Chip 'n Dale in a new location in Frontierland where Donald Duck once hosted guests. Many character meet and greets are still scattered outside throughout the parks, but others are inside dedicated, themed locations. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
A key component of the New Fantasyland is a number of new character meet and greets. Disney's intention was a more immersive experience for meeting some of your favorite characters. Today we want to showcase some of those new places, although not all of them are actually in the New Fantasyland. Some are located in previous places that have been improved upon throughout the Magic Kingdom.
The biggest makeover of all has been Pete's Silly Side Show. This tent was once the location of the Toontown Hall of Fame. Originally you queued and exited in what is now Storybook Souvenirs. You still exit, but the entrance is now right through the front.
Originally guests would split among one of three queues. One set would have princesses, another set would have fairies, and still another set would have friends of the Hundred-Acre Woods, or some other grouping. Now the grouping is divided into half. One group goes to Daisy and Minnie and the other goes to Donald and Goofy. There is a lot of theming that goes into each of these meet and greet locations, even in the first part of the queue. Take the time to study it out.
Which direction you go is up to you. Unfortunately, they don't yet allow you to return and queue directly in the other line. You have to exit through Storybook Souvenirs, come back outside and then re-enter.
Daisy was once relegated to Town Square, where Pluto and others still remain.
Minnie previously held court with Mickey at Town Square Theater. Now she joins others here in Storybook Circus.
Goofy is certainly highlighted in Storybook Circus, with his own attraction nearby, and now his own meet and greet location. You will want to note the motorcycle is still spilling smoke out of its exhaust.
Last but not least is the Astounding Donaldo, who again, once was relegated elsewhere, but now has a home of his own here at Storybook Circus.
What really works here are the detailed props and settings that reinforce the Storybook Circus setting. What's disappointing is that they are so tailored, that I doubt any other characters will make an appearance soon. It would seem that this area would be fantastic for characters like Horace Horsecollar or Hyacinth Hippo. Perhaps in time they will appear outside. But I'm certain that operations wants to make sure that their investment in this side show pays off first.
When completed, it will be a short walk from here to the other parts of the new Fantasyland, but with construction still going on with the Seven Dwarfs coaster attraction, you will need to walk all the way around. Never mind, after all this gives you a chance to stop in and visit a couple of other new additions over the last year.
First is Merida from Brave. She holds court in the space that was once held by Rapunzel (who now flips back and forth between the princess meet 'n greet at Town Square Theater and the Guest Relations Gardens (seasonally held by individuals like Santa Claus).
Go around the corner and you'll also see a new meet 'n greet location themed to the Hundred Acre Wood. This space barely opened as a Tigger Bouncing area for the attraction's queue. Now you will usually find a pair like Tigger and Pooh greeting guests.
The most lavish of all the new meet 'n greet locations is now more of an attraction in itself. Enchanted Tales with Belle not only provides a chance to meet Belle, but also to visit with Wardrobe and Lumiere. You will probably spend more time waiting in line for this character experience than anywhere else. Look for a chance to get a FastPass to this one. It will definitely be worth it. My earlier article will also give you other details you may want to pay attention to.
Along the path you may encounter Gaston. This is Gaston's first time in a meet 'n greet experience that I can ever recall, though most guests saw him in the Beauty and the Beast--Live on Stage show at Disney's Hollywood Studios. I first dismissed this as somewhat filler, but one day he came out while guests were waiting to enter the dress rehearsal of the new Fantasyland. his character and the dialogue was as funny as it gets, with the experience feeling more like a streetmosphere improvisational experience than a character meet 'n greet.
While you're out this way, keep an eye for the Beast at Be Our Guest restaurant. He has started to make appearances, but it's still uncertain as to the times. It seems at this point to only be during the evening hours.
With the success of The Little Mermaid, Ariel's Grotto soon opened in the '90s with a small water play area and an opportunity to visit Ariel. With the new Fantasyland, that space is now occupied by Belle, and The Little Mermaid now occupies what was the interior portion of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. There is no water play area, as it is now Casey Jr.'s job to provide that at Storybook Circus, but you can now visit Ariel on her clam throne once again. Don't be too discouraged by the line. What you see, is pretty much the queue, and once you turn the corner you'll be visiting Ariel. What was once the slowest line to visit her now takes half the time--if you know what I mean.
Fantasyland isn't the only place where things are happening. It's worth noting two other locations. The first is the Adventureland Veranda that has played host to Tinker Bell since about 2008. This is probably the slowest queue at this time, and without a FastPass, you may be disappointed by the wait time. If this is important, you may want to visit this location early in the day. But if you haven't seen it, it is one of the most immersive meet 'n greet locations there is at the Magic Kingdom.
What's new is that since September, it has added a touch of winter magic with the Secret of the Wings video that's out. Guests can now visit with Periwinkle.
We end back at the Town Square Theater. This location for visiting with Mickey and the princesses was established nearly a year and a half ago in 2011. But if you haven't been there lately, check out the additional theming that has gone into the entry areas leading to Mickey's dressing room. For months after it opened it was just blank walls. Now there's a host of wonderful trivia that pays tribute to the Disney gang.
There are little nooks in the desk which pay homage to a number of Disney legends, both real and fictional. My favorite of all of these is to Bill Justice, an animator/imagineer who passed away last year. Scrolled inside his mail slot is a drawing many of you may remember from the Walt Disney Story days.
All this and we haven't covered all of the characters who are out and about or are in other dedicated locations My latest count includes:
If visiting with the Disney characters is an important part of your experience at the Magic Kingdom, know that there are some terrific places to visit. Indeed, you'll find that you could spend the entire day meeting different members of the Disney gang.
(Send an email to Jeff Kober)
J. Jeff Kober, (@MousePlanetJeff) president of Performance Journeys and CEO of World Class Benchmarking, is also a thought leader on best-in-business practices at the Walt Disney Company. He brings those ideas to organizations via keynotes, seminars, and workshops to organizations around the world. He has authored "The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney" as well as a "Disney at Work" series of apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch, available via DisneyatWork.com. You can find out more about his newest book, "Lead With Your Customer: Transform Culture and Brand into World-Class Excellence" at LeadWithYourCustomer.com.