A costumed character wears a costume that usually (but not always) covers the performer's face. These range from theme park "walk-around" or "meetable" characters, the mascots of corporations, schools, or sports teams to novelty act performers. Some costumes cover the performer's face; others, especially those in theme parks, may leave the performer's face visible.
In theme parks, international fairs, and festivalsEdit
The Japanese name for costumed performers is kigurumi (着ぐるみ). The name comes from the Japanese verb kiru (着る, to wear) and noun nuigurumi (ぬいぐるみ, stuffed toy). Japan's kawaii aesthetic means that mascots are commonly used for promotional purposes. These mascots are often constructed with an appearance that is more chibi than Western mascots, with a massive head that encompasses the performer's entire upper body and the arms low on the body. Other mascots more greatly resemble anime characters.
Animegao(アニメ顔, anime face) is a type of kigurumi used to portray anime or cartoon characters. The face of the performer is fully covered with a stylized mask, and the costume of the character is worn. Animegao costumes are used both in professional stage shows and by cosplayers, sometimes called "dollers", who make custom masks of various characters. It is still a very minor part of the cosplay scene in Japan, though around 2005, it began attracting attention in other countries, including the United States, Canada, and European countries.
Current shows featuring a costumed character puppet include Big Bird of Sesame Street, Barney from Barney and Friends, and Bear of Bear in the Big Blue House. Less complicated characters include Hip Hop Harry, Yo Gabba Gabba! and TVO English Kindergarten.
In recent years, performers wearing unauthorized, counterfeit costumes of pop-culture characters such as Mickey Mouse, Elmo, SpongeBob SquarePants or Spider-Man have appeared in popular tourist destinations such as Hollywood Boulevard and Times Square. They usually pose for photos and collect (or, often, extort) tips from tourists. The 2007 documentary film Confessions of a Superhero focuses on costumed "superheroes" on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Because they are not regulated or authorized, there have been many controversies and arrests involving costumed characters in Times Square.
The mascot industry is estimated at $5-million a year. Toronto, Canada, is one of the hubs in the industry, with six major firms headquartered out of the city. Knock-off costumes are fabricated in, among other places, Peru.
- Bob Sehlinger; Len Testa (2014). The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2014. Birmingham, AL: Keen Communications. ISBN 9781628090000.
- Robbins, Christopher. "Are The Costumed Grifters Of Times Square Diluting Disney's Brand?" Archived 2013-05-11 at the Wayback Machine, Gothamist (June 19, 2011).
- Lysiak, Matt. "Sick, touchy Elmo returns to Times Square, back to old antics as he scares parents and kids," New York Daily News (October 24, 2010).
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- Semple, Kirk. "Spider-Man Unmasked! Elmo and Minnie, Too: The Lives Behind Times Square Cartoon Characters," New York Times (AUG. 2, 2014).