October 25, 2019 | Casey Fletcher

People Explain The Time They Saw Disney Employees Break Character


Did you know that all Disney employees follow a very strict set of rules? In fact, Disney employees aren’t technically “employees”—they’re actually “Cast Members.” Every employee in the park, whether they serve food, operate rides, or wear a character costume is a "Cast Member." The whole idea is that the entire Disney park itself is a stage, and therefore, every single Cast Member must follow a strict guideline.

Those playing a human character can only say things their character would say. Those in full-body costumes—think Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck—have it a little more tough. They aren't allowed to speak at all. If you're thinking that having to act the part for hours on end must be tough, you're absolutely right. Just ask these people who broke character, or saw someone break character, while at a Disney park.

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Don't forget to check the comment section below the article for more interesting stories!

#1 Hey Guys!

One of the traditions for our college sorority back in the 80s was that the day after initiation, all the new members and their “big sisters” would go to Disneyland sporting their brand new letters to wear. One of the costumed characters in the parade kept throwing gang signs or something at us and we were so confused. Turns out, it was one of our sisters who had to work that day. She was trying to do our sorority’s hand symbol, but with her hands in oversized furry gloves it didn’t show up so well.

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#2 Keeping Mum

My mom was a costumed character for a couple of years at Disneyland. She was very committed to keeping character, but there was one instance where she broke character. Two teens jumped her when she was playing Piglet and started to hit her. At first, she just tried to block and defend herself, but at one point she knocked one of the boys to the ground and pinned him. Considering my mom's only 4'10" and was wearing 50 pounds of costume, I consider that fairly impressive.

The other kid continued to assault her and I think she may have yelped or cried out because the kid she had pinned heard her and said "Oh, it's a chick!" Most of the shorter characters are women because, well, they're shorter. Cast members came to help her and the kids were banned from the park. My mom got in a lot of trouble for that too, though, because she broke character.

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#3 Thanks, Captain Hook

When I was six years old or so, I went to Disney World with my mom, aunt, and cousins. I really wanted Captain Hook's autograph, but his character wasn't supposed to give it. I started crying over it and my mom went and asked him again (nicely, I hope) and told him that I was very upset over it. He signed my book, even though he wasn't supposed to, and I always thought that was neat.

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#4 Holding it Together

I did the College Program at Walt Disney World. I never saw a character break when I worked audience control for parades, but I definitely saw a few fully costumed characters puke in their heads. Prince Naveen once got heat exhaustion and managed to leave the parade route fully in character. Once the parade was over, we saw him in the back almost completely passed out. Typically, the parade will just speed up to double time if a character actor is in distress.

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#5 Far, Far Away

I remember going to a Cinderella-themed restaurant. One of the kids drew really funny portraits of each character and had a back story for each. One stepsister saw this and called out to the other one. Then, they both called the stepmother and the prince over—all in character. Cue everyone in the restaurant seeing this and wanting photos. Apparently, they were never supposed to be anywhere near each other and this was an anomaly. The non-character staff just stepped in and explained that they all had to go back to their posts.

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#6 Funny and Unexpected

It must have been 2008 and I went to Disneyland with my friend. Borat was the hottest movie at the time and I happened to stumble on a shirt that had the outline of Kazakhstan and the words, "Spring Break Kazakhstan! It's nice!" We ended up at some photo opportunity with Pluto and he made a big fuss about my shirt, without saying anything, of course, just acting excited. When the photographer said, "Say cheese!" the guy in the Pluto costume yelled "VERY NICE!!" That was a funny and unexpected moment of broken character.

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#7 Fantastic Peter Pan

A face performer broke character for my husband and I. I won’t say which park, but we took a trip to Disney about two months after our infant son passed away. He was our first. Our entire nursery was Neverland themed. We always wanted to take him to Disney World and to have him meet Peter. Well, he couldn’t. I got a memorial tattoo: an exact replica of my son’s hospital ink handprint, and we got a picture of Peter Pan with the tattoo.

We were alone with him and his handler. I tearfully explained the situation before asking him to pose with my arm. He took lots of photos with my tattoo and us. Afterward, he hugged me tight, told me he was proud of me, and that he was so, so sorry for our loss. It was amazing and emotional. I’ll never forget that Peter Pan was proud of me for finding the strength to keep on living. It honestly meant the world to me. I’m so glad he broke character. I’ll always treasure those photos and that memory.

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#8 Working Here is Awesome!

