It's All About Character
Meeting your favorite personalities at Walt Disney
Friday, March 18, 2005
by Mike Scopa, staff writer
Some years back when attendance was hurting in the
Walt Disney World theme parks, cast members were sent to the parks to
survey the guests. Among the questions asked was what the guests wanted
most out of their visits to the parks. Beyond collecting that data, cast
members also queried guests on what improvements could be made regarding
guest experience in the parks.
You might have seen the results of this survey. One was the arrival of
the Fastpass system. The other was the change in the number of character
Today, guests can pretty much expect to run into a character just about
wherever they venture into the parks.
In this session, let's look at where and how you can find your favorite
characters, and also go over proper protocol for character interaction
for those visiting the Walt Disney Resort.
As a result of that survey, Disney decided to bolster the character meet-and-greet
opportunities, and pump it up they did. As a matter of fact, there are
so many opportunities to meet the characters that it might just make some
guests consider how to fit this meet-and-greet time into their park-touring
But how do you schedule that? Is there a way to work your touring plan
around meeting up with some of your favorite characters? Let's take a
As you can imagine, just as each park has a daily schedule of activities
such as parades and nighttime spectaculars, it makes sense that there
would also be a scheduled set of character meet-and-greet times. The best
place to find out about this schedule is Guest Relations. If you are interested
in meeting a specific character, then visit that park's Guest Relations
and ask if they can provide you with some information as to where and
when your favorite character will be meeting guests.
In some cases, the folks at Guest Relations might be able to make a quick
phone call and find out exactly when and where your character is appearing
that day. Once you have this information, you can then plan around that
event and enjoy your day in the park even more. You might say that a visit
to Guest Relations and asking such a question is very similar to receiving
a Fastpass for an attraction. Rather than waiting around you can instead
enjoy the park's offerings and then make sure you are at the right spot
at the right time.
Let's look at each of the four main theme parks, including some specific
park locations where guests are most likely to find some characters.
Even before you arrive at the turnstiles of the Magic Kingdom theme park,
you might encounter your first character on the ferry boat that takes
guests back and forth from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the
Magic Kingdom. If you're lucky you might be able to enjoy the trip with
characters like Pluto, or Chip and Dale.
Be advised that this treat does not occur for every trip across Seven
Seas Lagoon and that your chances of seeing these characters are best
in the morning.
One of the character jackpot areas within the Magic Kingdom is Tony's
Town Square. When you walk into the Magic Kingdom in the morning you might
find yourself looking at as many as 10 characters waiting to meet the
early arriving guests.
Specifically, you find characters such as Princess Aurora, Aladdin, Wendy,
and Cruella De Vil right outside Tony's Town Square Restaurant. You can
also spot characters near the Main Street Confectionary, The Emporium,
City Hall, as well as right in the center of the square near the statue
of Roy Disney and Minnie Mouse.
Adventureland is also home to some character-meeting places. You might
find Jasmine and Aladdin next to Aloha Isle, as well as Rafiki or Timon,
while Chip and Dale are often seen near Aladdin's Magic Carpet Ride. You
could also come across Genie in any of these places in AdventureLand.
Frontierland is the place where you can find several of the Country Bears
dancing with park guests. They can be found right outside the Country
Bear Jamboree attraction.
You might find Stitch and Buzz Lightyear in Tomorrowland. Their locations
vary, so make sure you check with Guest Relations if you are interested
knowing where and when they make their appearances.
In recent years, you could find your favorite characters in Fantasyland
at the Fantasyland Character Festival. You could also find your favorite
mermaid at Ariel's Grotto.
Finally, you might find yourself treated to a character meet following
the daytime castle forecourt shows. Those characters that perform in the
show often come down to the castle forecourt to spend time with guests.
These are the main areas within the theme park where you might encounter
some characters. There are other minor areas such as just before the bridge
to Adventureland where you might also find meet-and-greet opportunities.
Let's not also forget such character dining experiences with Winnie the
Pooh and Friends at the Crystal Palace and Minnie and Friends at the Liberty
The Magic Kingdom offers more character interaction than the other three
Walt Disney World theme parks.
Depending on when you enter Epcot, you can find a busload of characters
arriving to greet guests just beyond the Leave a Legacy area. Like the
meet-and-greet bonanza in Tony's Town Square at Magic Kingdom, here you
are surrounded by characters well before you begin attraction-hopping.
You can also find this double-decker bus at the Showcase Plaza. With
the World Showcase as a background, this area is an ideal place to take
that memorable photo of your favorite character. The Showcase Plaza has
a lot of space for you to mingle with the characters, and thus is the
ideal spot in the park to interact with them.
There are other areas around World Showcase where you might find some
special characters. For instance you could spot Mulan at the China pavilion,
Aladdin and Jasmine in Morocco, and even Esmeralda and Hunchback in France.
