The biggest thing drilled into our heads in Disney entertainment is preserving character. At all costs, we are to preserve character. Why? Because people don't love Disney for the stunning animation or fun worlds or timeless stories. People love Disney for the characters. Even if you don't love the protagonist--even when Olaf steals the show--it's the characters that keep us going back to those movies.
We wear the characters on our t-shirts, put them on our notebooks, outfit the small children in our lives in their clothing. We pretend we are Ariel, under the sea, or Aladdin, with a "Friend Like Me."
I recently gave a super secret presentation that involved social media (it went awesomely, thanks for asking), and one of my major points was that consumers connect to characters. If you're reading this blog, I assume you feel like you know certain things about me (that I am rambly, have a casual voice, tend toward parentheticals). Even more so if you follow me on twitter. It's called "brand," but I think it's more than that. It's the PERSON (not the thing) that your followers expect you to be.
We hear this a lot in publishing. You could have the greatest story in the world, but without those compelling characters, everything falls flat.
In the Disney Parks, it's my job to take the characters that are already beloved and give them a new life in a show or a parade or an event that stays true to who they are and why everyone loves them. Because of this, I've learned a lot about what is essential to a character's, um, character.
One of the things that stuck with me the most from a very early assignment was this: I was writing a script where a princess did a quick appearance, greeted the audience, then left. The next week, a different princess did the same thing.
The princess's opening line the first wee was something very general like "Why, hello there!" so I left it for the second week. Our Character Expert (yes, that's someone's job) wrote back that princess #2 wouldn't say it like that, and I ended up changing the line to something like "Hi everyone!" (Ten points to whoever can guess those two princesses based on their greetings!)
Character is the #1 most vital thing to creating an experience. Mickey and the Magical Map, one of our big productions, is this really immersive, magical (ha) show full of song and dance and backflips and physics-defying bubbles--yet the cheers are never as loud as when Mickey and Stitch come on stage. (King Louie, Mulan, Pocahontas, Rapunzel, Flynn, Tiana, and Sebastian are also in it, but for some reason, they don't get the overwhelming roar from the audience like Mickey and Stitch. I understand Mickey, but Stitch? Sure.)
I've learned so much about character while interning here. I'll leave you with this. I'm very close to these characters, for some reason . . .