Paws

Henry Hoke

Infants (Face and Masked Characters):

Park guests may pose their infants for pictures, but under no circumstances should you hold an infant.

Allow the park guests to place the infant near your person, but politely decline, with a spoken word (Face Characters) or clear shake of your head (Masked Characters), any attempt by the guest to place the infant in your hands.

Even if the guest insists, or the infant is in a state of distress, remain composed and polite when following this park-wide policy.

Speaking (Masked Characters):

In no instance should you speak while appearing as a Masked Character. Learn the simple hand gestures to communicate with your handler. Your handler may speak to you, and you may in turn respond with head nods or shakes (preferably out of sight of park guests).

Regardless of how well you believe you can impersonate your designated part, your voice is not the official (trademarked) voice of your character.

Touching (Face Characters):

You may only touch a guest (of any age) above the shoulders. Head pats are acceptable, as are mimed cheek pinches (at least an inch away from contact with actual skin). You may place an arm around the shoulder of the guest, but either keep your hand from making contact with the guest or rest your hand flat on the guest’s shoulder.

However, if possible, avoid these types of contact.

An exaggerated lean toward the guest, a friendly wave, or especially a winning smile, should be employed to replace this contact.

Touching (Masked Characters):

The guest may touch the material of your synthetic clothes, skin, or fur, but you may not initiate any contact with the guest.

Pointing is your most reliable way to interact with the guests, as is waving. Head pats must be mimed, be sure to maintain a two-inch distance from the top of the guest’s head.

Also remember that despite the layers of fabric, your inward energy level always affects the outward energy level of your character. Always try to smile behind your mask.

Emergencies (Face and Masked Characters):

If a guest (of any age) becomes ill or faints, due to overheating, dehydration, or excitement at your appearance, make no attempt to assist them. Be very careful not to cry out or project any signs of alarm. Your handler will alert emergency services and they will deal with the situation on arrival.

In all cases your handler has been instructed to escort you away so as not to cause any added duress to the ailing guest.

Handlers (Face Characters):

Your handler will be dressed in a costume that fits the world of your Face Character, often in a servile role. This lesser character will not interact with park guests on any performance level, only shepherding them to interact with you or taking action in the previously mentioned emergency scenarios, so you may remain in character.

Handlers (Masked Characters):

Your handler will always be in regulation park attire, not costumed. They will remain five feet away from you or further at all times.

This is important because as a Masked Character you should never give the impression that you are being controlled remotely. Remember, you are not a puppet. Puppetry has no place in this world we are committed to creating.

In the case that you become ill (Masked Characters):

It is park-wide policy that if you find yourself becoming ill while performing as a masked character, regardless of heat or duress, it is mandatory that you remain in character and do not remove your mask.

If it becomes impossible for you to refrain from being sick, be sick inside of your mask.

Under no circumstances should you remove your mask.

The Wishing Well (Face Characters):

The Wishing Well is exclusively the domain of Face Characters. No Masked Characters should ever enter this area, as it is an oasis for specific vocal interactions with guests as they approach the well and make their wishes.

In fact, Masked Characters should not interact with Face Characters at all outside of scripted shows or character breakfasts, even if they are from the same fictional world. The difference between Face Characters talking and Masked Characters gesturing can be too great, ruining the illusion, and disrupting park-wide performance standards.

Even if you envy the performers who have been selected as Face Characters, as Masked Characters you must refrain from watching the Wishing Well. No matter how radiant Face Characters may seem to you, as Masked Characters you must remember that you are chosen for your roles often because of your heights, and should know you are equally important characters in the world.

The Passageway (Masked Characters):

Once you have reached the air-conditioned passages that lead away from public park areas, you must remain both in costume and in character, as park guests have been known to stumble into the passages accidentally.

For this reason, even in the passageway, you should not interact with Face Characters. Not even if you have known them all your life, or met them recently off-duty and have a rare chemistry. Not even if they lightly brush your costume as you pass on the way to their next meet-and-greet, putting pressure on your skin or fur, the part of you that is not you, causing you to smile so wide under your mask that you can actually feel the outside fabric, the frozen face, stretching even wider.

Even if you want more than anything to turn and watch them go through the door and into the sunlight before you disappear into the changing room, do not turn your head, as your mask may become off-center. Nothing disturbs guests more than an imperfect character.

Henry Hoke was a child in Virginia and an adult in New York and California. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Gigantic, PANK, and the New Short Fiction Series. He created and curates the ENTER>text immersive literary events at Concord art space in Los Angeles.