Here’s a non-human character that couldn’t speak and still pulled guests into her world.
I worked regularly with a large dinosaur that would appear in the park. We wanted her to feel as real as possible. The tone surrounding her is this is a real event, with a real animal. Any suggestion of performance is downplayed. All ‘showmanship’ had to be invisible.
Visually, the dinosaur is amazing. She is beautifully rendered and fully articulated with no visible suggestion of how it’s done. Instead of speaking, she uses a variety of vocalizations, eye focus and body language to communicate.
We drew from different resources to give her life. First, we took notes from our archive of films the IP is from. Then, a great script was developed just for our installation. These became the map for the story/world we were to create. Studying the dinosaur’s behavior lead to the image of a calculating, opportunistic, passionate, strong-willed animal.
Remember – calculating, opportunistic, passionate and strong-willed are words that describe her. But they are not things she will do to get what she wants. We still had to identify what drove her – the powerful reason behind what she does. The Why – why does what she does, the way she does it. Why she is calculating, opportunistic, passionate and strong-willed.
The IP and script led us to an answer – she feels driven to create safety and comfort for herself and her hunting pack. Gold! Now we had a valid, emotional drive – that directs her behaviors in all kinds of situations. Each interaction, each moment with each guest she is focused on achieving her goals. And she adjusts her behavior, in the moment, based on getting closer to what she needs or if she is being blocked.
As you can imagine, everyone exposed to this character identifies with the desire for safety, security and comfort for those we love. The Why allowed us humans to connect with her emotionally.
One step further, we have a character with drives and desires that we get without thinking. Because all humans feel those same drives and desires, guests get out of their heads and start to feel. Guests connect to the character with their hearts. Deeper, more fulfilling emotional interactions are now possible.
In acting language, she plays moment to moment, accepting the offer of her scene partner. She accepts the offer and uses it to build her response. Her Why helps guide her response, adjusting as necessary. She focuses outside of herself, or offers get missed and moments fall apart. Done well, a very real and very immediate give and take develops between the character and the guest.
Emotional connection between humans and a fictional character! As storytellers, it doesn’t get better than that.
Good as that is, we still can add more impact to the interaction. We want every guest to feel that they have been seen, appreciated, and had influence during their interaction with the character. We can go farther into making each encounter genuinely unique and personal.
This is where the character uses the guest’s individual behaviors to give them a place in the story – neatly fold them into her world.
Next Up – Make It Personal