Character interactions are a little different these days. With social distancing measures in place, individual character greetings are temporarily unavailable. However, you can still get your character fix in with all-new cavalcades, boat cruises, motorcades, promenades and surprise pop-up appearances! If you're planning a future trip, you can now book Walt Disney World Resort hotels for 2021 and 2022. It's a great time to lock in savings for upcoming vacations. More dates and hotels are being added, so if you don't see your dates, please check back. You can purchase Walt Disney World Resort theme park tickets for 2021 and 2022 too!
Whether you’re a tadpole or a grown-up frog, meeting and seeing your favorite Disney characters brought to life is a memorable and magical experience. I’ll never forget the looks on Tad and Lily’s faces when they each met Mickey and Minnie for the first time! A simple hug and quick chat can brighten anyone’s day — and even become a major highlight of the entire trip. While spending the day at the parks, the traditional meet-and-greet is easily the most popular photo-op and personalized interaction. However, it’s not the only way to have fun with the characters! In this guide, we’ll reveal the different types of characters, which characters you'll find in each park and tips for making the most out of these special moments.
Right now, character experiences are limited due to social distancing policies, but we've learned to interact with them in new ways and opportunities. All appearances are unannounced, so it might be a tad frustrating for planners who want to make sure that they see their favorite characters. Unfrogtunately, there aren't any guarantees, but the characters do come out frequently, whether it's a cavalcade or a pop-up appearance from a safe distance. (We feel it's easiest to spot characters at Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom.) While you can't get a hug from Mickey, it doesn't mean the interactions are impersonal. They still give birthday shout outs, ask personalized questions and comment on your outfits. Hop over to our post about how you can get your character fix right now, or continue reading this guide about the typical character experiences in "normal" times.
Types of Disney World Characters
At the Disney World theme parks and resorts, you’ll find two types of characters: face characters and fur characters. Face characters take on a fully-human form and look like real people, complete with wigs and makeup, while fur characters have a mascot-style costume with oversized heads. Face characters include all of the Disney princesses and princes, as well as live-action characters including Jack Sparrow and Mary Poppins — just to name a few. Fur characters are typically animal or nonhuman characters, such as Disney’s Fab Five, the Toy Story gang and Chewbacca. But there are some “human” fur characters, most notably the Incredible family and Carl and Russell from "Up." Pretty self-explanatory, right?
It’s important to point out that face characters can talk, but fur characters can only communicate through body language, gestures and actions. Consequently, the interactions will be quite different. Because the fur characters can’t engage in conversation, some tadpoles could find them more intimidating than the face characters. Not to fear! We have an entire post with additional tips to help tadpoles overcome those initial hesitations and fears.
Once Lily got over her shyness, she then hit me with the big question: “Mickey talks on TV. Why won’t he talk to me?” It can be a tough one to answer, but it’s toadally up to you (and you'll want to consider your tadpole’s age and maturity level). Lily was still pretty young when she asked, so to keep the Disney magic going, I simply told her that Mickey would lose his voice if he talked to everyone. But with Tad, who was older when he first asked, I turned it into more of a “teachable moment” that actions speak louder than words. I explained how Mickey prefers not to talk so he can show how much he enjoys spending time with guests.
Traditional Meet-and-Greets with Disney World Characters
The traditional meet-and-greet is by far the most personal way to interact with Disney World characters. Even though it only lasts for a few moments, the character has all of its attention on you. Plus, you get the best photo-op whether you use your own camera or the Disney PhotoPass service. Since you’ll be taking lots of pictures, get creative with poses. Pretend you’re surfing with Stitch or shooting an arrow with Merida.
Don’t be afraid to engage with them! The Disney characters want to participate in the experience of a meet-and-greet, and they'll find ways to get you involved — stealing a hat or offering a high five. We've found that making the most of the experience comes with being prepared to get them involved. This is as simple as asking Mickey, “Where's Pluto?” Or saying to Snow White, “Who is your favorite of the dwarves?” Taking it up a level, ask Chip 'n' Dale, "Which one of you is Chip?" Or say to the ever-jealous Donald, “I've wanted to ask you this for a while ... where can I find Goofy?” Ask Belle for book recommendations, or quiz Jasmine about what Raja is up to. When Mommy Frog once commented on Flynn Rider's tall height, he told us his stature was extra hopful in his former life as a thief (and did a live demonstration of how it helped him reach trinkets on the tippy-top shelf). Think about what would get a Disney character to play along, and get ready to ask some questions. It will truly be more memorable than the photo or autograph!
