Interacting with the Parks

by Adrienne Krock, staff writer

Disney offers guests a variety of interactive experiences at all of their resorts, many of them targeted at young audiences and involving various characters of various levels of celebrity status. This week we asked the Parenting Panel: Do you have a Warrior? A Princess? A Warrior Princess? A Surfer Dude or Dudette? What is your favorite interactive experience at the Disney theme parks?

MousePlanet columnist Chris Barry his wife Diane, 14-year-old Samantha, and twin 10-year-olds, Casey and Alex, live on Long Island, and are all major Disney and Walt Disney World fans. Chris writes:

First off, I need to state up front that, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion that all attractions at the Walt Disney World Resort must be interactive. This has definitely been a solid pattern over the last 10 years or so with Disney. There seems to be a belief that any new attraction must be interactive; that people are so used to this in their highly technologically enhanced lives that they, in turn, expect the same when they are being entertained at a theme park. To me, the lines at Peter Pan’s Flight seem to disprove that theory daily. Guests line up for 45-60 minutes to experience the classic simplicity of one of Walt’s original attractions. There’s no interactivity. There’s no one hiding behind a curtain or two-way mirror speaking to you. People still do seem to revel in the simple joys of flying off in a pirate ship over London and Neverland and just being a passive participant in the attraction.

That being said, I go back to the question at hand. We do, as a family, enjoy several of the newer interactive type of attractions to be had at Walt Disney World. I’d have to say that our favorite would be the Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom. There’s a great old-school humor at play that hits home with grown-ups and kids alike. That humor is well translated in the attraction. It’s simple humor. Everyone gets it. The kids laugh; the adults are laugh. There’s always a great time to be had at the Laugh Floor.

As far as the interactivity at work on the Laugh Floor, while I’ve never been picked as “That Guy,” I have made it onto the big screen. It was Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and I had my Mickey Mouse ears Santa hat on. Next thing I knew I was on the screen with the caption, “Treating everyone to churros after the show,” underneath my silly face. This certainly gave my kids a big thrill. I can only imagine the fun it must be for a family to have dad be “That Guy,” and be on the screen throughout the show. While Mike Wazowski and Roz’s parts are pre-taped, all of the monster comedians are live. While some of the jokes are typical and I’ve heard them repeated, I’ve also been completely surprised by some. That helps to keep things fresh.

Last summer, it was just the boys and me on our trip. We hit the Laugh Floor a few times that week and, I’m happy to say, it was different each time. The last time, in particular, was hands down the funniest Laugh Floor experience we’ve ever had. Some of the jokes were similar to what we’ve heard before, but there was a different team at work that day playing the yellow two-headed monster sometimes referred to as “Sam and Ella.” They were hysterical. They had a different delivery than we’ve ever heard before and the audience  laughed out loud even harder than usual. It was really a highlight of our day and one of the best memories of that trip.

So, I guess while I’m a traditionalist at heart and adore my classic favorites like Peter Pan's Flight, the Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion that rely on atmosphere, Audio-Animatronics and Disney magic rather than on interactivity to wow the guests. When the interactivity is done as well as it is in the Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor, I guess I have to give credit where credit is due. Take the kids to the Laugh Floor. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to be “That Guy,” or maybe you’ll just laugh out loud just like we did that day ... and that’s pretty lucky, too,  isn’t it?

Elizabeth, who posts on our MousePad message board as eabaldwin, has been a Disneyland Annual Passholder since 2010. She and her husband have two daughters: Josie (3)  and Katie (14 months). Elizabeth writes:

We have two princesses and they enjoy a variety of experiences at the Disneyland Resort, though.

We love going to Turtle Talk with Crush. Katie likes to sit on the floor with the other kids and watch Crush pretty intently. Since she just turned 3, she is not yet into answering/asking questions, but she really enjoys the experience. I think the appeal for Katie is seeing an animal from a movie talking and interacting with the audience. Plus, she really likes turtles.

Even though we have only seen it once, the performances in the new Fantasy Faire Theater will be one of our must-sees when we go to Disneyland in the future. Katie is very into princesses these days, especially Belle and Rapunzel. The shows are a retelling of the movie, but with limited actors and props. We have only seen the Tangled one with Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, which was very entertaining. These shows are great for any age, with humor that made both Katie and me giggle. Even Josie sat on my lap and watched the show instead of trying to crawl around. The attraction here is princesses, sparkles, tiaras, and pretty dresses.

