You can’t visit a Disney park with (young) children without visiting the Disney characters at least once one your trip. For some children this is the highlight of their visit, waited months to see Mickey Mouse, to finally arrive at the magic and share some time with him or one of his friends.
In the US parks guests have the opportunity to visit many of the characters. They are everywhere, waiting for the children’s visit. Most of the time they are located on designated spots, but sometimes they take place on one of the streets in the park. Once guests spot the character they get into line, wait patiently till it’s their turn and get a couple of minutes to shake hands, say a couple of things, get their autograph book signed and take a picture before they have to make room for the next group or family.
I remember visiting the Magic kingdom during Halloween, where Winnie the Pooh and his friends appeared in Halloween outfits. They where lined up, (about 5 characters) and guests formed a long line in front of them to get their pictures taken. It was al very organized and very neat, with new guest lining up behind the last one and never did I see anybody try to queue barge.It looks like a good an honest way to make sure every child gets their turn, but their is a down side to it too. There is no room for sporadic interactive fun.
Visiting Disneyland Resort Paris you get another pictures. Sure, you can queue up for Mickey and Minnie, Pluto or Goofy, but in the Paris park they also interact in another way. Characters walk around the park and interact with the children (and adults) that come to see them. There are no lines, but a group of children standing around the character. Doesn’t sound fair, does it. Especially when you try to get an autograph or a picture with the character and other children seem to come later and get their book signed first. But the interactive part is so much bigger and the scenes are so much more fun to see and experience.
Children and characters will walk around the park, dance together or react to the each others actions.
The villains are the most fun. Some of them walk around and aren’t all that nice to the kids, trying to scare them (without being really scary) and pester them by signing their book and then, instead of returning it directly, throw it on the floor before walking of. Sometimes they walk for several minutes before the even stand still again. Hordes of children right behind them. Many of them sticking out their tongs to the naughty once and run away when these suddenly turn around.
But also your nice character can be found moving around freely. Taking children by the hand, walk around the park and have fun together instead of a one on one photo meeting. Yes, it does make picture taking a lot harder, but those pictures you do take will show a kid having fun, and not trying to make that perfect pose again and again.
Both ways have their advantages and disadvantages of course. Waiting in line and you’ll get your time with the character and your pictures taken, nobody cuts the queue (or shouldn’t) and you can see how long it will be before you’ll get your turn. Queue’s will only be closed when the character is going and you don’t have to be scared the character might wander of, missing out on an autograph for your child’s book. On the other hand, character walking around the park gives you more interactivity, fun in bigger groups and scenes that could bring you to laugh. When you see a Disney character walking around it might happen you will not get the autograph or the picture you wanted, but if you’re lucky you might be with one of those characters for a longer period time.
A couple of example are from personal visits I made with my family. One day we entered the Walt Disney Studios in Paris. There was Mickey, walking on the street. It was the last hour before closing time and at that time the Studios wasn’t as kid’s friendly as it is today (with the addition of the Toons), so there weren’t any children in that park any more. My son walked up to him, Mickey got his hand and they walked around the park together. He was picked up by Mickey, they played together and we had enough time for extra pictures. He might have been to young to remember this, but I will never forget this. Another nice thing was when he got into the Studios dressed as Mr Incredible. This time the “real” Mr Incredible was having his picture taken with (queueing) children. The queue was already closed, but he spotted my son, walked up to him (after the last person in the queue got his turn) and posed with him before he went backstage. And my personal favourite happened with Goofy who ran into me by accident. He was on his way out of the park but somehow didn’t see me. I couldn’t dodge him any more and he ran straight into me. Instead of walking of, he performed a whole scene with me. It took well over 5 minutes before he did walked of (to take his break), but it was the best 5 minutes of that visit.
Children don’t seem to mind the chaos and most of the time they don’t try to push themselves into the group. Unfortunately their are some parents who do push their child to the front when characters walk around freely in the park. Not something that happens with the lines.
So, what do you like the most. The organized lines, or some chaos and fun with bigger groups?…