Last night we had our first ever costume character training session. Every year at Halloween Town we have dozens of volunteers suit up to entertain the children. We've had every character you can think of and this year we'll have Garfield, Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles, Maisy, Franklin, Curious George and Winnie the Pooh, to name a few.
Because this is the first year we're using licensed characters at Halloween Town, our marketing agency, wedu, felt it was important that our professional costumes be filled with professional people to preserve the integrity of the costume and to give our young guests the best experience possible.
Wedu knows what they're talking about. The trainer they sent, Kevin Roberge, use to work for Disney and has played just about every costume character under the sun. Some of the advice Kevin shared included:
Safety. For the child as well as the character. Bulky costumes can sometimes lead to accidents if you're not aware just how big and heavy say Barney's head is. Hot is the best word to describe the inside of a costume. Kevin advised bringing 8 to 10 t-shirts so you can change during each break and stay dry.
Needs of the clients. Kevin really stressed just how big the responsibility is for a costume character. Kids REALLY believe you are the character and you should not disappoint them by acting out of character (e.g. Dora carries a backpack, not a bag). Also, remember, you're there to entertain the children, not other characters or escorts.
Performance and animation. This was very interesting. One thing I learned was just how much effort you need to put in to waving and jumping around. Because of the size and weight of the costume regular energy looks like low energy. We also got some training on what to do when a costume character's worst nightmare comes true: you lose your head and expose yourself to the world.
So being a costume character can be dangerous, hot, uncomfortable and exhausting. But it also can be very rewarding. A child's eyes light up when they see you and Kevin said the hugs are amazing! It's not just the child who walks away with a great memory.