A Brief History of Cosplay
To many, it may seem like the world of cosplay has only taken off recently, with conventions and practitioners of the art now getting much more publicity than has ever been the case before. However, those who study the subject closely will know that cosplay has, in fact, been around for a pretty long time.
According to Yahoo Movies, the first known instance of someone attending a convention in a purpose-made costume was way back in 1939, when the renowned sci-fi buff Forrest J. Ackerman went to the first ever World Science Fiction Convention (‘Worldcon’) in a ‘futuristicostume’ designed by his friend, Myrtle Douglas, AKA Morojo (who is described in this fascinating Racked article as ‘the woman who invented cosplay’).
Cosplay continued in various unofficial forms for decades after this, culminating in the inaugural Costume-Con, which took place in San Diego in 1983. It was not until the following year, however, that it was first referred to in the terms we know it today, when Takahaski Nobuyuki – a Japanese manga publisher and reporter – used the word ‘cosplay’ following a trip to 1984’s Worldcon and urged others to get involved in the pursuit.
Fast forward thirty-plus years, and cosplay is now a huge part of countless people’s lives the world over. No longer just the realm of sci-fi and manga fans, it has spread across the globe to attract followers of all manner of films, TV series, comic books and more; nowadays, cosplayers are just as likely to buy Florida Disney tickets as they are passes to the World Cosplay Summit, with many solo cosplayers, groups of friends and even entire families attending their favourite attractions together in costume to pay tribute to their fictional heroes.
Cosplay has now become a vital part of our mainstream fan culture, with new costumes and ideas regularly featured in serious fashion magazines, websites and TV programmes. In 2013, a reality television competition called Heroes of Cosplay was even launched on the American Syfy channel, attracting 750,000 viewers upon premiere (although, as this article makes clear, reaction to the format wasn’t exactly universally positive).
And of course, like everything else in 2016, social media has had a huge impact on the cosplaying community. As you’ll find out in this article, platforms like Instagram and Facebook have allowed people to connect with like-minded individuals who may be thousands of miles away but share exactly the same passion, and the results of their collaborations can be astounding!
The Art of Disney Cosplay
One of the most interesting and popular forms of cosplay has its roots in the happiest place on Earth – Walt Disney World!
It’s a pretty rare occurrence to meet someone who doesn’t have a favourite Disney film; from Snow White and Cinderella to Beauty and the Beast and the Little Mermaid, our childhoods were shaped by so many of the moments and characters contained in these classic movies. And for many of us, our love for Disney didn’t suddenly stop as soon as we reached adulthood.
Disney’s finest characters are immortal and continue to entertain and inspire people of all ages, even decades after they were first created, so it’s no surprise that thousands harbour dreams to become the characters they have idolised for years.
Cosplay makes this possible, and we have spoken to a couple of the very best Disney cosplayers about why they do it, why they use the photo platform of their choice, and to hear any advice they may have for anyone who really wants to get into this growing art form but doesn’t know where to start.
Briar Rose Cosplay is the project of Megan McMinn, who has amassed a loyal band of followers since she began cosplaying in 2014, having been inspired by the character Elsa from Disney’s phenomenally successful Frozen.
Megan told us that ‘cosplay has allowed me to live out so many of the childhood fantasies that up until a few years ago I thought were impossible.’
Briar Rose Cosplay’s Facebook page features a wide range of Disney cosplay examples of the highest order, including Princess Aurora, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and others. Megan explains that ‘transforming myself into my favourite Disney characters for the day, adopting their mannerisms, and interacting with children and adult fans alike is downright magical.’
When it comes to where Megan likes to showcase her work, she says that ‘Facebook is my favourite platform for interacting with other Disney cosplayers. The Disney cosplay community is very active, and there are countless groups and pages where you can seek out inspiration and advice. I’ve found it’s the best place to engage in proper discussion and connect with people whose work I admire.’
Megan is keen to stress what an excellent pastime Disney cosplay is for being introduced to others who share the same interest, and reckons that Facebook, even more than Instagram and Twitter, is the perfect platform for this: ‘I’ve made some wonderful friends through cosplay, particularly in the Disney community, and since we live all over the place it’s great to have a place where we can keep up with one another’s projects and stay in touch between conventions and events’.
In terms of tips for all those budding cosplayers out there, Briar Rose believes that you should not try to run before you can walk. ‘My advice for anyone who is tempted to get into cosplay would be to start small, especially if you intend to make your own costumes’, says Megan. ‘Nowadays I feel most at home in a ballgown, and the prospect of making bigger, more intricate costumes is less daunting. However, when I attended my first comic con I kept things simple with Aurora’s ‘Briar Rose’ peasant dress and Ariel’s blue town dress.’
Although Briar Rose Cosplay is one of the best Disney cosplay accounts out there, there are many others which can be perused for ideas, not just on Facebook but across social media; Megan agrees that doing your research is a great way of boosting both your knowledge and your confidence. ‘I’d definitely advise you to follow lots of cosplayers on Facebook and Instagram for inspiration, and if you see someone at an event wearing a costume you love, don’t be afraid to go up to them and ask them a little about it’.
We also spoke to Liechee, who has several online cosplay accounts but whose preferred platform is Instagram. Liechee, who has almost 17,000 followers on Instagram (as well as over 42,000 likes on Facebook) is based in Germany and specialises not just in Disney but also manga and other cosplay genres.
Liechee told us that her main reason for choosing Instagram as her social network of choice is simply because it ‘has a lot of Disney fans’. Like Briar Rose, Liechee believes that cosplay is a fantastic way of finding like-minded people, and that social media is perfect if you also want to see how others are making their own art in this constantly evolving world. ‘I always have lots of inspiring Disney-related art (be it cosplay or drawings) on my timeline – much more so than on other social media platforms. I think this is one of the best ways to get in touch with other Disney fans!’
The Best of the Rest
Of course, there are hundreds – maybe even thousands – of other active Disney cosplayers out there, all of whom have their own style and ideas about how best to interpret the appearance and mannerisms of their most loved characters. Unfortunately, there would never be enough space here for us to list them all, so we’ve picked out a couple of our favourites below who you can discover further at your leisure:
Nephi is a professional couture fashion designer who specialises in bridal, evening and cocktail wear – and not forgetting Disney cosplay! Together with his whole family (wife Bethanie and their children), Nephi posts pictures of them wearing the most immaculately designed Disney costumes imaginable.
With the real name of Richard Shaefer, TheOfficialAriel has perhaps done more than any other cosplayer when it comes to challenging the stereotype of the traditional Disney princess wannabe. Richard decided to fight back after being bullied at school for having an androgynous appearance by taking up cosplay, which has now led to him having over 230,000 Instagram followers. Some of Richard’s best creations include Cinderella, Jasmine, Belle and, of course, Ariel.
A singer and actress as well as cosplayer, Joanna has nearly 65,000 Instagram followers and over 10,000 Facebook likes. Her highly professional photoshoots include depictions of many different characters from the world of entertainment, and Disney clearly ranks highly on her list of interests – check out her amazing Snow White, Cinderella and Elsa cosplays!
So, if you’re planning on visiting Walt Disney World when you next enjoy a trip to the many Florida parks that make the state such a perfect family holiday destination, take a little time to consider just how much passion the characters who live in the Magic Kingdom continue to inspire in fans of all ages throughout the world. And who knows? Maybe after seeing them in the flesh, you too will be persuaded to take the plunge and get involved in the magical world of cosplay!
Want to experience the Disney magic for yourself? Click here, to view our Walt Disney World tickets.
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