How to Become a Super Star...
Without Really Trying


by Debra Martin Koma
and Linda Eckwerth


This article appeared in the March 12, 2002, Issue #129 of ALL EARS®
(ISSN: 1533-0753)


Andy Warhol was right.

The famous Pop Art artist pronounced that in the future everyone would be famous for 15 minutes, and I believe it.

Of course, I'm still waiting...

But what about you? Have you had your turn yet? Or do you think Fame is going to pass you by?

Well, you could get your big break the next time you visit Walt Disney World! Did you know that there are lots of places when you can be "discovered"? There are shows with audience participation, there are street performers who enlist the aid of volunteers -- there's even a show where audience members are an integral part of the program!

Faithful ALL EARS® reader Linda Eckwerth of Maryland shares her story of how Disney made her a Short-Term Super Star:

On my most recent trip to WDW, a spur-of-the-moment weekend in early January, my friend Deb (yes, THAT Deb!) and I decided not to plan very much, just take things as they came. (Usually when we travel, Deb plans a busy itinerary for us and I'm just along for the ride.)

Saturday morning, we made it over to the Disney-MGM Studios shortly after opening and checked on the show and tour times we were interested in. As it turned out, the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, which I had never seen, was due to begin soon. We made our way toward the front of the theater and were able to sit about five rows from the stage. Upon settling in, I asked Deb what was going to take place. All she would say was, "Be patient, and wait and see." So I was!

Eventually, the cast began to appear and the "Casting Director" introduced herself, asking for audience members 18 or older who wanted to be in the movies. With that the audience clapped, whooped and hollered, so I joined in! The noise died down for a moment and Deb nudged me, telling me to stand up and wave my arms and scream -- basically, to make a fool of myself. Without thinking, I jumped up. To my disbelief, the Casting Director chose me as an extra and instructed me to come down to the stage. I was both stunned and excited. I'm normally a shy person and don't usually do
well in front of large crowds. But my adrenaline was pumping!

Three other people and I made our way to the stage, then we all had to "act"! The Director asked us to laugh hysterically, then show fright, surprise, and shock. But that wasn't all! She sent us to wardrobe, located at the top of the stairs in the corner, where we were each given a cloth cap to place on our heads. Being a clean freak, I started to panic and began a conversation in my head: "Who had this on before me? Is it clean? How gross is this?" I finally calmed down and told myself to just do it. (I later discovered that everyone gets a clean cap.) While in the process of dressing, each of us had to sign a waiver and then we were escorted to our seats to wait our cue.

Then came our shining moment. We were led on stage with our instructions. All I could think of was how I was on the stage and seeing everything up close and personal! We were introduced to the Director as well as Indy and Marion. How exciting! The Casting Director stayed with the group the entire time we were on stage to ensure our safety around the props and wires and to tell us where to stand and what expression to portray.

We had a blast. Those of us with friends or family in the audience waved with silly grins on our faces, hoping to get our photo taken. Let's face it, how often does one get to be on stage? When our jobs were done, we returned to wardrobe and turned in our costumes, then returned to our original seats to watch the final scene of the show.

After the show was over, my head was spinning, and I could feel that I had the biggest grin on my face. I pulled out my cell phone and began to call all my relatives and friends to let them know I was a "Super Star" for a brief moment!

I would encourage everyone to try to become an extra! It happens so quickly you don't have time to think about what you're doing or get nervous -- and I believe that is what makes the experience. Plus it gives you just one more piece of "Magic" to talk about when you return home!

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Although it's one of the more well-known audience participation shows at WDW, the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular isn't the only place you can be "discovered." For ideas of where else you might have the chance to join in, a few other ALL EARS® readers relate their experiences, along with some tips on how they were "chosen":

Laura S of New Jersey:

I was chosen to act in one of those skits by that traveling acting troupe in the UK [the World Showcase Players]... I was doing my absolute best to avert my eyes away from the cast as they chose actors for their version of "Romeo and Juliet", and if you want to get chosen, that's *just* the way to do it -- look away! It was me and a 60-year-old Australian gentleman as my Romeo. They fed us lines, and told us to do our best English accent. Oh yeah, real tough for the Aussie, but for the girl from Joizy, well... Like Alec Guinness and Rosie O'Donnell -- that was us. The crowd got a kick out of my horrific Joizy/English accent and I ended up getting all the laughs. I even had to do a waltz with my Romeo -- to rousing applause from the audience, I might add. I ended up having fun and didn't die from embarrassment. My mom, who was with me at the time, got quite the kick out of the whole thing. I remember going directly into the Rose and Crown and downing a pint of Bass Ale to calm my nerves, afterward -- when in England, you know...

