31/01/98 - Scooby's life not all happy snaps

Author: RICHARD JINMAN
Date: 31/01/1998
Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Page: 4

Scooby Dooby Doo, what sex are you? Circled by laughing teenagers at Australia's Wonderland theme park, Scooby stayed in character and refused to comment.

"Are you a girl or a boy?" the teenagers persisted. One pretended to poke the Great Dane's plastic eyes with her fingers as another hunkered down for a mock fight. Life as a theme park character isn't all hugs and happy snaps, it seems.

The heat, the tiredness and being loved to death by excited toddlers used to be the main dangers. Now, the growing number of teenagers drawn to "white-knuckle rides" in theme parks may mean that a knee to the groin or a blow to the fibreglass head is not unknown to the men and women who do "suit-work".

Mr Andrew Illingworth, the show and entertainment manager at Warner Bros Movie World on the Gold Coast, said the safety of theme park characters was a hot topic at the recent International Amusement Parks Association meeting in Florida.

"We are getting groups of mid-teens and they really see it as a chance to pick on Daffy Duck," he said. "It might be just an elbow to the head as they run past, but they forget there's a person inside."

Mr Illingworth said his mainly female team had avoided serious injury but two were off work with neck injuries caused by people pulling their heads.

Cherie Moore, 21, who plays Scooby Doo, said having a chaperone was vital.

"The first thing is to get the character to a safe area, with their back to a wall," she said.