Visitant from last year here. On Halloween night, I saw seen two female employees working on the store (not characters though) clearly upset by some kind of superior order. The first girl said, "Yeah, sometimes it gets hard," and the other responded with, "I know it does, but that attitude was unacceptable."

I didn't resist and said, "I guess even in Disney working sometimes sucks." The first girl immediately stood up and smiled as bright as she could: "What do you mean? Working here is awesome!" I couldn't help but feel that she was agreeing with me only to not break the "magical" persona she was supposed to have on the job.

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#9 Making Kylo Ren Break Character

I don't work at a park but I went with a friend and we were getting photos with Kylo Ren. Everything went great and at the end of the visit, I told him I was going to work for the dark side. He menacingly stared at me while I told him that my example of doing something evil was that I would go and spill someone's drink. This caused him to let out a barely-audible, breathy chuckle. To this day I consider that one of my greatest accomplishments.

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#10 Make a Wish

I worked at the Walt Disney World character department at Magic Kingdom many years ago. I can't remember breaking character but I do remember working the restaurant at the Contemporary for dinners. One time, we had a "Make a Wish" kid as a guest and he was just the most awesome kid. It was just heartbreaking to know why they were there. So our lead let us do a group hang out with the kid for an hour in costume, just playing and running around and having fun. You could never play like that in the parks, you'd start a riot. There were no consequences, we just all hoped we made that little kid happy.

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#11 Stop Misbehaving

I played mice characters for four years at the Disneyland Resort. I never talked to a guest or took off my head, but what I did do was definitely not allowed. One day, a kid—who was a total jerk—kept prodding me. So I grabbed his hand in my tightest death grip. The family never noticed and the kid suddenly started behaving. I did that a lot.

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#12 Family Emergency

I received word on my headset that there was an emergency at home. I immediately ran away from where I was as Donald Duck. My mom had called my boss (we weren’t allowed to carry cell phones obviously) and told him that she had just found out that she had stage two ovarian cancer.

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#13 Nearly Broken

I have three cousins who have been Disney princesses, two of whom are still at it. About a year ago, my grandparents decided to go visit one of my cousins out at Disneyland Tokyo. My grandpa had relatively advanced Alzheimer’s but he is generally easy to handle. Anyway, somehow he got separated from my grandma and started to panic a little—looking for anyone he knew. Turns out, the first person he found that he recognized was my cousin in full Cinderella character. He started to talk to my cousin, calling her by her real name and quite directly asking her where grandma was. He started to get pretty angry and frustrated when she wouldn’t give him a straight answer. She kept character as best she could but her “handlers” whisked her away pretty rapidly. He was reunited with the rest of the group soon after, but it was quite the scene.

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#14 Ouch!

My best friend is a very popular face character and she’s told me some hilarious stories. One time, she nearly broke character when she was doing a meet and greet. A young autistic boy came in and got very overexcited. He yanked her wig off. They put hundreds of bobby-pins in your hair to keep the wig on, so you can imagine the pain. She had to restrain herself SO hard to not scream out. She said the wig was hanging off her head and everyone in the room just froze. The little boy started crying hysterically and had to be rushed from the room. They ended up closing her room up so she could get fixed but she said it was a pretty crazy moment. Apparently, the parents were so embarrassed they didn’t even say anything to her and just bolted from the room with the boy.

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#15 Baloo's Bad

Ex-cast member here. While not a character myself, I did have to work the parade route from time to time, making sure kids didn't dart out in front of floats and such. There was one day where Baloo came up to me mid-dance and proceeded to bow to me. Baloo also happened to be wearing some sort of crown with a star on top at the time, and he probably wasn't aware of how tall that actually made him. Baloo managed to smack me right in the mouth with that star, cutting it open and giving me a fat lip. I heard Baloo audibly gasp when he stood upright again. Paws to mouth. He immediately stopped dancing. He just stared at me as I bled. They tried to grab my hands and pull me to them, but their handler came and ushered them along. Oops.

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#16 Troublemaker

Back a couple of years ago, my friend had to dress up as Nick from Zootopia for his shift. Now, the thing about this costume is that the tail is a massive metal spring to help give the illusion that it can move on its own. One day, he was doing his rounds with his partner (Judy) and they had a bit of a trouble maker who was being a little rough and pulling on his tail. Keep in mind, this tail is pretty heavy at around 40 lbs and is attached to his back pretty firmly.

