Disney Characters and Masklophobia - the Fear of Seeing Huge Animal Mascots!

Every kid (or kid at heart) dreams of flying to the Orlando area to meet his or her favorite Disney Characters. He or she pictures being just there meeting his or her friends he or she saw on TV or video or in the movies. He or she hugs each one of them, from the human to the anthropomorphic, using a huge castle as a backdrop. Meeting his or her Disney pals is a ritualistic and magical experience he or she will never forget.

But unfortunately, those dreams never manifest in most cases. It's not just that many a Disney vacation, staycation, or daycation is expensive. It's not just that not everyone loves the company in general. It's not just that there are some people that think it's for kids.

Some children (and few adults) are scared of Characters.

What attributes of them make them scary in the first place? What features make little kids hide their faces into their mother's laps? On top of that, why are they scared of those magic-making creatures anyway?

Note: Characters can be found at a few Disney Stores, on all Disney Cruise Line ships, all Disneyland Resorts, and the Walt Disney World Resort. It can also apply to non-Disney locations as well.

What is Masklophobia

Masklophobia goes beyond a simple fear of masks - it's a sometimes debilitating fear of masks!

People wear masks for occasions that are suited for them, and going to one where they are expected tickle masklophobes' terror bones.

Try taking a mask-fearing travel buddy to the pre-Lenten carnival in Venice and he or she would hide in your hotel room. Try taking him or her to Mardi Gras and he or she would freak out. Try taking him or her to a Halloween party and chances are that he or she would faint. Try inviting someone with the phobia to a masquerade ball and he or she would decline the invitation because it has a mask on it!

This mask fear also means a healthy fear of mascots. There are some people who love seeing them from a distance, but if they come too close, they freak out. Of course, it's a fear that most children outgrow at later ages, but some of them retain that.

Scary Sheriff

Huge costumed characters, such as the Sheriff of Nottingham, can upset those with masklophobia.
Huge costumed characters, such as the Sheriff of Nottingham, can upset those with masklophobia.
Fur Characters are often blamed for scaring some children and some adults. Here's a picture of me and Tigger at (Surprise!) Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, New Jersey, in the mid-90's.
Fur Characters are often blamed for scaring some children and some adults. Here's a picture of me and Tigger at (Surprise!) Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, New Jersey, in the mid-90's.

Fur Characters

Fur Characters are the most notorious culprits of this phobia.

So why do they amp up mask-fearing children's terror levels? Well they are Cast Members dressed head to toe with plastic and/or synthetic fur (hence the name) or feathers. They wear rubber masks or helmet-type masks to cover their God-given faces. (A fur character with a human head sticking out is even scarier.) Both of them have something in common: they are molded to resemble the Characters they are portraying.

One category is comprised of the members of the animal kingdom. Characters include and don't limit to Marie (the white kitten from Aristocats), Brer Bear, Meeko, Terk, Chip, Clarice, Dale, and Eeyore.

But not all fur characters are animals. They can be just magical beings (like Genie) or aliens (like Stitch). In fact, some human (or human-like) Characters from animated features can be made in full-body costume form to retain their cartoonish features. Take Jessie, Woody, and Buzz Lightyear, for example. They look human, but since they are action figures, they are made into Fur Character incarnations to retain their toylike appearances.

Regardless of species, they all have something in common. They are employees covered head to toe (face included) in fabric, rubber, and plastic. The way they dress can bring out the mask fear in children who are afraid of them.

Eeyore Kid's Worst Nightmare

EEYORE!!!
EEYORE!!!

Think All Face Characters Don't Scare Anyone?

Maleficent is a good example of one that can unsettle the masklophobic.
Maleficent is a good example of one that can unsettle the masklophobic. | Source

Face Characters

Face Characters are the less likely culprits of inducing fear in children, right? They are Cast Members with their God-given faces made-up with nothing more that updates of Halloween costumes. They won't harm a kid's well-being, right?

