Animated Disney classics have been entering our homes and warming our hearts for over half a century now. Adults and children alike have grown to love these enchanting characters on the screen, becoming immersed in the fantasy world and dreaming along with them in the tales they tell. It’s no wonder that half the draw for many people when visiting the Disney Parks is to encounter these characters, getting an opportunity to experience some smile-inducing interaction and snap a picture or two with them. So how does one know where to find their favorite characters at Walt Disney World? We’ll share with you some tips to consider, and you’ll be buddying up with your favorite Disney pals in no time!
6. Check the Park’s Daily ‘Times Guide’
Let’s start with the most obvious one—checking the daily scheduled character meet and greets as you enter the park. At the entrance to each theme park, as well as various locations around the park, you can grab a pamphlet which will tell you the exact location of certain characters, as well as the times they will be appearing. Each park has its own “Times Guide” which includes the hours of the park, character greeting times, parade times, show times, restaurant hours, and fireworks times. Because these hours are often different on a day-to-day basis, they typically offer a new Times Guide for each calendar day so you’ll know that these hours are as accurate as you can get!
5. Plan in Advance
If there are specific characters that you know you can’t leave the park without meeting, make sure you plan in advance to better navigate the rest of your day around that character meet and greet. For your convenience, the official Disney site offers an online calendar with incredibly helpful information including the character locations and the times they will be appearing throughout each day. With this handy tool, you can better optimize your Disney park experiences by planning ahead! You can find this daily Disney park calendar here (simply click on the specific Disney park you wish to view the times for): https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/calendars/
4. Consider your Location
Another tip to keep in mind is just how intentional Disney is with their theme parks and their desire to have guests fully engaged in the theming of each location (i.e. Each “land” at Magic Kingdom, each country at Epcot, etc.). If you are, for instance, moseying along the France Pavilion at Epcot, there is a good chance you’ll bump into Belle because France is the location of the film Beauty and the Beast. Disney stations the characters exactly where you’d expect them so if you’re looking for Pocahontas in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland, you’ll be looking for a very long time. You won’t find her there, but you will find her at Animal Kingdom stationed near the Tree of Life…makes MUCH more sense, right? Another example: Alice from Alice in Wonderland can be found outside the gardens at Epcot’s United Kingdom Pavilion and just outside the Mad Tea Party teacups ride—along with the White Rabbit—at Magic Kingdom.
3. Ask a Cast Member
When in doubt, ask a Cast Member! They will invariably have the answer you seek (or will find someone who does if they don’t), and will happily point you in the right direction. And bonus: sometimes they have the inside scoop on unpublished character meet and greet locations! I remember a specific day at Magic Kingdom when a Cast Member approached my family because my daughter was dressed to the nines like Snow White and pointed us to a location where the-fairest-one-of-all herself was about to appear for pictures. There was no line because this specific location was not a published meet and greet spot. What a pleasant surprise that was, being the first people to greet the royal princess as she appeared!
2. Surprise Character Appearances
Let’s delve a little bit more into the unpublished character meet and greets. This actually is quite common, and can happen under a number of different circumstances. For instance, if it is pouring down rain for long periods of time, Disney often stations characters inside buildings where they normally wouldn’t be (presumably giving those seeking shelter a great way to bide their time). The building that resides behind Club Cool in Epcot (which coincidentally also houses another character greeting spot) has a huge area of open space just outside the restrooms where you’ll find several benches and nice cool air conditioning. On a particularly rainy Epcot day, we sought shelter in this building and to our surprise we found Aurora, Snow White, and Chip and Dale ready and waiting to add a little ray of sunshine to us sopping wet park goers! There are also character training locations throughout the Disney parks; Epcot being the location that sees the most. Because they don’t release these times or the characters that will be appearing, you simply have to keep your eyes peeled for them. Some of the more common locations for these random character appearances include the Fountain of Nations stage area, World Showplace gates between Canada and the United Kingdom pavilions and the area to the immediate left of the American Adventure attraction as you exit. These provide great opportunities to spot some of the more elusive Disney characters that don’t appear quite as often (i.e. Pinocchio, Mr. Smee, Rafiki, etc.). And speaking of elusive characters…
1. Character Palooza
Have you heard about this not-so-secret secret congregation of elusive Disney characters? I love sharing this bit of information with friends and family who are visiting Hollywood Studios because you won’t find it officially published anywhere at Disney. Only on the nights they run Fantasmic inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios you can find what is termed the Character Palooza. This event is not scheduled and is subject to weather conditions, so there is never any guarantee that you’ll be able to engage in this Disney experience, which is perhaps what makes it so enticing and thrilling to begin with (everyone loves a little bit of suspense, right?). If you are lucky enough to stumble upon this unique Disney experience, you will be rewarded with very short lines to see the grouping of Disney characters because of the unscheduled status of this event. This gives guests a great opportunity to mingle with each character in a lengthy manner. You can find this event over at the gates near the exit of Tower of Terror. The times vary (as well as the characters who make an appearance) and are contingent upon that evening’s Fantasmic schedule, but the meets are generally 15-20 minutes in length. No doubt you’ll find some of your favorite Disney friends here!
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