John Cawley
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Frames of Time...

030_04 - Playin' Disney's Fox...

When I joined the Disneyland Character Department, first discussed here, one of my desires was to portray Robin Hood. I had seen this 1973 film and really enjoyed the funny-animal take on the characters. With designs by Milt Kahl and animation from some of Disney's best Nine Old Men, the film changed funny animals from the ball and hose design of Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse into stylized anthropomorphics. Milt Kahl commented, he wanted the animals to look like real four-legged animals standing on two legs. This design element became a standard, and much imitated look for future animal films.

The trouble was I was too tall for Robin! Disney character costume assignments were by height. Robin Hood was built to be played by someone 5'1" to 5'3". I was a tall 5'4". When I joined the department I was perfect for Chip or Dale, any of Snow White's dwarfs, Mr Smee, the White Rabbit, or King Louie. All were in the 5'4" to 5'7" range. If the character were important enough, they would bend the rules. Hence I did do occasional duty as Pluto and Eeyore, both 5'7" to 5'10". Pluto was a ton of fun, and many felt the costume was actually "cuter" shorter.

I talked with the head of the character department, who sympathized, but would not relent. The head of the costume department was adamant that some costumes could go "down" in size, like Pluto, Eeyore, etc., but that none could go "up". This was probably to keep the Park from having gigantic Mickeys.

I decided to try my first attempt at logic arguments. I put together an entire pitch on why a 5'3" to 5'5" Robin Hood would be better for the Park. My main argument being that it pulled the character farther from the Mickey/Minnie/Donald group, thus freeing up people in those heights to focus on the smaller suits. By Fall, I was ready to pitch my idea. The head of the department thought my proposal looked very good. However, he said he would not submit it to the costume department. The reason: Robin Hood was being pulled from the park at year's end.

I was heart broken. I had really hoped to do all costumes within my range. (I had even done Winnie the Pooh, 5'8" to 6'0", for a night, and it was HELL!) But of all, I had wanted to do Robin Hood. It was then my supervisor stated that it "seemed" they had not been able to fill the Robin Hood suit the final two weeks of the year... and asked if was I "interested"?

Well, for those two weeks, Robin strutted and swung around the Park like never before. I climbed walls, rode rides (something one in costume is not supposed to do, but more on that another day), leaped various objects in single bound and more. In all honesty, pictures from those weeks showed that I was a bit too tall and lanky for the costume.

The final day I had a friend follow me around taking photos and home video. That night I went to the dressing room and removed the costume, feeling both satisfied, but sad that the costume was being removed from the Park (simply for cost-cutting reasons). I went back to my studies for that week. The following weekend when I went in to suit up for Chip, the Robin Hood costume was gone.

A year or two later it returned. It has had a checkered appearance, and performance, since.

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