Both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort are closed and live Disney theatrical entertainment performances have been canceled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and mandates for social distancing. However, both kids and adults can still interact with their favorite characters as immersive theaters and cosplay actors turn their businesses from live shows into virtual entertainment.
The American Immersion Theater, in particular, realized that business as usual wasn’t going to last long as the illness started to hit the United States. The national group, which houses the Murder Mystery Company and the Princess Party Company, puts on interactive performances in peoples' homes or offices featuring their favorite characters, superheroes or Disney princesses. According to Tom Zelinsky, the theater’s sales manager, the company wouldn’t allow the outbreak to completely halt their work.
“We started adjusting our shows to make sure that we took out any amount of physical touch that we use in the show and limited the amount of shows over 100 guests,” Zelinksy tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Around the week of March 9th, we noticed the impact of the coronavirus settle in. This was the week where we made the determination to postpone all of our events until a later, safer time.”
Zelinsky explains that the theater’s shows typically rely on in-person interaction, as it brings characters and storylines into a person’s home for the purpose of group entertainment. Once they decided to stop those group events in accordance with CDC guidelines, the company had to come up with alternative ways to connect with audiences — especially after watching so many children miss out on small joys like princess parties.
“We saw that not only were kids missing out on our events, but they were missing out on so many other important things in their lives. We were able to find a way to reach these people as best as possible, and still gave us an opportunity to provide work for several of our performers,” Zelinsky says.
The process of going virtual, he admits, wasn’t an easy one. However, its paid off for both audiences and performers as the theater does daily live story-telling sessions with a princess, superhero or wizarding world character. It also offers shout-outs or private sessions for more personalized experiences.
The Frost Sisters, a duo of real-life sisters Anna and Lexie Carlson, who have been cosplaying Frozen’s Anna and Elsa since the movie came out six years ago have also adjusted their work as a result of the pandemic. They too were concerned about children who would be missing out on these magical interactions.
“We really miss being around the children. It’s the best part of my job,” Anna, 24, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Sadly, it doesn’t make sense to the kids that they can’t have their party or attend their friend’s party.”
They were inspired to make a generic video to post to their Instagram channels so that anybody can use it as a birthday message for someone celebrating during this time. Already, it’s received great reactions from appreciative parents.
“My daughter just turned 5 and we had to postpone her party with her friends. She watched the video and her face lit up. She said thank you Anna and Elsa!” one mother wrote. Another commented, “Thank you for doing what you can to make kids smile during these hard times!”
Now, the sisters are talking about creating other videos, while Faith has started to do cosplay live streams for adult fans. Overall, they’re remaining positive about the changes that the coronavirus has forced them into as they reflect on the various ways that children are connecting both on and offline.
“Anna and I were always playing dress-up, swimming and using our imaginations growing up. We’re glad to see siblings actually playing together and off of their electronics,” Lexie says. “This is a horrible situation that we’re all going through, but hopefully, it’s allowing some great family bonding.”
Zelinsky adds that the theater will continue to create these virtual experiences to ensure that children remain joyful during this time.
“So many kids are stuck at home during these uncertain times, not sure what to make of what's going on, and we see the virtual experiences as an escape from this,” he says.
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC and WHO’s resource guides.
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