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Cartoon Culture

“I don’t have SpongeBob. I have SquishyGuy.”

Bill Presing

There was a funny story in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (link to article on another site) about how companies that provide costumed characters for birthday parties are finding creative ways of bypassing trademark laws and creating new characters that look almost like their famous counterparts. So SpongeBob is now “SquishyGuy” and Elmo is “Big Red Tickle Monster.” According to the article, the results aren’t always entirely successful:

Miriam Sorkin, an office manager in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., threw a fourth-birthday party for her daughter in May and arranged for a costumed impersonator of Dora the Explorer. Though the walk-about “Dora” had the expected pageboy haircut and backpack, her expression was blank and her legs appeared out of proportion to the rest of her body. “When Dora came out,” Mrs. Sorkin says, “none of the kids would go to Dora, including my daughter, and a few of the kids started crying.”

  • Why do kids like people in costumes? Even when I was a tot I knew it was someone in a costume and I wanted no part of their friendship.

  • FP

    The DORA in the photo looks like that guy in the finale of ROBOCOP who got his skin melted off. Look at the arms!

  • Ron

    I did this as a summer job when I was a teenager. They once put me in an “everyone’s favorite purple dinosaur” costume (aka Barney) but the legs were too short and you could see my feet. Kind of ruined the illusion for most kids to see Barney walking around with human feet wearing sandals.

  • Kyle

    When I was a lil kid I was brought to this flee market or something where I was told Barney would be there. I was so excited, untill I got there and saw that this was no barney, it was some mutated impersonator of him. he was a very dark purple, no green spots, scarey beedy eyes and a haunting grin. My mom forced me to get a pic with him and of course I played along and smiled for the picture, but I cant see that pic now without remembering how frustrated I was at that moment. haha

    Moral of the story: Kids arent stupid! they know when something’s just plain off about their favorite characters.

  • That costume is the stuff of nightmares *shudders*

  • Ron

    Oh so that was YOU Kyle. Seems like just yesterday. (haha)


    Not Dora the Explorer but an incredible simulation!

  • Dora’s mouth placement disturbs me, not to mention the loose skin on her arms. No wonder people have nightmares, I dream about chocolate :D

  • Keith Paynter

    So they’ll go after the overblown birthday parties but they don’t bother with the “wanna-be”‘s in bad superhereo costumes on the streets of L.A. & Hollywood who try to make a few bucks (or a possible living) posing with tourists on the street?

  • Susana

    haha, that’s really funny :P

    and yeaah, that Dora impersonator is actually pretty creepy!!!

  • Christopher Cook

    In 1982 while working at McDonald’s, I was asked to dress up in a Hamburglar costume for a kids’ party. It was an authentically licensed and crafted outfit, and instead of bouncing around waving like a Krofft character, I hammed it up. I had a smart-aleck kid who said “You oughta be in jail!” (to which I retorted, “The feeling is mutual!”), one kid who was scared, so his mom asked me to take off the mask to show there was an actual human inside.

    But it was all worth it when this sweet little six-year-old girl just clung to me as if I was a celebrity to her. She was telling me about what she likes to do, how her brother was recuperating from bee stings, and after all was over, she kissed me. Maybe she knew that there was someone inside the constume; maybe she thought Hamburglar was real. Who knows? To me it was a magical moment.

  • FP

    …the “wanna-be”’s in bad superhereo costumes on the streets of L.A. & Hollywood…

    Watch CONFESSIONS OF A SUPERHERO for more about that. It’s painful freakshow fun.

  • Ben

    “So they’ll go after the overblown birthday parties but they don’t bother with the “wanna-be”’s in bad superhereo costumes on the streets of L.A. & Hollywood who try to make a few bucks (or a possible living) posing with tourists on the street?”

    They have cracked down on them a few times, and there have been pictures in the papers with elmo & company being arrested. Kind of funny, actually.

  • “Peter Parker”

    I was actually employed at one time by Marvel Comics as an “official” Spiderman (and as an occasional Hulk and Cpt. America). I’d make appearances at different venues around the country, military bases, etc.

    Even though the costume/character was officially licensed, it still wasn’t on par with what you’d see Toby Maguire wearing in the movie.

    Despite this fact, most children were still thrilled to see their hero. I can vouch for Christopher Cook’s sentiments:

    Sometimes a silly costume-wearing job was, indeed, magical.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Reminds me of the time I had to wear a Little Caesar’s outfit to pimp whatever deal they had at the store with a costume that was too short for me to wear. I don’t know how I’ve gotten through those long summers!

  • John A

    Maybe the children were crying because they mistook the giant Dora costume for Rosie O’Donnel.

  • The real “trying to kinda look real but are still fake” entities are pinatas!! I love looking at the offbeat variances that you totally know who they are, but they look all abstractly rearranged..so we KNOW it’s Kung Fu Panda or Dora but they’re fascinatingly deformed as they get smacked and beaten with sticks. I think it would be great to have an art installation where it’s nothing but deformed pinatas of Batman, The Joker, Diego, etc. Hang them all from the ceiling at various heights…