"Wienie - Walt's (Disney) playful term for a visual element that could be used to draw people into and around a space. A wienie is big enough to be seen from a distance and interesting enough to make you want to take a closer look." -- The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland by The Imagineers.
Observe a dog show and you will see the handlers using small pieces of food, like a hot dog slice, to attract and direct the dog's attention. I believe that might be the inspiration for Walt Disney's term.
A wienie is important if you do any type of strolling entertainment. You want to attract the attention of the passing public and interest them in coming closer to see what you are doing.
Costuming is an important wienie for clowns. It should attract attention from a distance but be interesting enough without being overwhelming to draw people closer. An example is my tattered clown pants. The tatters are grouped by color so from a distance they form distinct splotches. However, there is enough variety in shade and texture of individual pieces that people want to see my pants closer. Much of my costume is designed to be seen from a distance but with interesting details when seen close up. For example, I wear a plastic name badge that says "Charlie" right side up and "The Juggler" upside down. It has a single pin back so it can be rotated. People don't notice what the badge says until they get close to me. People frequently comment on it during one-on-one interactions, and kids sometimes spend several minutes trying to direct me on how to turn my badge so it is correct.
I spent several years as a street performer at Ports o' Call, a themed shopping center tourist attraction in the Los Angeles harbor. I found that having a wienie was very important in that setting. One that I used was a large pirate treasure chest that held all of my props. The chest itself looked interesting. I covered the inside of the lid with interesting things like a picture of a Holy Mackerel, a painting of a fish with holes through it, and a sign with a red X that said, "You are here. You can't get there."
I found that two routines worked well as wienies when I was street performing. One was to juggle hand bells. It looked interesting and the noise helped attract attention. The other wienie routine was plate spinning because the sticks raised the props above the heads of the crowd attracting attention and people would come closer to see what was happening. The worst thing to do was to stand there doing nothing.
When I work as a strolling magician, I find that the best wienie is somebody watching me while I am doing something. Then other people will stop to see what has attracted the first person. Stopping that first person is the biggest challenge. I have found that often a non-magical activity works best, for example twisting a napkin rose for a woman. Because I have practiced it enough to do it very rapidly it is visually intriguing. Also, if I give a paper rose to one woman in a group, the others will stop and wait for me to make one for them as well. There is a page on my web site, excerpted from Creativity For Entertainers Volume Three, with directions for making a paper rose, an origami flower pot for the rose, and a napkin turtle.
Trick cartoons also work effectively for me as a wienie. Again it is something that I can do very quickly that arouses curiosity. When one person stops to see what I am doing, others quickly join them. Soon I have a nice audience and I can segue into performing sleight of hand magic. I have a lecture note booklet on performing trick cartoons. You will find information on that on the publications page of my web site.
A wienie can be an important concept in stage performances as well. For example, I have a circus tent backdrop and a small circus wagon that I use sometimes. When the audience sees them their attention is drawn to the stage and they know something fun is going to happen in that space.
What wienie can you use? What elements of your performance can be seen from a distance? What details are intriguing enough to make people want to come closer? In a strolling or street atmosphere, how can you attract the attention of the first person and make them want to stop?