While the rides at Walt Disney World get all the buzz, very often it’s meeting Buzz, or some other Disney character, that becomes the highlight of a child’s vacation. Here’s the scoop on what you need to know about meeting characters at Walt Disney World.
SPOILER ALERT – I’ll be using words like costume and mask which may dull the magic a bit for true believers. If you’re in that camp, feel free to move along now. On your way out enjoy this video of tips on using FastPass+. OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way …
What is exactly is a character?
Characters are the live version of animated creatures/people found in Disney films and television programs. Characters appear in the Walt Disney World parks and resorts in parades, stage shows, and in guest greeting opportunities. While a character may be just inches tall when you see him on TV, all the in-park characters are adult human size or larger (sometimes much larger).
There are two types of characters: “fur” characters and “face” characters. Fur characters are those with an oversized, non-moving mask serving as their entire head. Typically the fur characters are animals such as Mickey and Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pooh. There are some “human” fur characters, notably Captain Hook, the Incredibles, and Doc McStuffins, but these are less common.
Face characters have a fully human form – they look like real people, with nothing obscuring their eyes/nose/mouth. The essence of the character is conveyed via costuming, wigs, and makeup. Face characters include all of the princesses and their princes, Peter Pan, Jack Sparrow, Alice, Mary Poppins, and more.
Other than appearance, one of the key differences between face characters and fur characters is that face characters talk, while fur characters generally do not.
Fur characters don’t talk? I thought Mickey Mouse talked?
The Mickey Mouse stationed at the Magic Kingdom’s Town Square Theater did talk for about five years, but this experience was discontinued in mid-2018. Mickey had a set of prerecorded phrases he could say, but the interaction was not a true free-flowing conversation.
Some folks LOVED the experience of meeting talking Mickey, but I found it terrifying. And I don’t think I was alone; I observed several petrified children refuse to interact with talking Mickey. And in one particularly heartbreaking incident, I happened to be in the queue behind a special needs adult and his family when he started screaming in fear when Mickey started speaking. Personally, I’m glad that talking Mickey is a thing of the past at WDW.
OK, I get it. But my kids see cartoon Mickey talking on TV, how to I explain to them that Mickey and the other fur characters do not talk in the parks?
Check out our full post on the topic of non-talking Disney characters.
Or take your child to one of the in-park stage shows (like Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire at the Magic Kingdom Castle Forecourt). Shows typically have a recorded soundtrack with the characters’ voices. Though their mouths don’t move, if you stand far enough back, you get the impression that the characters are speaking. This may satisfy a curious child.
How many characters does Disney have?
There’s no exact count of the number of characters that have appeared in the Disney World parks. Over the years, something on the order of several hundred different characters have “visited” Walt Disney World. On a typical day now, you’ll usually find a few dozen different characters in the parks.
Of the in-park characters, only a subset interact directly with guests. Others appear in parades or in stage shows, but are not available for personal experiences.
Do you have a list of the characters I might be able to meet in the parks during my trip?
The characters that greet guests in the parks change with some regularity and there is no official Disney-sanctioned list of in-park characters. There are a number of fan websites that track character appearances in the parks.
The available characters aren’t on the Disney website? I thought I saw it there.
You can suss out most characters that have official meet & greet opportunities using the disneyworld.com website and/or the My Disney Experience app. However, there are a few problems with both these options.
On the website, all character experiences are lumped together, with no real differentiation on the type of experience or whether the experience is actually available to you (some may not be). For example, the screenshot below shows what looks like six character greeting experiences, but only the last two are real opportunities for all guests to personally interact with characters.
The first two items that say “Disney Visa Cardmember Experience” are only open to guests who own a Disney Visa card, which must be presented at the venue. The third item on the list, The Frozen Sing-Along, is open to all, but it’s a stage show, not a character greeting opportunity. You can meet Anna, Elsa, and Olaf in the parks, but not there. And the fourth item on the list, the Jedi Training, has age restrictions and must be reserved on site in advance. If you’re an adult you can’t participate and if you have the right age child but don’t sign up on time, you are also out of luck.
