This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.
Character meet and greets – love them or hate them, they’re a pivotal part of a Walt Disney World vacation. I already waxed nostalgic on the magical memories that can be made at a character meet, and I encourage you to check out my first article (which focuses on Epcot) in the Character Meet and Greet portion of our Back to Basics series. For my second foray into the detailed world of characters and where they live, we’re headed off to the Animal Kingdom!
Animal Kingdom is not a park I traditionally associate with a large number of character meet and greets, but one major thing it has going for it is uniqueness. While you can find your traditional characters there (Mickey, Minnie, etc.) you can also find others who only appear in Animal Kingdom. In actuality, Animal Kingdom has a pretty solid line-up of characters! (I have no idea why I have some sort of mental block saying that Animal Kingdom isn’t prime real estate for characters – it is!) Before we start on the rundown of characters you can find here, let me give you some basic meet and greet tips. (Feel free to scroll past the following section if you read it in the Epcot article. Do I at least get bonus points for swapping out the photos?)
Basic Meet and Greet Info and Tips
Disney has a few disclaimers when it comes to their meet and greets, namely that they can change at any time. In reality, this usually only applies to the characters that don’t have an indoor home. For example, you’re pretty much always going to be able to meet Mickey and Minnie at the Adventurers Outpost on Discovery Island, but if it is raining or other unforeseen circumstances arise someone like Tarzan might have one or more of his appearances cancelled. Only once have I ever been told that a character wouldn’t be meeting for an entire day due to illness, so remember that even Fairy Godmothers can be under the weather!
Meet and greets are a lot of fun, but keep in mind that there are things you can do to make them even more memorable (and less awkward).
If you have kids, have the camera ready for the candid photos. Heck, if you’re a party of adults still have someone assigned to have the camera ready for the crazy interactions forthcoming. The posed ones are nice and all, but that moment that kids (and adults) are first interacting with a character can be gold!
Getting autographs can break the ice. If you or your child is shy, a great way to break the ice with a character is to have them sign something. I recommend not giving in to the autograph books that you buy in the parks – if it must be a book, make your own or order one from Etsy. They’re much nicer and much less likely to get tossed aside after the trip (especially if you leave in a spot to put photos next to the autographs!). Even better than having characters autograph books is having them autograph something unique. I’ve seen people getting autographs on t-shirts and photo mats, and I even made an easy pillowcase for my nephew that was his “autograph book.” (He still loves it!) I’m also insane enough to have created a custom character quilt top that I’m accumulating as many autographs on as possible. (Inspired, in fact, by this TouringPlans article about getting shoes autographed.) Truth be told, the sky is the limit here. Let your imagination run wild and you can come up with amazing ideas for character autographs!
Come up with questions for characters that relate back to their story. Whether you are the one meeting the character or you’re prepping your child for an interaction, a great exercise you can do while you’re waiting in line is thinking of funny questions or comments to make to a character based on their movie. For example, when I made Aurora’s quilt block I used her pink color scheme as the basis for it. When I asked for her signature I pointed out that I kept going back and forth between blue and pink and blue and pink, and she was quick to relate! (I kind of can’t wait until I meet Kylo Ren in the Star Wars Launch Bay so I can ask him if he wears a mask to hide his soulful eyes…) The more you interact with a character and are willing to “buy in” to their premise, the more animated of an interaction you’ll get. This goes for fur characters (Mickey, Pluto, etc.) and face characters (princes and princesses, etc.) Fur characters are great at pantomime, so don’t be put off asking them questions just because they can’t speak.
Enjoy yourself! My husband usually stands back and takes the photos during a character meet because he “feels awkward.” But I’ll tell you what, on our Christmas trip to Disney World he finally came out of his shell for our interaction with Rapunzel and Flynn Rider. I don’t know what it was, but I’m chatting it up with Rapunzel and all of the sudden he’s telling Flynn that he’s a better smolderer. Chaos and awesomeness ensued and after 5 minutes (seriously, it was a 5 minute interaction) we walked away from one of the most magical Disney experiences we’ve ever had. (Don’t worry – the other families waiting in line were laughing hysterically at our antics. That’s usually the case with great character meets!) All Anthony had to do was drop his guard and give in to the Disney. (Do it. You know you want to.)
Consider springing for Kenny the Pirate’s Character Locator App. What is this magical character locator app, you ask? It’s only the most efficient way to systematically attack character meet and greets! It’s not a traditional app that you can get from the app store – instead just visit his website and sign up for the service. The cost is $6.99 and it will allow you to access his app on your desktop, as well as including instructions for putting a link to his app on your phone. The app details every single character you can meet in all four parks, along with specific meeting times (GREAT for not having to continually consult a times guide), the best times to visit characters for the lowest lines, which characters meet in multiple parks (and the park with the shortest lines for that character), as well as specific tips on things to say to each character you meet. Remember my suggestion for coming up with questions or comments for characters? Kenny gives you awesome suggestions right in the character detail. I purchased his app when I started my crazy signature quilt obsession, and I can tell you that it would have been far more challenging to attempt that using a times guide. Kenny’s app will always default to show you the current or next meeting time for a character, which makes it a lot easier to determine where you should head next. Having used it extensively, I can wholeheartedly endorse it!
