Disney World may claim to be the happiest place on earth to those who visit, but anyone who earns a paycheck there obviously has a different story. That must go double for those brave souls who march around in full Florida heat in bulky character costumes. Because the inner working of Disney theme parks and the employees who run them are a source of endless fascination, a former Disney World “Goofy” of 20 years pulled back the curtain with a Reddit AMA to answer questions and give an idea of what it’s like to be in character all the time.
Incredibly, the employee (even after having been fired for a pretty crappy reason, we’ll get to that in a bit) still holds a pretty high opinion of Disney and there’s not nearly as much behind-the-scenes scandal as you’d expect. Some of the answers were still pretty fascinating though, and we’ve gone through and sorted out the best ones.
On whether or not employees are filled with the “Disney spirit” or if they hate their jobs every bit as one might imagine:
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.
On the rumor that someone gets fired if two of the same characters appear at the same time in the park:
It would depend on the situation. I’ve met my double on set by accident a few times over the years (it happens to the best of us) but it was just that, an accident. The only way someone would get fired (I’m only guessing here) is if they did it on purpose.
On how the costumed characters survive on the hottest days:
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.
The weirdest request he ever got from a visitor:
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!
On his best and worst guest experiences:
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.
The strangest thing he ever saw 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.
Why he was eventually terminated after 20 years:
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.
On whether or not the character conform to stereotypes (and how some Disney princesses are basically mean girls):
If you’re talking about the “face” performers the answer is yes and no. 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.
On sexual relations between characters (ie: do they “bang in costume”):
No, and 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.
And finally, the most important question for the ages, just what the hell is Goofy anyways?
He’s an anthropomorphic dog. Yes, we get that question a lot.