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Should Character Sightings Continue After Normal Meet and Greets Return to Disney World?

Normal character meet and greets are returning very soon to Walt Disney World and Disney destinations across the United States. While most fans are excited about the change, since Guests have not been able to hug or receive autographs from favorite characters in Disney theme parks since the beginning of 2020, some fans have been reminiscing on the things we might actually miss about the current distanced character sightings. There are certainly pros and cons to both types of character greetings, which has prompted me to wonder, should character sightings continue once meet and greets return to normal?  Yes! Here’s why…

Character sightings allowed for an element of surprise

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If you have ever discussed Disney character greetings with someone who visited Walt Disney World in the 1970s or 80s, you’ve probably heard them say something along the lines of, ‘Back in my day, the characters just walked around the park and you never knew who you might see.’ Of course, things have changed drastically since this was the norm, even before COVID-19.

Of course, the opportunity to randomly stumble upon your favorite character sounds magical, but the change from these more casual meetings to the traditional meet and greets was made for safety purposes of controlling crowds and for managing Guest expectations for where and when they might be able to find a character.

While the return of traditional meet and greets will certainly be a welcome change for most Guests, it would be nice to also have the opportunity to randomly come across characters (even if from a distance for safety purposes.) Over the past couple of years, Guests have loved seeing the Stepsisters from Cinderella outside the Castle for instance, and spotting characters on the Main Street train station in Magic Kingdom Park.

It’s been fun seeing characters in their own element

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Found this silly old bear ? frolicking around EPCOT just trying to catch a butterfly ? #Disney #waltdisneyworld #disneyparks #EPCOT #winniethepooh

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Disney does an incredible job of theming permanent character meet and greet locations to the characters Guests will see inside, but still, it has been fun to see characters in their own elements outside of the traditional meet and greets.

In EPCOT for instance, Guests have spotted Winnie the Pooh with a net ‘catching butterflies’ on the grass away from Guests. It isn’t a replacement for a close-up interaction with Pooh, but it was really fun for Guests to see Pooh out of a traditional meet and greet and doing something fun. The character sighting experience also made World Showcase interesting for kids who have enjoyed spotting characters from a distance in each of the countries.

The same goes for the character flotillas in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Meet and greets are surely preferred, but some combination of both could do really well in this park. The theme park’s waterways were very underutilized and had not been activated to that extent in years, and Guests did enjoy seeing characters float on by as they made their way around the park.

Character sightings = less lines

For outdoor character sightings (like the example of Pooh in EPCOT) Guests did not need to wait in line to see the characters. They simply saw him from a distance and likely had enough space anyway to take their photos without being too close to other Guests.

Of course, any option that allows Disney Guests to have an experience with little to no time spent waiting in line will be a popular one! It’s part of why character dining experiences are so popular- So Guests can see characters while they dine, thereby saving time during the rest of their day in the theme parks.

Character cavalcades proved to be a success…

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…and thankfully they seem to be sticking around! The Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade in the Magic Kingdom only started recently, and so far Guests have been loving it. It’s given more people the chance to see more characters without spending the time required to watch an entire parade. And, so many characters are included in the Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade (in fact, this event features more Disney characters in one place in the park than anything has before!)

We are unsure what the future of character sightings will be at Walt Disney World, but we have enjoyed these spur-of-the-moment sightings of characters over the past two years. And while I cannot wait to hug Mickey again, I am rooting for the best of both types of character experiences to stay put in each Disney Park.

If you are visiting Walt Disney World soon, be sure to check for (normal!) character meet and greets beginning April 18, 2022. You will find them listed in the My Disney Experience app, and Disney Genie will surely give you tips on where to find meet and greets and character dining.

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."

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