of themselves:

  • One with a full smile, showing teeth
  • One without a smile
  • Full-body shot from the ground up, looking into the camera
  • Profile shot from the waist up

These photos should match up with the character description of the princess” “PRINCESS TIANA: (5’5-5’8) Tiana is a bright and resourceful young woman who always dreamed of opening her own restaurant in her hometown of New Orleans. As fate should have it, an adventure involving a frog, a firefly, and an alligator reveal to her that balancing work with love is necessary if she truly wants to be happy.”

Disney looks to cast performers who fit into the face and body proportions of each character so that each “Tiana” looks the same, creating one unified character. That goes for every character at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and any Disney park around the globe.

As we hinted at the top of the article, Disney actually pays their performers more who show their face as they are required to keep a certain “silhouette”.

According to the Disneyland post, that pay is nearly $5 more per hour, “The pay rate for this role in California is $24.15 per hour. Look-Alikes will also earn a $4.75 per hour premium for any hours onstage as a Look-Alike. ” Onstage at Disney basically means as soon as you step into guest view, so this does not mean as an on-stage performer as one may assume, with an actual stage.

Cinderella at Princess Fairytale Hall
Credit: Disney

We can tell as the audition below the one for Tiana on the Disney Audition page is for performers who would be in full costume, and their pay rate remains at the $24.15 per hour rate.

Inside the Magic spoke with a cast member who was “disapproved” as her character at Walt Disney World due to a 10-pound weight gain. The performer wishes to stay anonymous for professional reasons but did state that at Walt Disney World, performers who show their face are given a higher hourly rate, which is deemed as “silhouette pay.”

She mentioned that the dresses only run up to a certain size, and if you cannot fit into the costume, or if you fit into the costume but casting does not like the way that the costume looks on your body, you will be “disapproved” from your role.

Our “Rapunzel” stated that she had gained ten pounds, which still allowed her to fit into a costume, but it appeared that Disney did not like the way it was fitting on her. “The costumes can squeeze certain areas on your body, so if you gain a little fat in your arms, things get tighter, and Disney does not like that”, said our anonymous performer.

She also noted that her “silhouette pay” was not as dramatic as California’s, and that hers was around $2 more than someone in a full outfit like Mickey Mouse or Winnie the Pooh. We were also told that it was not just weight that can have you “disapproved” from your role, but also, appearance in general.

If you were to get a cut on your face, develop a lot of acne, get a tan, or have anything alter the look that Disney saw when you sent in those four photos and went to the audition, you would not be able to perform as your character, since you would no longer be matching the Disney look that the company strives for.

Frozen Festival of Fantasy disney parade
Credit: Disney

When this happens, cast members are not let go of the company but are moved into a different role, such as a character attendant, which is what happened to our friend “Rapunzel.”

The ex-cast member we spoke with went into detail on how the job took a toll on her mental health, “I was happy not to have lost my job, but there is a body dysmorphia culture that comes with working for Disney and the Disney parks as a performer. You are constantly comparing yourself to others, and every shift, your body and face are looked at to see if they are up to Disney’s standards to step outside, it becomes all you think about”.

This is something that we have heard other performers who were once with the company speak out on.

Melanie, another ex-performer, spoke with Business Insider, explaining very similar issues that she faced:

“The most common fear for cast members was getting called into a meeting for a “silhouette issue,” meaning someone at Disney had a problem with your weight (or, perhaps more accurately, how they perceived it).

It also wasn’t uncommon to hear that a manager had seen photos of a character actor in Ariel’s Grotto (where many characters wear mermaid tails and bikini tops), turned her into casting because they felt she looked too chubby, and tried to get her “temporarily disapproved” from playing a mermaid until casting decided she looked thinner.

I was “disapproved” in a number of fur characters — ones that are fully covered up, like Pluto — because of the shape of my shoulders.

And I was nervous because I didn’t fit into my parade dress — I had to be sewn into it.”

She continued, “I tried to keep it on the down low because it was implied to me by casting that if I “didn’t look right” in something, I could just be removed from the role. That made me feel pretty awful, considering adjusting a button would have solved the issue altogether.”

Melanie also spoke about other factors, such as age, which is an issue since many of these characters, especially the princesses, are around 16 years old in their respective films.

Hunter Haag, who previously worked for The Walt Disney Company and was on Clayton Edward’s (26th) season of The Bachelor on ABC, being eliminated on the 5th week, shared a get-ready-with-me style video to TikTok while talking about the traumatizing aspects of performing at Disney.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Hunter Haag (@hunterchaag)

In the video, Hunter starts off by noting that it is not great that you cannot say what you do when asked about your job. Disney takes their character integrity very seriously, and they want Rapunzel to be Rapunzel from the movie, not a young girl playing her. Therefore, to protect the magic, all cast members who are performers are not allowed to say that is what they do or refer to themselves as the character they play. 

On social media, many performers state that they are “friends” with a certain character to go around the rule, but even doing that can be tricky, as we have seen with the recent drama surrounding one Snow White performer, Sophia Dottir, who was let go from the company for posting photos of her in her Snow White costume while on stage (AKA in guest view).

Hunter disclosed that she would lie about what she did, and would tell people she worked in merchandising in Adventureland.

@hunterhaag

GRWM: Traumatic and not-so-great things about being a Disney Princess #disneyworld #characterperformer #disneyprincess #beautyandthebeast #tangled

♬ original sound – Hunter

Hunter also detailed that if you post a photo, all comments must be directed to the character, so if someone says, “You look so beautiful!” and not “Belle looks so beautiful” you must delete that right away.

Hunter also explained that the audition process itself was traumatizing, as you stand in a line with a bunch of other girls while casting examines your face to see if you would be suited for a character.

Hunter explained that she would compare herself to others, like the ex-cast member we spoke with. She stated that she would compare facial features such as her nose and jawline, which were things she had never thought about as being “wrong” with her before Disney. Hunter also explained that every eight months, all characters are looked at to make sure that they still fit the character profile physically.

Hunter also shared that the jobs are physically demanding and that she ended up having neck problems from the weight of Rapunzel’s wig while also explaining how the costumes were very heavy as well.

Overall, there have been many ex-cast members who have opened up on the issues that come with being a performer at Disney, but the topic of weight and maintaining a perfect figure is synonymous with every experience.

Do you agree that Disney should pay performers more to keep their appearance unchanged?

in Disney Parks

Be the first to comment!