MASCOT ACTING TIPS
So you’re the new mascot performer? Congratulations! The first step to being a great mascot performer is WANTING to be a great mascot performer. “Mascotting” as the pros call it, is a very rare art form. It’s part actor, athlete, mime, clown, comedian, improvisor, stunt man, and more. It’s not just about putting on a costume, it’s about developing a character and portraying that character the entire time.
Being a good mascot performer starts before you even put the costume on. Your character should have a back story. Where did he/she come from? How did he/she get to your town? How did he/she end up as the mascot for your team/school/business? Try filling out a character outline form. Here is one for fiction writers and here is one for actors.
Also come up with a biography that includes the character’s favorite song, book, movie, color, food, etc. You can read the Tampa Bay Rays mascot bio HERE and the Houston Astros mascot bio HERE . Use these character traits to establish your mascot’s personality. The personality will dictate how the mascot reacts in certain situations.
Now that you’ve covered the “heady” stuff, it’s time to get physical. If you’re new to being a mascot, it’s best to try on parts of the costume and get used to them before doing an appearance.
You can also read our blog entry on "Writing your mascot's biography" HERE
First try on the head. Get accustomed to your range of vision and be aware of where the eyes are on the costume. If you see out of the mouth that means that when you are looking directly at a person, the character’s eyes are not directed at the person, but rather up in the sky. Practice “projecting down” where you are not looking at the person, but the character’s eyes are. This will take practice. If the character sees out of the eyes, then you don’t have to worry!
Also get used to breathing with the head on. Some heads have better ventilation than others. By trying it out beforehand you’ll know your limitations due to heat. Walk around with the head on. Figure out your blind spots, they are usually to your side and below you. If you have a big nose, get used to cautiously turned your head. You can easily knock into someone’s face if you turn your head too suddenly.
Next, take off the head and try on the feet/shoes. Mascot shoes come in different sizes. Some are large while others are the size of normal sneakers. Walk around in them to get used to the weight and their length. Tripping in costume is a real concern. Practice walking up and down stairs if possible as mascots often have to take the stairs.
Once comfortable in the shoes, try on the hands. Hands can be over sized, padded, and have 4 fingers instead of 5. Some are built on baseball/movers gloves and have 5 fingers. Others are “mitten” style and have no fingers. Get used to picking things up and see if you can hold a pen to sign autographs. Some characters have fingers that are too chubby to hold pens or pick anything up. It’s good to know this beforehand so you don’t attempt to sign something and end up getting ink all over the costume hands.
Take off the hands and feet and try on the body. See how it fits you and if it has any limitations. Can you get down on one knee? Can you sit down and get back up? If you can do physical tricks (gymnastics/tumbling, dance, unicycle, etc.) try them out with just the body and see what your range of motion is.
After trying out the pieces individually, it’s time to put it all together. Get in costume and check yourself out in front of a mirror. Watch how your in costume movements translate through the costume. Since you’re now covered up, you need to make sure to EXAGGERATE your movements. Make your actions BIG so people can see them from a distance. Practice in the costume. Put on some music and dance to it. Pretend you’re at a game an react to common situations like: we just scored, the batter struck out, we lost the game, we won the game, etc. If possible record yourself and review the footage. Watching footage of yourself is one of the best ways to improve.
Also watch footage of other mascots so you can get ideas on things to do. Try mimicing their moves. Eventuially you will start to create signature move of your own!