To find characters on the My Disney Experience app, go to a park map (Magic Kingdom is shown here) and scroll down to select “Characters.”
This will bring up pinpoints of all the character greeting opportunities. You can click the points to see the character’s name, for example, Gaston. The problem here is that the character greeting times are not indicated on the map, so it’s possible you could head over the greeting spot and Gaston would be long gone. (That’s so like Gaston, am I right?)
Give it to me in a summary.
Again, this list is approximate. Disney reserves the right to change characters, adding or subtracting at any time. That said, during fall 2019, it’s likely that you could have the opportunity to meet, in some location at Walt Disney World, at least:
- Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)
- Bo Peep
- Buzz Lightyear
- Chip & Dale
- Daisy Duck
- Darth Vader
- Doc McStuffins
- Donald Duck
- Dug (from Up)
- Edna Mode
- Fancy Nancy
- Kevin (from Up)
- Launchpad McQuack
- Mary Poppins
- Mickey Mouse
- Mike Wazowski
- Minnie Mouse
- Russell (from Up)
- Scrooge McDuck
- Snow White
- Tinker Bell
- Winnie the Pooh
- Wreck-It Ralph
Are there other characters too?
Yes. Beyond the list above, you may find additional characters greeting guests in the following circumstances:
- During runDisney events. For example, during the Princess Half Marathon you can expect to find hunky heroes that don’t typically appear in the parks at other times.
- During Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, you may find extra villains or monsters in the parks.
- During holidays, you may find seasonally appropriate or non-Disney characters in the parks. Examples include Santa at Christmas and Mr. & Mrs. Bunny at Easter.
Also, there are many characters that appear in the parks only as part of parades or stage shows, but do not typically participate in guest greeting opportunities. An example of this would be Peter Pan’s friend Wendy. You’ll find Wendy on a float during the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party parade, but you’re unlikely to see her out and about on her own.
And you may just find random characters appearing in the parks. I’ve recently gotten spur-of-the-moment photos with Country Bears at the Magic Kingdom.
I see Disney, Pixar, and Star Wars characters on the list above, but no Marvel characters. Doesn’t Disney own Marvel? Why can’t I meet a Marvel character at Disney World?
The layers of legal complexity that surround this question are many and varied. The upshot is that Disney does own the rights to lots of Marvel content. You can meet Marvel characters on some Disney Cruise Line sailings and they’re building an entire Avengers Campus at Disneyland, but due to an pre-existing contractual obligation, Disney is not allowed to use most Marvel properties on land, in the United States, east of the Mississippi River. Guardians of the Galaxy is not part of the old contract, which is why we’re able to get a GotG coaster at Epcot and why you might be able to meet Star Lord there at some point (no scoop, just a guess). But in the meantime, if you want to meet Spider-Man, the Hulk, and their cohort in the Orlando area, you’ll have to do it at Universal Islands of Adventure, not Walt Disney World.
If I talk to a face character, I’ll have a pleasant interaction, right?
Mostly, but not always. Face characters in the parks have same personality as their character in the Disney films. If you’re talking to a prince or princess, the Fairy Godmother, or Alice, you’ll have lovely, gentle conversation. Tinker Bell and Peter Pan will be playfully sassy. Cinderella’s step sisters will be humorously bratty. Mary Poppins will be wise, but not effusively warm. Gaston is definitely a braggart. Villains like Maleficent with be brusk.
If your child doesn’t like to be teased, keep them away from face character villains and gruff sidekicks.
I’m at Walt Disney World. How do I find out which characters I can meet right now?
When you enter the Disney parks, grab a copy of the free Times Guide. These will be located with the maps at the front of the park, as well as at the registers of some of the larger stores on property. The Times Guide will list many of the characters that are scheduled to be in the park each day, as well as the time and location of their appearance.
For example, on Hollywood Studios Times Guide below, you can see the time and location of Olaf – Echo Lake from park open until 10:00 p.m.
