Written By Katie Penn (Header photo by Alexi Michelle Peres and Deron Shackleford)
Update: This article was written just as Covid-19 hit. With the reopening of Disney World, new policies have been temporarily enacted for safety. At this time, there are no character meet & greets. Characters can be seen around the parks but there is no physical interaction with guests. Hopefully, this is temporary!
In the meantime, this article covers everything you’d need to know about characters at Disney World. Hopefully, everything will be restored eventually.
This article will look at:
- Can adults meet characters?
- Things to do when you meet a character.
- Ideas for getting the most out of the interaction.
Can adults meet characters at Disney World?
For a lot of people visiting Walt Disney World for the first time, character meet etiquette can be a little confusing.
Some people might consider this a bit of a grey area. This is especially true if you’ve never been there or if you’ve only gone to Disney with children before. There are some people who strongly believe that character meets (and indeed the whole of WDW) should be reserved for children only.
Walt Disney had a very different view about adults participating in everything at Disney.
His aim in building his parks was to create a place where adults could have as much fun as children, without being relegated to park benches as he was as his daughters rode the Carousel in Griffith Park. He is quoted as saying that ‘you’re dead if you only aim for kids’.
In fact, in the dedication to Fantasyland in Disneyland Walt said ‘Fantasyland is dedicated to the young and young at heart’. This sentiment is echoed in the tribute to Walt, by his brother Roy Disney, at the opening of Walt Disney World when he said, ‘…A Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn together…’
So really, can adults enjoy character interactions at Disney World?
Walt Disney World has no rules on ages for any attractions or meets (except those relating to guest safety such as minimum height requirements), so if you want to meet characters as a childless adult, this is entirely your choice. There are no rules about who you can meet, or when. Stand in line or get a fastpass and get ready for your magical moment.
Hundreds of thousands of adults have enjoyed character meet & greets over the years. It’s commonplace and the characters are trained to interact with adults as well as children.
Things you can do when you meet a character at Disney World:
Most of the time there is a ‘character attendant’ (a cast member assisting the character) who will be directing guests through the line/meet process, so don’t worry if you aren’t sure what to do or where to go.
It is always a good idea to be prepared for your meet before you find yourself at the front of the line. It can be quite a quick process, so in order to ensure that you make the most of your time – especially if you have waited any length of time – make sure you are ready before you get to the front. Here are some things to do to prepare for your meets & greets.
1. Photos – You can have your photograph taken.
This can be done three ways:
- You can take a selfie with the character.
- You can have your photo taken by a Cast Member using your phone or camera.
- If the interaction has a professional Disney Photopass photographer, they’ll use their camera. They’ll also be willing to use your camera/phone camera as well.
TIP – It’s a good idea to take photos at the end of your character interaction, because if conversation runs out, or you feel awkward, you can get things back on track by saying ‘could we have a picture together?’ and then you have a common focus with the character.
Make sure you have your magic band or ticket to hand to the Photopass photographer so it can be easily scanned at the end of the meet (some Photopass photographers do prefer to scan at the start).
If you want pictures on your own camera or phone, make sure this is turned on and out of your bag/pocket as you are walking to the front of the line. Have it at the right settings so the Cast Member can just press the right button to take the photo.
If a character does not have a Photopass Photographer present (e.g. Pocahontas in Animal Kingdom) you can ask the Cast Member attendant to take your picture. It is still always polite to ask ‘could you take the picture, please’ rather than just handing them a camera/phone. Many of them will offer anyway. This is especially useful if you are travelling solo and don’t have anyone with you to take a picture.
It makes for nicer photos if you don’t have your bags and other items with you in the photos. You’ll want to put your stuff out of site if possible. At the same time that you’re getting everything together for the meet & greet, make sure that your bags/coat/sweater/shopping are all together and easy to put down. When it’s your turn to meet the character, place your stuff down on the groun. The most common process is to drop your bags close to where you will exit.
2. Get character autographs – Characters will sign for adults too!
Disney characters will sign their character’s autograph!
Characters will sign anything you ask them to – within reason. The main criteria is that they will sign anything they can see/hold and with a pen they can hold. They will not sign body parts or anything inappropriate for a Disney environment. I’ll add a section below with some ideas for items that can be autographed.
If you are asking for an autograph, this is usually done at the start of the meet. Have your autograph book/item and pen ready at the start of the meet & greet. A sharpie or other chunky pen is best, particularly the ones which click rather than have lids.
As the person in line in front of you goes to meet the character, this is the point at which you need to have your autograph book ready. Use the pen as a page marker for where you want them to sign and remove the lid. When it’s your turn, you can hand the pen and autograph book/item over to the character.
3. Hugs, chats and laughter!
Pretty much any character can give you a hug. Be sure to be respectful and gentle.
The characters that are in full coverage costumes can not speak, but they’ll physically interact with non-verbal communication, and they’ll pose with you.
The ‘face’ characters that are not in full coverage such as Pocahontas Mary Poppins can chat with you in character. Feel free to politely talk to them. We’ll go into that further in the next section. In the meantime, check out Gaston, a face character, flirting on the right!
Adults: Getting the most out of your character meets & greets.
