The Magic Kingdom was made for kids, and that means it has lots of character greetings. Some, like Mickey, Tinkerbell, and Ariel, have their own permanent spots to greet visitors. Others, like Alice and the Mad Hatter, hang around in appropriate spots (in this case, the Mad Tea Party ride).
Character greetings make for some amazing memories. You never know when you’ll capture a magical moment as your child plants a kiss on Minnie’s nose, gets a bit hug from Goofy, or hams it up with Gaston. However, you might run into one of two challenges, depending on your children’s ages:
Are your kids afraid of the characters?
One of the big draws at the Magic Kingdom is the chance to meet Disney characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck, Buzz Lightyear, Captain Jack Sparrow, Tinkerbell, and a variety of Disney Princesses. Whether your child enjoys this opportunity is dependent on two things.
First, if you have a very young child,. how does he or she react to costumed characters? Some toddlers run right up to Mickey and embrace him in a big bear hug while giggling with delight. Others scream, burst into tears, and flee in the opposite direction.
If you’re not sure which category your child falls into, choose a character greeting without a long line as a barometer of how he or she will act. Lines to see the most popular characters can be an hour or more during peak season. You don’t want to spend that much time waiting, only to discover that your toddler isn’t going to go anywhere near Mickey, Donald, or Goofy for a photo. Other characters pop up spontaneously or greet guests in out of the way spots that don’t attract a big line, so start off with those photo opportunities.
Another strategy is to start with “face” characters who don’t wear costumes. These include the Disney Princesses and others like Tinker Bell and her fairy friends. Aladdin, and Captain Jack Sparrow. Often, a character who looks more like a regular human being is less intimidating to a small child than a towering mouse. Your toddler might build up his or her courage meeting these characters and be able to enjoy a meet and greet with those in full-body costumes by the end of your trip.
A character meal is another good way to let timid children meet the characters in a more relaxed setting. The Magic Kingdom serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with Winnie the Pooh and his friends in the Crystal Palace restaurant. The characters come around to each table, so there’s no waiting in line. They’re very sensitive to how kids react, so they’ll back off if they see your child is frightened. Some kids warm up to the characters after watching them work their way around the dining room, even if they’re scared at first.
Are your children too old to enjoy character greetings?
On the flip side, kids of a certain age start to get cynical about meeting Mickey and friends. You still want those heart-warming photos, but your son or daughter is old enough to scoff, “That’s not really Mickey Mouse. It’s just guy in a costume.” (Trivia fact: Mickey’s more likely to be female because of the required size to fit into the suit.) They’d rather ride Space Mountain than spend half an hour in a character line.
There isn’t much you can do when your children outgrow the magic, other than to force or bribe them into doing character photos for the family scrapbook. Sometimes they’re more cooperative if you make it a family shot. Have them pose with siblings or get in the shot along with them. Characters at the Magic Kingdom usually have a handler who will take a picture for you. If you’re using Disney’s Photopass service, the photographer will happily do family portraits.
You may pique your child’s interest by having him or her talk to the characters about their movies or cartoons. For example, asking Cinderella about her wicked stepsisters or telling Donald Duck that you like Mickey better elicits some interesting responses. Even kids who are old enough to know the characters aren’t real often get a kick out of seeing that they’ll say in an in-character conversation.