For the more popular Disney characters, you’ll typically find them in a designated spot, and the Times Guide and Disney Parks app will list the times they show up so that you can always double-check the day of your trip. If it’s an inside location, the characters will stay for longer periods of time. If it’s an outdoor location, the characters will be there intermittently throughout the day. Here’s a brief breakdown of these greeting locations by park so you don’t miss them!
Disney World Characters at Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom hosts many of the Disney princesses, members of the Fab Five and Winnie the Pooh and friends. You may even run into some villains, such as Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, Drizella and Gaston. Best of all, there are two locations that offer multiple meet-and-greets: Town Square Theater (Mickey and Tinker Bell) and Princess Fairytale Hall (one queue for Cinderella and Elena of Avalor and one queue for Rapunzel and Tiana).
Other regular character greetings include:
- Ariel at Ariel’s Grotto
- Aladdin and Jasmine in Adventureland
- Mary Poppins at Liberty Square Gazebo
- Minnie, Goofy and Donald Duck at Pete's Silly Side Show
- Merida at Fairytale Garden
- Buzz Lightyear in Tomorrowland
Disney World Characters at Disney's Animal Kingdom
At Animal Kingdom, you’ll find a couple of unique character greeting spots. Right in her element, Pocahontas meets guests along the Discovery Island trails. You can also meet the dynamic duo Russell and Dug from “Up” near the entrance of the It’s Tough to be a Bug attraction.
Other regular character greetings include:
- Mickey and Minnie (in safari gear) at Adventurers Outpost
- Chip ‘n' Dale at DinoLand
- Donald Duck at DinoLand
- Goofy at DinoLand
- Pluto at DinoLand
- Launchpad McQuack at DinoLand
- Scrooge McDuck at DinoLand
- Rafiki and Timon at Character Landing on Discovery Island
Disney World Characters at Epcot
We love meeting the characters at Epcot because you can find many of them in World Showcase stationed at the countries they’re originally from! Plus, Epcot is the only park with a character greeting location for Anna and Elsa from “Frozen” at Royal Sommerhus in Norway. Right now, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Joy have moved from the former Character Spot to temporary locations around the park. Catch Mickey at the entrance of Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival, Minnie at the World Showcase Gazebo, Pluto and Goofy by Spaceship Earth and Joy at ImageWorks.
Other regular character greetings include:
- Donald Duck in Mexico
- Mulan in China
- Aurora and Belle in France
- Alice in Wonderland and Mary Poppins in United Kingdom
- Jasmine in Morocco
- Snow White in Germany
- Winnie the Pooh in United Kingdom
- Vanellope and Ralph at ImageWorks
Disney World Characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Listen up, "Toy Story" and "Star Wars" fans! With the recent additions of Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, Hollywood Studios is the best park to interact with the Toy Story gang and Star Wars favorites. You can find Buzz Lightyear as soon as you walk into Toy Story Land, while Woody and Jessie meet together further down the path near Midway Games. At Launch Bay, you can come face-to-face with BB-8, Chewbacca and Kylo Ren, while on Batuu, Rey, Vi Moradi, Chewbacca, Kylo Ren and stormtroopers roam about freely.
Other regular character greetings include:
- Olaf at Echo Lake
- Mickey (in his sorcerer’s robe) and Minnie at Red Carpet Dreams
- Sulley from “Monsters Inc.” at Animation Courtyard
- Disney Junior Pals at Animation Courtyard
- Pluto at Animation Courtyard
- Chip 'n' Dale at Sid Cahuenga's One-of-a-Kind
- Mr. and Mrs. Incredible and Edna Mode at Pixar Place
Dining with Disney World Characters
For a large selection of characters in one stop, it’s worth considering a character dining experience. These meals offer you a slight time advantage. Why wait 45 minutes for one character when the same amount of time at a character meal could get you multiple greeting opportunities? Plus, you have mealtime covered, and for some spots, you don’t even have to leave your resort if you’re staying on-site!
The downside is the price tag, which is definitely more than counter-service dining. Your time with the characters is also limited. With 40+ tables to cover, they can't linger with you for too long.
If you decide to dine with Disney World characters, we’ve ranked our favorite Disney World character dining experiences, as there are plenty of options to choose from. Once you pick out your own favorite, be sure to make reservations in advance! Some locations, such as Cinderella’s Royal Table, are very popular and may even be booked out six months ahead.
Other Unique Experiences with Disney World Characters
So, maybe your tadpole is shy or you’d rather wait in lines for rides, but you still think the trip would be incomplete without Disney World characters. The parks have plenty of other opportunities to see them in action!