Some of the information on the Times Guide will be vague. For example, the guide above lists “Stars of Disney Junior.” In fall 2019, this is probably some combination of Fancy Nancy, Vampirina, and Doc McStuffins, but as shows become more or less popular the ratio of appearances may change. Typically there will be a sign posted daily near the meet & greet area indicating which characters are there at which times, but expect some variability.
Is there only one place to meet each character?
It depends on the character. Some are location specific, for example Olaf is generally only found in one spot, but Mickey Mouse has a number of regularly scheduled greeting locations. These include: Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort, the Adventurer’s Outpost at the Animal Kingdom, Tusker House at the Animal Kingdom, the Character Spot at Epcot, the Garden Grill dinner at Epcot, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ at Fort Wilderness, the Town Square Theater in the Magic Kingdom, on Commissary Lane at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the ‘Ohana breakfast at the Polynesian resort, and others.
How does Mickey get to be in all those different places at once?
Um, Disney magic.
Will character XYZ from Disney’s latest theatrical release be available to meet my family?
Probably. In recent years, Disney has had the practice of having characters from the latest Disney or Pixar film in the parks to greet guests. Bo Peep from Toy Story 4 was added to the Woody greet at Toy Story Land in 2019. However, some characters greet more often in other thematically appropriate locations. For example, there is a regular Moana meet & greet at Aulani, Disney’s resort location in Hawaii. She is not currently in regular rotation at Disney World.
Is meeting characters worth the time? Wouldn’t we be better off going on rides?
Oh, those “Is it worth it?” questions are such a challenge. The answer to this really depends on your personality and what your vacation goals are. Some people think that meeting a character is just plain silly. (I mean, we all know what’s really going on inside Mickey’s head, right?) Other folks are obsessed with character greeting and endeavor to collect photos and autographs of every character possible.
In my experience, children in the 3 to 6 age range often think that the in-park characters are really, really, really real. If they LOVE Belle and then, gasp, they get to actually MEET Belle, then their entire vacation is a dream come true. Your basic five-year old may care much more about meeting characters than they would about any ride attraction.
My daughters are young adults now. When we go to the Animal Kingdom these days, we head straight for Expedition Everest, but back when the girls were preschoolers, our very first stop at the Animal Kingdom was always the character greeting zone at Camp Mickey-Minnie (now moved to the Adventurers Outpost). My kids were THRILLED to get quality character time there and this made our vacations very happy.
Even if you’re generally a character naysayer, I recommend that you take at least one or two photos with iconic characters during your visit, if only for the camp factor. You never know how these photos will become meaningful to family members in the future.
How exactly do I meet the characters?
There are three primary character greeting situations:
- Scheduled character greeting appearances. These are the character appearances listed in the Times Guide. Go to the appointed time/place and you’ll find the character there ready to interact with guests.
- Random character greeting appearances. There are also characters that just show up in the parks. They’ll also be happy to interact with you, but there’s really no predicting when they will be there or for how long.
- Character meals.
What’s a character meal?
These are restaurants where Disney characters will visit your table during your meal. While you eat, characters stop by your table to chat (or mime chat), pose for photos, and sign autographs. These are very popular experiences and generally become fully booked far in advance. Make reservations if you want to have a character meal.
Not surprisingly, character meals cost money. The greeting is included with the cost of your meal, but you’ll have to pay for the meal to meet a character in this situation.
What are the pros and cons of character meals?
On the plus side, you get to meet characters in air-conditioned comfort and you get to kill two birds with one stone – eating and meeting at the same time. On the minus side, the character meals are often pricey. If you’re in money-saving mode, you can meet most of the same characters for free (well, free in the sense that it’s included in the price of your park admission ticket) in other locations.
Is there character greeting etiquette?
Yes, and it depends on which type of greeting experience you’re having. First let’s tackle the standard scheduled meet and greet, the kind that’s listed on the Times Guide.