It is very obvious that when you meet Disney characters with children, the focus of the meet will be on the children. Even if the characters address the adults in the party, it is quite often in relation to the interaction with the children.
So how does it work without children? Here are a few ideas to help you when meeting characters without children.
How do you talk to Disney characters?
First of all, it’s very easy to talk to the characters. Remember, characters will only talk to you about things in the ‘universe’ they are from. For example, they may refer to a camera as a magic mirror. In one meet I had with Tiana, when being told something was purchased on ‘Amazon’, she asked how it would come from a jungle.
The easiest way to start a conversation – this is especially true of ‘face’ characters such as Princesses – is to ask them a question related to their ‘world’. A lot of the time they will ask you if you are having a good day, but it is always a good idea to follow this up with a question for them since it extends the meet. Check out the photo below. Here’s the story behind it, as told by Kat Jones-Shank:
“I took my best friend to ‘meet’ Cinderella via video chat and this was Cindy’s reaction to my friend being “in a box.” Then she figured out it was like an Enchanted mirror and Stephanie was in another kingdom!”
Other examples of conversation openers would be asking Peter Pan how Tinkerbell is, or asking Rapunzel if she has seen Flynn recently, or where Pascal is. By engaging with the characters in relation to their world, you will have a much more interesting meet.
With fully covered fur characters this can be really fun. Asking Chip and Dale who is best behaved or telling Minnie she looks very pretty will always produce animated responses.
Another fun thing to do is to tell a character that they are your favorite character. You are very likely to get hugs and squeezes for this. If you are brave enough you can tease the characters too. For example telling Chip you love him more than Dale, or telling Donald you think Mickey is number one. This will also get you a great reaction from the character as they squabble, huff or sulk. It is all just a way of gaining some unique interaction with them that isn’t just ‘next… Smile for the camera…next’…
While it’s not necessary, it’s can enhance the interaction if you can learn a little about the character in advance. You can even google them while in line. This is because their conversation is going to be geared towards their ‘world’. For example Tiana is likely to ask your favorite food or if you like to cook. Pocahontas might ask you what you think your spirit animal is. Being prepared can help you feel less awkward.
If you have anything with you – printed on your clothing/bag/hat etc. that relates to the character, you can point it out to them and/or ask them if they like it. At Star Wars night Darth Vader spotted my Millennium Falcon shirt and interrogated me about being a rebel. In response to the same shirt I got a very tight squeeze and a cheer of approval from Chewbacca.
More about Autographs and making the most of your interaction.
Although you may feel like autograph books are just for kids, they can be good conversation starters, and will make the meet last longer. An autograph book is a great souvenir, no matter how old you are!
As mentioned above, you can use other items besides a book. If you feel you will take your autograph book and stick it in a drawer when you get home, there are plenty of other autograph ideas.
Here are a few items that make good autograph surfaces:
Fabric – Sharpies or fabric pens will work well on larger fabrics such as cushion covers, pillow cases or T shirts. Choose something flat and a light, plain color. You can use one color pen, or as many colors as you want. Then when you get home, you have a souvenir that you can enjoy.
TIP – If asking a character to sign anything flimsy such as fabric, it is always a good idea to use a piece of cardboard, a clip board/folder or book underneath to give them a more rigid surface to sign on. The fur characters in particular have poor line of sight and fewer fingers than humans do, so it is hard for them to sign and hold something soft/floppy.
Picture frames cardboard mats – lot of people like to use the plain cardboard mats that go inside a a picture frame. This is ideal since it’s lightweight but also firm for the characters to hold. When you return you can then use the mat to frame your favorite memories.
Photo Books – Do you have character meet & greet photos from a prior trip? You can create a photo book. You can do this online at home prior to your trip, for fairly little cost. Then when you’re at Disney, have the characters sign the appropriate pictures in your photo book when you meet them again.
This not only gives you a lovely little memento of character meets, but the character will likely ask you about the last time you met as depicted in the picture. When the book is full, you have a personalized autograph book that will be totally unique to you.
Books – A really fun thing to do is ask a character to sign a book. For example, a lot of people use the Disney A-Z of Disney Characters Encyclopedia and ask the character to sign ‘their’ page in the book. This is a really good way to get a good interaction as the characters will be excited to see their entry into the book, and will love signing it for you.
Other ideas – If you want to be a bit more creative you can use other things for the characters to sign. For example, Disney has released postcard sets of Disney art which you can buy in various places including Amazon. Characters love seeing the artwork of themselves, and face characters will very often tell you the story behind what is happening in the image on the postcard you give them to sign. If you want, you can then frame these signed postcards to make a collection of signed images.
Are you shy? Character meet & greets can still be fun.
The main thing to remember is that the characters are there to meet you. To have the best meets & greets, you’ll want to engage. This can be hard if you are shy, but it gets easier with practice. Start off with little things, such as complimenting their outfit or saying ‘are you having a nice day?’ and soon you will find yourself chatting to them like you are old friends.
Adults can have a blast meeting and interacting with Characters at Disney World!
Don’t feel nervous or intimidated by the fact you don’t have any children with you – after all, as Walt said, ‘adults are just children grown up anyway’!
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