Well, there are few of them that can set a child off. Their faces are made to look really creepy. Examples include Anastasia, Drizella, Lady Tremaine (all from the Cinderella trilogy), and Queen Grimhilde (from Snow White). Others, like some Green Army Men and Maleficent, smother their faces with face paint to stay true to the characters portrayed.

Although they show their human faces and can talk, a few of them can scare off some Guests.

I'm Scaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrred!

Where They Lurk

One of the places you can see the Characters and be scared of them is the afternoon (or nighttime) parade. So why are parades great places to be scared of a five-foot-two Mickey Mouse? Well, some of your Disney friends ride floats, but some others walk around, greeting people on the curbs. The latter group is likely to scare mask-feared individuals because they meet them at random places where people watch. It's a good idea to snag a viewing location early, but they should beware.

Also, meals under Disney Character Dining are hotbeds of Character fears (especially when it has all Fur types). That's simply because each Character visits each table. Imagine eating your breakfast in peace, unaware that it is a Character Breakfast. Suddenly, you sense something on your shoulder. You look up and see Goofy and freak out. Scary.

But the most obvious places to get scared of Characters are the meet and greet locations. Sure, masklophobes who enjoy seeing them at a distance are comfortable with seeing them greeting at a distant place. But when the group decides to go for a photo op with them, you freak out when it's your turn.

Here Comes TIGGER!!!

Are You Scared of Costumed Characters, Disney or Not?

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Quelling the Fears

Here are some tips to help you, someone, or your child to ease your fear of Characters.

  • Familiarize Yourself
    Watch movies, read books, and/or surf the Internet for pictures that include the Characters to acquaint with them better. Remember: they are larger than they appear in the media. (This is especially helpful with autistic children.)
  • Accompany the Masklophoebe
    It's a good idea to stay with the one who is scared of mascots with you at all times when greeting them, especially with small children.
  • Ease Him or Her Into One of the Character
    Don't force yourself, your friend, or your child to meet Mickey or Minnie. First observe the Character at a safe distance, noting his gestures and body language. Then gradually queue up.
  • Offer Choices to Your Party
    It's sometimes not a good idea to corral the party together for that picture with Pluto. Let them have their say in meeting him instead.

Who's Afraid of Five-Foot-Tall Mice?

Some people find themselves comfortable if they only see Mickey and Minnie at a safe distance.
Some people find themselves comfortable if they only see Mickey and Minnie at a safe distance.

Every kid or adult with that child inside his or her heart dreams of meeting Disney Characters. But if you have masklophobia, that dream would be a nightmare if you are not careful. If your family's heart is at doing Disney for their next vacation and they want you to be in it, just prepare yourself and enjoy your trip!

You can opt out of Character pics if your party allows you to do so.

With Goofy at a Character Breakfast at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, November 1994
With Goofy at a Character Breakfast at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, November 1994

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Comments 4 comments

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travelschooling 4 years ago from Australia

Gosh! I'd actually never thought of that, interesting reading. My boys were fine but, yes, I can imagine the flip side. Thanks!


Anonymous 3 years ago

Great article. I am an adult who has been afraid of mascots and people dressed as life sized characters since a trip to Disney as a kid. I absolutely hate that I can't see the persons face and that they won't speak to me. I pretty much won't go near them but the fear isn't crippling. I am okay w chapters like Ariel Alice or Mary poppins because they talk and I see their faces. I am glad to know I'm not alone.


kaitlyn 2 years ago

I thought I was alone and I am 12 and it is reallyyyyy embarrassing wen I go to a sports game and I see one and I freak out. I try not to tell anyone once wen I was little I was at a chuckie cheese bday party and chuckie came by me and I went under the table


Dee 2 years ago

I don't know what it is, but I don't fear the Disney characters. I get a little nervous, but the thought doesn't freak me out. I feel like it's because it's a character I know and grew up with. I've never been to Disney World nor Disney Land, but I've been in contact with plenty of Disney fur characters here and there.

On the other hand, anything that isn't Disney related scares me. I panicked a little at a skating rink with their gorilla mascot, Red Robin's mascot freaked me out, I don't like any sports mascots near me... Ugh, thinking about them makes me shiver.

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