Lately there’s been a lot of confusion on the Disney side of tumblr concerning Peter Pan and the other characters at the Disney theme parks. This post has been the source of many heated debates, not just about the boy who refuses to grow up, but the entire habit of nicknaming performers. I’m writing this post to hopefully clear up some misunderstandings and to explain why this habit is one that needs to be put to rest.
Character Integrity is a term used at the Disney Parks to uphold and preserve the magic. In its most basic form, it means respecting the character, their story, and their performer. It is also called The Rule of One. There is one Mickey Mouse. There is one Cinderella. There is one Tigger. There is one Alice. There is one Tinkerbell. There is one Beast. There is one Mary Poppins. There is one Peter Pan.
When Guests approach Cast Members with the question, “How many people play Minnie?” the answer will always be, “Play? No one plays Minnie! Minnie is Minnie!”
They are not actors. They are not people in costume. They are the character.
Where the confusion comes about, and thus the turmoil on tumblr begins, is defining the characters under that Rule of One. It doesn’t take a genius to look at two different pictures of Peter side-by-side and realize that something is off. They don’t look exactly the same. Their facial structures are varied. Their eyes are different colors. Their bodies are slightly narrower, or larger, or taller, or shorter.
And from this, comes the nature of nicknaming. In order to tell the differences apart, people name the two different performers so that they can identify to others which they are referring to, or which they prefer. Names that are going around tumblr are ‘Spieling’ and ‘Huggy’ and ‘Acorn’, and more. How these names are decided upon I couldn’t tell you, but I will say that such names are damaging. Because they defy the Rule of One.
Haters are jumping on my back about how ‘We’re all adults and we know better,’ and ‘We’re not actually calling them those names in the parks, so what’s the problem?’ Well, I answer, the problem is when those nicknames get taken too far. People literally become obsessed with these performers, searching for their ‘real’ names and wanting to find them outside of their role to thank them, speak with them, ask them questions, the list goes on and on. And that’s where the real trouble begins. Because you are going beyond disrespecting Character Integrity, you are putting people’s jobs at risk. Character performers are not supposed to reveal directly who they are, and they are more than certainly not supposed to divulge their real names. It’s all part of the Disney Difference.
Now does that happen all the time? Do people lose jobs when they talk about it with their friends and family? Do they get in trouble if they post pictures online and refer to the character as themselves? No, of course not. There are exceptions to everything, and benders to every rule.
But what I ask, is it really worth the risk? Because Disney reacts accordingly. They will pull characters out of the parks, making them almost impossible to meet. They will terminate their performers. They do actually listen to their fans online. (Do we all remember the Andy’s Coming! fiasco?)
This is Character Integrity. And this is why it’s important.
So naturally the next question I’ve been getting a lot from people who are taking this into account is: So what can be done? And the answer is very simple: Do not refer to the character under various names. Just stop. Stop nicknaming them. Stop trying to define each performer. It’s ok to have your favorites, just try to keep it to yourself.
Also, adopt a new phrase. For the character performers, the term ‘friends with’ is used. Meaning, if someone portrays Peter Pan, rather than saying ‘OH YEAH, I PLAY PETER PAN,’ they say, ‘I am friends with Peter Pan.’ Got it? Friends = I am the character performer of ______. It’s really not that hard. Better yet, you can use that phrase too.
"Wow, all the friends of Belle are so beautiful!"
"Gee, Mickey’s friends sure are energetic."
"Peter’s friends are the absolute sweetest people."
There will still undoubtedly be eye-rolling at this post, and ok, I get that not everyone will want to use the knowledge and suggestions I have offered, or will believe what I have to say. But seeing as how I was a Character Attendant, and I have seen the aforementioned consequences happen before my very eyes, I assure you it is real and it does happen.
You can stop it from happening.
Consider what I have to say. Think about how little effort it will take to change your speech, to adapt to a new way of thinking about the characters. Respect Character Integrity. Respect the magic. Respect what Disney is trying to do for their Guests. Respect the Rule of One.
On the flip side, if someone you know isn’t respecting those things, DO NOT SEND THEM HATE. Because that isn’t even coming close to fixing the problem. And quite frankly, you are no better than the person you disagree with.
(*This information applies to all Character Performers; Peter Pan was just used as an example.)
Thanks for reading, and have a magical day.