Of all the Main Characters on the internet, there is perhaps no creature that merits more opprobrium, more rank disgust, than the Disney Adult. Characterized by their omnipresent enthusiasm, rose-gold Minnie Mouse ears, and gum-baring grins while posing for selfies in front of Cinderella’s Castle, Disney Adults are grown people who are deeply obsessed with all things Disney culture, from the theme parks to the movies to the merch. They get married at the Wedding Pavilion by Mickey and Minnie. They post photos of their Dole Whips outside of the Tiki Room. And they never, ever, are willing to cop to the mere historical possibility that Walt Disney may not have been crazy about Jews.
On TikTok, a minor battle has been waging between Disney Adults and actual Disney cast members, the term the company uses for those who staff the parks. Cast members who play characters in the parks are encouraged to never, ever break character, and some vloggers have built their content around trying to get them to do so. One video featuring a content creator attempting to get a performer playing Captain Marvel to say “gay rights,” for instance, went viral last year; another creator on TikTok went viral for standing in line for hours at a Universal Christmas event before asking the Grinch if he would be his “baby daddy.” Some creators don’t necessarily try to goad performers into saying outrageous things about camera, but center their entire channels around their interactions with performers, such as flirting with Disney princesses.
The opening shot was fired by Sarah Daniels, a former Disney performer who played multiple princesses at the parks, who made a video in December calling out content creators who build their brands around Disney cast members. “It is so horribly obnoxious,” she says in the video. “I’m making $11.75 an hour trying to do my very best making magic for people, and then someone has to come up and ask you something weird on camera for a huge audience.” She concluded the video by saying: “guess what? Everyone talks about you badly in our secret groups. So stop doing it. It’s horrible.”
Another former Disney cast member stitched Daniels’ video concurring with the sentiment: “every single performer I know hates character content, no matter what kind of character content it is. Doesn’t matter how cute you think it is,” she says. “She’s right, we talk about you all the time. And I promise you, none of it is positive. None.”
The videos seem to have kickstarted an ardent discussion about the ethics of consuming Disney character content, with people in the comments debating over whether it’s appropriate to do so in light of how Disney performers are not compensated for appearing in the videos, and could lose their jobs if they go viral for saying something inappropriate on camera. Other Disney fans, however, objected to former cast members talking poorly about Disney vloggers. “All of this feels like very toxic cliquey high school vibes,” one person commented. Whatever your opinion about Disney content, considering the Mad Libs-esque nature of our current reality, it’s only apropos that a debate about labor rights in the digital sphere would be inadvertently launched by a bunch of Disney adults on TikTok.
This week on Don’t Let This Flop, Rolling Stone‘s podcast about TikTok and internet culture, cohosts Brittany Spanos and Ej Dickson dissect the latest niche subculture drama unfolding on the platform, as well as “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” chanteuse Caroline Polachek, Kardashian kiddie Photoshop drama gone awry, the resurgence of 2014 Tumblr girlie style (and our fears about a subsequent renaissance of ballet flats), and a geriatric Himbo of the Week whose content is so horny it’s restricted only to adults 21 and over.