Walking, talking, life-sized cartoon characters are a hit with children and adults.

Ever wondered what it means to get into the shoes of Tom, Jerry, a Smurf or Po the panda?

Muscat Daily caught up with with these friendly characters at Muscat Festival.

“It is a fun job which helps me earn my pocket money. Besides, I play my favourite character Jerry, who is very naughty. I get a lot of hugs from children. I like what I am doing, but it is a bit tiring too,” says 12 year old Azan al Balushi, stretching out his legs during the break.

With working hours from 4pm to 11pm, these children were selected on the basis of their built, said one of the festival supervisors. The chosen candidates undergo two months of training before they get to live their characters.

“The selection process begins three months before the festival. From the over 150 applications we receive every year, we have to choose 30 boys for each venue,” says Habib al Belushi, who has been selecting candidates for the past three years.

This year, a group of boys aged between 12 and 19 years from several schools were shortlisted to play 13 cartoon characters and three clowns, he said.

The dressed-up boys are required to walk around the park for at least 45 minutes depending on the number of visitors. The duration can increase if there are more visitors.

Sixteen year old Osama Balushi who dresses up as Tom the cat has a grouse though. The teenager gets to shake hands with a lot of girls, but cannot talk to them, he jokes. “The most difficult part of this job is that we are not allowed to talk to anyone when we are dressed up. But I love it when I get hugs and handshakes from girls as well. I would really like to talk to them, but that is not possible.”

Meanwhile, 18 year old Amir al Belushi who is dressed as Po the panda from Kung Fu Panda, says there are times when he loses his cool. “It feels good when everyone wants to get a picture taken with you, but I have a difficult time keeping my temper in check when children try to wrestle and fight with me, thinking of me as the actual Po. I love Kung Fu Panda and always wanted to be Po,” he says. This is his dream come true, some pesky kids notwithstanding.