A quick tangent.
As I was writing, I traced these interactive character ideas back to the one standing rule, “Do whatever it takes to Recover A Scared Kid”.
When a character unintentionally scares a kid, performers usually do one of three things:
- Fumble around until someone moves the sobbing kid away and the meet and greet restarts
- Break character to try to make it better
- Pile on even more, because they think that’s what the character would do (which just throws gas on the fire)
When adults seeing a kid get scared; there is only one reaction:
- Everyone is uncomfortable, no one know how to help.
Everyone feels let down. We lose the kid. We lose the parents. We lose a lot of the people who saw the interaction. It is no fun for us, either. We’re in this business because we love storytelling and our characters. We want everyone to share the love and have a great experience.
It is vitally important to fix the situation. So our standing rule is to always recover a scared kid.
But how? A sloppy recovery is worse than no recovery. We had to do it the right way.
A recovery can’t ever be treated as business as usual. It deals with one unique person and their specific emotional reaction. Our focus has to be on them.
You can’t fool an upset kid. Performers must keep it honest, be in the moment and stay sensitive to the changing cues from the kid. Use all that information to make a real connection and then adapt to keep the interaction genuine. It can’t be part of a planned performance.
There is no mistaking an upset kid’s authentic cues. The only choice is to accept it and work, within the character and story, with craft and empathy to create a satisfying outcome.
Right away, we noticed success with kids and a great change in overall vibe. The more we worked at it, recovering scared kids without breaking character proved to us there are tons of terrific ways to resolve many different situations successfully. As we gained experience, we saw the situation moved us from being static characters to become thinking beings that adapt behaviors to win an important goal.
Soon it was clear every interaction comes with amazing opportunities. We expanded the approach to all our guests. We saw how well it worked. Guests engaged happily and wanted their own interactions. People would stay for the entire set just to see what would happen next. Standing in the crowds, you could feel the building wonder and excitement. We were on to something special.
We set out to find the right way to Recover A Scared Kid and it showed us the right way to create every interaction.
So, this post isn’t a tangent. It’s actually a great example of the thing this blog is about – stay in the moment, accept people’s natural cues and make a genuine connection. Combine our people skills with our performing craft to support an authentic give and take. Make sure everything comes together for an exciting and fulfilling interaction.
That is what the great character performers do.
Next Up –Real World Character Example