Many of us grew up ogling at the beauty of Disney princesses, in their gorgeous dresses and long, flowing locks with the dashing prince coming to rescue them from the various dangers of life. It’s the classic, beautiful love story that transcends time. It’s #relatable, it’s timeless, it’s the classic heart-warming story that we love to picture our grandparents telling us in a circle next to the fire, sighing about the good times from their age-old rocking chair.
Some of us (such as myself) didn’t grow up dying to be a princess, and found that love later in life. It kind of comes with the territory if you have a profession centered around children. I think I have seen Frozen and had serious conversations about Elsa’s powers more than a hundred times: I’ve helped hide a four-year-old’s hands from her mother, so she won’t be hurt by her daughter’s incredible ice powers. I’ve played the marshmallow monster from Ice Mountain more than I can count, chasing children across the playground and reveling in their shrieks of excitement. I fashioned my own Anna costume from thrift store dresses and wore it to collect non-perishable food items in high school, and most recently to volunteer at the Denver Children’s Museum. (Can you tell I love Frozen?)
I didn’t grow up loving Disney movies, but I grew up wanting to be someone little girls can look up to. I adore the idea of beautiful princesses, descending the castle steps with their grand dress trailing behind them. There’s just something about the demure of princesses–their calm confidence, their ability to laugh at themselves, their silliness–that draws people in.
And in Disney World, this all comes to life.
There are young women from all over the world who bring to life these timeless characters. Little girls travel from afar to meet their idol in person, and the actresses must bring this dream to fruition.
I mean, okay. Look at the photos above. Are those not the cutest things you’ve ever seen?!
So, I was on the Internet two weeks ago, and I saw an advertisement on the side of the page for parade princess auditions in Denver. I’ve had my eye on the Disney audition page off and on for a few years, but they’re almost always held in Florida or California. Occasionally they’re in Paris or Hong Kong, for the international theme parks.
But. The audition location was in Denver, fifteen minutes from my dorm. I fit the height requirement for the roles they were seeking. I mean, why not, right?! For the next two weeks, I Googled tips, tricks, and advice from the “princess pros”, as I like to call them. I had my roommate take a headshot of me, and I crafted my actor’s resume. I prepared a song, just in case.
On Tuesday morning, I skipped my classes and headed to the dance studio where the auditions were being held.
As I headed back to the studio where everyone was waiting, I expected to see a room full of pros, girls who had done this a million times, casting directors who wouldn’t give me a second glace. But I was so wrong!
There were about forty young adults in the dance studio, and everyone seemed to be in the best mood. I’ve never seen such big smiles before! Most people looked to be about my age, and there was an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation. Of course, there were some girls in superfancy yogas and professional dance shoes, leaning into a full-on splits as they stretched out, their faces a calm oasis that just oozed confidence. I sat down next to a group of girls who looked my age and we began talking. I was thrilled to discover that we were all concerned about our lack of professional dance experience, we were all intimidated, and we all kind of just said “what the heck” and showed up at the audition. One girl I sat next to had done this many times before, because she lived in Florida for a while. She had some really helpful tips, and some insider knowledge of what the audition would look like.
A few minutes after 10 am, a young man and woman walked into the room and introduced themselves as a Disney World casting director and choreographer. Their confident and joking attitude eased a lot of the nerves that were charging the room. They had us all sign up for our audition on a website (very #millennial, as the casting director said), and everyone received a number on a sticker that we were to display on the front of our shirts. We also filled out paperwork with our piercings, tattoos, and other important information.
First things first: our height was measured on a tape measure that was mounted to the wall. Disney is very specific about the heights they are seeking for specific roles (thankfully, I’m a pretty average height, so the only role I’m not eligible for is a fairy–they’re usually less than five feet tall!). Then our photo was taken. After the basics were taken care of, the rehearsal began.
The choreographer had us spread out across the studio, with enough space to extend all of our limbs. She explained the importance of using our whole bodies to express an emotion. As a large group, we started with simple exercises. “Show me what it happiness looks like,” or “What does anger look like?” shouted the choreographer. It really took stretching the mind to think about how I would use my entire body to display the various emotions that were asked of us. Besides sporting a huge smile and spreading my arms wide as if hugging the entirety of mankind, how can I show happiness? Besides angrily stomping around and slouching over with a scowl, what does anger look like?
