Portraying one of the Walt Disney Company’s beloved Disney Princesses is a dream shared by hundreds of young women who audition, sometimes weekly, for one of the coveted spots. It can be a lot of work to land the job, but it can be even more stressful to keep it once you have it. Other than disciplinary actions that apply to all Cast Members, appearing too “fat” or too “old” to play a Disney Princess are the top two ways girls in these roles lose their jobs.
Kind of crazy, right? So how do Disney World, Disneyland, and the other Parks get away with disposing of these character performers without getting taken down by Human Resources?
1 – Special Language
In any other job, these aspects would not be grounds for losing a position, but Disney takes its royalty very seriously. Disney Parks casting has to tip-toe around using incendiary and triggering words such as “fat” and “old” when speaking to their employees. To breach the subject, they use HR-approved wording to soften the blow for some girls who are undoubtedly attached to the characters they portray.
If casting has concerns over a performer’s age or weight, they take actions in order to disapprove (a nice way to say “fire” a girl from her Disney Princess) that performer. For instance, if a performer has gained weight since she was initially approved in Snow White, casting will have a meeting with her to discuss her “silhouette.” They will never say “overweight” or “fat,” but they will make it clear that their body’s “silhouette” no longer matches that of the character.
The performer will lose their ability to play the character for Disney. Sometimes this is permanent, but sometimes casting will offer a re-look at a performer for their previously lost character, in the case their “silhouette” becomes Snow White acceptable again. Yes, basically if they lose the weight.
“Aging out” is the term casting uses for Disney Princesses who no longer convincingly play teenagers. Some girls have played characters like Cinderella for a decade, but if casting makes the “aging out” decision, there’s no way to get a character back.
2 – Grace Period
Another way to soften the blow of disapproving a character performer is to give a specific date when their last shift will be as that character. This can be anywhere from a week to a month, but the disapproved Disney Princess will know in advance when her last day with her character is. They can enjoy their last shifts and the shock isn’t so severe.
3 – Reassignment
The character performers don’t technically get fired completely from the Disney Parks. The Disney Princess performers are Cast Members first and often portray more than one face character. For instance, a disapproved Princess Ariel may also play Princess Anna and Sleeping Beauty. Even if they no longer have any face characters, they may also perform as Pluto or Mr. Smee, or another mascot-type character. Luckily they don’t lose their employment completely, but the nature of their usual job has certainly changed.
Disney has a specific and uniform standard to ensure theme park characters look straight out of a Disney movie, and it’s understandable that rules must be met. However, the above reasons are how Disney can get away with taking a Disney Princess performer out of her role for her age and body shape.
This rule goes beyond official Disney Princesses and includes other Disney characters as well such as Tinker Bell, Disney princes, Peter Pan, Alice, Mary Poppins, and villains such as the Evil Queen, etc.