With no real proper field of vision in his mask and no security nearby to stop to issue, he was in a bit of a pickle. Fortunately for Nick, the father of said trouble maker told him to stop and apologize. He did so with a sour disposition that gave the impression he really didn't care. After that apology, a young girl behind him said, "Hey Nick!" and without missing a beat he did a complete 180, attempting to hit the trouble maker with his tail. He smacked the kid with a good thud and knocked the kid on his butt. While he was giving attention to the little girl, his mind was racing that he was going to get fired for this little stunt, but luckily for him, the dad laughed at his kid's misfortune and said, "You know you deserved that right?"

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#17 Not Goofy

My wife was Goofy for a semester in college. She accidentally ripped the feeding tube out of a Make A Wish kid in a wheelchair while going in for a hug with poor visibility from the costume. Luckily, all wandering costumed characters have uniformed handlers to assist, but she said it was kind of hard to stay in character after that. She felt terrible and was traumatized for weeks. The kid was fine and no medical damage resulted from it, thankfully.

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#18 I'm Gonna Pop Ya!

I was sitting with a group of guys by the location where Mickey and Minnie get dressed. When they came out, the guys started cat-calling Minnie. The guy that was in Mickey's costume said, in a perfect Mickey voice, "If you look at my girlfriend again I'm gonna pop ya!"

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#19 It's Not Real

My mom brought my niece to Disney and while waiting to get in the Haunted Mansion, the attendant was being a normal, grim, and creepy cast member. My niece was already kind of scared and after the cast member said something creepy, my niece started crying. Anyone who works in the Haunted Mansion is never supposed to break character or smile. This one did.  She said, "No no no, it's okay. They aren't real ghosts, please don't cry." She got my niece to calm down a bit and to get on the ride. My mom kept her mouth shut about that knowing that the cast member would be removed from the ride for doing that.

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#20 Piglet's on the Loose

I worked at Club Disney for the brief time it was open. We had codes that we used on the radio headsets that were coordinated with character names. For instance, Baloo meant that there was blood that needed to be cleaned up immediately. One day, I was taking a stroll around the club to check on things when I spot a small boy about two years old taking a massive dump right in the middle of the play area.

He saw me, started to cry, and ran away with no clothing on the lower half of his body. I get on the radio and couldn't think of what to say as we hadn't discussed a code for such a situation, so I just called and said, "I have a code Pooh situation in the play area and Piglet's on the loose."

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#21 He Nearly Went to the Dark Side

I don't work for Disney but I work for Party Princess Productions that does Disney birthday parties on the weekends. I was Darth Vader in Malibu for this kid's bday. It was only him, which was rare, but we had fun. We played lightsaber hide and go seek, where when he finds me, we duel. I had him practice the force on me, helping him focus and toss me to the wall.

In the middle of all the fun, the kid started coughing. It was subtle at first and then got worse. It got to the point where he was not breathing and he was not moving. I took off my helmet and was about to perform CPR when the mother came out with his inhaler. She told me he can't play anymore because he had bad asthma and it gets worse the more active he is. I put the helmet back on, we opened presents together, and I left. To this day, I'm mad at the mother for watching me play with her kid, knowing his condition and not telling me a word until the poor kid nearly suffocated. I called my boss and told her that I need to know all medical conditions before the party right away for now on. I hope the kid had fun, but I still feel horrible for almost killing him from teaching him the ways of the dark side.

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#22 Nice Cruella De Ville

I chaperoned a gentleman with special needs to Disneyland as part of a group tour. When our group of special needs individuals met the characters, they were all absolutely incredible with our people. Minnie flirted with my friend I took and Merida flirted with me. But the best of them was Cruella De Ville. Normally, she insults whoever she takes pictures with. With us, she managed to stay in character but not say anything actually mean. She said to one guy with a cane, “Ah, I like your cane. You can use it to beat little ones out of your way.”

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#23 Tell It Like It Is

Some college friends and I went to Disneyland right after graduation when we all had landed our first jobs. We were at breakfast at the Disneyland Hotel where characters come around and mingle during dining. We were all complaining about our jobs when Cinderella came up and asked us, “How are you all doing this lovely morning?”

One of my friends said we were complaining about our jobs and bosses. Cinderella looked left, looked right, and said quietly without moving her lips “You should try working for the Mouse." She was smiling the whole time. My best Disney moment ever.

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#24 He's Not Harmless!

When I was 13, we walked by Gaston just chilling on a bench and started singing "No one's quick as Gaston, no one's slick as Gaston!" Surprisingly, he shouted back at us, "You're only embarrassing yourselves!" and we switched to "No one plots like Gaston, takes cheap shots like Gaston," and just when we finished singing "...plans to persecute harmless crackpots like Gaston!" He shouted, "He's not harmless! He blows up his house!" I loved that he could give live commentary of his song, with the voice and in-character quips. These people are so good at improv, I am always blown away.