In this circumstance, the biggest piece of character greeting protocol is “wait your turn.” Guests from other countries who don’t have a strong queuing tradition may be confused by this, but one of the biggest tenets of American etiquette is waiting your turn – we line up and wait for experiences. Character interaction happens on a first-come, first-served basis. Other helpful tips include:
- When it gets to be your turn in line, be ready and as efficient with your interaction as possible. This means that you should have your camera out (turned on, with the lens cap off) or the camera feature on your phone activated with all the settings properly adjusted, have your autograph book open to a blank page, have pen in hand, etc.
- Be mindful of other guests’ needs. Yes, we’d all like to spend an hour yakking with Cinderella about the difficulty of polishing glass slippers, but if we did that then other guests would not have their opportunity to enjoy Cindy’s company. You don’t need to rush with the characters, but you shouldn’t linger unnecessarily either.
- Keep an eye on your children. Make sure that small kids don’t inadvertently rush at the characters, knocking them over. Also try to keep them from bounding into another guest’s photos.
- Use your manners. Yes, characters are people too. Saying please and thank you to them will make their world a better place to be.
What are non-traditional ways I might encounter a character in the parks?
Some characters appear in the parks and behave as if they are residents of the area going about their business, rather than special someones who have an official meeting schedule.
The best example of this is the characters in Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As you wander around Galaxy’s Edge, you are likely to encounter Chewbacca, Rey, stormtroopers, and others, behaving as if they truly lived there, not as if they are “characters.” Rey might engage a child to keep a lookout for stormtroopers, but she won’t just stand there and wait for a line to form for photos.
The Green Army Men might engage you in a game of “Simon Says” or “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” Toy Story Land, also in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
What’s the etiquette for that type of character?
The guidelines are similar: don’t interrupt the character if they’re speaking with other guests, be aware of everyone’s personal space, and use your manners.
The more you play along that the characters are real and that you are part of their story, the more you’ll get out of it.
Any other non-traditional ways to interact with characters?
There are some parades and dance parties that have loose character interaction. For example, Judy Hopps (from Zootopia) currently appears in the Move It! Shake It! MousekeDance It! Street Party parade at Magic Kingdom. She does not have an official meet and greet, but she does step off her float during the parade and will dance with guests during this time. Judy is one of my daughter Josie’s top five all time characters and she was thrilled when we were able to get photos of them together dancing in the parade.
Similarly, the dance parties during Magic Kingdom evening events often who have characters that will dance with guests. These are free-form affairs. You’re not likely to get a still pose, but you might get a fun photo.
As always, be respectful of other guests.
Do the characters have different outfits?
Of course, don’t you? Mickey has dozens of of different outfits ranging from swim trunks to a tuxedo. You’ll find the characters often wear attire appropriate for their location. Donald Duck sports a sombrero when he’s in Epcot’s Mexico and a pith helmet when he’s in the Animal Kingdom’s Africa.
Some people will “count” that they met Donald if they snag any photo with him, while other guests will only be satisfied if they acquire photos with every sartorial variation. It’s your call.
Are there characters in the Disney hotels?
The character meals that take place in hotels (Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary, for example) obviously have characters, but you will only be able to meet them if you’re dining at the restaurant. The vast majority of character interaction takes place in the theme parks and sometimes the water parks. That being said, there are occasions when characters will greet guests at hotels, typically this will be in one of two situations:
- During the holiday season, there may be brief character appearances in the evenings at the deluxe resorts. If you’re visiting Walt Disney World from about December 15 to January 1, speak with your resort concierge about whether this will be happening.
- During times of extraordinary weather (like if the parks are shuttered due to hurricane warnings), characters may be sent to the resorts to entertain guests.
Rarely, a few characters might show up at a hotel randomly, but you should not expect this to happen and instead be pleasantly surprised if it does.
Are there character appearances at Disney Springs?
This is also rare. There might possibly be a character appearance at Disney Springs during a special event. And Santa Claus has regular Disney Springs greeting hours during December, but other than that, do not expect to see characters at Disney Springs.
My child absolutely MUST meet character XYZ, how do I make sure that happens?
