Channeling My Inner Cast Member

Travel, Work

disney_mulan_mushuYesterday I got a panicky call from my boss while I was at lunch: “Can you get down here and wear the Roo suit?! Bring flyers too!”

Flash back to 2007 when SharkBoy and I are exploring the China pavilion at EPCOT. We come around a secluded corner and we’re standing in front of the rather short (nearly dwarfish!) dragon character from the movie Mulan.

Me: “Gueshew!”
The Character’s Minder: (utterly exasperated, probably had to remind people all day who this guy was) Mushu!
Me: “Right. Can we get a picture?”

Flash forward to a few days ago, while discussing marketing materials for our upcoming Australia Week presentation, I mentioned I would love to try on the company’s Roo suit as a precursor to my Disney trip. Just to see how the cast members at Walt Disney World do it.

I’ve always admired anyone who can put on a costume that will kill you within minutes through heat exhaustion.

While in the safety of a mask, it’s easy to become something apart from the norm. Something outside a desk job and 9-5 humdrum. I could see the attraction form those Plushie/Furries as that you become a more innocent persona. And while in this persona, you can see just how incredibly polarized Torontonians are when faced with a 7 ft tall kangaroo while walking home from work. Some laughed. Some interacted, even if it was just a wave and a smile. Some got excited and were chatty. But most chose to ignore me. Which baffles me. I use to tut-tut bstewart23’s constant griping about Toronto being an “un-fun” place to live. Or SharkBoy’s complaint that “Toronto certainly ain’t Montreal”.

They’re both completely right – Toronto is full of unfunny, desensitized people.

Case in point: In costume, I’m waving at a woman passing me by. Nothing, zero, nada – I could have touched her she passed by so close yet no acknowledgement. So I follow her to the corner (not an easy feat with size 23 feet) and stand close beside her. She turns to see who is in her personal space and screams. Did you not just see the 7ft tall kangaroo?

Then there was the guy on his phone, walking towards me. I do a little tail wagging dance and mock fingers-to-ear phone mime. “I’m being bothered by a giant rat,” he says into his phone, without a hint of humour or appreciation that I just took him out of his dull day. Bitter fuck.

And to the two dicks on lowrider bikes, zipping past me so fast that they got a good cold-cocking punch to my snout without me even knowing it was going to happen, I say go play in traffic. With blindfolds. And razor blades in your cheeks.

Don’t get me wrong, some people were great. I had a group of liquid lunch secretaries grab my arms and do a song and dance while one video-ed it on her cell phone. Wee! One woman screamed when I did a jog towards her with flyer in hand, reminding me that even my niece-in-law can’t even be near a costumed raccoon, let alone a real one. A actual Australian couple, fresh off the plane asked why I was in a coyote outfit.

There were kids. Lots of kids. All of them utterly frightened to come near me until I extended a hand. I was hugged repeatedly.

But for the most part, people would not look at me or acknowledge me. Okay this kind of reaction would probably happen in any major city but it’s sad, none the less. Are we so compartmentalized that a 7ft tall kangaroo costume can’t even rouse up a grin or a nod?

7 thoughts on “Channeling My Inner Cast Member

  1. SharkBoy

    At least the Roo wasn’t smoking, spitting, drinking Listerine, throwing garbage away, pushing, screaming, blocking the way, feeding pigeons, protesting, begging, pissing, showing underwear, wearing too much perfume, walking 3 or 7 dogs, texting, blasting dance music, or even talking. No, that’s 99% of the rest of the people on the sidewalks.

  2. postbear

    sorry dr, that was a bit over-the-top. i happened to read your story after a recent bout with that nasty robocaller purportedly selling car insurance and that was partly to blame and very much affected the tone of what i should have said much more gently. i do, however, stand by my statements, other than those that accuse you, in particular, of becoming spam. what i meant (and failed) to say was that as a group you become spam, which while no less awful as a comcept at least does not single you out.

    as for proving a point about torontonians, part of what bothered me about your original post was the notion that toronto is “…full of unfunny, desensitized people.” hypersensitised might be more apt, given that much more than ten minutes on any street will open you up to being accosted by someone. unfunny? i think we can agree that humour is relative, and some mangy cartoon character shilling for a travel agent doesn’t strike me as funny or engaging.

    i do consider outdoor advertising as repellent as spam and telemarketing, and i’m hardly an outlier with that opinion. my reaction is almost always negative because of several factors: the garish invasiveness of the ads, the level of intelligence appealed to in them, the cultural games and viciousness thinly concealed in many of them, the vileness of the corporations they try to put a tolerable face on… i could go on, but you get my point.

