Ask any child what they want to do at Walt Disney World and you will likely find that eventually they will say,”Meet Mickey Mouse!” Character greetings can become intimidating to even the seasoned Disney traveler. There are a few things you can do to make the character greeting experience smooth, fun and successful for your child.
Tip #1 Prepare Your Child– Any mom will tell you that they long for that precious picture of their child looking up longingly at Mickey Mouse or Rapunzel. After all, many of our children have big ideas of what will happen when they meet their favorite character for the first time too. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always go the way that we expect it. Meeting Disney characters for the first time can be likened to meeting Santa Claus at the mall. It just isn’t always pretty! My suggestion is to prepare your child. Many of the characters are BIG. Bigger than you might even expect. Woody for instance has a HUGE head, Sully from Monster’s Inc. is enormous, and Mr. Incredible (although he has a great smile) can be very intimidating. Prepare your child for the sheer size of the characters. Talk to them and let them know that they won’t be their size. They will be the size of an adult or even larger. You should also prepare your child that the characters will not talk to them. We told our children that Mickey and the other characters would “interact” and nod, but wouldn’t talk to them. “Face Characters” such as the princesses, however, will talk and interact with your child. Our first visit with one of our twin daughters proved difficult when greeting characters. We have an entire set of photos from that trip without her in them! I would encourage you if you have a reluctant child to watch the characters from afar to begin with. Don’t get into the line yet. Find characters that are out in the open and allow your child to wave, interact and see them prior to lining up for the greeting. This time to warm up helped our daughter immensely.
Tip #2 Prepare for Autographs– Disney takes the chance to market any and everything while you are visiting, and greeting characters is no exception. You will find that the quest for Disney character autographs sucks in most children….even the reluctant middle schooler and an occasional adult! Disney, of course, has cashed in on this quest and sells (while affordable) autograph books for signatures. A quick search on Pinterest, Google or Etsy will yield a myriad of adorable options for gathering character signatures. Our family has used a spiral bound notecard book with success. When we return we remove the notecards and slide them into a photo album opposite the picture of the child with the character. On our last trip I had personalized pillow cases made for my children and at our Character Dining Experience we had the characters sign the pillowcases with fabric markers! They love sleeping on their Autograph pillows! All this to say, prepare yourself that eventually your child will see that the characters give autographs and will want to gather their own. It is best to prepare for this prior to your first greeting and have your autograph book ready to go.
Tip #3 Take in a Character Dining Experience– Any parent and child will eventually find standing in line in 100+ degrees awaiting the return of a character tiresome. Consider knocking out your child’s favorite group or most desired group of characters in one breakfast, lunch or dinner excursion. Of course the castle experience seeing the princess is the most sought after dining experience, but I can highly recommend Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus in EPCOT’s Norway for a cheaper and more easily booked princess dining. Consider getting the Mickey and Friends characters at a Character Dining Experience as well. If your child is into Winnie the Pooh the Dining Experience at The Crystal Palace in The Magic Kingdom is lovely. You just can’t go wrong with a Character Dining Option!!
Tip #4 Be Prepared– Nothing is more irritating than being in line behind the family that fumbles around for their camera, autograph books, Photopass card, or video camera. To make character greeting the most efficient experience for everyone (cast, guests, and children) please be prepared when your turn comes up. My rule of thumb is to allow my children to handle their own autograph books while my husband or I handle cameras and Photopass cards. The bottom line is have everything out prior to your turn so that the folks behind you can also have a positive experience.
Tip#5 Have Your Child Interact With the Characters– This one is a biggie for our family. It just makes your experience that much more fun if you interact with the characters! We have the best pictures of our kids Bouncing with Tigger, getting Pixie Dust from Tinker Bell and talking to Mickey with hands on hips. We encourage our children to always have a question ready for a face character. I’m telling you, you can’t throw these characters off!! They are ready with an answer every time and they love it when children interact with them!! Our son had a wonderful time telling Alice to have a “Very Merry Unbirthday” and asking her where the Mad Hatter was. Our daughter asked Tinker Bell for Pixie Dust and she had a lovely reaction and answer. Our other daughter talked to Ariel about a “Dinglehopper” at our character breakfast. I won’t spoil the fun you can have, but I encourage you to interact with the characters….especially the “face” characters which are ones that can talk to you. Encourage your child to have something ready to discuss when you get to the front of the line!! It will add to your experience ten-fold!
Tip #6 Take in the Parades– One of the BEST ways to see characters is at parades! In fact, if you have a reluctant child when it comes to meeting the characters, parades are the best fit for you. Parades offer you a wonderful experience to watch, interact and snap photos of the characters from a safe distance. If your child just wants to “spot” the characters, then the parade is the way to do it. You will see so many characters in a very short time when watching the Disney parades and you can get some wonderful pictures of your children during parade time because they are resting, relaxing and enjoying themselves. Get a cold drink, and some cotton candy and consider taking in a parade to see characters!
Tip #7 Where There are Character Handlers There are Characters– When you arrive for your first Disney Character greeting take note of what the “Character Handler” is wearing. This is the helper that is with the character, the cast member who closes and opens the line, and the one who will take a picture of your family if you request. Note what they are wearing. If you see a Character Handler just milling around a random spot be sure and ask them what character is about to come out and jump in line!! I’m telling you, it works. We have been the first in line for characters so many times because we’ve spotted a handler just waiting for the character to arrive. This also works for a Photopass photographer as so many are at the character meet and greets. If they seem out-of-place, they are only out-of-place for a moment. Pretty soon a character will pop out of nowhere for your child’s enjoyment!!
Tip #8 Wait and Be Patient– If you miss a character, ask the handler when they will be back out. Disney now has these character greetings down to a science. If you miss a character by mere moments be willing to hang around for a few minutes. It may mean that Pooh is just going to grab some honey and will be back in 2 minutes–wink wink–so stick around!!
Tip #9 Use Your Park Map– Some of the best places to hunt characters are where you least expect it. We find that EPCOT in The World Showcase is a wonderful place to spot characters. Check your park maps for the Character Greeting image and times. This will help you find the characters you are looking for in a more efficient way.
Tip #10 Enjoy Watching Your Child– I love standing back and watching my children greet characters. In fact, my favorite pictures are the candid ones before any of the characters pose for a picture. Those times when you get the FIRST reaction (tears or smiles) of your child seeing his or her favorite character LIVE for the first time are priceless. Stand back and take it all in! You’ll be glad you did!
Here’s to Family Fun,
- Tanya’s Tips for being selected as First Family at Disney! (mydreamsofdisney.com)
- Tanya’s Review of Fantasmic! at Walt Disney World! (mydreamsofdisney.com)