By Diva Viva
Disney Characters and Cast Members are defined by their superb costumes and clothing. Many people know that you can get a behind the scenes peek at the costume shops in Walt Disney World and Disneyland with VIP Tours or other specialty behind the scenes tours offered by Disney at the parks. What many people don’t know is that the famous Disney underground Costume Shops aren’t the only places to see Disney costumes being constructed.
Disney is too large to build all of their costumes in shop. Though they famously try to construct all of the “character” costumes in house, they have relationships with small costume shops throughout the country that help them with making costumes for shows, parades, and street performers. One such costume shop is right outside of Boston and I have been lucky enough to visit the shop over the years and get sneak peeks at Disney Magic being made far from where most of the world gets to see it.
Over the years, the shop in Boston has built hundreds of costumes including the stilted Sage of Time who led the Tapestry of Nations Parade from 1999-2001, various Ghost Dancers who appear in the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Parade, Pirates and other characters who perform on the Disney Cruise lines, various period American costumes for the Voices of Liberty, and many of the beloved streetmosphere Citizens of Hollywood characters at Hollywood Studios.
Disney has very high standards in their costumes and clothing, and the costume shop must follow the patterns and designs perfectly. This includes high quality fabric and special additions that make the costumes durable in order to last through multiple weekly shows for months and even years at a time. For instance, the Sage of Time’s cape trailed behind him and had to have special resistant fabric where it would rub along the ground to keep from fraying and needing constant repairs. This addition made the costume heavier, and special consideration to the weight of the fabric factored into how the cape was attached and how they whole costume fit onto the cast member who would have to carry that weight for the duration of the parade. Being given a special glimpse into the behind the scenes of these costumes helps remind us as guests of how many little details really go into each part of the Disney Magic we get to see when we visit the parks or take a cruise. It isn’t easy to make everything so perfect, and what we are seeing is true art that has been specially designed and created at a high level of talent and craftsmanship.
Even though they get to work on the costumes, the Boston shop doesn’t necessarily get the entire insider Disney scoop on everything they do. One year I visited while they were making Halloween costumes that the characters were going to wear for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween. These are usually made at the Disney Costume Shop so that the guests are surprised at who the characters dress up as to celebrate, but the Disney Shop was backed up with work and they needed help. The Boston studio was given the fabric and patterns to create the costumes, but they were not told any information about who they were for! The workers at the shop had so much fun trying to guess who would wear which costumes. It wasn’t until later that they found out that the Musketeer costumes I saw them making were for Chip and Dale.
When I visited the shop this winter, they were working on replacement costumes for the Finding Nemo show at Animal Kingdom. Even with the special design, the costumes eventually wear out and need to be replaced. When these costumes are finished, the will be shipped to Disney and soon make an appearance on stage. Each costume needs to be made exactly how the original costumes were made so that the show does not change from its original design. It is important that the guests who see the show now are seeing exactly the same great show that guests saw when it first opened.
These fish costumes have specially made scrap fabric that Disney has specially made. Each bag of fabric that arrives at the costume shop has 240 scraps to be added to the costumes.
Each individual costume has 65 to 70 of these fabric scraps added to the base costume, giving the costume a feeling of movement and flow that a fish would have under the sea. The costumes are also made to be easily used by the performers and long-lasting with industrial-strength buttons and extra strong thread connections. Every little detail is specifically designed for a specific character and a specific function, so it is imperative that the costume workers follow those designs exactly. It is an honor to create Disney costumes and only the best shops that prove a high standard of costume construction are given Disney contracts to work on these important costumes.
During my visit, they were also working on a boa for a special Villain who makes an appearance on Disney Cruises. Can you tell whose boa this is? She is one of my favorite Villains and I was privileged to get to see her boa up close. Fortunately, I can report that it isn’t made of puppy skin!
As a huge Disney fan, I always love learning a little bit more about how the magic is made, and I hope you have enjoyed this small look into the costumes of Disney. Next time you find yourself enjoying the characters and cast members, take an extra look at their clothes and remember how much artistry and craftsmanship has gone into making them look so perfect.