Archive for September, 2007

Disney Detours – REALLY In Character

September 15, 2007

Hints for finding Disney characters at Walt Disney World.

By Blake

Originally posted September 15, 2007.

What’s the highlight of any trip to Walt Disney World?
Well, obviously that answer will be different for every vacationer. Some might say rides. Some might say shows. Some might say dining. Some might say accommodations. Some might say parades. Some might say thrills. But would you believe . . . meeting the characters?!
Believe it or not, for many people meeting a favorite Disney character is the best part of a Walt Disney World vacation. With good reason, too. Disney characters greet every day in every park at Walt Disney World, and here it’s not just a generic character “attitude.” At WDW, every character has a distinct personality. Sure, Mickey might gladly lean down for a hug from a toddler, but Captain Hook probably won’t. Instead he’ll admire the child’s pins and greedily mistaken them for treasure. Donald Duck will angrily stomp on any items you happen to be carrying that have anything to do with Mickey Mouse. Goofy might clumsily slip while he’s posing for a picture. Stuff like this is one of the things that set Disney apart from the rest. And Disney character meet n greets are often overlooked by many. Waaaay overlooked.
However, note that character schedules and lineups are constantly changing at Walt Disney World, so much of the information in this article, although true at the time of its writing, could be false now!

When I said that meeting a Disney friend might be the highlight of someone’s experience to WDW, I wasn’t just talking about children. MANY adults frequently stand in two-hour long lines to snag a pic with Captain Jack Sparrow, search anxiously around the parks for a certain character, and some even go to WDW for the sole purpose of meeting characters, and don’t even think about the rides. In fact, this has become quite popular nowadays, and even has a name – character hunting.

“Character hunters” spend their WDW trip (or, at least, some of it) tracking down characters. Some characters, like Mickey or Minnie Mouse, are located in every park and can be found super-easily. Others, such as Kenai & Koda from Brother Bear may take some extra-hard searching, as characters like these aren’t as popular to many (but may be super-popular with individuals), so they generally aren’t on a secured schedule in a regular meeting spot.
There are three primary ways to meet Disney characters. The first is the most common – to wait in a line for an opportunity to meet n greet Disney pals, and get some one-on-one time with them. The second is to book a character meal, where as you eat your food, characters will stop by your table to mingle. The third is to simply see a WDW live production (such as a show, parade, etc) and just primarily see the characters, without any personal interaction. This is a good way to see many characters at the same time without waiting in a line. Just keep in mind that you won’t actually get to “meet” the characters this way.
At Magic Kingdom, characters are abundant nearly everywhere you look. And here, the theming is great, too. You often won’t find random characters just anywhere in the park. Characters reside in which land their movie would best tie in to. Characters from The Lion King and Peter Pan can be found in Adventureland; Brer Fox and Brer Bear in Frontierland; Mary Poppins, Pooh, and Alice in Fantasyland; Mickey and the classics, as well as the princesses, in Mickey’s Toontown Fair; and Stitch and Buzz Lightyear in Tomorrowland. The definite best spot in Magic Kingdom to find characters is Toontown Hall of Fame Tent, where three long lines lead to three separate rooms, each with different characters, where you wait in separate small lines in each room for each separate character. Often 10 characters can be found here at one time. There are also four character meals in Magic Kingdom: breakfast @ Tony’s on Main Street w/Mickey, Pluto, Goofy, Chip, and Dale (just on select morning, though); breakfast, lunch, and dinner at The Crystal Palace with Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore; breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table (in the castle!) with Cinderella and the princesses; and dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern in Liberty Square with Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Chip, and Dale*.
At Epcot, characters aren’t as common as in Magic Kingdom, but can still be easily found. In Future World, Mickey and the gang hold fort at Epcot Character Spot (where you wait in one line for six characters! What a bargain!), while Figment is most likely to be found near the Imagination pavilion. In Epcot’s World Showcase area, the theming is excellent, as each character can be found in a World Showcase country pavilion that most matches their background. Belle is in France, Mulan in China, Aladdin in Morocco, Mary Poppins in United Kingdom, etc. While there are many different areas in Epcot to find characters, they often appear in smaller groups than the characters at Magic Kingdom. Epcot holds two character meals: dinner at the Garden Grill with Mickey, Pluto, Chip, and Dale; and breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Akershus with Disney princesses.
Disney-MGM Studios is by far the best place to look if you’re searching for newer or modern Disney characters, as they’re placed here before they’re dispersed to other areas of WDW. Here Remy and Emile from Ratatouille (as well as the Incredibles) can be found at the Magic of Disney Animation; the Little Einsteins and other Playhouse Disney characters on in Animation Courtyard; Mike and Sulley from Monsters, Inc. are on Commissary Lane; Mickey and the gang hang out at the Sorcerer Mickey Hat; characters from Toy Story can be found at Al’s Toy Barn; Kim Possible is on Streets of America, as are the Power Rangers and Lightning McQueen & Mater from Cars. One character meal is hosted here: breakfast and lunch at Hollywood & Vine with the Little Einsteins and Jojo and Goliath from Playhouse Disney.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom has the sparsest character offering of all four parks, as there are only four distinct places in the park where characters are regularly found. Mickey and pals greet guests at Camp Minnie-Mickey; Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore can be found at the Discovery Island Character Landing; Rafiki, Pocahontas, and Jiminy Cricket are at Rafiki’s Planet Watch; and random Disney characters are found at the park entrance. One character meal is at Disney’s Animal Kingdom: breakfast at Tusker House with Mickey, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy.
That may sound very confusing and complicated, but it’s especially confusing and complicated if you’re a character hunter and in all those listing isn’t the character you’re hoping to find. And most of the time, character hunters have to search for quite some time before finding the character they want. Because (even though that is a pretty lengthy list above), Disney doesn’t usually post most of the character appearances in the park (and all the listings I posted above are the ones Disney DOES advertise on their schedules).
But, within the past year, Disney has made it easier to find certain characters, and has even debut quite a list of brand-new characters that had never before been seen in the parks.
One of those characters is Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, who has been greeting on Disney Cruise Line for a few months and been performing in a show at Magic Kingdom for about a year now and just last week began doing “test” meet n greets in Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland. And from what I’ve heard, these tests have gone pretty well, and we can hope a permanent meet n greet will be set up sometime soon.
Some of the other characters WDW has debut in the past year include Lewis, Wilbur Robinson, and Bowler Hat Guy from Meet the Robinsons, all of whom did sessions at MGM’s Magic of Disney Animation for three months before retiring. Word has it that these characters probably won’t be seen again for quite some time.
Most of the other characters WDW has introduced for meet n greets this year are true Disney classics, and characters that not that many people know about, as they were initially introduced on screen during Walt Disney’s lifetime and haven’t been heard much from again.
There’s Jose Carioca and Panchito from The Three Caballeros, who are currently doing sessions with Donald Duck in Epcot’s Mexico in World Showcase . . .