The other interactive opportunity that we love is a character dining experience. Katie loves when it is our turn for the character to visit. We have eaten at PCH Grill in Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel the most, because she loves Mickey. We have a hard time keeping her at the table because she loves to go up to hug him and dance with with him. The biggest problem that we have is trying to get her to eat!

Chris, also known as GusMan, is always planning his next family trip to the Walt Disney World Resort and loves to help others plan their trips, as well sharing his experiences. Chris writes:

There is one thing to be said about being at the Disney parks and that is that everything seems to be interactive to one extent or another. Between being immersed in the backstory while waiting in a queue  and playing games while waiting or favorites like Soarin’ or Space Mountain, simply waiting in line can be a draw for guests.

There are special times when the magic seems to come out of nowhere for our family. My son loves to sit in the front of Turtle Talk with Crush and somehow always gets picked to join in the conversation. While I grin while write this, he seems to always ask Crush some of the funniest questions. At the same time, Crush seems to always ask where his mom and I are sitting, which then causes us to get involved in the conversation, as well. Of course, we get into character with Crush, which makes everyone laugh, but then it also shows how many times we’ve seen the show. If you have young kids, let them give this a shot and maybe they can talk to Crush, too! It’s a highlight for my son for sure.

At The Laugh Floor in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, I seem to be the target for some of the guest interaction parts, as well. And while I have never been “That Guy” I have played the part of Sully and been asked to dance in front of everyone. There is nothing like getting into the magic and joining in the fun. People tend to remember you throughout the day as you go from attraction to attraction. It may seem embarrassing at first, but it is nothing like when you see someone get the spotlight and do absolutely nothing. Enjoy the spotlight...the 15 seconds of fame. It will surely be a highlight of your trip.

Interacting with the “streetmosphere” characters can end up being an impromptu, treat as well. Whether it be talking with some of the characters walking up and down Hollywood Boulevard at Disney Hollywood Studios, getting dragged into a show on the street, or even talking to the mayor of Main Street, U.S.A., feel free to be yourself while, at the same time, adding to the show. I know that my wife and the mayor have had many conversations while I played a role in a major motion film! (Not really, but it was fun nonetheless.) Even my daughter got questioned by the officer walking up and down the street at asking her about the missing ice cream cone. Total interaction time might only be a few moments, but it makes for great dinner time conversation. One thing is for sure: Have your video camera ready to capture the moment!

While there is no real secret as to how you can join in some of the random fun, I have found that just being yourself having a good time can increase the odds of you becoming a part of the show. You will never be asked to do something that makes you uncomfortable and I guarantee the laughs and applause will keep you coming back wanting more. These magical memories are yours to cherish for a lifetime..

Jen, also known as *Nala*, is an engineer, a Disney fan, and a MouseAdventure fanatic. She lives in Southern California with her husband and two future MouseAdventurers, ages 1 and 3. Jen writes

My kids, at 1 and 3 years old, are getting to be those magical ages where the characters are real; yet like most toddlers and preschoolers aren't huge fans of waiting in long lines to meet Mickey or the princesses. We do take character photos when the opportunity presents itself, but also enjoy several of Disney's interactive shows and attractions.

My 3-year-old son's two current favorite shows at the Disneyland Resort are Disney Junior – Live on Stage and Turtle Talk with Crush. Preschoolers are Disney Junior's target audience, with stories and characters from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins and Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Like any good show for very young kids, Disney Junior provides many opportunities for the kids to interact with the host and the characters. Kids can help Jake find the Team Treasure Chest, chant a spell along with Sofia to make her flowers sparkle, dance with Doc McStuffins and Lamby, and, of course, help Mickey and his friends choose the right Mouseketool for every situation. My son especially loves the parts of the show where bubbles or streamers or "snow" magically fall from the ceiling.

Turtle Talk with Crush is another great opportunity for kids to interact with a Disney character. My kids aren't quite ready yet to volunteer to ask Crush questions, but they enjoy watching him swim around and teaching the audience to talk like a turtle. My son was especially delighted when Crush pulled out a Buzz Lightyear doll that he "found on the beach" and asked the kids in the audience to tell him what it was. As an added bonus (or maybe not), your kids might spend the afternoon calling everyone "dude." You so totally rock, Crush!

