Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tracking Down the Characters in the Park

You're in the park and on a mission -- gotta find those characters!

How do you find the Characters and what do you do when you get there?

Read the Times Guides -- Each of the 4 main parks (Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Magic Kingdom and the Disney-MGM Studios) provide Times Guides that include character greeting times and locations.

Check the Character Location Guide -- The Magic Kingdom has these at every character location, the main tip board on Main Street, and at a lot of merchandise locations as well. This guide will tell you what *sort* of characters to expect at each location (i.e., characters from The Jungle Book, rather than specific ones) as well as what times they will be there.

Use Guest Relations -- Guest Relations at the parks are very useful (Also City Hall at the Magic Kingdom). They have numbers they can contact to see where everyone will be making appearances. If your child has been aching for a photo with Donald Duck, when you arrive at the park in the morning, your best bet would be to go to Guest Relations. They can find out for you where the good spots are to spot that duck. Though, these schedules are always subject to change, there's a good chance of finding them.

Wander around aimlessly -- But now that you've spent all your time planning this wonderful trip, is this what you really want to do? If you want to just run into the characters by accident, fabulous. But there are other ways if you're interested in snagging those autographs.

Still stumped?? Use your friendly neighborhood Cast Members -- Cast members have a phone number to call if you want to know where a specific character should be. However, if you're just looking to see as many as possible, or just see who you might run into, you can.

Woohoo! There they are! Um, now what?

Lining Up -- Okay you've found out where your desired character is, now how to get to that character. Waiting at the entrance they come out at is not recommended. Pluto needs his space just like everyone else. If you find out they'll be coming out at 4:50pm, try to arrive about 5 minutes prior.

Be ready -- That means having those pens open, those books open, your cameras ready, and your video cameras rolling! By all means, take the lens cap OFF. Don't have your camera turned around backwards and take a picture of your (now blinded) face. Don't forget to put your name and address or hotel in the autograph book. You'd be surprised how many are lost...

Try to find "thicker" pens -- remembering some characters have gloves on. Ink pens are best for autograph books and other regular paper products. The brand Sharpie offers a felt tip writer that is "fat" and good for autographing most items in the hat, shirt, poster category. It comes in blue, black and other colors.

Be flexible -- Some of the cutest pictures I've seen have been of a small child staring up in wonder at the life size Pooh standing over him/her. In other words, not every picture has to have everyone looking at the camera. Sometimes a child will not look at you, no matter how long you sit there like a stuck record: "Honey, look here. Look up at Mommy. Look at the camera. Sweetie, say cheese. Look up for the picture. Honey...." Also, do not force your child. If he or she is frightened, do you really want a picture of a terrified child in tears, just so you can "prove" he or she saw Mickey?

Listen to the greeter -- When they say Minnie is going to be right back after she powders her nose, that means just that. She will be RIGHT BACK. Don't ruin your day by causing a scene. Curiously, this is more often the parents than the children.

Be Nice -- I must admit, Pluto sure does look like a walking jungle jim. Everything from his ears, nose, and tongue down to his tail are easy to hang on. But! These folks gotta be safe and in good shape for meeting so many people every day. Be nice to them and they should be nice back. Pluto does like getting scratched behind the ears. Donald loves to get kisses on the beak. Tigger loves to Bounce!

Be Considerate! - to both the other guests wanting to get to the characters and to the characters themselves! When a character needs to leave an area, it does not mean they have personally singled you out to be mean to. Characters can only stay out for a certain time and it's really important that they leave when the greater tells them it's time. Please DO NOT grab the character(s) and demand that they stay for you. At one time Character Availability was limited, but no longer!

Why do those crazy characters do the things they do?

Holding Children -- "Can [insert character name here] hold my child?" No. Nope, sorry, no way. The characters can be a little ... clumsy. You really don't want Gideon dropping your child, no matter how cute the picture would be beforehand. But perhaps, the character might be able to sit on the floor and have your child on their lap.... :)

And then there are the adults who just HAVE to know. Never mind all the children around them who Believe. They smirk at the characters like they are privy to some huge secret. Don't be those people. In order to satisfy your curiosity...


I'm not sure why people feel the need to ask these questions, but they do. These questions are heard every day, many times a day. In the hopes of avoiding seeing those precious little faces fall when they overhear some adult bent on crushing the magic... Ok, soapbox mode off. :)

Is it hot in there?

Yes. In a word, yes. I have to laugh at how many people think there are personal air conditioning units inside. Where in the world would they go? But this is why the characters are only out for a little bit at a time -- from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on location and time of year. When Pluto has to go get a drink, please let him go. He will be right back.

Is it heavy?

Depends on which character. Look at what they're wearing. Beast wears a bit more than oh, say, Minnie. But suffice it to say it's a bit heavier than your t-shirt, shorts, and fanny pack.

Are you a boy or a girl in there?

This one astounds me. But in the interest of answering questions, look at body size and guess. Looking at Goofy, how many females do you know around 6 feet tall? Same goes for the mice. Know many small frame, 5 foot guys? As for the middle range characters, you never know. Please don't try to squeeze the arms or hands to feel body size. Although it is kind of humorous to hear someone proclaim matter of factly, "That's a boy in there" when they are so wrong.

Please use common sense --

Don't ask the greeter any of these questions. They won't answer them any more than the character will. While you may be very amused by your macho men getting a picture with Chip or Dale, please recall the the chipmunks are a bit smaller than they are, and perhaps leaning on them with all the guys' weight might not be very comfortable for the chipmunks. It also makes sense that whereas a 5 year old giving Pinocchio a high five as hard as he can can be kind of funny, a 10 year old doing the same thing is *not.*

Please, please, please have fun. That's what you're there for, right? Play with the characters. Interact with them. Don't focus so much on the autographs. Just have a good time. :)

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