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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tip Tuesday: Best way to get character autographs/photos

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

See if this sounds familiar. You're at the Magic Kingdom with your small children who are dying to meet as many characters as possible including Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Cinderella, Jasmine, Alladin, Genie, Belle, Ariel, Snow White, Aurora, and on and on. Your children want autographs and photos with the characters.

Thinking that Mickey is at the top of the list, you head straight to the Judge's Tent in Toon Town (which opens at 10 a.m., a hour after the usual 9 a.m. park opening) only to encounter an hour wait just to meet the head cheese.

There's got to be a better way.

Good news! There is! Actually there are several ways to maximize your approach.

Option 1: Character dining
Here's where a little bit of planning can (again) make all the difference. Determine which characters are most important and schedule a character breakfast (or lunch, depending on the restaurant) at a restaurant featuring those characters. Why? In the space of time it would take to get one photo and autograph (Mickey), you can get several characters (up to five), plus have a fun meal. Best of all, for breakfasts, you can get an early reservation and be done just as the park opens, leaving time to try to get some of those other characters.

Consider these restaurants and characters featured (characters can vary sometimes):
  • Chef Mickey's (Contemporary): Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto (all day)
  • Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom): Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet (all day)
  • Cinderella's Royal Table (Magic Kingdom): Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, Jasmine, Snow White (breakfast only) / Cinderella, Fairy Godmother (Lunch, Dinner only)
  • 1900 Park Fare (Grand Floridian): Alice, Mad Hatter, Pooh, Tigger, Mary Poppins (breakfast) / Alice, Mad Hatter, Cinderella, Prince Charming, evil stepsisters and stepmother (lunch/dinner only)
  • O'hana (Polynesian): Mickey, Pluto, Lilo, Stitch (breakfast only)
  • Akershus (Epcot-Norway): Ariel, Cinderella, Jasmine, Snow White, Aurora, Alice (all day)
  • Cape May (Beach Club): Minnie, Goofy, Chip and Dale (breakfast only)
  • Garden Grill (Epcot-Land): Mickey, Pluto, Chip, Dale (dinner only)
  • Hollywood & Vine (Hollywood Studios): Jo-Jo, Goliath, June, Leo (all day)
  • Tusker House (Animal Kingdom): Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy (breakfast only)

    There is one considerable downside to this plan. As mentioned in some previous Tip Tuesday posts, I'm a big fan of using PhotoPass. At the regular in-park character meet and greets, PhotoPass photographers are there to capture the moments. At the restaurants, you're on your own.

  • So this leads me to:

    Option 2: Epcot is best
    The other way to get character autographs and photos is to NOT try to get them at the Magic Kingdom. Did you know that you can find nearly every character that's in the Magic Kingdom at other parks? Yet the Magic Kingdom is where most guests go to find characters (based on the huge lines for each character meet-n-greet). So use your time at the Magic Kingdom for attractions and save the autographs and photos for other parks.

    If you're looking for the fab 5 (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto) then you need to go to two places in Epcot. The first is the Character Spot. Here guests line up in one line to meet the following characters: Mickey, Minnie, Chip, Dale, Goofy and Pluto. All in one shot. You (usually) first meet Mickey and then go right down the line to each group. Boom! Six characters in one sweep,and all with PhotoPass. For Donald, just go to the tree-covered walkway to the right of the Mexico pavilion (check a times guide or ask a castmember for times when Donald's out). You might encounter a moderate line, but it won't be an hour!

    For the princesses and other characters, catch them at the different pavilions in World Showcase.

    Mexico: Donald and the Three Caballeros
    China: Mulan and/or Mushu
    Morroco: Alladin and Jasmine
    France: Belle and Beast
    England: Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Mary Poppins

    I've seen additional characters around at different times, so it's a very good idea to get a daily times guide and to check with a castmember if you're looking for a specific character.

    If you combine both options you can end up getting autographs and photos with a LOT of characters, so good luck!

    Characters also can be found in Animal Kingdom (see Camp Minnie-Mickey) and all over the place in Hollywood Studios (again, check the times guide).

    Happy character hunting! Wait, that didn't sound right. Please don't hunt the characters. Disney wouldn't like it and you would ruin the magic for everyone else.

    Uhh, how about happy character meeting!

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