Laura G of California has also been tapped by the World Showcase Players:

My husband Lee's been picked to portray King Arthur in "King Arthur and the Holy Grail" three or four times... he seems to be typecast. He's also been Bob Scratchit in their version of A Christmas Carol, and Count Somebody-or-other in "Cyranose de Bergerac", so he got to do a death scene. I played Roxanne in "Cyranose" once, too. As for qualifications... it was being in the wrong place at the wrong time for me. I was sitting a little too close to the front. With Lee, I think they had noticed him enthusiastically cheering during the "Grail, Grail, Grail" practice, and when the Players were introduced, so they figured he would be a good candidate.

When I was pulled out, one of the guys who was showing me where to sit whispered something like, "You're going to have fun", and after that they just kind of lead you through what you're supposed to do. And at the end, after you take your bows, they thank you very nicely for participating. Now, they also give you a button -- at the time I did it they weren't doing that. Lee has a couple of them now, though.

Debbie Maguire of Illinois:

On our last trip to WDW we encountered the Streetmosphere performers in two locations in the Disney-MGM Studios. Coming around the corner by the Christmas shop, my husband and I entered the shop to look around. Stanley and Stella Kowalski were in there all alone arguing. Stanley went up to my husband and asked him to take Stella to dinner because she was whining. He gave my husband "$20" and Stella wrapped herself around him.

Later that same afternoon my 14-year-old son Teddy and I were resting on Hollywood Boulevard when Dainty Debbie and two other players sat by him and started asking him questions. Teddy, who had had this experience the year before with a wannabe actress named Lotta, went along with it and eventually they drew quite a crowd. These players make the whole experience so much more memorable!

Donna writes:

One of the true highlights of our recent trip was when our 4-year-old daughter and I stopped to see Belle's Storytime in the Magic Kingdom. My daughter was lucky enough to be in the cast.

Once the story was under way, Belle's helper led a group of the little girls who were sitting up front up on the stage and began outfitting them with simple costumes. As Lumiere, my daughter wore a large candle on her head with a Velcro strap under her neck. Under the guidance of Belle's helper,
the children were able to dance with Belle and the Beast (a father chosen from the audience) and follow a few other simple stage directions. After the show, Belle was available to sign autographs and pose for photos with all the "children," big and small.

One of the newest ways to get in on the action is at the Who Wants to be a Millionaire -- Play It! show in the Disney-MGM Studios.

Tina Robbens from England writes:

My nephew, Jacob, 9, made it to the Hot Seat in February! The question was: Put these American authors in order of publication. He got it right and in the quickest time. Of course, as he'd never heard of any, he just tapped in letters and they happened to be correct. He had great fun, got to the 1,000-point level and was given great prizes. All in all, my sister Jayne, Jacob and I had a great time and would thoroughly recommend it!

New York City's John E. also made it to the Hot Seat:

My wife and I had tried several times to reach the Hot Seat. We both had our scores on the big scoreboard, but hers was usually closer to the top than mine.

This particular show, though, the questions were stuff I knew. The next thing I knew, MY number was at the top of the board and I was walking down to the Hot Seat!

Most of the rest was a blur... I never thought I could be so nervous. I mean, this was just for some token prizes. My hands were sweating and I felt like crawling out of my skin! I used all my lifelines on questions I thought I knew the answers to (and I did know them, darn it!). The 16,000-point question did me in. A question about MTV, which I haven't watched regularly for 15 years. It was obvious from the sounds of the audience that THEY knew the answer, but I was out of lifelines so I guessed and lost.

If I got that nervous for the Disney show, then the real one would probably cause me to have a coronary! I now have a lot more respect for anyone on a knowledge based game show.

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After hearing all those stories, even the most shy among you is probably wondering, "Hey! Where can *I* go to be discovered?! I want to be a Super Star, too!" Well, here are all the places and situations we can think of where you can be a part of the Magic, up close and in person -- if you know of any others please send them along! (Be sure to check park guide maps for times for the shows mentioned):

In the MK:

-- The Sword in the Stone ceremony with Merlin in front of the Carrousel
-- Belle's Storytime in the Fairytale Garden

In Epcot:

-- Biergarten Restaurant, where diners can dance with performers on-stage
-- Restaurant Marrakesh, in which the bellydancer invites children to join her
-- World Showcase Players in the UK and in France

In Disney-MGM Studios:

-- Who Wants to be a Millionaire -- Play It!
-- Along Hollywood Boulevard, with some of the roving Streetmosphere Characters
-- '50s Prime Time Cafe, where the servers might put you in the corner for not eating your vegetables!
-- The Backlot Tour, during which Guests can be chosen to help in the making of an epic water battle!
-- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular (extras must be over 18!)

In Animal Kingdom:

-- Flights of Wonder, in which audience members might be called on to help with the amazing bird stunts
-- Festival of the Lion King, at the show's beginning.

