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“A Frustrating Part of Disney”: Former Disney Performers Discuss Auditions

After meeting a Disney princess Cast Member in Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort, many female Disney fans will find themselves fantasizing about having that role. After all, dressing up as your favorite Disney princess and helping Disney Guests have a magical experience sounds fantastic! However, one Disney princess recently revealed the downsides of auditioning to play a Disney princess — and one particular quality that Disney princesses are supposed to have.

In an interview with Insider, a former Disney employee named Melanie described the audition process that resulted in her role as one of the ugly stepsisters who abuses the Disney princess Cinderella. Melanie played the role in Disneyland Resort, but it took 13 attempts before she was hired! Melanie told Insider that, unfortunately, it’s more about your facial features and luck than your talent or your emotional commitment to the role.

disney princess cast member

Melanie Credit: insider.com

“The standard that you’re trying to attain when you’re trying to get hired as a princess essentially is what is the most forgettable pretty face you can have…You can’t prove anything, it’s just what some strangers think your face looks like,” she explained. “You can’t earn it really, which is hard. It’s hard to accept.”

Being turned down for a role due to one’s physical appearance was also mentally damaging for the people auditioning, according to multiple former Disney performers, Disney princesses, and entertainers. Even though height requirements were an expected factor in casting decisions, a disconcerting analysis of everyone’s facial features was also involved. Melanie remembers being turned down during her 12th audition specifically because the casting director said that her eyes were “too round.”

“If they’d been like, ‘Oh, well it’s your nose’ or ‘It’s your teeth.’ I mean, I was a 19-year-old girl. I probably would’ve gone out and done something about that, right? I mean, I was obsessed with trying to get this job,” Melanie reminisced. Another Disney princess, Sarah Daniels (who played Ariel as well as Mickey Mouse and Alice), confirmed that the need to physically match previous Disney princess face characters from the Parks was her least favorite part of auditions.

Ariel - The Little Mermaid

A Cast Member and Disney performer playing Ariel.

“That’s just kind of a frustrating part of Disney,” she said in the interview. “And it’s not about being pretty, it’s not about anything other than like: How do you look in the wig? How many girls do they currently have? How many girls do they need?”

Sarah also felt that the scrutiny made her self-conscious about her appearance; when she was cast to play both Mickey Mouse and Alice at the age of 16, but only approved to play Mickey for a while, it drastically affected her confidence.

“I was like, ‘But does that mean I didn’t look good? Like, did I not look like Alice? Am I ever gonna get approved? Like, what’s wrong with my face?’ I mean, all these things just fly through your head,” she remembered in the interview. “I made $11.75 when I was a face character. And I was like, the stuff people go through just to put on that wig and make $12 an hour just blows my mind.”

Disney Princesses

Disney Princesses Credit: @_disney._stuff_

“I think no matter how confident and comfortable as a person you are, standing there and smiling and having people talk about you and then not pick you for something that is considered traditionally very beautiful, is harming. It’s really harming,” Melanie said, who particularly struggled with self-confidence after being cast as an ugly stepsister instead of a Disney princess.

Unfortunately, the pressure to fit the chosen character doesn’t stop for Disney performers or Disney princesses after they’ve been hired. “You have to keep going to those auditions and showing up and putting the costume on and having those same people look at you. Do they think you still look like this character? Do they think you look too old?” Melanie told Insider. “Even if you get in it, you have a ticking time bomb.”

Festival of Fantasy

The Disney princess Belle and her Beast in the Festival of Fantasy Credit: Brittany DiCologero / Disney Fanatic

Facial features and height are apparently such huge factors in the Disney casting process that, as Melanie put it, “it wasn’t just about how badly I wanted it or how many times I was willing to show up. All of that could have been true and I still could have never gotten the job…I mostly got this job because I was lucky.” Did you know about these requirements for performers who are playing face characters in the Disney Parks?

About Sharon

Sharon is from New England. She's a writer, animal lover, and, of course, a Disney Fanatic! Sharon's two main focuses in her work are Disney's correlations with pop culture and the significance of Disney princesses (which was the basis for her college thesis). When she's not writing about Disney, Sharon spends her time singing, dancing, and cavorting with woodland creatures.