No one fights like Gaston, debates little tykes like Gaston
January 14, 2015 9:51 PM   Subscribe

 
Disney gets a steady stream of job applicants, just like any large corporation, but their HR department keeps an eye open for applicants who resemble classic Disney characters, and those get recruited to act in costume.

Last time I was at Disney World, there was a woman who bore an astounding resemblance to Jasmine (from "Aladdin") that they had recruited for that job. The only real problem was that she looked to me like she was in her late 30's, but aside from that she was amazing.

And this guy, playing Gaston, is another great casting move.

The people to pick for this must go through astounding amounts of extra training so they understand their characters and how they're supposed to act. For instance, "Gaston" knows he's a comic character, and he's supposed to lose.

I remember watching a girl dressed as Alice Liddell (another magnificent physical casting job, by the way) and her job was to act spacey -- which she did wonderfully.

Disney's employee training is legendary anyway. Everyone, who is out where they can be seen by the public, is called a "cast member". This includes janitorial types. It particularly includes janitorial types, because Disney noticed a long time ago that when a guest is confused or needs help, they are most likely to ask a janitor for it.

And rule #1 for every cast member is that if a guest asks for help, they get it, and the cast member stays with them until it's clear the guest is satisfied. Even if this means the cast member is late performing the normal duties they've been assigned.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:18 PM on January 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


I once saw a Disney janitor kicking a live toad that was blocking the track of an automatic sliding glass door at Disneyworld. I think that guy must have skipped amphibian day.
posted by jamaro at 10:32 PM on January 14, 2015


And rule #1 for every cast member is that if a guest asks for help, they get it, and the cast member stays with them until it's clear the guest is satisfied. Even if this means the cast member is late performing the normal duties they've been assigned.

Having worked as a "show controller" at Universal Studios as a teen, I wind up wondering what it's like to be a Disney park employee every time I've been there. Universal was a pretty unpleasant working experience; working in the park could be fun, but dealing with supervisors, management and standards was always unnecessarily lame. I saw a lot of neat things, but never really cared for how we the employees were treated.

Disney has always seemed so impressively seamless to me. I've done that sort of job, and I've been a stage tech. Every time I've been at Disneyland, I've looked for those seams and those behind-the-scenes glitches and frustrations...and I just can't find 'em.

Last time I was there, I came across a small scene of a janitor who'd found an empty & abandoned stroller. I was waiting for my gf to come out of a bathroom, so I had a moment to watch. They treated that like a full-on red alert. No panic, no announcements, but pretty much every breath I took, I saw more staffers arrive who were clearly very concerned about finding both parent(s) and child. It was night and day from what I'd expect at a lot of other big public gathering places.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:45 PM on January 14, 2015


This is my favorite of the recent Gaston vids. Well worth the 4 minute investment.
posted by ApathyGirl at 10:55 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah Disneyland/World are the ultimate in controlled experiences. It takes a lot of extra effort, but since they do it right, it pays off in the end (it better at $100 bucks a ticket). Every other theme park seems to be run by incompetent assholes in comparison.

Here's a couple anecdotes that show the difference:

When I was 16 (1997), I worked at Six Flag Magic Mountain, which is theme park about 60 miles northwest-ish of Disneyland. I was one of the photo guys who took your picture coming in.

If they decided that the people coming in were "gang related"*, the regular teenage security guards and a couple bouncer looking dudes would just fold their arms and deny entry. This would happen right in front of the ticket booths. Some people got real pissed and just went back to their cars, but many threw a giant shit fit** right in front of people waiting to give money to buy tickets. I'm talking 30 minutes of screaming and yelling. Obviously, the peeps in line (if they just didn't leave) did not have a magic day once they got into the park.

This happened at least once a week, probably more.

My second story is that while waiting for someone to go get a coke or something at Disneyland, I once saw two frat bros get into it over something stupid like one guy backed into another on accident and didn't apologize. About 2 minutes into their "you got something to say about it bro?" bullshit, two ripped looking guys in business causal clothes and no necks steered them into a door near the bathrooms. I was looking right at the whole altercation, and I barely noticed anything had happened. Anyone just walking by would have zero idea two dudes were arguing with each other.

*There was a gang related shooting that summer, so guess they were right

**As the should, since the criteria of "gang related" seemed to be "black/hispanic people wearing clothes you wouldn't see at a Baptist church".
posted by sideshow at 11:13 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Disney gets a steady stream of job applicants...

In this case, these actors that don't wear costume heads are called "face characters," and they're specifically cast as such because they very closely match pre-defined appearance and personality templates. It's not a miracle of HR so much as a very competitive audition process.

The Gaston actor doesn't just look like Gaston. I wonder whether this guy actually did the push-ups bit right there in the audition, too.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:33 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


That push up bit is awesome.

