So, you’re going to Disney World! You did your research, you commissioned an incredible travel agent, and your child has their heart set on meeting Mickey, Minnie, maybe even Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too?!
What about the Princesses? Or Tinkerbell? Well, I could go on, of course. When I was a child I dreamed of meeting Mickey Mouse and seeing the castle; that dream didn’t come true until I was 35, with my 9 year old right next to me, wondering why mom was crying.
On our first trip character interactions and autographs were not my main concern but my daughter loved it so much that she made collecting autographs a priority on our second trip, and she managed to get 12 in a matter of 4 days at parks and at character meals. However, interactions and meetings are NOT just about those signatures, but the quality of the interaction, because no matter how many signatures you collect or even how many pictures you take, magical moments are created by your family and those amazing Disney cast members.
1. Dress for your Characters
It’s something I didn’t think of before I got there, but even though big plush characters like Mickey, Buzz and Tigger don’t talk, they still communicate, and are looking for cues from you and your child to make your meeting very special. My most heartwarming moments have been with non- verbal characters, even when it wasn’t my own family. Take for instance our very first park day, when we dined at Ohana at the Polynesian Resort before heading to EPCOT. When Mickey arrived at our table my daughter got up for her hug and he quickly noticed her Minnie t shirt; to which he pointed, pantomimed “my love” and gave her a quick nose nuzzle and big hug. He was even more excited when I got up with my Minnie t shirt and we then posed for our picture. I started my day off with a full heart knowing that Mickey THE Mouse loved our t shirts.
We are also huge Star Wars fans, so we dressed the part for Hollywood Studios. My husband and I donned the Han and Leia shirts with the quotes, “I love you,” and “I know.” My daughter wore a dress covered in tiny BB8s. When we walked in to the Launch Bay, we were lucky to encounter short wait times, and soon enough we were face to face with Chewbacca, the most famous Wookie of all. He quickly saw my husband’s t shirt and pointed at Han’s face, and crossed his arms for love, an grabbed him in a big Wookie hug, complete with throaty “ahhhhhs.” That will make a 38 year old man tear up in a hot minute.
Respectively, when my daughter got to meet BB8, and had so many feelings, the cast members who interpret his beeps and bips quickly realized that she was a huge fan, and made sure she got a quality interaction, and let her know BB8 wanted her on his team when she joined the Resistance.
2. Talk to the Characters
Disney cast members, right down to the people who sweep the streets, are trained by the best customer service engine in the world. There is no exception for Princes/ Princesses and their side kicks, including villains. They know their stories forwards and backwards and make sure to weave it into their dialogue. My daughter, who is not in the least bit shy, can get star-struck when meeting her favorites, so I always try to make sure I can insert a quick comment to prolong their interactions and give them something to build on. We had the opportunity to meet Cinderella with Prince Charming, as well as the “evil” members of her family, who she is nice enough to let live in the castle with her, because, well, she’s Cinderella, and full of grace. When the Step Mother came to our table, and signed our Disney Characters encyclopedia, I took the opportunity to ask about Lucifer, as he was my favorite cat. That was it- she actually smiled, and appeared quite concerned. Thanking us for our support, even though she isn’t allowed to bring him to dinner. It was priceless!
If your characters are non-verbal and costumed, you can always mention to their nearby handlers that she/he is your child’s favorite, and this will magically be relayed to them. While in line to meet Buzz Lightyear at Toy Story Land, the family in front of us talked about it as their 4 year old was getting more and more excited. When he got up to Buzz, he didn’t just stamp his book and give him a hug, he let him press all his buttons to see what they would do, showed him the karate chop arm, bent over when he powered him down, jumped back to life when he hit the button again. I may or may not have choked up watching the little boy’s face just light up with joy.
3. Unique/Permanent Autograph Book
When I began researching for our first trip I came across a few articles about unique autograph books. Disney sells standard books in their stores, online, in the parks and at the resorts. However, I wanted to have a more permanent souvenir for my daughter, and decided upon purchasing Disney’s Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters for a mere $11 on Amazon. When you bring this hardback treasure for signatures, the characters usually even know what page their story is on-(Jasmine did when we saw her at Cinderella’s Royal Table). Princesses are very good at noticing if they have already signed on a prior visit, and might even say, “a pleasure to see you again Princess,” as Cinderella did for my daughter. And instead of signing again, they might add “wishes” or an extra phrase next to their signature.
Cinderella with Abbey on her second visit, saying “lovely to see you again Princess.”
Anastasia editing her story, teaching Abbey about “slander” & “libel.”
Also- having this book with the character stories in them proved for some hilarious antics, when Anastasia “edited” her page and taught my daughter the words “slander and libel,” in regards to what was written about her! Just as well, Flynn Ryder was thrilled that our book had, “finally gotten his nose right,” which he remarked as he danced by our table with Rapunzel at Tratoria al Forno’s Bon Voyage Breakfast.
4. Be in the Moment
While at Disney, I can’t stress this enough, allow yourself to accept all the magic you see around you. My very own dear husband went into our first trip thinking it was just a theme park for kids. That ended promptly with our very first character meal at Chef Mickey’s, where the fun and joyous atmosphere sparks palpable magic. The look on Abbey’s face when she got her first Mickey hug brought tears to both our eyes and we knew right away this was going to be the best family vacation we had ever had. So, while you’re waiting for the characters to arrive at your table or you’re waiting in line, don’t obsessively check your social media or read texts and emails. Instead, take a moment and look around, see the enchantment on your child’s face and the faces all around you as their favorite characters delight them. Disney is a place where you can literally feel joy all around you- so just be in it.
For assistance in creating your own story with magical character interactions, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org