Thursday, April 5, 2012

How To Be The Easter Bunny

Part One - The Suit

Naturally, in a lot of ways, this is the most important part. I was volunteered for the role of The Bunny for our five stores here and I had no involvement in choosing or renting the suit. This was a horrible, horrible mistake. If possible, go to the rental place - see the suit - try it on if at all possible. The suit we got was a misbegotten thing that looked like it was from the 1950's. Many of the seams had been re-stitched so many times the seams were thick scars of fabric and thread and the mask had been fixed so many times that it's vaguely dog-like face was lumpy with ears that didn't even try to stand erect.
And the feet/paws were the worst part. Too small for me, with ratty pink fur on the outside and a sole made of what appeared to be 100 year old leather with the outline of a bare foot sweated into the material on both sides. Oh yeah, and the suit was about 3 sizes too small for me, creating a dirty greyish-white bodysuit for me that could have doubled as a costume for some shameless, inept superhero. It was also impossible to zip myself, forcing someone else to zip me into my tiny corset, my hands sheathed in mittens incapable of grasping anything with precision. Even without the mask/head it was claustrophobic. The legs were also roughly 6 inches too short, leaving an expanse of socks between the end of my "legs" and the beginning of my "Paws".
Terrifying. The head had some sort of plastic harness inside that broke off immediately after donning, leaving me wearing a plastic head strap for no reason. All this for fifty bucks... maybe that should have been a sign.

So try and find a good suit. Maybe one that actually looks like a bunny and fits properly?

Part Two - The Setting
We did the shoots in a series of stops at each store over the course of two days. 2 hours at three stores on day one and 3 hours at two stores on day two. Two hours was just about right. It was a short enough time that I didn't truly start freaking out about being in the suit and  we didn't overstay our welcome. Of course, the three hour shifts were justified when we showed up to lines of kids waiting. But try and keep it short if you can. You'll regret long ones. Allow for ample time between shoots. Our stores were 6 minutes apart and with a 30 minute window it felt like we were scrambling between shoots

Each store made their own little backdrops from random Easter crap in the store with varying results. One store's looked fabulous... and one store had 3/4s of their decor fall before the first hour was up, leaving me sitting in a pool of plastic Easter grass and window clings that stuck to my feet much better than the wall. Avoid high chairs like barstools too. The last thing you want is for some kid to fall off your knees and it's easier to sit in a broad low slung chair.

Part Three - The Accessories

This is a two part thing - Items you need for the shoot and items for in between.

During the shoot, be sure to have a basket with candy. Nothing attracts reluctant children like sweets.  Choose a nice sturdy basket with a high handle. You can rest your heavy head on it between kids. Also grab a big fluffy bunny toy. It's handy for dancing in front of children like a puppet, waggling in front of babies to get their attention and for squeezing tightly when you would otherwise be choking the life out of a parent. tee-hee.

Also bring a towel or two - you'll get sweaty. A Good supply of water in a bottle that can be opened with mitten-paw hands and I carried dryer sheets with me to stuff in the suit between shoots to stave off the funk of forty thousand years that resided in the thing. And the stinky babies. Make sure the location has set up a cordoned off place to go for brief breathers too - somewhere where the kiddos can't see you.

Part Four - Be The Bunny
This is really the most important part, in truth. You can wear a crappy mask, street clothes and fuzzy socks on your hands and kids will still buy it if you are convincing acting enough. Number one - The Easter Bunny doesn't talk... I'm not sure why this is... I know rabbits don't speak generally, but they don't hide eggs in houses either. Movie EB's talk... I'm guessing that they're mute because it's one of those characters that both men and women play and unlike Santa, who generally at least has a masculine voice, so it would take away some of the illusion for a kid to see two bunnies with radically different voices... Which doesn't explain the wide range of appearances, but whatever. At any rate, EB is generally mute. This is a plus and a minus - It's nice to not have to have conversations with people or answer awkward questions but communication is also very difficult.

You have to over-act everything. If you shrug, that shrug has to be a good 5 inches if you look at a kid, you have to turn your whole body so he can tell you're looking at him. move your whole arm, not just your hand. High fives, thumbs ups and hand shaking goes a long way to gaining a kids confidence. It's almost like being a hot, sweaty, miserable mime.

heck's sake, act like a bunny - hop or skip, hold a basket in front of you, snuffle at things... don't just stomp to the corner and strip away the hellish helmet. Regardless of what you think, kids will notice. also... hula hooping is almost impossible, but it gets a great reaction.
Part Five - The Kids

It's no secret that I am not a kid- person. Don't have any, don't want any, don't particularly enjoy most of them for more than a minute or two. So I was surprised what a kick I got out of some of my.. attendees? Victims? Subjects? I have no idea what they call a person that gets their picture taken with a stranger in a mask that offers them candy.  Anyway, the Easter Bunny in particular is an odd beast. There's only a very limited age group that really believes in him and about half of them are terrified of him. Too young and they have no idea what to think - those ones are about 50/50 screamers, I think. Too old and they immediately know it's some sap in a suit. Even if they couldn't see my socks and a healthy amount of bare calf, they could see the shadowy form of my glasses through the mesh eyes.

Yet, inexplicably, their parents make them get their picture taken. I don't get this, but if a sullen tween sitting on the lap of a sweaty bored thirty year old is what you want, you got it!

I will say that I loved that perfect age group though, both the screamers and the believers, The screamers were just so terrified... it was a primal, red faced, gasping horror that you never see outside of moments like that and it was surprisingly... dare I say gratifying? And the level of amusement on parent's faces as their children went into paralyzed shock then sobbing hyperventilating at the sight of my goofy self was the icing on the cake.
And the believers were just as great. Little girls faces lighting up with wonder and little boys drawing me pictures. I had one little girl come running over and give me a hug, her head making an audible hollow clonk against my fake noggin that really believed in me 100% and a little boy that I finally won over after 5 minutes of waving from across the store that left convinced the Easter Bunny was real.

Don't give up on kids either. I had more than a few that refused to come over initially, but after watching four or five other kids be unafraid, or having their mom take a picture with me or simply waving to them between photos when they didn't think I was watching, finally join me for a photo.

That said, I also likely gave two kids a complex they may never outgrow when I snuck up on them in an aisle after they refused to come over....
Part Six - Conclusion

I did not enjoy playing the Bunny. In the end it was humiliating and painful and boring and generally pointless. But if you have the chance, give it a try. I think if it had been planned better and I'd had a better suit, it could have been a really fun experience. 



1 comment:

randymeiss said...

Oh my goodness Kris, I'm sorry. That takes the words, "above and beyond the call of duty" to a whole new level. My hat's off to you sir for making the best of a deplorable situation. Too bad about the costume. If they could have at least got you something that fit and actually looked like an Easter Bunny.

Hope you still manage to have a good Easter anyway.