The Disney Parks are magical places to visit. Whether it’s for a quick day trip with friends or a vacation with family, you’ll never know what memories you’ll make while visiting the Parks. From thrilling attractions to magic moments throughout a parade or nighttime show to certain themed dining experiences, there are exciting experiences around every corner.
Besides all these opportunities to explore at the Parks, there are other experiences that are typically missed, ignored, or just underrated, which are character interactions. Character interactions can make or break the Guest experience, and there are so many options for characters to meet, depending on which Park you are visiting, what time of year (for instance, there may be more villains in the Parks around Halloween), and what type of character, such as face or fur.
But, you might be wondering what exactly to do during these character interactions. If this is your first time interacting with a Disney character, you might feel weirded out, but not to worry! Here are some tips we have for making sure that your character interaction goes smoothly, regardless of your age or whether it’s your first or 50th time interacting with characters.
Do’s for Interacting With Disney Characters
Visiting characters can be fun for any age group, whether you have children who are experiencing the wonder of Disney for the first time and get to meet their favorite Pixar character or Disney princess, or even if you’re a “Disney Adult” who enjoys going to the Parks for that sense of nostalgia and visiting with characters you’ve known and loved over the years.
There are several tips for meeting Disney characters at the Parks, especially those from former Cast Members who have either experienced these character meet-and-greets firsthand as a character or secondhand as a character handler who assists the character.
Recently, a former Cast Member shared some advice about getting the best character interactions. Here are some of their tips when specifically visiting characters with children:
- Have your kids take the lead. Let your kids go up to the character first instead of taking control of the conversation since this can be a personal experience for them. Don’t feel the need to rush and hurry through the interaction. Let them have time to warm up to the character.
- It’s perfectly fine if they’re afraid. This might be a scary moment for kids at first, especially if they’re shy. If they’re afraid, don’t push them toward the character, especially if they’re screaming or crying. Also, don’t force them to hug the character or say anything at first. What you can try to do is put yourself as a buffer and stand next to the character or put your child on the outside of the photo if you’re taking one.
- Take photos of candid moments. Although it might be tempting to only take photos of your kids when they’re smiling next to the character, it makes for even better photos to capture the moments when they’re interacting with the character. You can also talk with the PhotoPass photographer who accompanies the characters to learn how they capture these special moments.
- Don’t make autographs the main focus. Autographs are a great way to preserve the memories of meeting the character, but it can be awkward or annoying when a child just shoves the autograph book in the character’s face, and it can also slow down the character interaction. What you can do is hold the book or have another person in your party hold it until the timing is right.
The ex-Cast Member also provided some other tips to have the character experience go smoothly in general:
- Bring a clickable Sharpie. Smaller pens might not always look the best for autographs, especially if the character is a fur character with large gloves.
- Ask for consent. Always ask the character for permission before you give them a hug or if you have any other requests other than taking photos or getting an autograph.
- Remind the character if you’re seeing them again. Let’s say you’re seeing Cinderella again after meeting her the day before. Chances are she either doesn’t remember you specifically or you might have met a different person altogether. Either way, it will make for a better interaction to continue where you left off.
- Have some manners. This is pretty self-explanatory. Say please and thank you, and just be kind to the characters.
- Observe basic hygiene. Make sure your kids are clean before meeting the characters, especially princesses. Make sure they don’t have any chocolate or any other food or substance on their face or hands that could make the character have to change and potentially get in trouble.
- Don’t ruin the magic. You know that the fur characters aren’t real, but your kids might not, so don’t make remarks that imply otherwise and potentially ruin the moment for your kids or other Guests.
These tips for character meet and greets apply not just to face characters but to fur characters as well. To clarify, face characters are those who are the live-action version of animated characters, whereas fur characters are those who are in a costume with a large head, similar to a mascot. If you feel stuck or awkward trying to interact with the fur characters, especially since they can’t respond to you verbally, the character handler can help guide the interaction as well.
One of the ways you can enhance your meet and greet experience is by asking questions, sticking within the “universe” that the character would know (i.e. don’t ask the princesses about Star Wars). PlanDisney has some great ideas for prompts to ask characters, especially princesses. For example, you can ask Belle if she’s read any good books lately or Tiana if she has any family recipes to share with you. Questions like these can help lead to better conversations and interactions.
