This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.
One of the quintessential Walt Disney World experiences is participating in Character Meet and Greets. That magical moment when your child meets Mickey for the first time is right up there with their first spin on Dumbo or the first time blasting off on Space Mountain. Like most Disney adventures, I would also caution those adult-only travelling parties not to overlook character experiences as just for the little ones – you can still have a magical experience with Mulan or Aurora even if you’re in the over-18 set!
This is the first article in my series on Character Meet and Greets, in which I will tackle every park and give you a run-down of who you can meet and where. I’ve decided to start with Epcot (this is traditionally the first park we visit on every trip – why not begin at the beginning?!), so buckle up for a tour of Future World and World Showcase and the characters who live there!
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 Pals in the Epcot Character Spot, but if it is raining or other unforeseen circumstances arise someone like Belle might have one or more of her appearances cancelled. Only once have I ever been told that a character wouldn’t be meeting for an entire day due to illness, so keep in mind that even Fairy Godmothers can be under the weather!
Character meet and greets are a lot of fun, but there are things you can do to make them even more memorable (and less awkward).
If you have kids, get the camera ready for the candid photos. Heck, if you’re a party of adults you should still have someone assigned to 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 our character interactions 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 Kenny’s 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!
I’m going to start in Future World with what I’ll refer to as continual greets. This is the term (that I just made up) that will apply to any of the characters that are meeting throughout the day and that you don’t have to consult the times guide in order to know their meeting windows.
Epcot Character Spot – this is your go-to in Epcot for three of the most popular character meets, namely Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy. The great thing about this spot is that you stand in one line and meet all three in succession, plus the Character Spot offers FastPass+. Another bonus is that you queue up indoors, out of the heat, the rain, and anything else Florida wants to throw at you.
New Epcot Character Spot (across the breezeway from the above-mentioned Character Spot) – Baymax meets in the newly expanded Character Spot. FastPass+ is not offered for this meet.
Disney Visa Character Meet – if you have a Disney Visa card you are eligible to go to a special Disney Visa Character Meet located in Innoventions West. The meet doesn’t guarantee any specific characters, but you can bet on a combo of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and/or Pluto. I haven’t personally done this one as I’ve never wanted to wait in the line for mystery characters, but you do get a free 5X7 photo from it.
In Epcot you have far more intermittent greets that continual ones, meaning that you’ll want to pick up a times guide (or use Kenny’s app) to find out exactly when these characters will be in their designated spot. Keep in mind that you don’t want to wait until the meet has started before getting in line. 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. Also, it should be noted that these characters usually conclude their meets for the day before 6pm. (There may be a couple that go later, but not many.)
Pluto meets at Legacy Plaza West, which is to the right of Spaceship Earth after entering the park at the Future World entrance. He isn’t out for a huge portion of the day, so you’ll want to be sure to catch him earlier rather than later. The Walt Disney World website currently lists his last meet to end at 3:45pm.
Chip and Dale meet together outside. If you are walking past the Epcot Character Spot headed toward the Land Pavilion they’ll be on your left. They are hilarious to meet, and I highly recommend them as being up on your priority list.
Future World boasts one character meal, and it is downright fantastic. I’m talking about The Garden Grill. Its amazingness doesn’t just lie with the characters – the food is a winner as well. (And this isn’t always the case with character dining.) While I haven’t yet experienced breakfast there, I’ve had the dinner on multiple occasions. I’m not here to give a review on the grub, though, I’m here to chat about characters. The Garden Grill hosts Mickey, Chip, Dale, and Pluto sporting some amazing farmer-themed attire. Every time I’ve dined here the characters have been especially interactive, and often they’ll come around to your table more than once! This is probably my top-rated character meal in Disney World, due to the excellent balance between boisterous characters and delicious eats. Reservations are definitely recommended. (This is true of all character meals.)
Time to move on from Future World to World Showcase, which we’ll tackle in a ‘round-the-world fashion, heading into Mexico and continuing around the lagoon. There are no continual meets in the World Showcase, so we’ve dive right into the large collection of characters you can meet intermittently.
Before you even make it into Mexico you can stop off at Daisy’s gazebo, which is immediately to your left upon exiting Future World for the World Showcase.
Moving through Mexico you can head just past the Mexico Pavilion and find Donald on your left, decked out in a sombrero and sarape.
Next we’re entering princess territory – Mulan can be found in China. I’ve seen her meeting in a few different spots, all towards the front of the pavilion. If it isn’t clear exactly where she’ll be (if there’s no line for her next meet), ask a cast member and they can tell you.
Snow White is next on the docket, and she usually meets in a location at the very beginning of the Germany Pavilion. If you pass Karamell Kuche you’ve gone too far.
The next three countries (Italy, America, and Japan) don’t offer any meet and greets at this time, but Morocco is home to both Aladdin & Jasmine. They are tucked back in the pavilion at an indoor location called Lamps of Wonder.
Belle is next, and she meets just before the France Pavilion on the lagoon side of the path.
Aurora is also in France, but she lies on the far side of the pavilion with a meeting spot in her own gazebo.
In the United Kingdom Pavilion, just as you’re entering it from France, you can find Alice and Mary Poppins (they meet separately, but in close proximity with schedules very close to alternating). Venturing even further into the United Kingdom Pavilion, all the way to the very back of the Toy Soldier, you can find Tigger and Pooh. Their meets usually last much later in the evening that most of your outdoor characters, but not as late as park closing.
It should be noted with these World Showcase intermittent greets that it is possible to hit just about every one of them in a single day, but only if you’re highly motivated. Because of the staggered scheduling that they do for these characters, you can pop from one greet to another in an effort to hit as many as possible. I DO NOT recommend this approach, though. I did it once, when getting the signatures of all of the princesses for my quilt. I was alone (I can’t see how this is possible with children in tow) and it required an insane amount of trekking and backtracking through the different countries in order to get them all. It was exhausting, and I would have given up had it not been for my (obsessive) goal (and Kenny’s app).
Like Future World, World Showcase also has its own character meal. Located in the Norway Pavilion Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is a buffet-style meal that features a host of princesses. When you first enter the banquet hall (which looks like a castle on the inside), you get your photo taken with Belle (in her yellow ball gown) before moving on to your table. During your meal you’ll be visited by any combination of Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Jasmine, and Ariel. During my breakfast there all of the above named princesses made it to our table at least once. I didn’t think the food itself was particularly memorable, but honestly this isn’t a meal you have to experience fine cuisine. You’re there for the princesses. I thought it was a worthwhile meal, but it isn’t something I’m clamoring to do again in the near future. (In retrospect, it sure would have beaten running around World Showcase like a crazy person trying to collect autographs!)
This concludes the Epcot 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 Epcot? Please share in the comments!