Disney’s parks have been fully operational throughout most of the pandemic, but the personal touch has been missing from much of the experience due to social distancing and other protocols.
That’s about to change with the return of character meet and greets and up-close interaction with guests.
Starting as soon as April 18, that personal touch returns to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Disney Cruises, among other locations.
“For any of you with children or grandchildren, little kids love being around those beloved Disney characters,” chief financial officer Christine McCarthy said during a financial conference in late March.
Disney officials call the character interactions a quintessential park experience that guests have greatly missed.
“That’s right! Very soon, you will once again be able to hug Mickey Mouse, get an autograph from Mulan, and share a laugh with Goofy,” Disney wrote on its official blog. “We know many of you have missed these special moments, and your Disney character friends have missed you, too!”
This isn’t the return of characters, but the up-close interaction. Since the parks reopened in mid-2020, characters have still been wandering the parks and interacting with guests from a distance, sometimes behind barriers, and available for photos by themselves.
Now, it is returning to pre-pandemic rules, where your child can run up and hug Olaf or take a picture with Chip and Dale.
“During the past two years, we’ve taken a very gradual, intentional approach to health and safety protocols,” Disney said. “Recent trends and guidance have provided opportunities for us to bring back some of our most beloved magic, like character greetings and dining experiences.”
Disney warned that not all locations for the meet and greets will be available immediately. The reopening will be done in phases, with everything back in full force by early summer.
“This exciting milestone continues the recent, powerful momentum of returning entertainment across the Disney parks and resorts,” Disney said.
The company is particularly happy to return character interactions at Walt Disney World Resort as it wraps up its 50th-anniversary celebration this year.
Other items that have returned or started during the year include Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire and the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular at Walt Disney World; World of Color, Fantasmic, and the Main Street Electrical Parade at Disneyland; and fireworks at sea and Broadway-style shows on every Disney cruise.