I have incredibly soft feelings for the series of Peter Pans; I've heard several stories about them being incredibly kind of teenagers in delicate psychological places, and while that seems above and beyond their pay grade, it leaves me smiling every time I think about it.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:53 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Having worked at the minium wage abusive job that was the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in the 80's I can only hope it was better.
I saw a one man show called Working for the Mouse about a guy that worked his way up the costume performer ladder.
It was really good and a bit disheartening.
posted by boilermonster at 12:13 AM on January 15, 2015


The best part about the Gaston push-up bit is that he doesn't actually do a single real push-up. He cheats the entire time.

Which is exactly what you'd expect Gaston to do.
posted by madajb at 12:48 AM on January 15, 2015 [16 favorites]


The people to pick for this must go through astounding amounts of extra training so they understand their characters and how they're supposed to act.

I did the epic, 8 hour behind the scenes tour at Disney once.
They talk a lot about the training, the princess hierarchy and the selection process for the face characters.

They generally have a script, of sorts (notice Gaston poses the same way very consistently) but are encouraged to develop some patter of your own (within guidelines, of course)
They also said that, after you've done it for a bit, you've heard every bit from every wanna-be jokester under the sun and develop some pretty good pat lines.
And apparently, there is training how to deal with ... inappropriate behavior from the guests. Kids and adults.
posted by madajb at 12:55 AM on January 15, 2015


I have heard a tale of A Gaston down at WDW (Perhaps this Gaston, I am not sure) who during one of the Gay Days, while taking pictures with several guys - and upon being asked if he was upset to have that much male attention - said something along the lines of "Of course not! Gaston is a mighty hunter, and all the otters and bears clearly know he's the best!"
posted by FritoKAL at 1:02 AM on January 15, 2015 [37 favorites]


The best part about the Gaston push-up bit is that he doesn't actually do a single push-up.

Based on Mallory Ortberg's Twitter feed, I think this article was inspired by the comments on that video.
posted by Shmuel510 at 5:23 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Gaston actor doesn't just look like Gaston. I wonder whether this guy actually did the push-ups bit right there in the audition, too.

If he was trying for the part, almost certainly. If you're trying to be Gaston, you better push up like Gaston. Wonder if one ate a boar at audition?

They generally have a script, of sorts (notice Gaston poses the same way very consistently) but are encouraged to develop some patter of your own (within guidelines, of course)

Face characters who directly interact with guests have to -- they get a lot of curveballs thrown their way. Face characters, BTW, refers to characters who are showing their actual face. Characters in full costumes are officially "atmosphere characters", but commonly "fur characters" -- even if they don't have fur. Characters and performers, BTW, are the only cast members who don't wear name tags.

The hardest part for the fur characters is learning how to sign autographs. They have to look like the same between performers in the suit. (Disney: There's only one Mickey Mouse, but he has a lot of friends.)

The core rule at Disney is "hire for attitude, train for aptitude" when it comes to anybody in the front line. And that attitude differs -- the bartenders at Hurricane Hannah's and Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar have a very different than the cast members working guest relations.

And, as to janitors. There are 65K cast members at WDW, and *every single one of them* is a janitor. There's something called the Disney Dive -- that's when a cast member, esp. one in business casual (generally, that means manager or office) suddenly dropping down and picking up a piece of trash. This is so ingrained that you can spot cast members in business casual with bad backs -- they're carrying grabbing tongs to grab trash without bending down.

The official janitors have three core jobs -- trashcans, bathrooms, and answering questions. But they'll develop other things. At WDW, there are janitors who fill buckets with water and paint characters on the ground at park open, or will be cleaning windows and quickly draw something in the foam before they wipe the window clean. Such things are encouraged.
posted by eriko at 5:32 AM on January 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


Gaston is one of the few characters I have enthusiastically posed with. Even though every last inch of him isn't actually covered with hair.

I did one of those behind the scenes tours at WDW and our tour guide was a campy guy. Very silly and jokey. We came upon a smoking trashcan in our travels and all of a sudden he went full commando mode to deal with it. Then he put his tour guide face back on and we went on our merry way.

Speaking of trashcans, did you know they are all themed to match the part of the park they are in? Some dork on Flickr has a whole album of them. Some dork who totally isn't me.
posted by Biblio at 5:53 AM on January 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


I wonder whether this guy actually did the push-ups bit right there in the audition, too.

I would bet money that he did. You don't cast someone who can't act the part.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:55 AM on January 15, 2015


My brother has always loved Gaston; when he was a kid, he was sure Gaston was the hero of Beauty and the Beast. He's now twenty-seven and he spent last summer as a camp counselor (while working part time remotely at a tech start-up because apparently this is what twenty-seven-year-olds do now) and he got a letter from Gaston who apparently has the same return address I do*.

