Just about every kid from Canada, the U.S. and all the way to Australia would love to be a Disney Channel star. Most kids watch the shows and say “I can do that too”, and maybe they can.
Scammers everywhere know this and have created scams that play on those dreams. They run ads online, in papers and on the radio aimed at getting these people to attend their events in an attempt to separate them from their money.
Is it legal? Yes. Here’s why.
You are driving with your kids and a radio ad comes on saying “Does your child want to be a Disney Channel Star? Auditions are being held this weekend. Call some number and book your slot”.
What you hear in the quick 30 second sales pitch is “Disney Channel Audition”. What they actually said was “Does your child want to be a Disney Star?” They never actually say that this is an audition for Disney. None of these so called auditions are affiliated with the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. They are held in places far from the actual Disney Studios in Burbank.
It is a classic ‘bait and switch’ sales tactic. They lure people to these events dropping the Disney brand. After people call the number, they are given a time and place to go. They make it sound very real by telling the parents to bring photos and to dress up as if to meet real casting directors. Some of these groups go as far as booking convention rooms at Disneyland resorts or hotels just to make it look more legit and connected with Disney.
These events draw thousands of hopefuls and once there the entire room gets a sales pitch of how their children can be rich and famous. Each family will meet with a sales person who will use a title like ‘talent scout’ or something that sounds meaningful in Hollywood. The sales person (‘talent scout’, ‘casting agent’, ‘talent director’, ‘whatever’) will then take the child in for an ‘evaluation’. To make it look more legit they may have the child read a few lines, pose, or do something to demonstrate their talent. They will go on and explain that only a small percentage of children are good enough for them and miraculously, your child is perfect, except… for a lack of training, a portfolio and whatever else they would like to sell you.
This is where the hard pitch begins. They tell you that your child has all the potential to be the next big Disney star, but only if they take some very expensive acting classes from them, buy an expensive portfolio, or a number of other services they are trying to push. They never come out and actually say they “are casting for Disney” because that would be fraud. But they play on words to make you believe that they are somehow affiliated with Disney or Nickelodeon. They often drop Disney star names and even pay ex Disney stars to attend these events.
The cost? thousands. How much they tell you it will cost depends on how much money they think you have. People have reported being asked to pay $2000 to $8000 at the same event for the same services.
Why the price discrepancy? Because the so called “talent scouts” are nothing more than commissioned sales people who wouldn’t know talent if it fell on their heads. They make their living off commissions from sales, they push whatever they think you are willing or capable of paying so they make something off of you… the sucker. These commissioned sales people masquerading as “talent scouts” can make as much as 40% of the sale, so getting you to sign a $5000 contract puts $2000 in their personal pocket.
These one-on-one evaluations are usually nothing more than the sales people evaluating the parents for financial means. They look at the clothes the parents are wearing and other factors to decide which package to try to sell.
Just like other hard sales pitches, they add a time constraint. They try to get you to make a decision on the spot by claiming that this opportunity will go to another kid if you do not do it NOW! Why the time constraint? Simple, they do not want you to go home and think about it, ask your friends or do your research.
These scams work well for the scammers. If only 50 people of the 1000 actually go for it, that is a 1 day profit of over $100,000 for them… not bad. Once they hooked you in and you actually pay for whatever inferior service they are pitching, they have a entire line up of other services to sell you later. Some people have complained that they were out over $30,000 over this. These companies also have solid contracts that make it difficult to cancel or get a refund after you have signed up.
Once they get the first payment, you feel invested and they make you feel like paying for this, that and the other will make your kid a star.
Disney Channel never runs ads on the radio or ads of any kind for sites other then their own websites. Recently, Disney lawyers even got involved after numerous consumer complaints but there are just too many companies doing this and their lawyers can’t go after them all. Even if they get shut down, they re-open right away under a different name.
Real auditions for Disney Channel never have any fees! They will never sell classes, conventions or make promises of fame and fortune. There are millions of kids with dreams of Disney stardom, the reality is that there is only room for a handful in the few Disney shows airing.
If your child wants to act, stay away from anyone promising a fast track to fame – THERE IS NONE, unless you are related to Hollywood producers or Will Smith. Get your kids some reasonably priced acting classes to start and take it from there.
you can also read these articles http://sethkoenig.bangordailynews.com/2012/01/06/whats-happening/attorney-general-warns-about-supposed-disney-auditions-in-portland/
In Florida, where many of these are held, a Disney Channel spokesman had this to say…
“Disney Channel is not affiliated with any acting school or acting workshop, and has not authorized a talent search in Jacksonville, Florida,” said Patti McTeague.
“Disney hires talent two ways, through agents or an authorized casting call,” she added.
Officials also had this to say “Disney Channel television movies cast principal roles in Los Angeles, usually from within the Disney ranks” – what that means is they cast actors they have already worked with for leads in new shows.
You can also read Disney Auditions on the Radio