Disneybounding is also another fun way to spark this interaction by dressing similarly to the character you wish to meet or someone from their story. It also makes for a cute photo to remember your Disney trip later.
Don’ts for Interacting With Disney Characters
We just discussed how to enhance your experience with characters, but now let’s dive into what not to do when interacting with characters.
- Don’t be creepy. Some characters get harassed, especially princesses, by Guests who feel entitled or are just creepy in general.
- Avoid asking uncomfortable or off-limit questions. These questions include “What’s your real name?” or “Is it hot in your costume?” The Cast Members portraying these characters cannot respond in a way that their character would not, and they cannot do anything to tarnish the illusion that the character is real. This includes asking characters to pose in a certain way for photos, like a peace sign, which would not be in most characters’ backgrounds.
- Watch what you bring to meet and greets. Characters cannot accept money or food, but if you or your child wants to bring the characters something, they can accept small gifts, drawings, or letters.
A recent Business Insider article shows a perspective of a former Cast Member who was a fur character. They share some great points about what not to do as well. Some of these tips include points mentioned previously, including don’t ask uncomfortable questions and don’t force your children to meet the characters if they’re scared. But here are some other points to keep in mind as well:
- Have everything ready when meeting characters. Make sure that you have pens, autograph books, and any other devices ready before meeting the characters. Waiting in line is a great time to do this to avoid being flustered and cutting into your character interaction time.
- Don’t touch or treat characters like toys. This reminder is not just for kids, the ex-Cast Member pointed out, as adults tend to do this too. Don’t ruin the experience for others by pulling on Pluto’s tail or Mickey’s ears. This can result in being banned from meeting characters for the rest of the day, or in a worst-case scenario, being kicked out of the Park.
- Don’t ask characters for photos or autographs if they’re walking somewhere else. This is more for Disney World Guests, as it is rarer than at Disneyland to see characters walking around instead of staying in one spot. If characters are walking around, they may be trying to get somewhere else, such as a meet and greet location or a backstage area. Avoid stepping in front of them or worse, grabbing them, as this can cause safety issues. Character handlers and Cast Members can tell you when and where you can find and interact with characters.
Overall, just be respectful and kind when interacting with characters, character handlers, and anyone you encounter at the Parks. This will greatly add to your experience, not just with meeting characters but at the Parks overall.
Other Helpful Hints for Disney Character Interactions
At this point, you know the basics of what to do and, more importantly, what not to do, when interacting with Disney characters. The next step is to find these characters. Disneyland and Disney World, for example, have lists on their websites of where to find some of these characters.
At Disneyland for instance, you can meet Tinker Bell in Pixie Hollow, princesses like Belle, Cinderella, or Ariel at Royal Hall, or even Mickey Mouse and his pals throughout the day on Main Street, U.S.A.
And at Disney California Adventure, you can find Anna and Elsa at the Disney Animation Building, Pixar characters from films like The Incredibles or Toy Story at Pixar Pier, or even Lightning McQueen or Mater at Radiator Springs in Cars Land.
At Disney World, on the other hand, there are several opportunities to meet and greet characters. At Magic Kingdom Park, you can meet Aladdin and Jasmine in the Agrabah Bazaar in Adventureland, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger at the Thotful Spot in Fantasyland, or even princesses like Cinderella or Tiana at Princess Fairytale Hall.
At EPCOT, you can find several characters, especially at the World Showcase. Here, you can meet Belle in France, Alice in the United Kingdom, or Donald Duck in Mexico. And at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you can find Minnie and Mickey at Adventurers Outpost in Discovery Island.
Finally, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you can enjoy meeting characters like Sulley at Walt Disney Presents, Toy Story pals like Woody, Jessie, or Buzz Lightyear at Toy Story Land, and Olaf at Celebrity Spotlight.
These opportunities listed are just a few of the many character experiences available across the Parks. You can also check the Parks’ respective apps during your visit to find specific characters, locations, and times as well.
Do you enjoy character interactions at the Disney Parks? Who are some of your favorite characters to find? Tell us in the comments!