“I just have a ‘normal job’, but it’s always been my dream to work at Disneyland,” explains Germaine (27). She sits in the canteen of the Chassé Dansstudios in Amsterdam, where the auditions for Disneyland Paris take place. “I’ve always had so much energy. And then you have weird looks at school. Disneyland was an escape, we used to go there every year. Everyone’s happy there. Nobody looks at you weird when you jump in. the park !”
Today she auditioned for the fourth time in five years. At the end of the first round, she received bad news: rejected. She will try again in six months.
It’s a Sunday morning in April. At the Chassé Danstheater, a hundred young people stretch and stretch for their Disney dream: to dance in the parade at Disneyland Paris. ‘The Parade’ is a signature part of Disney theme parks. A daily carnival parade, from the attraction The world is small via main street Main Street USA to City center† All Disney characters arrive, dancing on floats. Dozens of characters and dancers parade; 2,050 suits were made for him, 350 pairs of shoes. There’s a fire-breathing dragon and a copper-colored steam vehicle with Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
“I remember watching the parade when I was nine years old and thinking, ‘Is this just a job? That’s what I want to do!’ “, says Vicky Vlasblom (22 years old) who has already worked as an interpreter at Disney.
Audition participants will not receive any feedback. You stand out or you lose weight
Auditions in Amsterdam attract Disney fans from all over Europe: Disney sweaters and other merchandise everywhere. The words “It’s a childhood dream” are heard in four languages - Dutch, German, Spanish, English. Worldwide, its 7,000 people a year audition for Disneyland Paris. Only three hundred of them – about 4% – obtain a figure or dancer role. After Amsterdam, the audition team returns to Paris and Rome. Even in the United States, there are auditions.
Little is known about the auditions. Although there is no signed non-disclosure agreement, Disney asks all participants to maintain confidentiality – no Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter. Many participants adhere to it. Some do not dare to answer the questions. “I don’t want Disney to pick me up”, said a German girl. Others, like Germaine, don’t want their surname to appear in the newspaper. They fear it will hurt their chances at later auditions.
The less it comes out, the better the Disney magic is preserved, believes the group.
So when the group of twenty-somethings stretching out in the April rain are called in for the Disney dream, parents, partners and the NRCjournalist not with you. No snoopers. How long do they have to wait? It depends: how successful is “their” candidate?
The audition lasts an hour when a girl comes down the stairs crying. She rips the audition number from her chest and steps out into the rain. The parents and partners look at each other in astonishment, as if to say to themselves: “Is this what awaits us?
The first round (of three) has just ended, the character improvisation round. At the end, dozens of candidates are immediately sent home. In the words of casting director Lewis Copland:The part we love to hate.“If your number is mentioned, then that’s bad news.
For Emma (20), the audition ends after the first round. “It’s been a childhood dream all my life to dance in the parade. I was bullied and had few friends. Disney movies were an escape for me. Today was his second audition. She doesn’t give up. “If you participate more often, you have more chances. If you don’t succeed, you are still learning. »
Germaine also sees the positive side of being rejected: “It’s always a shame not to pass, but I know people who only succeeded after six auditions.”
Some candidates travel with the auditions. There’s a German girl who auditioned in London the week before. If it doesn’t work today, “maybe in Paris, in Rome?” There is a group of eight musical theater students from Barcelona; they make it a weekend in Amsterdam. And Vicky Vlasblom (22) passed the audition in London in 2020, when she had failed in Amsterdam a month earlier.
“It happens very often that people come to every audition,” says casting director Copland two days after the auditions in Amsterdam. And: “We love when people keep trying† But it’s not worth it. We are looking for a certain profile, for a certain show. If your first audition doesn’t fit this profile, chances are you’ll pass a week later. Copland has clear advice: “Only come once every six months. I don’t want people wasting money and time.
Copland is less clear about what makes a good Disney performer. “We look at dance technique, but if it’s not a pleasure to watch your performance and you don’t fit the profile, technique matters less. Each performer in the parade, whether it is the jungle car or the underwater car, must match the spirit of the parade.
What does that mean? Copland hesitates for a moment. “Yeah, you gotta have that extra Disney ‘park’.”
Participant Nicole de Ruijter (20) expresses herself differently: “They want characters, not professional dancers. Sometimes you just have to dare to be the biggest idiot of all time.
four hours later
The second round – the dance round – is now complete. It’s one o’clock, the auditions are at four o’clock. Most participants lost weight. Most don’t know why. There is no feedback: you stand out or you lose weight. “Maybe I was too tall, too thin, too fat, too narrow, too wide…”, says De Ruijter. “That’s part of it. If they need princesses, for example, then you have to look like the character, I think.
Copland: “Length is important, because we have different costumes that people have to adapt as best they can. But it’s more about qualities.” What makes someone suitable then? “I can’t say too much about that. We want Disney secrets kept secret. Too much detail about the processes behind the park can change people’s experience in the park. The deeper you dig, the more rocks you hit.
Disney fans from across Europe come to Amsterdam hoping to be chosen
The third and final round has arrived. Now let’s see what suits the participants. That means: testing make-up, trying on wigs. Are you going to pass this round? So it’s a successful audition. The participant ends up in the Disney database. For a period of six months, a call can be made: you have to “perform”. It is not known if someone will be called, when and in what time frame.
What if you don’t pass the auditions? Copland: “People can also express their passion in another part of the company. We call everyone at Disney a “cast member.” Whether you dance in the parade or in the shops or restaurants, you are still an artist. An artist.
“Length of Pluto”
Steeph der Children (36) was called up in 2017 two months after a successful audition. “It was June 1, if I could start June 8.” Der Children had suffered from burnout earlier that year, the work of a theater director had become too heavy. “I lost the pleasure of my work and developed depressive symptoms.” Steeph der Children knows all the Disney songs and has seen all the movies. “I was born in 1986, just before the Disney movie revival” – the period of The little Mermaid and The Lion King† Der Children decided to audition at Disney, in an effort to recapture the fun of show business.
After the phone call, it was: at Disney for six months. You get a room in the employee quarters, just outside the park. You don’t earn much more than an average side job, but you do it for the dream. The Thalys will take you to the Disney entrance. Everyone out there knows what you mean when you say Disney magic or “the spark”. There, you are not 1.73 meters tall, you are at the “height of Pluto”.
A lifelong Disney fan, a burnout, the tension of the auditions, a two-month wait. Expectations must be huge. Isn’t this the prelude to disappointment?
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“No! It’s magic,” says Steeph der Kinder. “Every time the curtain opens, the movie starts, I get sucked into this world. It happened when I danced in the parade. I don’t know why it works like that, but it works. Look, if I see Mickey Mouse walking in the park, it’s Mickey Mouse. Without a doubt. I make the decision to believe it. And because I do, it’s the reality. Just the reality.
Der Kinder has been a performer at Disneyland three times. A fourth time is not excluded.
It is around three o’clock when the auditions in Amsterdam end. The wigs are up, the dance moves are done, the losers are home. A few are still waiting for their friends when a young woman comes out and excitedly exclaims, “They want me like a naughty stepsister!”
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