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Beloved Disney Characters Who First Appeared in Disney Parks

The Walt Disney Company has introduced the world to so many beloved characters for close to a century now. While most of the famed and fabled friends we’ve come to know over the years first got started in Disney movies and other forms of entertainment, there are also several who were exclusively introduced into Disney theme park locations and have only grown in popularity since. Here are 13 examples of now-popular Disney characters who humbly began by first appearing in Disney Parks.

Related: Characters Finally Return to Animal Kingdom Area

13. Country Bears

These big animatronic bears, who star in the namesake attraction Country Bear Jamboree, were originally intended for Disney’s unbuilt Mineral King Ski Resort. As the story goes, they ended up being utilized for a circa 15-minute performance show that opened at Walt Disney World Resort in 1971 instead. A year later, Disneyland Resort in California opened its open version, followed a little over a decade later by Tokyo Disneyland. The Disneyland Park version has since closed, but the Disney World attraction is still going strong.

The bear ensemble includes the following original characters: Henry—the Master of Ceremonies, Liver Lips McGrowl, Wendell, Teddi Berra, Ernest, Terrence (Shaker), Trixie, Big Al, the Sun Bonnet Trio (Bunny, Bubbles, and Beulah), Gomer, the five bear rugs (Zeke, Zeb, Ted, Fred, and Tennessee), and Baby Oscar. Other animals in the show include Buff, the American Bison head, Max, a whitetail buck, Melvin, a bull moose head, and Sammy, the Raccoon.

 country-bear-jamboree

Credit: Disney

Related: Disney’s Lost Plans to Build a Ski Resort

12. Duffy the Disney Bear

 The Country Bears aren’t the only character bears that got their start at Disney Parks. That cute little teddy Duffy the Disney Bear came on the scene back in 2002 and has since achieved a most impressive fan following.

Duffy

Credit: Disney

Duffy was originally created as an exclusive feature for the Once Upon a Toy shop in Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney). Classically called “The Disney Bear,” a more solid backstory for Duffy was formed following his first two years in existence. Now, as the story goes, Minnie Mouse gifted Mickey with a teddy bear to take with him wherever he went as a sea captain, so that he’d never grow lonely.

Due to his popularity, Duffy has since been joined by many other plush pals, as well. This extended line of friends now includes ShellieMay, Gelatoni, StellaLou, CookieAnn, Olu Mel, LinaBell, and Tippy Blue.

Duffy Friends

Credit: Hong Kong Disneyland

11. Hitchhiking Ghosts

The Haunted Mansion attractions at Disney Parks throughout the world have introduced folks to a whole slew of happy haunts, who got their “lively” starts in their respectable premier attractions. While there are around 999 ghouls in all, three of the most infamously famous characters all can agree on are in fact those three hitchhiking ghosts. The trio is notorious for making their grand appearance close to the conclusion of the classic Haunted Mansion rides at both Disneyland Park as well as at Walt Disney World Resort. What’s interesting is that they don’t just appear from afar but are also known to hijack a ride along with Guests right inside their very own doom buggies!

The popularity of the Hitchhiking Ghosts has grown considerably through the years. In fact, they even all have names now. There’s Phineas, who is alternately known as “the traveler,” as well as Ezra, the skeleton, and Gus, the prisoner.

Hitchhiking ghosts

Credit: Disney Diary

Related: How Disney Park Guests Can See a “Real” Ghost at the Haunted Mansion

10. Hatbox Ghost

Here you have another Haunted Mansion exclusive character, this one with a rather versatile on-again/off-again inclusion in the main attraction. And despite what would otherwise be an obscure presentation, given his having been reduced from an intended backstory and, at times, removed altogether, he’s actually become a pretty big deal. Once upon a time, he appeared at both Disneyland and Disney World. He was included in the attic scene and appears as an elderly man in a cloak and top hat, leaning on a cane and holding a hatbox. The original intent was that his head would vanish and reappear in the hatbox he held.

Disneyland brought back its Hatbox Ghost in 2015. It’s since been announced that the Magic Kingdom will be bringing him back by 2023.

Hatbox Ghost

Credit: Disney

9. Madam Leota

There is one other crucial Haunted Mansion character that cannot be overlooked. It is Madam Leota, of course. Featured in both attractions as the head of a presumed medium seen from inside a glass ball, Disney has expanded the more obscure backstory for Madame Leota over the years from Disneyland’s less detailed presentation into Disney World’s whole Memento Mori shop setup and declaration that Leota was a witch from Salem.

Madame Leota

Credit: Celebration Press

The face of Madame Leota was that of Disneyland’s artistic Imagineer Leota Toombs. Eleanor Audley provided the voice.

 Leota Toombs

Credit: D23

Related: A Who’s Who of 9 of the Haunted Mansion’s 999 Happy Haunts

8. Trader Sam

Trader Sam is another character creation with an extensive backstory and various in-depth developments that have emerged throughout the years. He was originally created to be a featured character in Disney’s Jungle Cruise attraction. He was presented as an indigenous man, presumably of South American descent, and was alternately known as the “Head” Salesman of the jungle. Disney folks got creative over time and gave Trader Sam a lengthy backstory and somewhat of a six-degree connection to many other characters, including Jack Sparrow, the Swiss Family Robinson, and others.