I completely understand. Sometimes a child becomes fixated on meeting that special someone and it then becomes your raison d’etre to make that meeting happen.
First things first – do NOT make any promises to your child about the meeting. Even if your child’s character fixation is on someone as ubiquitous as Mickey, you just never know what might happen. Your child may become ill, forcing you to cancel your Chef Mickey’s reservation; Mickey himself may become ill and not be available at your planned location; there could be a technical malfunction at a greeting spot forcing an unplanned closure; a weather event might result in you cutting your trip short – really, you never know. Instead use language like, “Mommy is going to try to have you meet Mickey,” or “I hope we’ll have a chance to see Mickey.” Then you can be a hero when the meeting works out.
Also recognize that if your child is focused on an obscure or older Disney character, a meeting will likely be impossible. Yes, Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame was once a frequent visitor to the parks, but her appearances now are rare indeed.
Given that, the best way to approach any MUST DO character meeting is to get information from Guest Services. They have a resource available to cast members that includes a database of where/when every character is appearing on property that day. If a character will be at Walt Disney World, then Guest Services can find out about it.
Stop by the Guest Relations office at any of the theme parks or inquire at the concierge desk at your Disney resort hotel. Say something like, “My daughter is dying to meet character XYZ. Can you please call the character information line to find out if XYZ will be greeting guests at Walt Disney World this week.” They’ll be happy to help.
You may also want to work on language for your child if you find that his character obsession can be found in the parks, but only in a parade or show, not in a personal greeting location.
Are the lines for character greeting long?
They can be. It really depends on a number of factors including the time of day, the time of year, the rarity of the character, the popularity of the character, the weather, and more. If you have a particular character you’d like to meet and you know that character has a regularly scheduled greeting time, GET THERE EARLY.
Some of the longest character lines are for rare characters at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Get there early and plan to wait.
Do you have any tips for reducing the amount of time spent waiting to meet characters?
Well, a good touring plan can certainly help. Many of our touring plans do include character greeting time in their programs.
Also some characters have FastPass+ reservation capabilities.
But really, as with all things Disney, if you want to do/see something without a wait, then get there early enough to be the first one in line.
Isn’t it stupid to burn a FastPass selection on meeting Cinderella when I could use for Space Mountain?
It depends on who you’re with, the purpose of your trip, the length of your visit, and so on. If you’re visiting Disney World with a four-year-old princess fan, Cinderella could be the better option.
Will my child be afraid of the characters?
It really depends on your child’s temperament. Few children are afraid of face characters – they just look like people wearing odd clothing. The fur characters are the ones that cause problems of a small, but vocal, subset of children. Most kids are unfazed by meeting Mickey and the gang, while others are reduced to a quivering ball of tears any time they get within 10 feet of a giant mouse.
If you have some concern that your child might exhibit character fear behaviors, try finding a costumed character in your hometown (perhaps at a birthday party or Chuck E. Cheese type venue) to practice with. At least with the information, you’ll be able plan accordingly.
I know my child is afraid of the characters. Should I cancel my trip?
I wouldn’t worry too much. Character won’t pop out of nowhere to surprise your child. Other than in Galaxy’s Edge, characters tend to stay in a fixed location or are part of a specific event, and are visible from quite a distance. They’re relatively easy to steer clear of if you really want to.
If it’s a true issue, go to Guest Service and explain. They can tell you the times and places where fur characters will appear and you can avoid those situations.
Is there anything I can do if my child is afraid of the characters?
Like I said, if you know you have a fearful child, you can simply stay away from the characters. Just like you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) insist your child to go on a roller coaster before he was ready, you can always take a pass this time and save character photos for the next trip.
If you want to push the envelope a little, try taking baby steps toward character interaction; perhaps ask the child to wave at the character from a distance and then take it from there.
You mentioned autographs, what’s that all about?
You will see lots of kids in the parks toting around autograph books. When the kids meet characters, they hand them the autograph book and the character signs it. Personally, I don’t really get why this is a thing (then again, I don’t really understand the appeal of getting autographs from actual human celebrities), but it does seem to be a big deal to many Disney guests.
