I have been asked the same question, over, and over again, “What about the upcoming Disney auditions I heard about on the radio?”. “Is it Real, legit or a scam?”
So let me answer that question here
Disney does NOT advertise for auditions in random towns across America. Disney only holds one annual open casting call a year and that’s it. They do not drive across the country looking for talent and they do not buy radio advertisements for the one official open casting call. Disney has made numerous statements about how they are in no way connected to any of these companies that claim to offer auditions for Disney.
So if it’s not really Disney, then what is it?
A sales pitch! The companies that advertise for what sounds like Disney and Nick auditions are actually trying to sell their services such as classes, photos, portfolios, convention events and website memberships. I say sounds like because if you listen to the ads carefully you will notice that they never actually tell you the audition is for a Disney show or project.
They use carefully worded ads that mention Disney and Nickelodeon. The ads say something like “Does your child want to be a star on Disney Channel?” …. “Auditions for new child talent are this weekend, call us now to reserve your audition slot”, or something along that line. The ad is worded in a way to mislead you into thinking that these really are auditions for Disney.
So what is the audition actually for?
Nothing, there are no REAL auditions. The sales pitch is meant to mislead parents into thinking their children are trying out for something. At the meeting, they will have your child read a few lines and they then tell you they will call you if you are selected.
Inside Edition did a piece on this same issue and interviewed the companies employee. Here is what she said the auditions were for. “It’s a sad joke,” says Connie Greene, who worked for (removed) in 2009. She says they decide who gets a callback based on the parent’s ability to pay.
“We looked at jewelry, we looked at the shoes you wore, we looked at your clothing. It had nothing to do with talent, it had to do with, could they pay for the school.” She also added “This is a child’s dream you’re playing with. He’s getting rich and fat over it. Do the right thing, which is tell the truth, announce it the way it really is. Don’t put it as Disney because Disney has nothing to do with it.”
So basically the entire audition has nothing to do with the child or the lines the kid is reading. They are more interested in what the parents are wearing and ability to pay.
Here comes the callback
You get the call back and they love your kid and would like to work with you. At this point they want to make you feel like your child was one of very few selected for this wonderful opportunity. At some point they will tell you that your child is great but needs to take some classes, attend a convention or whatever it is that they are selling. The fees they want are in the thousands and they hope that they got you and your family so excited about your child becoming a star that you lose your common sense and reason, reach for your credit card and sign on the dotted line.
What about the claim that they will have people there that work with Disney?
That claim is meaningless. Disney is a huge entertainment company that owns many other companies. 100’000 of people have worked with Disney in some way. Just because someone has worked for Disney or previously even acted on a Disney show does not mean they have any power to cast anyone. The companies that sell these services actually pay people to attend their sales meetings and they pay for endorsements. Unfortunately, many of these people just show up for the paycheck and never do any research into who they are endorsing. For more on that, you can read the Inside Edition article.
So is this a scam?
No, not really. It is deceptive but not illegal. This is just a hard sales pitch kinda like what they do at timeshare sales seminars. Many sales pitches use bait and switch tactics, this is one of them. They name drop Disney and Nick to get you in the door, after you’re there, you probably will never hear the Disney name used again.
These companies get away with it because they know ALL parents think their children are talented and most children would love to be Disney stars. They play on those those emotions and use them to sell things most people never wanted or needed. Would you have gone down to meet with them if the ad said “Come on down and enroll your kid in our mediocre classes for the very low price of $7000 a week”?… probably not.
However, they do mislead parents and because they are misleading, some parents have been able to get their money back. In some states, the State Attorney got involved and some parents have filed lawsuits and won. You can read the warning from Portland Attorney General.