“I think ‘niche’ is the word I’m looking for,” said Kim Lech, describing her line of work.
A 22-year-old from Sweden, Lech has been working as a costume character artist for four years. She’s portrayed world-famous personalities like Spongebob and the Smurfs at events, and spends her days making kids smile as a friendly rabbit at Liseberg, a popular Swedish amusement park.
The job requires spending time inside a cramped, cumbersome suit even in summer heat, not to mention the ability to remain calm when surrounded by a gaggle of kids all seeking your attention.
While Lech is toying with plans of pursuing graphic design somewhere down the line, she said she’s already working her dream job.
“I’m really proud to be part of it,” she said.
Lech got her first job as a costume character artist when a production company needed someone her height at the last minute for an event in Norway.
She then began working at Liseberg, a well-known amusement park in Sweden that attracts tourists from across Europe, appearing in costume in a section of the park called Rabbitland.
'Working at this particular park has been my dream since I was a kid,' she said. 'And back then it didn't really matter what department I worked at, but now I work at the best one imaginable.'
The audition and interview process for costume character performers consisted of improv games and team-building activities.
Once hired, her team focused on building the characters they'd be playing - how they walk and wave, or if they have signature movements. They also emphasised the importance of giving kids the best possible experience when they meet one of the friendly bunnies.
'When we do training, they tell us, 'You're not the one to let go - they are. Hug them as long as they need,'' she said.
Liseberg's Rabbitland has five main characters: a magician, a baker, an athlete, an adventurer who loves to regale park-goers with stories, and a handy rabbit who uses a wheelchair. (Lech is the rabbit in stripes.)
'We get a lot of disabled kids who come visit us, and then they see a bunny in a wheelchair so they're like 'OK, bunnies are in wheelchairs, as well. It's the same as me,'' Lech said. 'That character is the one who built that whole area of that park, she fixes things and built her own electrical wheelchair - that's the story we tell the kids.'
Not all children take well to meeting giant rabbits, but Lech (pictured in costume, right) takes it in stride.
'If they are scared, I just try and be calm and use slow movements,' she said. 'We always have a person with us that can talk them through - 'Do you want to pet them on the foot? Feel, it's really soft! It's the nicest rabbit in the whole park!' Sometimes they just run and scream, and then we walk the other way.'
The biggest misconception people have about what she does, said Lech, is that 'they think it's an easy job. I don't think they realise how much energy it takes off you.'
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