Of course, you don’t have to get autographs when you meet characters. If you and your kids are content to skip this part of the process, then by all means do so.
One bit of advice … if you do end up collecting character autographs, but sure to write your name and contact information in the front of the book. This will greatly facilitate the return process if you accidentally lose the book.
Do I need a special pen to get an autograph from a character?
The characters are often wearing bulky gloves which make gripping a delicate writing tool a bit of a challenge. It can be helpful if you provide them with a somewhat chunky pen, maybe something along the lines of the basic elementary school Crayola marker. Sharpies also work well. However, if you don’t have a fat pen, don’t worry about it. The characters will make do with whatever you have on hand – regular pen, pencil, crayon, – it all works.
You should know that there are a few characters who are happy to meet you and pose for photos, but can’t or won’t sign autographs. Wreck-It Ralph has fixed hands that can’t grip a pen. Buzz Lightyear will sometimes mark your autograph book with a special stamp rather than a signature.
How much do autograph books cost?
There are several styles of Disney autograph books for sale in the parks and resorts. They range in price from about $10.00 to about $15.00 depending on the model you choose.
Where can I buy Disney autograph books?
It’s actually a challenge to find a store at Walt Disney World that doesn’t sell autograph books. You’ll find them located near the register at nearly every store on property. Several versions of Disney autograph books are also sold on shopDisney.
That being said, there is absolutely no requirement that you use a Disney branded autograph book when you get signatures. A 99-cent notebook from Target works just as well.
Do I have to get autographs in an autograph book?
Nope. The characters will sign many types of items. I’ve heard of guests asking characters to sign calendars, photo mattes, postcards, baseball caps, footballs, quilt squares, and much more.
You should know that characters will not sign any clothing while you are wearing it. This means that they’re happy to sign a tee shirt, but not one that you’re wearing at the time. Nor will they sign any part of a human body. Don’t even ask. Other things they won’t sign are the currency or flag of any nation or political signs or statements.
If you will be asking characters to sign something non-traditional, be sure to give them a mechanism so they can do this easily. For example, if you want a character to sign a tee shirt, bring a clipboard or piece of sturdy cardboard to provide a backing surface for them to lean on. Also, if you’re having characters sign fabric, you will want to consider whether you need to bring indelible fabric markers or the like.
One of my favorite character autograph projects was when I asked all the princesses to sign a pair of canvas shoes. Be creative!
I’ve noticed that characters sometimes take a break during the middle of their scheduled greeting time. What’s up with that?
Well, even Mickey needs a potty break from time to time. 🙂
Seriously, there will almost always be a “character handler” cast member nearby when characters are out and about; the character handler can tell you exactly what’s going on. Look for semi-official looking people with blue shirts and walkie-talkies or headsets. They’ll be able to tell you if Mickey is just “getting a snack” for a moment or if he’s taking a much longer break to go appear in a parade.
Be aware that characters appearing outdoors on hot days will take much more frequent breaks than those hanging out in air-conditioned digs.
Are there PhotoPass photographers at the character greeting stations?
Some, but by no means all, character greetings have a nearby PhotoPass photographer to capture your memories. You should ALWAYS plan to have your own camera available to take shots yourself. If you want to have a full family photo and there’s no PhotoPass photographer at the ready, feel free to ask a nearby guest or ANY cast member to take a photo with your camera. They are totally used to doing this and are happy to help.
Over the years I’ve asked everyone from groundskeepers to Disney vice presidents to take photos of my family in the parks. They’ve all been eager to do so.
Also be aware that some character greeting locations have photos available, but they are taken by an automated camera in a fixed location rather than by a human. The BB-8 greeting at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a current example of this. In my experience, the quality of the automated photos is significantly below the photos taken by people. If you encounter an automated photo situation, you may want to supplement with your own pictures as well.
Do you have any tips for getting a good photo with a character?