Outside the Theme Parks:

-- Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue, where audience members are recruited for an on-stage skit
-- Polynesian Luau, during which Guests may be called on-stage
-- Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge, where diners might be corralled for asking for ketchup!
-- 'Ohana at the Polynesian Resort, where the ukulele player may get you to stand up and do a hula dance!
-- Adventurers Club on Pleasure Island, where improvisational characters often make Guests part of their show
-- Cirque du Soleil, during which several unsuspecting members of the audience might be pulled on-stage

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Finally, we get a lot of questions about how to be selected to participate in one of the parades. Our stock answer? An honest, "We don't know." It's never happened to any of us. But, ALL EARS® reader Nancy Tynes of New Brunswick, Canada, may have hit on one solution:

Several months before our trip in 1992, I wrote a letter to WDW telling how my husband had a secret dream to be the Grand Marshal of the parade. I didn't receive any reply, so I figured my letter had been placed in the round file. But our first night, when we returned to our room at Caribbean Beach, there was a phone message to call Ray on Monday morning as he wanted to talk to Daniel about his secret dream.

When Daniel finally called Ray, he told Daniel that he had been chosen to be the Grand Marshal in that afternoon's Magic Kingdom parade. We met Ray at 2:15 at City Hall, and he was extremely kind. He told me that he had been so impressed by my letter that he had kept it on his bulletin board, waiting for our arrival. I really wish I could remember what I had written!

Ray had special coins for us, Mouse Ears with our names on them and "Grand Marshal" on Daniel's, and certificates with our names on them as well. He also gave us tickets to see the Diamond Horseshoe Review after the parade (this was back when you had to get reservations to see it).

I couldn't help but be excited when I heard our names announced again and again as the parade made its way up Main Street and along the parade route. Ray had our cameras, and kept popping up to take snapshots and video of us along the way. They stopped the float to let us off just before the parade went off-stage, and there was a special place reserved for us to stand and watch the rest of parade go by. A lot of the performers made a point of coming over to say hello, or to wave to us from the floats. It was the perfect ending to a truly magical experience.

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So have we given you enough ideas as to how YOU can be the next Super Star of WDW? Well, what are you waiting for? Put aside your stage fright and start planning so you or your loved ones can nab some of the spotlight for yourselves!

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After this article appeared, several folks wrote in to tell us some of the places we missed:

ANIMAL KINGDOM

Don't forget the Festival of the Lion King at Animal Kingdom. A person is chosen from each section to be the 'lead' animal and make the sound. I believe there is an elephant, giraffe, warthog and lion section. (Terry)

*****

DISNEY-MGM STUDIOS

On one of our previous trips, my daughter (who was around 10 years old) was selected to introduce the Hunchback of Notre Dame show. We arrived early and I spent some time chatting with one of the CM at the front of the stage. Right before the show she asked my daughter if she wanted to introduce the show. She had to read off of a card so it was very easy. She received a certificate for her efforts!

*****

For the very shy who want to be a superstar, they can "hang out" outside of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire- Play It! and hopefully be chosen as a complete stranger. You get to be heard (but not seen) by the studio audience, and afterwards, you get an official "I Was a Complete Stranger" pin. But beware- after we got home, my kids were more than happy to say that their dad was a complete stranger- this did not make their mother very pleased. Victor Vitek

 

The best one of all was when we went to MGM for Star Wars Weekend and she was chosen from the crowd to go through Jedi training and fight Darth Vader with her lightsaber up on stage! For "Princess" Leia there was nothing more fun than that!!! (Laura and Leia)

*****

EPCOT

Italy in the World Showcase at Epcot -- This is another of Leia's (5 year old) favorites! In the courtyard there is an entertainer, SERGIO, who chooses children from the crowd to assist him with walking a tightrope, juggling, etc. Leia loves to help him and bow to the crowd when they're done!

*****

In the Courtyard at Germany there was a music group called Alpine Trio that asked her to come forward and demonstrate a chicken dance. Then they choose some adults from the audience to compete in a yodelling competition and gave away gift certificate to the restaurant there as a prize! (Laura and Leia)

*****

My middle child, Erin, was the luckiest. First, she got to demonstrate the lion roar for the "lion section" before the Lion King show. Then, while we were listening to Voices of Liberty in the American Pavilion, they were one girl short for "Skip to my Lou" and picked Erin! They talked to her, asked her where she was from and if she had a boyfriend (she said yes and I about fell over--she was 6!!) then finished singing it with one of the singers holding her hand. Afterwards they talked to us and one CM in the group gave us a ride upstairs in the CM elevator! We sure felt like stars that trip! Robin McConnell

*****

MAGIC KINGDOM

For my son's 14th birthday - we went on the Magic Kingdom railroad and the CM at the rear of the train noticed his birthday button (from town hall). She announced his birthday to the whole train. He got to stand at the rear of the train with her and got to push the buttons to play the announcements. We also road in the front of the monorail and the driver announced his birthday to the whole monorail! (Becky Ashley)

*****

Last time we were on the Jungle Cruise at MK the driver of the boat asked her if she would like to drive ..... needless to say, she loved turning that big
wheel to the delight of all on board!! (Laura and Leia)