The presence of the Trader Sam character has grown increasingly popular over the years, as evidenced by such inclusions as logos, merchandise, and even Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto over at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort in Disney World and Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel. However, there have been modifications to the character’s presentation and appearance over time. From moving away from what some considered to be a “culturally insensitive” representation to the Jungle Cruise movie’s reimagining of  Trader Sam into a female tribe leader, one thing that hasn’t changed is that folks continue to be familiar with Trader Sam as a Disney character favorite just the same.

Trader Sam Depictions

Credit: Laura Hermoza

7. Redd

There’s long been a redhead featured at both Disneyland’s as well as at Disney World’s Pirates of the Caribbean attractions. Originally presented as an ordinary female resident of Puerto Dorado, who was kidnapped and then lined up for the “Take a Wench for a Bride Auction,” Disney later redeveloped this character to be presented as Redd, the female pirate of Irish descent who inhabited the Caribbean sometime during the 18th century.

 Redd the pirate

Credit: Disney

6. The Yeti

Here’s one of the best examples of an animatronic ride attraction turned fan-favorite sensation. And while you would not normally consider a massive ride prop to be counted as a Disney “character,” that’s just what this violent guardian of the mountain in Expedition Everest over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park has become over the years. In fact, folks at Disney have even given their yeti a less-utilized name—Betty the Yeti. Whichever way you refer to this menacing monster, the Yeti of Expedition Everest fame continues to be featured in merchandise, promos, and other popular callouts.

The Yeti

Credit: Disney

Related: Former Imagineer Admits Part of Expedition Everest was ‘Really Controversial’

5. Tiki Room Birds

Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room has grown to become one of the most timeless classic Disney attractions at both Walt Disney World Resort as well as at Disneyland Park. While Walt’s original plan to feature real-life macaws at a restaurant was not able to come to fruition for a number of reasons, this manifestation of a theater show with an ensemble of performing animatronic birds has become a beloved attraction just the same. And the menagerie of bird characters is an endearing one indeed. You have 12 toucans, nine forktails, eight macaws, six cockatoos, and an abundance of numerous other featured friends in addition.

Tiki Room birds

Credit: D23

Related: 10 Fun Facts About Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room

4. Orange Bird

The birds making up Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room aren’t the only awesome avian invents to rise to fame at Disney Parks. Just consider that longtime favorite Orange Bird (an orange canary) who has been making his presence known as a Disney World Character exclusive from the very start. This beloved birdie was actually created back in 1969, predating Disney World’s grand opening in 1971. He was developed to serve as the mascot for the Florida Citrus Commission in exchange for their sponsorship for the Enchanted Tiki Room attraction as well as the Magic Kingdom’s Sunshine Tree Terrace Restaurant.

Orange Bird

Credit: D23

3. Chuuby

There is another little orange bird that’s made his way into Walt Disney World in recent years. His name is Chuuby, and you will find him over at Hollywood Studios, featured in the newer Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway attraction. Chuuby is a cartoon bird who lives in the train barn by the Runamuck Railroad Station. His character was originally intended to be named “Chubby” but following a typo, Disney Imagineers all agreed that the name “Chuuby” sounded far more endearing.

 Chuuby

Credit: Disney Fashion Blog

 2. Sonny Eclipse

This longtime animatronic alien performer keeps the scene jamming over at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland section at Walt Disney World. With an interesting backstory as an intergalactic musician and comedian, Guests dining onsite are treated to 27-minute sets in which Sonny Eclipse serenades them with his Astro-Organ and a host of toe-tapping original tunes and comedic antics. He is also accompanied by a trio of invisible backup singers you cannot see but can hear.

Sonny Eclipse

Credit: Disney

Related: Interesting Facts About Sonny Eclipse at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café

1. Figment

That pleasing purple dragon, who has been such a part of EPCOT’s Journey into Imagination attraction through the years, may well be the very best example of an attraction-exclusive character development who has achieved skyrocketing fame. He was so popular, in fact, that when the original Journey into Imagination removed his presence following a refurbishment, fans were irate, and the attraction had to close again to bring him back. Figment continues to be a beloved, popular character. And now that he’s getting his own character Meet and Greet in the future, not to mention an announced future movie, you can expect Figment’s fame to only increase even further!

 Figment

Credit: Theme Park Hipster

Related: EPCOT Reveals for ‘Moana’ and Figment News!

You never realize just how many Disney characters got their start at Disney Parks in particular and have since risen to unexpected fame over the years. And as the Walt Disney Company surpasses its century-old milestone, it goes without saying that there will be many more added to the mix in the not-so-distant future.

About Laura

Laura Catherine aka “LC” is a writer who resides in Maryland with her family and several pets. She visits Walt Disney World whenever she can. Additionally, she is a published author of three novels, a children’s book, and has a passion for gardening.