My own layman’s character photo tips are:
- Watch the position of the sun. If you’re kids are looking straight at the sun, they will close their eyes and make weird squinty faces – not attractive. Perhaps you can ask the character to pivot a bit for less glare. Or maybe save character photography (or any human photography) for times other than mid-day.
- Kill the flash. Your flash will wash out your subject. Figure out your camera settings and learn how to take a decent indoor picture without using the flash.
- It matters what you wear. I’m not saying that you need to don a ball gown for your family Disney vacation (well, unless you’re in princess dress mode), but having your family wear simple coordinating outfits can bring your pictures from OK to WOW in an instant.
- Take a quick glance at the background of your shot. Is there a tree behind little Katie that makes her look like she has horns? Is there another guest’s tushie in your photo? Can this be fixed quickly to make your overall photo more attractive?
Our friend Tom Bricker over at Disney Tourist Blog is an extraordinary theme park photographer. Check out his camera tips and other photo-related posts for more ideas.
Can I take more than one photo with a character?
Sure, but try to be as efficient as possible.
For example, with most characters I’ll get a shot of my three daughters together and then move on. However, there are some particular favorites that require the group pose plus an individual shot of just one of the girls with the character. Before this happens, I’ll let the guest behind me know what’s going on, so they don’t get confused/frustrated. I also typically tell the character what we want to do saying something like, “Hi Piglet, we want to get one photo of you with the family and then one just with you and Josie. You’re her favorite.”
Will the characters hold my child for a photo?
Well, let’s put it this way, imagine big-headed Mickey holding an infant and accidentally dropping her. Or imagine Mickey holding a toddler who’s sporting an unknown leaky diaper. Or imagine a Mickey picking up a preschooler who’s got a belly full of cotton candy and is woozy from a few consecutive spins on the Teacups. Or imagine any other of a thousand unpleasant scenarios that might occur if characters held children.
The characters are happy to pose with your young child if you’re holding her, or if she’s sitting in a stroller, but nothing beyond that.
Will the characters hold up a sign/message for a photo?
It depends on what the sign says. A nice way to communicate with the folks back home is to send them a photo of a character holding a special message for them – something along the lines of “Happy Birthday, Susie,” or “We Miss You Grandma, Wish You Were Here,” or “Thank You For Housesitting” works nicely. Most of the characters will do this, but they’re required to read the sign first and will only hold it if the message on the sign is positive and solidly G-Rated.
Can I take video of my child with a character?
Sure. But please be aware of the other guests and their desire for character interaction. A few seconds of video is fine, enough footage for an hour-long documentary is not.
Are there age limits for meeting characters?
No way. ANYONE can pose for photos with characters. It’s not just for kids.
You mean it’s not weird if I’m a grown-up and I give Mickey Mouse a hug?
This is not even a little bit weird at all. Truly.
In fact, I absolutely insist that every grown-up get at least one photo with Mickey without a child in the frame. This goes double if you’re at Walt Disney World for any sort of adult celebration such as a honeymoon or anniversary.
Is there anything I can do to increase the quality of my interaction with a character?
If the characters are super busy, you might not be able to get more than a quick hug or hello. But there are many times when you can get a more substantial or personal interaction with a character. The trick to get characters to engage with you, is to give them an opening or hook they can latch onto.
This is perhaps easiest with the “face” characters, the ones that will talk with you. For example, ask the character a question relevant to their movie storyline – something like, “Cinderella, what size shoe do you wear?” or “Belle, what’s your favorite book?” or “Jasmine, what’s it really like to fly on a magic carpet?” They will often give you charming and very elaborate answers.
With the non-speaking “fur” characters, a prop is often helpful in getting a more substantial character experience. For example, if you’re meeting Donald Duck, bring a toy Mickey Mouse with you and see how Donald reacts. Or engage the character in a contest or mime-able story – challenge Tigger to a jumping contest or tease Chip & Dale that you can’t tell them apart.
Is it possible to get a photo of my child with more than one character at a time?
