By Stephanie Rouse
It’s your first full day at Walt Disney World. You made it to rope drop and you know you should be on a mission…whether it’s to Toy Story Midway Mania or heading for one of the mountains, the most popular rides get crowded quickly, so you must go.
WAIT! Your little prince or princess has spotted a familiar face on the way. Even the most experienced Disney vacationers can get sidetracked when it comes to getting that perfect picture, and maybe an autograph, with their favorite Disney character. You really want to get to your first attraction, but don’t want to have to seek out the character later, so, now what? We are going to take a look at where some of our most famous Disney friends reside, hopefully making your next rush to a favorite attraction a bit easier.
The Holy Grail of character meetings! All you have to do here is enter through the Train Station and you will find characters everywhere. On Main Street USA, find them near Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, the Exposition Hall, the confectionary, the Main Street barber shop, and the Emporium. Due to the many locations here, there is often quite a variety of characters to meet. Daisy Duck, Aurora, Peter Pan and Wendy, and Pinocchio and his Pleasure Island buddies are just some of the faces you might encounter. There doesn’t seem to be a set schedule as to who will appear here.
You can also find characters in every land of the park. Fantasyland is home to Ariel, where you will find her seated in her Grotto available for pictures and autographs starting at around 10 a.m. Find Winnie the Pooh and his pals, including Darby from Playhouse Disney, near Pooh’s Playful Spot. Alice, often with her Wonderland pals, is sometimes located near The Mad Tea Party. Mary Poppins makes appearances near Cinderella’s Golden Carousel.
Moving onto Tomorrowland, you can sometimes find Stitch, Buzz Lightyear, and Mr. and Mrs. Incredible. Locations here seem to change quite a bit, so it’s always best to check your times guide for specifics.
Frontierland is home to both Splash Mountain and The Country Bear Jamboree, making it the perfect place to find their respective characters. Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear, and Brer Fox are often near Splash to meet with their fans, while the Country Bears stick close to their home attraction. Adventureland is home to Aladdin and Jasmine, as well as Captain Hook and Mr. Smee. On occasion, you can find Goofy hanging out in his best colonial wear, in Liberty Square.
But if you are looking for the Big Cheese himself, look no further than Toontown. Mickey can be found near his house in the Judges Tent. This is by far the most popular location for meeting Mickey in all of Walt Disney World, so the lines can get long as the day goes on. Consider visiting Mickey around Toontown’s opening time, usually around one hour after the rest of the park opens. You can also find Mickey at the other Walt Disney World parks, and usually with less of a wait!
The Toontown Hall of Fame is where both princesses and fairies can be found. There are two rooms, one set aside for princesses such as Aurora, Snow White, and Cinderella, with usually two or three different princesses appearing at a time, and in the other room, you’ll find Tinker Bell and the rest of the fairies. Pixie Hollow is fast becoming one of the most popular character meetings in all of Walt Disney World; the lines are long early in the day, and stay long all day. This is definitely an attraction to visit as close to Toontown’s opening time as possible.
Epcot is often overlooked by character seeking guests, but it is a great place to find some of your favorite Disney pals! In Future World, Disney’s Character Spot offers guests an opportunity to meet with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and sometimes even Chip and Dale. Because so many guests consider Epcot to be more of an adult park, you will often find that the characters’ lines here are much shorter than at the other parks.
Don’t count out World Showcase, either! Since many of our Disney pals are international, they enjoy spending time in their home pavilions. After all, even a Beast can feel a little homesick. Belle, along with Beast, can often be found spending time in the France pavilion, either in La Parfumerie or right outsideit. The United Kingdom is home to Winnie the Pooh plus Alice and Mary Poppins. They seem to take turns meeting guests outside of the Toy Soldier. Mulan can sometimes be found in China, while Jasmine, Aladdin, and Genie often appear in Morocco. Koda calls Canada home, and Germany is where you will often find Snow White and Dopey.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
My personal favorite park to meet Disney pals is Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Near the Sorcerer Hat, you will find various characters throughout the day. Much like Town Square at Magic Kingdom, the characters seem to vary. A few regulars include Minnie Mouse, Stitch, and Donald Duck. Animation Courtyard is where you will find some of your favorite Playhouse Disney Pals: Handy Manny and the Little Einsteins often split their time here.
Inside the Animation Building, you will find Sorcerer Mickey! This is a great spot for meeting Mickey, it is often much less crowded than the Judge’s Tent in the Magic Kingdom. This is also the location where Disney likes to promote their newest film; currently you will find characters from the new Disney-Pixar movie Up located here.
As you head further into the park, you will find Buzz and Woody near Toy Story Midway Mania. Near the Backlot area, you will find Cars’ Lightning McQueen, along with his best friend, Mater. Very close to them, you will find the Power Rangers.
Head to Streets of America, and Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable appear at various times throughout the day.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Characters often stand outside the entrance to this park. I have seen them during the morning hours, upon arriving at the park, and also in the later afternoon, upon exiting. Terk, Balloo, and King Louie are the regulars here.
Camp Minnie-Mickey is the equivalent of the Magic Kingdom’s Toontown, where you can go from one line to the next meeting your Disney pals. This is another great spot to meet Mickey because it’s not as crowded as the Judge’s Tent, and this time, he’s decked out in his safari gear! Others who make appearances at Camp Minnie-Mickey are Donald, Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto. I have also seen Pooh and Tigger here. Due to the close proximity to the theater where “The Festival of The Lion King” is held, timing is key here. Avoid Camp Minnie-Mickey right after the show is over. Many people stop to meet with the characters after seeing the Lion King show. The best time to go? During one of the performances. The lines will be much shorter.
While it is always fun to tour the parks and just see who you might run into, sometimes meeting a particular character can be a priority. Sure, Mickey is easy to find, but what about the ones that have no set “homes”? Disney has made this easy for all of us! Just stop by Guest Services and ask the Cast Member on duty if “your” character will be appearing that day! The Cast Member can not only tell you where, but even the exact time when the character will make his or her appearance.
Looking to get that perfect photo of your family with Mickey? Many character meeting spots are staffed by a PhotoPass photographer. While they are always happy to snap a picture with your camera, they also will take a few with theirs, getting some great shots. For more on PhotoPass, see: http://www.themouseforless.com/tripplanning/photopass.shtml.