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#25 A Touching Story

I once read a story about a little girl and boy who's parents had passed away. The Disney characters broke their usual schedule to give them VIP treatment for a day. It's one of the most touching stories I've ever read, and it's always stuck with me.

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#26 That's Inappropriate

I went to Disneyland once and a man was harassing Cinderella, so she excused herself to the bathroom and ran to a security guard.

#27 That's What a Handler Is For

My best childhood friend is a face character. During the interviews, they bring you through a TON of challenging scenarios like kids with lost parents, kids who act mean, etc. If you break character, there are 1000 other people of your exact height and hair color ready to play the character better than you. They even made her do an impression of a Disney character without speaking. She had to be able to just portray the essence of the character and if they couldn't guess who she was, the interview was over. They are incredibly serious about staying in character. Any time something bad enough would happen that they should break character, their handler would just guide them away and handle it themselves.

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#28 Peter Has Brown Eyes

On a Disney cruise, I met a guy who looked EXACTLY like Peter pan. When we asked him he said, "Nope, I'm not Peter Pan! Peter Pan has brown eyes" The next day, when we went to get a picture with Peter in costume, he got super close and whispered "See? Peter has brown eyes." It was him all along! That was hands-down the best Disney employee I've ever met.

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#29 Magical Karma

I was a lifeguard at Disneyland and I had to ban this kid from going down the water slide. Every single time I told him he had to be feet first, he said okay. But he kept going headfirst and it got to the point where the other kids saw him and were copying him, so I sternly told him "no." He left and cried to his mom and dad and I explained to them why I lost my cool. They left and cried to my coordinator, who came back to me saying that my attitude wasn't very “magical.” I explained after several times of this kid not listening, other kids were copying him. In any case, I got a stern talk to about being the “nice lifeguard who explains why versus the mean lifeguard who just yells orders.” Later that day, that same kid was running across the deck, despite several requests not to. He tripped and ate concrete.

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#30 Sorry, Snitch

I hugged the snot out of Stitch a couple of years ago and I'm pretty sure that I heard a squeek. He's not supposed to make any noise. If you're reading this, Stitch, I'm very sorry for hugging you so hard.

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#31 Eeyore Does Good

It was Valentine's Day and my mom, dad, older sister, and I were at one of the Disney parks. All of the characters had big red hearts on a string around their necks. My sister was the oldest at eight years old, and I would have been six. We had just gotten ice cream and my sister and I were excitedly looking around for our favorite characters. My sister just saw Eeyore (her all-time favourite character), so she turned around and my dad (not paying attention) ran right into my sister holding her ice cream cone and got it on his shirt. He wasn't a good dad, so he hauled off and smacked her on the side of the face, knocking off her glasses and making her drop her ice cream cone. She started crying as my mom started yelling at him while he defended his actions.

The next thing we know, my sister was being hugged by Eeyore. It shocked her out of crying and she was suddenly so incredibly happy. Eeyore just kept hugging her while my mom started taking pictures. Eeyore stopped hugging my sister only to point to his paper heart and then to her. Then he hugged her again. There is a picture somewhere in my mom's basement of my sister and I standing with Eeyore, my sister beaming but clearly looking like she had been crying.

I still think about that Eeyore to this day and wondered what they were thinking. It was the early 90s, when people were largely still expected to mind their own business when it came to such things. I definitely appreciate his gesture. What a great time to break character.

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#32 Don't Break Character

I wasn’t a character but I worked closely with them as a photographer. Disney performers are trained to never break character for whatever reason. They have ways of signalling their character attendant that they are in distress and it’s generally up to the character attendant to avoid any weird or uncomfortable situations. As far as weird situations, they do get people that “stalk” them in the park. Like some people get in lines multiple times to get a photo with a specific performer.

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#33 Is This Disney or Jail?

I have a close friend who was Woody for a while at Disneyland. He said that, one time, a float caught on fire during a show and they had to play it off completely in character. They danced around it and had to quickly get it backstage to deal with the problem. He said they played it off well enough that no one seemed to notice.

He said he had never seen an instance of anyone breaking character because everyone was very well trained and there are always at least six or so cameras that can see you at all times. One time, I offered an unopened water bottle to an employee when it was nearly 100 degrees and he said if anyone at Disney saw that, he would be fired. They can’t take anything from guests. He also mentioned the cameras constantly watching both crew and patrons.