    persistence is also a bit relative, though. you might want to shake the kangaroo’s hand and walk off, while i don’t want to see or hear the bastard. what happens if all the shopkeepers on the street see your success and begin to mimic it? i fully realise that living in the city means that we all have to put up with elbow jabs and neighbours that are too close and probably smell like crap, and that’s not my point. the problem is that i endure plenty of invasiveness without more being piled on top as if it were no greater burden, especially when it comes from some charmless corporation wheedling for dollars and they already have a storefront and signage and pamphlet racks and more.

    something i didn’t address but should have is the insincerity of the whole approach. appeals to me to buy a product work in a very utilitarian manner – cuteness and tarting up is ineffective and generally sends me into the arms of a more sober competitor, so i admit a personal bias here. the key is sincerity. gahan wilson has a story in one of his books about the smiley face and why he hates it, and with him i agree: a false smile is an insult to a real smile. i know i’m horrible and evil and humourless to most people, but from my perspective you’re all grinning idiots – is it too much to ask that i not be accosted when i walk down the street? sorry for ranting on your blog again, i’ll try and make myself shut up more frequently (and could you make the colour palette a bit more drab here, please? dour is very in).

    note to cowtown queen: i didn’t like cartoons as a child and i consider cuteness to be a liability.

  3. Dead Robot

    Postbear’s comment proves my point about Torontonians perfectly.

    Inbox spam and telemarketing are forms of marketing that are despicable and heinous; I agree. You can’t compare them to outdoor advertisement. Out in public you are your own spamfilter. You can choose not to react to your environment through electronic blocking (Thank you St. Steve Jobs!) or just not reacting. But you’ve seen it, it’s impossible not to react – we’re hotwired that way. How you react is what I found interesting.

    The point of my story is that how you deal with something out of the ordinary (Mormon suit or Roo outfit) certainly shows character and personal attitude. A wave and a “Thanks, no” should be enough. If they’re persistent then you get to punch. I made sure my level of “involvement” never went higher than NYC park mime.

  4. cowtown queen

    ooh postbear. So sad. Here we have the living, fuzzy incarnation of the cute and crazy cartoon characters we all loved as kids, all larger than life, right in front of us. Yes, they may be handing out flyers, or waving to bring your attention to some sign over a business, but that’s just them having to adapt to the real world and ‘earn their crust’ as the Aussies say. They’re still the cute, corny, jokey, hokey fun characters that take us out of our own reality and transport our minds to some other dimension. Fun. Escapist. Try it.
    You don’t have to buy it, just sample it for a moment…
    Though the Mutant’s comment about being covered in kiddie snot gave me pause…eeeeuw

  5. postbear

    count me in with the people who aren’t fun. you know why? people in kangaroo suits or clown suits or handing out handbills or flyers or telling me about the wonders of scientology or mormonism or junk food or any other damned thing while i’m trying to navigate a sidewalk have ceased to be human and have transformed into a terrible entity that every sane person hates.

    you, and they, have become spam.

    you’re in my inbox, unsolicited, offering me hard-on pills or wet teen celebrity cunt photographs. you may have viruses attached or you may just waste my time having to empty yet another folder brimming with shit. i have to spend time and mental energy avoiding or rejecting you, and resent that fact. you may do me harm or you may benefit me, but let me decide to approach you if i want, not the other way around.

    you are a telephone solicitor, calling me during dinner or sleep or while i’m trying to take a piss. you’re invading my space and privacy and haven’t been granted permission to do so. you’re knocking on my door, a wingnut handing out nonsense on the subway, an aggressive panhandler. my wish to walk down the sidewalk while thinking quietly is not one you get to jump all over because you want me to buy something from your employer, an employer who has a legitimate storefront a few feet away complete with giant signs advertising its presence.

    i have spamfilters. i am on the ‘do not call’ list. i will hit you with my fucking cane if you approach me on the street. leave me alone.

  6. The Mutant

    I’ve always had a bit of an issue with seven foot tall costumed people, so I’m one of those nasty nose-in-the-air humourless pricks you just described, but you know why? Because 99 times out of 100 the costume stinks like twenty years worth of summer sweat and is covered in kiddie snot. I just can’t embrace that!

  7. snotty

    “While in the safety of a mask, it’s easy to become something apart from the norm.”

    I thought this was going to be about your leather bar days.

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