After experimenting with emotions, she had us act out a specific scenario in a lot of detail. We had to devise a beginning, a middle, and an end to our story, all in about a minute, and in great detail with a lot of whole-body movements. We split the group into two, and observed the other group while we caught our breath–animation is a workout in itself! One thing I learned from this portion of the rehearsal: don’t look at yourself in the mirror! It’s so awkward and embarrassing to watch your body contort itself into wild displays of emotion and exploration. Believe me, you will succeed so. much. more. if you just focus on your body movements and not on how you look. Isn’t that kind of a good life rule anyway? Ignore your awkward body in the mirror (#OfLife??), and allow yourself to do your best, regardless of the stares.
Then came the dance portion. This audition was specifically for face characters (meet-and-greet princesses) and parade dancers. That’s why we had an animation portion and a dance portion. However, my dance experience includes elementary school ballet and musical theatre. Like, I can do a mean jazz square and grapevine. Maybe even a sassy strut. But anything beyond that? I will trip and fall and become the biggest embarrassment ever (but hey, that’s what Anna would do, right?). But the choreography wasn’t too difficult. It was obvious who had dance experience in the room, but I tried to overcompensate for my lack of dance experience by having huge facial expressions. We danced to a sassy song about respect and women. It was such fun to laugh along with my new friends and mess up with a huge smile on my face! Having been recently diagnosed with mono, I was out of breath after the first run, and became increasingly dizzy after a couple more runs. I was not about to let that hold me back, though! I stayed hydrated and prayed that I would be able to stick it out–and ya girl made it through. #BOSSBABE (maybe???)
Then, the actual audition started. After about two hours of straight animation and dancing, they had us congregate into the neighboring studio and called us in by fives, based on the number we had been given at the start of the audition. I was number 26, so I had a while to wait. About twenty minutes later, my group was called in. We did the dance twice and our animation once. It was over in less than ten minutes.
Some important takeaways:
1.) Keep a smile on your face the whole time! Can you imagine being a guest at Disney World (be our guest, be our guest….) and watching a parade dancer that looks like they don’t want to be there? No! That would just be ridiculous. If they see that you’re excited about it at the audition, they know you’ll be excited about it at Disney.
2.) Wear dance shoes. I wore converse (I know, probably not the best choice!), but my sock-like Nikes were dirty and I don’t own any dance shoes. I should probably invest in some soon, but it was difficult to do spins and other dance moves with shoes that were sticking to the floor.
3.) A lot of websites said to bring a headshot and acting resume. Of course, this is never a bad thing! You can never be too prepared. But I stressed a lot about having a good headshot (that I took myself, edited on picmonkey.com, and printed at Walgreens….) and resume. Honestly, I probably prepared this part more than anything else! The casting director and choreographer never collected headshots or resumes, even when I asked if they wanted copies. So. Not. Important!
4.) Be ready for a three-hour process. Honestly, I was ready for a short, fifteen-minute, “Hi I’m Tess here’s a little about me and please like me!!!!” I thought I was going to be able to make it to my 11 am class. Hahahahah! Bring WATER and if you know you’ll get hungry, bring food! Be prepared for three hours of smiling and goinggoinggoing.
5.) Always, always push yourself father than you think you can go. This has kind of become my life’s motto over the past year, but it was especially relevant at this audition! I wanted to pass out or at least leave the humid, humid studio we were rehearsing in a million times. I wished they would give us even a three minute break. I wanted to pee, for dang’s sakes! But now, the audition is over, and I’m glad I pushed myself. Of course, there comes a point where you literally can’t keep going, but I didn’t reach that point (thank God!). Listen to your body, and know the difference between Man, I’m really tired and my body aches and Okay if I keep going I will pass out. Big difference, people! Always do one more than you think you can, because you can.
What an experience! We were told we wouldn’t be contacted until the end of December if we were selected for one of these roles, but they keep our audition info open for a while, so we might be contacted for a different role that fit our skill set and height/weight parameters. I am so glad I took the chance and did something I’ve always wanted to do–and now I know what to expect in the future, when I audition again!
What about you? Do you have any amazzzzzing audition tips and tricks? What are your favorite ways to prepare for auditions?