Sometimes, but not often. There are some characters that tend to make their guest appearances in pairs, Chip & Dale are a prime example of this. It’s relatively easy to get a photo with the chipmunks together. Lilo and Stitch are also somewhat easy to find as a set. But most other characters only greet alone. You MIGHT get lucky and find a situation where more than one character is available without a line. If this happens, you can certainly ask if they’ll pose together, but don’t count on this happening.
Are there places other than meals where I can be sure to meet a character without waiting in line?
There are a few tours that include character experiences. The Pirates & Pals Fireworks Cruise and the Family Magic Tour at the Magic Kingdom typically have character interaction, but you will have to pay for these experiences like you would if you get character interaction as part of a meal.
Are character greetings ever impacted by the weather?
Yes. Any outdoor character greeting may be either cancelled or moved during rain and possibly even during extreme heat or cold. If the weather is questionable and you can’t find a character in his or her expected greeting area, ask a cast member to check whether the meet has been temporarily relocated.
Is it possible to have a character at a private event at Walt Disney World?
Yes. You can get Mickey (or almost any other character) to appear at your wedding reception or other private event. Be aware that this level of character interaction does not come cheap. Speak with your Disney event planner for details and pricing.
Can Mickey Mouse (or another character) give my child his birthday present?
Probably not, but this would really be a spur of the moment thing handled on a case by case basis. Disney doesn’t want to get into a situation where Mickey is handing Child A a pretty package and then handing nothing to Child B. If you happen to have a small gift for your child and there is a character present, and few other guests around, then go ahead and ask the character handler if you can work something out. I’ve heard of this happening infrequently, but don’t count on this being a possibility.
Can I give a gift to my favorite character?
This is by no means expected, but if you want to, yes. I know a “friend of” Rapunzel who assures me that characters are allowed to accept de minimis gifts (not cash) from guests. Something that costs less than $10 would probably be OK. My friend of Rapunzel most cherishes the handmade artworks that she has received from children.
Can I arrange for Mickey (or another character) to help me with a proposal?
Mickey is a busy mouse so this kind of thing can be a challenge to work into his schedule. Unless you’re willing to pay to book Mickey for a private event, you shouldn’t count on his help with your proposal. I have, however, heard stories about this happening in an impromptu fashion. If it’s something you’re interested in, pull a character handler aside and ask his or her advice.
Are there people other than characters that I should be getting a photo with?
Sure, there are loads of “characters” in the parks that aren’t characters. I’m thinking of performers like the Dapper Dans in the Magic Kingdom, any of the entertainers in Epcot’s World Showcase area, or the Streetmosphere folks in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. To me, these folks symbolize Disney as much as many of the traditional characters.
I’ve seen awesome photos/video of guests walking through Walt Disney World arm in arm with a character. How can I make this happen?
Well, most of those photos/videos are staged by marketing folks at Disney for advertising/promotion purposes, so understand that the experience is not nearly as prevalent as it may seem.
However, I can attest to the fact that things like this do happen spontaneously on occasion. When my oldest daughter was in the age four to six range, she apparently had a vibe that was appealing to the characters. Several times she was singled out by characters in a parade or pulled onstage at a in-park performance. The best of these happenings was when we were waiting for the Magic Kingdom to open and Minnie Mouse pulled her out of the crowd, walked us into Fantasyland, rode on Dumbo with her and then posed for photos. This was the thrill of her four-year-old lifetime and I solemnly swear that it was just happenstance that she was selected for this honor.
The follow up to this story is that, still in a happy-child haze, during that same vacation my husband insisted on going to a Disney Vacation Club sales presentation, following which we ended up making a substantial DVC purchase. This then resulted in many, many more trips to Walt Disney World in which we made many, many more purchases of food/souvenirs/etc. Minnie’s fifteen minutes of attention to my daughter ended up generating tens of thousands of dollars of revenue for Disney, a very handsome payout indeed.
And I suppose the moral of the story is, be careful what you ask for, you just might get it 😉
Fellow travelers, tell me about your character greeting tips and tricks. What works for your family? Have you had any unique character greeting experiences? Let us know in the comments below.