Although I organized my Epcot article by land and greet type, I’m going to take a slightly different approach here and simply organize the character meet and greets by land. I’ll let you know if the meet is continual, meaning that the characters are meeting throughout the day and the times guide doesn’t need to be consulted, or if it is intermittent, meaning their schedule is less consistent. When you’re interested in meeting a character that falls into the intermittent category, remember that many of these characters draw long waits, so it is worth to popping in line before the next scheduled meet. The worst thing that can happen is standing in a long line to meet a specific character only to be told that you’ll have to wait until their next window.
First thing in the morning at Animal Kingdom you can usually find Rafiki and/or Chip and Dale hanging out. And by first thing in the morning, I mean FIRST THING! This particular character meet doesn’t last past the first hour of the park’s operation, and it isn’t something I would necessarily go out of my way for. It is nice to hit if you happen upon it, but you can find Chip and Dale in multiple places throughout Disney World and Rafiki later on in Animal Kingdom.
Discovery Island is Animal Kingdom gold when it comes to character meet and greets. Granted, it is pretty spacious so you’ll probably be covering some serious ground, but it is worth making the rounds.
Pocahontas can be found at the Character Landing, which is near the bridge to DinoLand U.S.A. from the Discovery Island side. Even with a map and having met these characters before, I still sometimes get turned around at Animal Kingdom when looking for characters. Asking a cast member is almost always the most effective way to find characters that aren’t blatantly out in the open. Pocahontas meets intermittently, so check a times guide or Kenny’s app for her next meeting window.
Russell and Dug can also be found on Discovery Island, but they have a dedicated, covered structure right across from the Disney Outfitters. They also meet intermittently, so keep an eye on their times. I have to say, they are a blast to interact with! And in case anyone was wondering, Russell does have a sewing badge. Because those things are important.
Of course you can’t talk about amazing character meet and greets in any park without addressing the Big Cheese and his Lady Cheese – Mickey and Minnie. Animal Kingdom is the only park where they meet together, and here you have the advantage of a continual meet that offers FastPass+. I’ve never personally participated in this meet and greet, but it gets major points for offering an indoor, air-conditioned locale at the Adventurers Outpost (still on Discovery Island), as well as giving Mickey and Minnie some snazzy safari-esque outfits.
With Tarzan we’re back to intermittent meets on Discovery Island, and this one can be found between Pizzafari and the Island Mercantile. Tarzan is absolutely amazing, and I definitely had one of my all-time best character meets with him. It is certainly worth taking the time out of your schedule to meet this guy!
Last but not least, we have our final intermittent greet on Discovery Island in the form of Flik, the lovable ant from A Bug’s Life. You can find him across from Starbucks at the beginning of one of the paths of the Discovery Island Trails. Flik just recently started meeting (since my last trip, in fact), and I’m looking forward to getting the chance to meet him myself.
The lovable pair of Goofy and Pluto meet together at the gas station in DinoLand. I can’t classify their character meet as continual since they’re not meeting from park open to close, but it is pretty darn close. Usually it starts later in the morning (as of this writing it is listed as opening at 10:30 am) and can go as late as park close, or a little before. Check the times guide to be certain, but they are usually scheduled for the vast majority of the day.
Also meeting in DinoLand is everyone’s favorite short-tempered duck, Donald. He meets at the Cretaceous Trail, and his schedule is very similar to Goofy and Pluto’s, except that his almost day-long set usually starts about a half an hour prior to theirs and ends half an hour earlier.
Another unique Animal Kingdom character meet is that of Baloo and King Louie. Located at Upcountry Landing across from Flights of Wonder, you can learn all about the bear necessities while realizing that some characters want to be like you (ou-ou). This is a covered, permanent greet location, which is great for shade and ducking out of the rain, but it is also intermittent, so remember to check those times.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch
With a name like Rafiki’s Planet Watch, you have to know that you’ll find Rafiki hanging out here for most of the day! The great news is that since this character meet is located out in the middle of nowhere at the Planet Watch, Rafiki rarely has a line. The downside is that you have to travel by train to get there. Much like our DinoLand characters, Rafiki doesn’t quite get the moniker of a continual greeter, but he’s pretty close with a later-morning start time and an end time towards the end of the day.
You can also find your buddies Chip and Dale goofing off at the Planet Watch, but their schedule is a bit more on the intermittent side.
There is one character meal that is offered at Animal Kingdom and it can be found at Tusker House in Africa. This character meal revolves around Safari Donald and his friends, as well as the unique African-influenced buffet. I’m sure the burning question you have is – which friends? Interestingly enough, the Walt Disney World website doesn’t detail who you could meet at a Tusker House meal, aside from Donald, but less official (multiple) reports indicate that you’ll find Daisy, Mickey, and Goofy on your dining adventure. As you might have guessed, I’ve never eaten at Tusker House myself, but I’m looking forward to giving it a go in the future!
This concludes the Animal Kingdom edition of my Character Meet and Greet series! Do you have any special tips for interacting with characters? Cool souvenirs you like to get autographs on? Special photo poses for particular characters at Animal Kingdom? Please share in the comments!
Additional Back to Basics Posts
- Walt Disney World First Timer’s Guide — The Minimum You Need to Know
- Using the Crowd Calendar to Decide When to Visit Disney World
- Using Touring Plans
- How to Use FastPass+
- FastPass+ Strategy
- Selecting the Right Disney World Hotel Category
- A Cost Analysis of the Disney Dining Plan
- Meeting Characters at Epcot