For many, meeting theme park characters are the highlight of their family vacation. There is nothing like the excitement on a child’s face when meeting a beloved character in person for the first time. (And plenty of adults will admit to feeling the same way, too!)
Characters are the celebrities of theme parks. A Mickey Mouse sighting in the Magic Kingdom kind of feels like spotting George Clooney in Beverly Hills, except Mickey has way more fans, is always ready with a smile and doesn’t mind if you go in for a hug.
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Theme park characters are actually more like old friends. They are open, approachable and friendly; it’s their job to make you smile, establish connections, however brief, and create lasting memories. Every encounter is special (might we say, magical?) and should be treated as such.
Coming face to face with a favorite character is exciting and it can be easy to get caught up in the moment, but maintaining courtesy towards them, the supporting staff and fellow guests, guarantees that the experience is fun for all. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when meeting theme park characters.
- Have your autograph books and camera ready. For meet and greets and character dining experiences, make sure to have everything prepared before they get to you. The less time you spend fumbling for a pen or flipping through pages in your autograph book, the more time you will have to spend with the character.
- Respect the character attendants. A character will always have a staff member or two around to assist them. These attendants also help guests, maintain the flow of traffic, take photos and enhance interaction with characters (which is especially useful with characters that can’t talk.) Waiting for over an hour in 90-degree heat and 100 percent humidity can bring out the worst in anyone. Try not to take it out on the staff.
- Wait your turn. You can always expect a line at a theme park; it comes with the territory. When waiting for a character, don’t push or yell and most importantly, don’t interfere with someone else’s time. Let everyone have their moment and you will get yours. Your kids may get antsy, but it will hopefully be a rewarding lesson in patience.
- Watch where you stand. Fur characters have limited vision and can easily knock little people over or hurt them without knowing. Always try to stand in front of fur characters and let them know when a kid is around so that they are aware.
- Talk to the characters…Characters love it when you talk to them, so don’t be afraid to spark up a conversation! Even if they can’t talk they will find a way to communicate through gestures and the help of their attendants. Not sure where to start? If you are familiar with their story, discuss what you know about them. You can ask Rapunzel how long it takes to brush her hair or where Ariel keeps her thingamabobs. You might be surprised at their answers!
- …But respect character integrity. Character integrity is basically a rule for sustaining the magic and authenticity felt within theme parks like Disney and Universal Studios. For example, if someone were to ask a cast member how many Donald Ducks there are in the Disney parks, they will kindly respond that there is only one Donald Duck. There are many questions that you can and should ask the characters, but do not challenge them or try to get them to break character.
- Treat characters how you would like to be treated. Treat a princess like a princess and all other characters like a friend. That means no grabbing, play fighting or inappropriate language. And guys, please don’t try to slip Cinderella your number. Prince Charming will not like that!
Character sightings and meetings are one of the most exciting parts of a theme park trip. Have you had a memorable interaction with a theme park character? Tell us in the comments!