Walt Disney World (FL)

FAQ: Walt Disney World Characters in the Theme Parks

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For many guests, character interaction is an integral part of the Disney theme park experience. Here’s what you need to know about characters at Walt Disney World.

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, cavalcades, stage shows, at character meals, and in surprise happenings in the parks and resorts. 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, Moana, and more.

In the Star Wars realm, Chewbacca is a fur character (about as furry as they come) and Rey is a face character.

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.

Mickey, Minnie, and other face characters will “talk” during stage shows. The characters have coordinated movements synched to pre-recorded dialog, but their mouths won’t move while this is happening and there are currently no fur character who can have a one-on-one conversation with a guest.

Doc McStuffins at a socially distant character meal.

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 and resorts.

Do you have a list of the characters I might be able to see in the parks during my trip?

The characters that appear in the parks change with some regularity and there is no official Disney-sanctioned list of in-park characters. We have a list of 50 park characters, but even that is not entirely comprehensive.

Additional characters may be found at runDisney events, during holiday events, or at after-hours parties or in other special ticketed situations.

The available characters aren’t on the Disney website? I thought I saw it there.

You can suss out some character appearances using the disneyworld.com website and/or the My Disney Experience app. For example, on the website go to “Things To Do” and then scroll down to click on “Character Experiences.”

From there you’ll see some of entertainment options that include characters. Click on the entries for more detail on the offerings.

I’ve seen mentions of Disney, Pixar, and Star Wars characters in the parks, but no Marvel characters. Doesn’t Disney own Marvel? Why can’t I see 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 at the 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 have a GotG coaster at EPCOT (in the past there have been Star Lord and Groot greetings at Hollywood Studios, but those are not currently running). 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.

Mickey and Pals on a parade vehicle

Can I hug Mickey Mouse?


While full contact character greetings were paused during the height of the pandemic, regular character greetings are back to full operations. There are several dozen characters that hold regular meet & greet sessions in the theme parks. You can hug them, chat (with face characters), get their autographs, and pose for up-close-and-personal photos.

Character greeting with all seven dwarfs during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

Are there additional ways to see characters?

Stage shows and parades also include many characters, including some that are not available for individual meetings. Examples of this are Beauty & the Beast Live on Stage and the Frozen Sing-Along.

What about character meals?

There are character meals offered in the Disney World theme parks and hotels. During these meals, characters stop at each table to interact with guests. You can get hugs, selfies, autographs, and lots of friendly interactions.

Meeting Donald at the Tusker House character meal at Animal Kingdom

Are there characters in the Disney hotels?

Officially this only happens during character meals based in the hotels (Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary, for example) or in odd circumstances such as entertainment during a hurricane when guests are confined indoors. Unofficially, characters have been making surprise appearances somewhat frequently. During a recent research trip where I happened to visit many WDW resorts. I saw the trio of Chip & Dale and Daisy Duck pop up during mid-afternoon visits at four different hotels.

Are character appearances ever impacted by the weather?

Yes. Any outdoor character appearance may be cancelled during rain and possibly even during extreme heat or cold. If it’s pouring rain at Disney World, you’re unlikely to see a cavalcade pass by.

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 near 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.

Originally posted August 2021. Updated October 2023.

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Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel (now PlanDisney), a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater.

One thought on “FAQ: Walt Disney World Characters in the Theme Parks

  • With Disney mandating vaccinations for all cast members, here’s hoping that closer interactions between characters and guests happen sooner that later.


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