Even though he's now an adult I think it brought him back to the joy of being a kid and seeing Gaston as a big awesome role model. I wonder if he liked Gaston for the same reason so many kids love The Rock (note: everyone loves The Rock)? He is big and good at everything and he could keep you safe. When you're little and everything is scary, that can be very appealing.

*He also got a letter from me on the Oregon trail. Sadly my husband was suffering simultaneously from cholera and snakebite.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:30 AM on January 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh, yeah....

No one kicks like Gaston!
Pulls a tick like Gaston!
Is quite the insufferable prick like Gaston!
posted by eriko at 6:54 AM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


I once saw a Disney janitor kicking a live toad that was blocking the track of an automatic sliding glass door at Disneyworld.

The toad probably didn't pay for admission.

They talk a lot about the training, the princess hierarchy and the selection process for the face characters.

The princess hierarchy? Please, details.
posted by jeather at 6:58 AM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh what a guy.
posted by The Whelk at 7:00 AM on January 15, 2015


My favorite addition to Beauty and the Beast: The Broadway Musical, was the new Gaston song, Me. "Will you be some he-man's property? Good news! That he-man's me!"
posted by ChuraChura at 7:05 AM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Gaston and Bro Science guy... they're the same. It's the same guy playing both, isn't it.
posted by alex_skazat at 9:38 AM on January 15, 2015


"Of course not! Gaston is a mighty hunter, and all the otters and bears clearly know he's the best!"

Now I wanna go to Gay Days again and stalk Gaston.
posted by dnash at 10:04 AM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


This reminds me of this clip a few years ago of a Disneyland Evil Queen when a little girl asked her if she's still jealous of Snow White. Although my favorite bit of the whole thing is tiny - very early in the clip, a little kid is crying and she says "oh stop it."
posted by dnash at 10:08 AM on January 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


The princess hierarchy? Please, details.

It's been a while, but from what I recall, there is an established Princess pecking order, with the older princesses on top (Snow White, Cinderella) and working its way down the lesser known princesses (or worse, non princesses like Alice or Wendy).

There was also ranking based on "rarity". At the height of the season, there can be 3 or 4 Cinderellas at one time, but there are very few Tinker Bells.
But, if your Princess was in a current movie, you got moved up the ladder, so to speak, so I imagine Anna and Elsa are doing well right now.
posted by madajb at 10:20 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


We came upon a smoking trashcan in our travels and all of a sudden he went full commando mode to deal with it.

He took off his underwear? How would that help?


Also, Gaston's best line, somehow still not called out here: I USE ANTLERS IN ALL OF MY DEC-O-RATING!
posted by Naberius at 11:28 AM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wonder how that little girl that wanted to join the Sith is doing these days...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:10 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I USE ANTLERS IN ALL OF MY DEC-O-RATING!

sorry, still the best Gaston/Hannibal thing
posted by The Whelk at 12:51 PM on January 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Also, Gaston's best line, somehow still not called out here: I USE ANTLERS IN ALL OF MY DEC-O-RATING!

I swear to god, I saw Gaston's place when I was house hunting a few years ago.
posted by weathergal at 1:38 PM on January 15, 2015


Gaston is the greatest Disney villain because he is evil in a very realistic, human way, that is he's just a self-absorbed egotistical prick. He doesn't want to destroy the world or murder anyone in particular, he just sees himself as the best and believes he deserves to get whatever he wants. He's by far the best part in a movie that is otherwise the story of a nerdy attractive girl hit hard by Stockholm Syndrome.

P.S. If you do the math the enchantress who cursed The Beast was cursing a, at best, 12 year old boy.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 2:34 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


This story is the one I think of anytime that I hear about the care that Disney puts into their experience. It also, coincidentally, puts me in tears every time I read it.
posted by Han Tzu at 2:57 PM on January 15, 2015 [17 favorites]


Intensive Hair Unit
posted by lucidium at 5:53 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


eriko: "Wonder if one ate a boar at audition?"

Never mind the boar, how many eggs can you eat?
posted by RobotHero at 8:15 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Han Tzu: This story is the one I think of anytime that I hear about the care that Disney puts into their experience. It also, coincidentally, puts me in tears every time I read it.

FLOODS OF TEARS
posted by pseudonymph at 3:15 PM on January 16, 2015


* Does not apply to Disneyland Paris.

Terrible, terrible terrible park. Absolutely identical to Anaheim's layout, structure, rides etc. but the staff have all the added charm, wit and attention to a customer's needs shown by that class of ultimate professionals, the Parisian waiter.

(We returned recently after more than a decade of preferring to fly across the Atlantic to visit Disney rather than take a quick train ride. Still better to travel the longer distance. Never, ever again)
posted by Hugh Routley at 10:18 PM on January 16, 2015


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