A costumed character wears a costume that covers the performer's face. These range from theme park "walk-around" or "meetable" characters, the mascots of corporations, schools, or sports teams to novelty act performers. Some costumes cover the performer's face; others, especially those in theme parks, may leave the performer's face visible.
In theme parks, international fairs, and festivals
They are intended to add to the fantasy experience by enabling visitors to encounter and interact with fictional characters, such as mascots for the company. Meetable characters that have the performer's face visible are allowed to speak (usually on the basis of scripts carefully prepared in advance), while characters that have their faces covered are not allowed to speak and can only communicate through pantomime.
Costumed characters are a major feature of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts (Disney Parks), where the most ubiquitous of them is Mickey Mouse, but a wide variety of characters from different media franchises are portrayed at various parks. For example, Disney Parks features characters from their own library of animated and live-action films as well as characters from George Lucas' Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises; Six Flags parks feature Time-Warner's Looney Tunes cartoons and DC Comics superhero characters; Cedar Point, Knott's Berry Farm, and other Cedar Fair parks feature Peanuts characters; and until recently Kings Island, California's Great America, Kings Dominion, Carowinds and Canada's Wonderland featured Nickelodeon characters (and before that, Hanna-Barbera characters). Theme parks, and international expositions and fairs create their own meetable characters.
The characters are portrayed by employees in costume. Some of the costumes consist of clothing and makeup (e.g. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Batman), while those for non-human characters generally conceal the performer entirely and include a full-head/body mask (e.g. Donald Duck, Goofy, Bugs Bunny and his crew, Felix the Cat, Godzilla, Woody Woodpecker, and World Exposition characters such as Seymore D. Fair, Twipsy, and Haibao).
For human characters that speak with visitors, the park operator often prepares detailed scripts covering a variety of questions regularly asked by visitors, especially young children who have difficulty distinguishing between reality and fantasy. Performers cast in those roles are required to memorize and rehearse those scripts as part of their training, so they can learn their characters' backstories by heart and consistently respond in character to visitors.
At the largest amusement parks (especially Disney Parks), popular characters are often accompanied by one or more assistants in regular park uniforms, who handle customer service, security, and crowd control. This minimizes the necessity for performers to break character to deal with those kinds of issues. When a performer really needs a break (as staying in character is hard work), they simply give a prearranged signal, and their handler will then assure patrons the character will be back momentarily.
All amusement park operators that present costumed characters enforce strict character performance regulations so that performers are never seen out of character by visitors. In the case of more elaborate costumes, they are never seen "with their head off".
In recent years, performers dressed as unauthorized versions of popular characters have appeared in popular tourist destinations such as Hollywood Boulevard and Times Square. They usually pose for photos and collect tips from tourists. Because they are not regulated or authorized, there have been many controversies and arrests involving them.
Current shows featuring a costumed character puppet include Big Bird of Sesame Street, Barney from Barney and Friends, and Bear of Bear in the Big Blue House. Less complicated characters include Hip Hop Harry or RAGGS Kids Club Band.
The mascot industry is estimated at $5-million a year.
Toronto is one of the hubs in the industry, with six major firms headquartered out of the city.
- Six Flags entertainment website
- Camp Snoopy at Cedar Point
- Camp Snoopy at Knott's Berry Farm
- Nickelodeon Universe at Kings Island
- Nickelodeon Central at California's Great America
- "Character builders". Macleans (Toronto ON: Rogers Media). 28 July 2011. Retrieved 28 July 2011.