Daily parades at Magic Kingdom have been going on since the opening of the park, and Disney switches it up every few years to bring in new characters and festive floats. The current daily parade is Festival of Fantasy Parade, which debuted in 2014. Lily absolutely loves waving to the Disney princesses and beloved characters, including the Fab Five, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland and more. Special events, such as Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party or Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, offer fun, party-exclusive parades to celebrate the holidays.
With an abundance of rides and meet-and-greets, sometimes the shows get overlooked, but they can be perfect for a much-needed break in the day (trust me, your feet get tired!). Of course, our favorites usually star a Disney character or two.
- UP! A Great Bird Adventure at Disney's Animal Kingdom — Learn all about exotic birds with Russell and Dug from “Up.” Just be prepared to duck your head when the birds fly into the audience!
- For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration at Disney's Hollywood Studios — It’s time to belt out “Let It Go!" The Royal Historians of Arendelle recount the story of their kingdom with a little bit of help from Anna, Kristoff and Elsa.
- Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire at Magic Kingdom — This outdoor musical stage show in front of Cinderella Castle brings many characters together, including Mickey, Minnie, Rapunzel, Flynn, Tiana, Anna, Elsa and Olaf.
- Enchanted Tales with Belle at Magic Kingdom — While more of an interactive experience than a show, Enchanted Tales with Belle is a good pick for tadpoles who want to live their own "Beauty and the Beast" story. Guests are invited into Belle's cottage, where they're given the chance to play a role in a live re-enactment of her story, culminating in the chance for each guest to meet Belle herself. PhotoPass photographers are on-site to capture the enchanted moments, and the experience also offers FastPass+.
More Tips for Interacting with Disney World Characters
Now that you know all of the different ways you can interact with Disney characters and where to find them, here are some extra tips to make the actual process of finding and meeting them as smooth and efficient as possible.
- We don’t always recommend using a FastPass+ reservation for a character meeting. That said, we realize that not everyone visiting the Magic Kingdom wants to ride Space Mountain. If there’s a character that your little one MUST see, it may be worth the reservation. Realize that standby meeting times for Mickey and Minnie or Tinker Bell at Town Square Theater can be around 45 to 60 minutes, with Princess Fairytale Hall and Enchanted Tales with Belle seeing similar waits. It comes down to your tadpole’s age and patience level. A fussy 4 year old in need of a nap may require the FastPass+, while a 7 year old fresh off a lunch break could stomach a longer wait time. We often use line time to find hidden Mickeys, polish off a snack (group Dole Whip time!) or play a game on the Play Disney Parks app.
- It can be tempting to leap at the first sign of a Disney character your little one needs to see. Many people will stop and see the characters when they first pass by earlier in the day, causing long lines. For those characters who have all-day meeting times (i.e. Mickey Mouse and the princesses at Magic Kingdom), consider waiting until later in the afternoon or evening. By waiting until later, fewer people are passing these areas for the first time and are more apt to carry on with their magical day.
- If there’s a character you want to see and you know where the meeting place and time will be, line up before the character arrives. Nothing draws a crowd (and a line) at Disney like a character. Arriving a few minutes early and hanging around or waiting in line before the character appears can save you time later. This worked well for us when we met Alice at the United Kingdom pavilion in Epcot. The fact that Mary Poppins was still out nearby helped to further draw people away from the Alice meeting spot.
- Watch for “unlisted” characters. Not all of the Disney characters or character meeting spots are listed in the Times Guide. We hoppened to find Fairy Godmother along with Anastasia and Drizella next to Cinderella Castle, near the Cinderella fountain. These characters were only available to meet until around 1 p.m. that day. Score!
- If there are two characters using the same meeting spot but switching off every half-hour, you can be the first in line to see the next character if you tell the cast member assisting the characters that you want to do this. For example, while other guests were seeing Anastasia and Drizella, I checked with the assisting cast member about being the first to see Fairy Godmother, who would be coming out next. She told me just to wait at the end of the line and to let people go ahead of me until she gave me the signal. Like magic, we were able to see Fairy Godmother at the start of her last appearance of the day.
- An often-overlooked Disney character interaction is taking the time to chat with the various Streetmosphere characters. Part improv and part scripted show, these performers give the park a “lived-in” feel. In Magic Kingdom, you'll find the Citizens of Main Street — the Mayor, Socialite, Suffragette and Fire Chief. At Disney's Hollywood Studios, rub elbows with the Citizens of Hollywood — aspiring stars, directors, acting coaches and more from Hollywood's Golden Era. These citizens have much more flexibility and time for interactions, so striking up a conversation is well worth your time.
These are our Frog Family tested Disney World character meeting tips, but we're sure there are more. What was your Disney World character meeting experience like? Do you have any favorite tips? Share in the comments below. You'll find more trip tips and hopful information inside our Planning Pages.