. . . Horace Horsecollar and Clarabell Cow (Clarabell is pictures below), both of whom are from OLD 1930’s black & white Mickey cartoons, and currently now do sessions at Magic Kingdom’s entrance . . .

. . . Clara Cluck, also from old Mickey B&W cartoons, who did test sessions at MGM’s Sorcerer Hat in January and hasn’t been heard from since . . .

. . . Scrooge McDuck, who has begun appearing annually during Christmastime in Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland. . .
. . . Clarice, Chip and Dale’s girlfriend who made a single one-time-only appearance in an old Chip & Dale cartoon (Two Chips and a Miss), and now does frequent sessions at MGM’s Sorcerer Hat . . .
. . . Marie from The Aristocats, who started doing sessions in February and now is frequently found in Epcot’s France . . .

. . . and last, but certainly not least, are Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drizella (a.k.a. Cinderella’s evil stepmother and stepsister), who did temporary sessions in Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland last Spring and were so popular that they’re now a permanent park of a character dinner at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. Supposedly, these particular characters are spot-on attitude-wise, and fit their personalities perfect. They even gathered a crowd just to watch their antics, rather than standing in line to meet them! Here’s some footage of them in action (video by YouTube user kbarrett2):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbEGs–n2SE

So, the next time you happen to visit Walt Disney World, you might not want overlook one very important, and entertaining & enjoyable, aspect of the resort – the characters!

*Liberty Tree Tavern at Magic Kingdom will cease character dining in January 2009.
Please note that character lineups and schedules are constantly changing at Walt Disney World, so a lot of the information in this article is out-of-date!
By Blake; posted September 15, 2007. All images (C) Disney – special thanks to DisneyClipart.com!