My 1-year-old daughter is right now more interested in toddling around than in sitting to watch a show, making Dancin' with Disney one of her favorite attractions. There is lively music, plenty of open floor to walk and bounce around, and, of course, Disney characters who are there to dance and play with kids of all ages. She can wave and smile to her heart's content, and approach the characters at her own speed without waiting in a long line.

And of course, there are the parades. My 3-year-old will wave at every character he knows, ask about the characters he doesn't know, and enthusiastically call out "Hi Buzz! Hi Mickey!" and be thrilled when he gets a wave or even a high-five in return. My 1-year-old claps, waves, and is fascinated by the music and the bright colors. No matter how many times I've seen a parade or heard the theme song, it never gets old watching the kids' faces light up as a favorite character comes by to greet them.

It's your turn—keep the discussion flowing!

Visit the Parenting in the Parks forum on our MousePad discussion board, and share your opinions about this topic or many others, or send your suggestions via e-mail. Reader-submitted tips might be used in a future article, and you might be selected to participate in an upcoming panel discussion!



  1. By DaLoon

    It is hard to believe that neither Chris has been "that guy." It gets you a nice sticker to wear for the day. But neither mentioned the World Showcase players. I guess that means you have not had the opportunity to sit on the throne (as King Arthur). Been there, did both of these - great fun, if you do not take yourself too seriously. And who should be taking himself too seriously, especially in the land of the Mouse?

  2. By DannyeF

    We had a ton of fun with the Discover the Magic Tour at Disneyland last year, with kids ages 9 and 11. Very interactive and hilarious, and as DaLoon said, you definitely get more out of it as an adult if you remember that adults don't have to be OLD. :-)

  3. By DisneyGator

    It's still a mystery how the CMs pick people for the interactive events, even though I get picked a lot. I've been chosen for the Indiana Jones Stunt Show 3 times, and though you have to get up and holler to be picked, there's no guarantee. But I've been lucky on that one. And then there's the World Showcase players - I've been picked 3 times for that as well. I'm just sitting down by the side and they pick me. My kids like watching all the interaction and maybe one day they'll be part of it.

  4. By GusMan

    I really think that if you look like you are really into it, smiling, and wearing some Disney apparel, your odds are better.

    But that is just a guess...

  5. By BlossomNoseMurphy

    We went to the parks for the first time with our four year old two weeks ago, and I have to say that pin trading was the best interactive feature of the parks for us. We had never traded before (bought some on eBay in advance), but it was a saving grace many times during Jr.'s various meltdowns. Mom wants to shop, let's trade pins with the store clerk. Not quite the Fastpass return time? Let's find a kiosk to trade pins at while we wait. I don't want to eat now, I want to ride... Look there is someone with pins to trade!

  6. By GusMan

    Quote Originally Posted by BlossomNoseMurphy View Post
    ... I have to say that pin trading was the best interactive feature of the parks for us.

    There is a draw to pin trading, and I think its kinda neat when a child gets into it. Startup costs are rather low and it can be pretty fun. Lots of pins that can be traded off can be found on eBay for a lot less than at the parks.

    My only problem is when you have so many pins, the lanyards gets heavy.

  7. By adriennek

    Quote Originally Posted by BlossomNoseMurphy View Post
    (bought some on eBay in advance)
    Quote Originally Posted by GusMan View Post
    My only problem is when you have so many pins, the lanyards gets heavy.

    Thanks for sharing and I'm glad it worked well for you - my problem is that it's not free. My boys have started to get a little bit interested in pin collecting - boy howdy could this get expensive fast!

  8. By BlossomNoseMurphy

    Quote Originally Posted by GusMan View Post
    My only problem is when you have so many pins, the lanyards gets heavy.

    Yes, the lanyards were wildly out of proportion to our kid, so I just kept a few in my back pocket (with a stash in my backpack). Handing the pin to the kid made getting him up off the ground oh so much easier and was pretty effective in helping to break the tantrum/meltdown cycle (little kids love to hold little things).

  9. By GusMan

    Thats a great example of knowing your child and adapting accordingly!

  10. By 3Princesses1Prince

    Quote Originally Posted by BlossomNoseMurphy View Post
    Yes, the lanyards were wildly out of proportion to our kid, so I just kept a few in my back pocket (with a stash in my backpack). Handing the pin to the kid made getting him up off the ground oh so much easier and was pretty effective in helping to break the tantrum/meltdown cycle (little kids love to hold little things).

    I got kid-sized Disney lanyards at Party City for $1.

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