Disney Acting vs. Real Acting

After sitting behind the audition table for several years and hundreds if not thousands of auditions, I’ve started to notice that the acting style young people present usually falls into one of three categories:

1) Realistic Acting – It is rare to see realistic actors in high school auditions, but those who do present their material in a direct, realistic way usually get in.

2) I’m terrified – These are usually the students who have had no guidance on acting and are not really thrilled by the thought of standing in front of a panel of strangers and performing an acting scene solo. These are becoming a little more rare than they used to be.

3) Over Acting – This category of actors has been exploding lately. They flail all over the place, they try to be funny, and their auditions are often embarrassing to watch.

One day my wife and I were flipping through TV channels and we stopped on the Disney channel and the Hannah Montana channel as a joke. But then we started to watch and we had a revelation, the actors we are seeing in auditions are mimicking the acting styles on Disney shows! To test our “hypothesis” we watched iCarly and more recently Jessie, and sure enough the acting is almost always over the top and ridiculous. Are these shows funny to teenagers? Obviously they must be or they wouldn’t be on the air. However, for most adults they are not funny and since adults are the audience you are auditioning for you need to consider what it means to be an adult/real actor.

I edited the following video to help you understand what we are seeing on the other side of the table and what we are looking for. The first clip is from “Jessie” and the second is from an HBO series called “The Newsroom.” I’ve placed notes at the bottom of each scene. I encourage you to watch it through a few times. First, take in the scenes as a viewer, then go back and pause the video to read the notes. After you’ve read all the notes, watch it a third time and see what other information you can gather on your own.

Wishing you all the best in your future auditions!




    1. Patrick: The second clip is the season opener for the “Newsroom” on HBO. I did note it in the last paragraph of the post, but I did notice it is not on the YouTube page, so I’ll add it there as well. Thanks for the feedback. – Matt

  1. Great post, and I agree about Disney acting, but in discussing the two (Disney v. Real) it’d be more fair to compare similar scenes. This Disney scene is clearly an upbeat and comical one and not only is Newsroom a more dramatic and adult show, but the scene used was also very serious. The contrast of the two would be more just and fair had (for example) a broadcast network sitcom been used instead. Not to defend Disney, but their serious scenes are actually a little less overacted. A little. We would’ve better seen and understood the subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences had there been a constant or a control base on which we’d used to compare- like target audience, type of show, or similar scene. However, I’m glad someone did a post on this and the point was definitely made.

  2. I like your choice of video clips to illustrate your point. I can clearly see the difference between the two styles of acting. I am going to be offering a drama class to children soon, and I was looking for examples of good acting. Thanks for sharing.

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