For character dining, there's the Garden Grill at The Land in Future
World, and the Storybook Princess meals at Norway.
If you happen to be in World Showcase you might also find a rather large
Figment near Imagination, and possibly a space-suited Goofy near Mission:
Again, it's best to visit Guest Relations for specific times and appearance.
Sometimes during the morning hours, you can find several characters waiting
to greet you at the front of the park near Crossroads. However, the best
place to encounter the characters is in the general vicinity of the Sorcerer's
Hat. You might find as many as a dozen or so characters out to welcome
you, pose for pictures, and sign autograph books. This large character
meet happens several times during the day.
You might also find some characters on Mickey Avenue, usually near the
trailers that are parked along the street. Recently, Mickey Avenue has
been home to JoJo and Goliath.
Lilo and Stitch usually hang out near the Magic of Disney Animation.
Commissary Lane is often overlooked as an area to meet some characters.
This is the area where you find characters like Sully and Mike from Monsters,
Finally, you can see Woody, Buzz, and other Toy Story characters
at the Toy Barn, which is right around the corner from Mama Melrose and
the Muppet 3D exit.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
In Disney's Animal Kingdom, you are often greeted by characters near
the entrance to the park, as well as Discovery Island near the Tree of
Life. However, you should have the most luck on the road to, and in Camp
There is no telling who you might find there, but you will certainly
find some favorites as well as characters from Tarzan and The
If you are a Rafiki fan, you might want to be on the lookout for him
at Rafiki's Planet Watch.
Finally, one of my favorite places for breakfast, Donald's Breakfastsaurus,
offers you a great breakfast and a great place to see Mickey, Donald,
Goofy, Pluto, and others.
Keep in mind that this theme park and Epcot do not usually offer as many
character-encounter opportunities as do Magic Kingdom and Disney-MGM Studios.
You might also find characters at the resortsspecifically those
resorts with restaurants that offer character meals. Some of the best
places to dine with the characters are:
- Breakfast and dinner at Grand Floridian's 1900 Park Fare
- Breakfast and dinner at Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary Resort
- Breakfast at 'Ohana at the Polynesian Resort.
Of course, you never know when you'll run into characters wandering around
the resorts. You might find Chip and Dale near Pioneer Hall at Fort Wilderness.
If so, they are likely to be dressed in their Rescue Rangers garb. You
might also catch Chip and Dale at Wilderness Lodge Lobby warming themselves
in front of the fireplace.
It's always a good idea to keep your eyes open wherever you are, be it
in the parks or at a resort.
Now that we know where to find the characters, let's talk about how to
act around them. The meet-and-greet experience should be as enjoyable
for the characters as it is for the guests. Help teach your children how
to interact with them as well. It's always nice to see parents showing
their children how to properly act with the characters.
Be patient Characters are pretty popular so you can bet
that there will be long lines of guests waiting to see their favorite
character. Many guests wait a year or so to get to WDW and see their favorite
characters, so waiting a few minutes more should not be difficult.
Respect other guests Imagine how you would want to be treated
by other guests. That's how you should treat them. This means not cutting
in line, and giving those in front of you ample time to enjoy their moment
with the characters.
Addressing the characters You know how you enjoy people
calling you by name. The same is true for the characters. When you see
Pluto give him a big, Hiya Pluto! Or when you see Mickey,
be sure and shout out his name. When you speak to the characters, it helps
to be in front of them so they can see who is talking to them.
Obey the greeters Each character normally has a greeter
to assist in crowd control and answer any questions the guests might have.
The greeter also informs the guests when it's time for the character to
take a break. Guests should abide by the greeters instructions so that
everyone has an enjoyable experience with the character.
Cameras on the ready Once you are next in line, it's a
good idea to have your camera ready for that special photograph. That
means turning your camera on, taking the lens cap off and being prepared
to just point and shoot. And if you need to, there's no harm in taking
Carry a big stick
erh pen Have you ever tried writing
while wearing a pair of mittens? It's somewhat difficult unless you have
a thick pen. With that in mind, those character who are wearing gloves
or who have large paws will appreciate using thick pens to sign autographs.
Show your appreciation Think of the patience exhibited
by the characters and how hard they try to make your family's moment with
them as special as possible. Be sure to thank them if you get a chance
and tell them they are doing a good job.
WDW guests are given an enormous number of opportunities to meet up with
their favorite Disney characters. Whether it's at the parks, the resorts,
or while enjoying a meal, you can be assured that somewhere, your favorite
character is waiting to meet you and help you
Remember the Magic.
I can't think of anything more important to discuss on April Fool's Day
than an April Fool's approach to a Walt Disney World vacation. That's
what's in store for next time.
Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mike here.