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Disney World : Tracking Down your Favorite Disney Characters
Tracking Down your Favorite Disney Characters When visiting Walt Disney World
One of the most exciting activities when visiting Walt Disney World is to get to meet your favorite lovable characters. Some characters are much easier to find, while others can take a bit of planning and timing to track down. Before you go to Disney, know who you want to meet and where to look for them to save time and increase your odds of finding your favorites.
The most popular and abundantly found characters can often be in more than one spot each day (usually dressed for different occasions). These include: Mickey, Donald, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Daisy, Chip ‘n’ Dale, Ariel, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Belle, Cinderella, Aladdin, Jasmine, Tiana, Snow White, Rapunzel, Mulan, Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Lightning McQueen, Mater, Stitch, Rafiki, Alice, Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Tinkerbell, Peter Pan, Mike Wazowski, Sully and the Incredibles.
Many have their own permanent spots. Occasionally they’re shuffled around due to construction or weather, but finding them is as simple as checking a park map.
Hit and Miss
Some characters are not quite so reliable. Even if they aren't out every single day, with some diligence you can probably track down the Beast, Jafar, a wicked stepsister, Lady Tremaine (Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother), Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, Captain Hook, Pinocchio, Geppetto, Baloo, King Louie, Genie, the Queen of Hearts, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Timone, Wendy, some of the princes (often found with their princess), Eeyore, Piglet, Dopey, Thumper, Jessie, Pocahontas and Meeko.
Even though they’re not there all day, every day, they still have pretty regular meeting spots found on park maps, or you’ll find them with their friends. For example, Wendy will occasionally be with Peter Pan or Timone with Rafiki. Villains, however, are not usually found with their nemesis; you won’t generally find Captain Hook with Peter Pan, or Cinderella with her stepsisters.
Characters can also show up anywhere throughout the park randomly, so keep your camera ready
Hard to Get Disney Characters
Some characters only stroll into the park for photos and autographs occasionally; sometimes on very rare occasion. Examples of such characters are John Smith, Cruella DeVille, Hercules, Megara, Maleficent, Snow Queen (Snow White’s Wicked Stepmother), Gaston and Captain Jack Sparrow. Don't plan your visit around the hopes of running into them randomly in the parks.
If you do happen to see them, consider yourself lucky. Jump in line if you even think you might like a photo as the opportunity probably won’t come up again.
Some characters are mainly seen on special occasions. You can up your odds of meeting hard-to-get characters, or find those that otherwise never show up for park meetings, by going to special ticket events (purchased separately), character dining (at select restaurants throughout Walt Disney World), or at certain times.
Star Wars Weekends (held in May) offer you the opportunity to run into some of your favorite futuristic heroes, no matter which side of the force you're rooting for. At Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, you can meet many lovable villains and others, such as Malefecent, Dr. Facilier, Frollo, Jafar, the Wicked Queen, all seven dwarves and Jack Sparrow. When a movie is being re-released, or a sequel is coming out, there is a good chance characters who haven’t been around might re-emerge.
Maps and schedules offered at these events will usually point out character greeting spots. If you attend a character dining, the characters walk around and will come to you.
Think Like a Character
Ask yourself, “If I were a character, where would I be?”
For example, in Epcot’s World Showcase, you can spot characters in pavilions of countries with which they’re associated. Belle and the Beast are in the France pavilion, Aladdin and Jasmine in the Morocco pavilion, Mary Poppins in the UK pavilion and Mulan in China.
You’ll up your odds of spotting pirates in the Magic Kingdom in Adventureland, while resident alien Stitch and Buzz Lightyear are most often spotted in Tomorrowland.
On the flip side, you’re not likely to find many space rangers in Animal Kingdom, or cowboys in the Future World Showcase.
The Evil Queen
Character Hot Spots
There are set character spots and some prime hot spots. You’ll never really know who will show up where, but being in some locations increase your odds.
Upon first entering the Magic Kingdom there is a courtyard where characters are found sporadically throughout the day. The Town Square Theater and Adventureland Verandah are for regulars, but surprise appearances do happen. If you are a fan of Captain Jack Sparrow, there is a pirate tutorial show right outside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride throughout the day; he rarely stops for photos and autographs, however if your child can get in on the tutorial you can take some priceless photos.
In Epcot, you might find a character or two welcoming you just beyond the entrance. The Epcot Character spot houses regulars, but occasionally rare characters may drop by. Always look by the International Gateway as well.
Characters in Hollywood Studios come out sporadically in front of the sorcerer’s hat landmark. Make sure to peek in the Magic of Animation building. Usually, the characters from the latest movies can be met there, sometimes your only chance to get a group shot with the cast. Characters tend to stop by this building unexpectedly. You’ll never know who is going to show up, or when, but it’s always a delight when some elusive favorite wanders in.
In front of the Star Tours ride in Hollywood Studios there is a stage where Jedi Training Academy takes place throughout the day, similar to the Pirate tutorial. You won’t be able to get a posed picture, but children chosen to participate in this brief show can get some choice shots with Darth Vader.
In Animal Kingdom, the Camp Minnie-Mickey greeting trail usually features the most common characters (Mickey, Goofy, etc.) decked out in safari gear, but occasionally others show up. Rafiki’s Planet Watch offers greeting stations. The best place is at the park entrance first thing in the morning when the park opens.
Time Saving Tips
Waiting on line for characters can eat up a lot of your vacation time. There are definitely some ways you can ensure you get your meetings done and still make it on all your favorite rides.
- Get to character spots early, preferably before they come out. You’ll get to meet them first and be on your way.
- Disney begins letting in guests for special ticket events early; if you’re waiting to see someone super-popular only available at these events, like the seven dwarves or Chewbacca, get in line before the meet is scheduled to start.
- Get on line when the character isn’t there. Characters take frequent breaks throughout the day, but regulars are back within 15 minutes. If you see a character leaving or a very short line without a character, jump on it. As soon as the character comes out, lines have a tendency to grow.
- Don’t wait too long to get in line. When a line closes for the day, or when a character’s time is up, Disney makes no exceptions.
- As most of your party heads over to a character greeting line, have one person run with all the tickets to get Fast Passes to your favorite ride. You’ll save a lot of time that way.
- After you’ve seen the parades once, skip them the next day and head to the character greetings. Most other guests will be lining up on the streets to watch the parade and you’ll find the character lines significantly shorter. Sometimes you can have them all to yourself and get lots of attention from them. If no one else is there, they’ll get playful with you and take many poses.
- Visit the “fab 5” in one shot at the Epcot Character Spot. It’s the best place to knock out your photos and autographs with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy. Most other parks require you to stand on one or more lines, or have these characters in separate locations. At the Epcot Character Spot, you’ll find all five of them in one place. Enter the waiting area and stand on one line in an air conditioned room with screens featuring classic cartoons to keep you occupied as you wait.
- Have your camera, PhotoPass card, autograph book and pens out before you reach the character. This keeps the lines moving quickly for everyone’s benefit.
Retired Disney Characters
Sadly, there are characters who have been retired: Mushu, Rolie Polie Olie, Lotso, Miss Piggy, Kermit the Frog, Quasimodo, Nemo, Jimini Cricket and Terk. It's best not to get your hopes up on even a chance encounter with these characters. Then again, this is Disney, where dreams come true. It’s not unheard of for a character to come out of retirement, even if only for a little while, so wish upon a star and hope for the best.