How To Find Rare Characters At Walt Disney World
The magic that flows through the streets of the Magic Kingdom, around the World Showcase promenade at EPCOT and throughout the entire Walt Disney World Resort is something that we protect as unofficial ambassadors for the Disney brand. That being said, there are folks who love to get the "inside scoop" to get things that other guests don't have the opportunity to experience...and so we find ourselves answering questions like "how can we find rare characters...you know...the super rare ones?"
Let's Start From the Beginning
Jim Hill (from Jim Hill Media)has this great story from the Disney Dish Podcast (Episode 25) that when fans would come to the studio and want to meet Mickey, it was tough to explain that he's a cartoon character and didn't actually exist. The guards at Hyperion Gate who would be asking to see the big cheese would be met with a story that included two toy cars that were placed by the guard shack. They would then explain to the fans they had just missed Mickey and Minnie because they went for lunch, but offered a signed photo and most people walked away happy. It worked for years until a kid called the guards on the story with a piece of brilliant detective work and basically said that the guards were lying because if Mickey went for lunch...wouldn't he take his car with him?
By the way, that podcast episode is absolutely brilliant! Jim has some of the coolest insights and great storytelling ability that he's a treasure to the Disney community (and a pain to the PR side of the company with his columbo-like research skills) ;)
...and we get back to the characters in Walt Disney World!
Disney World has been home to hundreds of thousands of individual characters, from the parades to the meet and greets, the shows and special events. With some characters having hundreds of outfits, there are opportunities to snag some awesome photos and memories just by being in the right place at the right time.
Keep in mind that Disneyland still has walk-around characters, where Disney World is primarily focused on locations with queue lines and PhotoPass photographers.
Now if we are starting to talk about the idea of a "rare" character, let's set some ground rules:
- Not listed on the Park Times Guide
- Not officially meeting as part of an event
These characters are usually hidden in plain sight, and what I mean by that is that you have to know where to look and how to treat the experience.
First off, and this is a big one...we will not spoil the magic! There is one Mickey Mouse, and only one!
Secondly, the ability to know when these characters will appear is almost impossible without an inside source within Walt Disney Entertainment. So, if you have a friend who knows exactly when Ron Stoppable and Kim Possible are going to be meeting guests...take it with a grain of salt and congratulate them for being in the right place at the right time.
When I was working for the company back in 2007/2008, I had friends who were in Entertainment, but that didn't mean that I would bother them with questions about the "where and when". We actually had more fun going together trying to find characters as part of a year-long scavenger hunt. Oh, and just because you "saw" a character...it didn't count. You had to get a photo and an autograph to get the point, and we were very competitive and organized. There was a master excel sheet with 6 or 7 pages of characters and your goal was to update the group whenever you found someone new.
Looking through my photos from my contract, I am amazed. I had the chance to meet close to 100 characters in the parks, not including special parties.
Now that I'm writing a "how-to" guide on the in's and out's of meeting rare characters, there are three things that stand out that are still current. In sharing these tips with you hopefully get you to get a great experience like I did.
Number One Tip - Start Early
You're more likely to find characters wandering in the first couple hours of a park opening, as Disney tries to establish a level of magic that only they can do! Example: Seeing Mary Poppins in the Hub Grass @ Magic Kingdom or seeing Pluto in the breezeway at EPCOT is pretty common for the "non-scheduled" experiences first thing in the morning.
Number Two Tip - Research popular hashtags on recent Instagram posts
Guests love to share when they meet someone awesome, so knowing where to look will hopefully establish a pattern.
#CharacterGreeting #DisneyGrammers #UnforgetableCast #DisneyIgers are a few examples that may give you a good start. The other thing that you can do is search by places, which would allow you to see if anything is going on at the International Gateway, American Gardens or Hub Grass.
Number Three Tip - Know What to Ask
If you go up to a Character Attendant and ask where you can meet a rare character, they'll give you a Times Guide. However, if you go up to a character attendant and share your adventures and maybe slip in that you have a dream...like meeting a specific character...there may be a chance that some magic could be made.
Keep in mind that the role that a Character Attendant plays is important, and in most instances, they focused on their own area and may not be able to give information about another park. Some of my favourite conversations in the park are had with cast members who have the same spirit of adventure and appreciation of the Entertainment that Disney provides day in and day out.
Magic is Magic, and sometimes it's all about how you ask. I had the opportunity to make a little magic for a friend's mom who was celebrating a milestone birthday. The task involved going around and getting a Disney Autograph Book filled with personalized messages. I would explain the situation to the Character Attendant and they would have so much fun with it! Mary Poppins even wrote a note about having a Supercalifragilistic-ly amazing birthday! The book turned out to be such a great gift and was so much fun to get! Remember that characters can often do more than just an autograph;)
Just to end out with a little Q&A
Is there a specific location where you can find rare characters?
No, because then they wouldn't be rare.
Green Army Man
Disney's Hollywood Studios
What about Special Occasions?
Sometimes you'll find meet and greets set up for movie releases (typically in Disney's Hollywood Studios). Such as when Cruella De Vil was meeting in support of the release of 101 Dalmations Platinum Edition, or when Star Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy 2 or BB-8 from Star Wars. It's all about keeping an eye out for these special events!
Cruela De Vil
Disney's Hollywood Studios
The other times that could bring out special characters are things like when D23 produces the "Long Lost Friend's" weekends. An event like this is always well publicized on the D23 social media channels.
What about times when you'll find random characters that are meeting guests in a random location?
There is an explanation for that, however the best way to describe it is simply "being lucky"! Remember that my goal isn't to spoil the magic, but there are times that you'll find someone like Meg from Hercules meeting guests at the International Gateway, Meeko in front of Disney's Animal Kingdom, or Max (Goofy's son) meeting in front of the Fountain of Nations at EPCOT. You may even find a character or two at your resort, depending on your luck.
*Please note that all Disney Entertainment is subject to change