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#34 Magical Balloon

I was at Disneyland once and the Sheriff of Nottingham was fake-menacing a child. He reached out to touch the kid’s balloon and for some reason, it popped. The character actor was clearly stunned and broke character to show it. A new balloon appeared less than 30 seconds later.

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#35 Too Much of the Ol' Apple Juice

I watched Jack Sparrow talking to a kid when the kid started throwing up everywhere. He broke character to say, "Too much of the ol' apple juice eh? Been there myself!"All the while, the kid was just projectile vomiting everywhere.

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#36 Naughty Winnie the Pooh

I was walking from backstage into the park and I was pushing a hand cart. The ones we used had two long supports sticking out from the end. As I was going through, Winnie the Pooh was walking in from the other side. I hit him square in the leg with it. Hearing Winnie the Pooh say a series of expletives was pretty darn funny.

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#37 Tried and Failed

I couldn't even get the zombies at Halloween Horror nights to break character. I asked one where the restroom was and he flung his arms in the proper direction and grunted. That was pretty hilarious.

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#38 See?

One day, Goofy’s shift was over and he was trying to walk to the back area to cool off when a very angry mom started yelling at him because he “ignored her son”. In reality, he just couldn’t see them as he was turning to walk away. The lady then called him racist and said that Goofy was ignoring them because they were black. Goofy turned around to greet the child, signed his autograph book, and then turned to the mom. He slipped up his sleeve to quickly point at his own skin underneath, which was the same as hers, before walking away.

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#39 Chewbacca's Girlfriend

A few days ago, my sister, her friend, and I went to the new galaxy’s edge area. My sister’s friend was around 6’1” and had never seen Star Wars. We were walking around when Chewbacca ran up to her (he was around her height) and hugged her. Then, he put his hand above his head to show that they were both tall. She was super embarrassed and while we were walking away, he did that fist pump thing. We now refer to her as Chewbacca’s girlfriend. Seriously the cutest thing ever.

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#40 She'll Never Believe You

I work with the costumes and dress the characters at one of the Disney parks. During a family’s meet and greet with Goofy, the performer, in Goofy’s voice, whispered, "Hello," to the little kid. As the family was leaving, the kid told his mom that Goofy talked to him, but she told him that was silly because Goofy couldn't talk. The kid went back over to Goofy and told him that his mom didn’t believe him. The performer, now with his regular adult male voice, whispered: “And she never will.”

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#41 Too Funny Not to Break Character

I saw a recent video on YouTube of Rey talking to this little girl. Apparently, the story the little girl was telling got Rey laughing so hard that she had to turn her face away. Eventually, she just got up and ran away because she couldn't stop laughing at whatever the little girl's story was.

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#42 Not Disney Appropriate

My wife and I went to Disney. We were both 30 and it was my first time ever going to a major theme park. My wife wanted to meet the princesses, so we stood in line and she went up to get a picture. Cinderella asked my wife, "Is that your Prince Charming?" My wife said I was. Cinderella asked, "How did you meet?" My wife paused for a second and said, "That story is not Disney World appropriate," and Cinderella laughed, like a real, deep, hearty laugh for just a second before she caught herself. If she was drinking coffee it would have been a spit take. Finally she added, "Oh, well I bet it was romantic anyway."

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#43 A Famous Encounter

My neighbor worked at Disney for years. One day, he was stocking shelves in a gift shop. He came around the corner and nearly ran into none other than Paul and Linda MacCartney. Before he could stop himself, he loudly exclaimed, "Oh my god! It's the McCartneys!" He immediately realized how big of a breach of Disney "cast member" etiquette he had committed and turned twelve shades of red. Before anything bad could happen, Paul and Linda just smiled and laughed and introduced themselves. Apparently, they were wonderfully laid back about such things and quite used to surprised reactions when people recognize them in public. He didn't get into any trouble (his boss saw the whole episode and thought it was hilarious) and I think they both signed a hat or something for him as they were checking out.

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#44 I Know Pooh Bear

My family and I would always go try to find my cousin, who played Winnie the Pooh, on days that we knew she was working. She wasn't allowed to speak and would never acknowledge us as her family, but she would get very animated and jump around to give us hugs. Occasionally she’d still say things like, “I have a rumbly in my tummy.” I thought I was the coolest kid because I knew Pooh Bear.

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#45 Love Yourself

A couple of years back, someone posted a story about how a little girl noticed Peter Pan's old self-harm scars. She told the girl that she must have fought off a bunch of pirates (in character) and then told her she was beautiful and shouldn't be hurting herself (breaking character).

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