Walt Disney World holds a secret. Sure, it may not the best kept secret on Disney property (We all know that title belongs to the Disney Vacation Club), but to the average vacationer who may not do as much research and planning, the secret is still pretty juicy. That secret is Character Palooza, and it has developed a bit of a cult following over the years as a secret gem of magic that Hollywood Studios puts on for its guests. However, for many, Character Palooza remains an obscure mystery - something they hear in passing and don't quite understand. Below, you'll find some information and tips in case you are visiting and wish to experience the event.
So, What is Character Palooza?
Character Palooza, as it has become dubbed, is an unofficial character meet and greet at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The meet and greet is never advertised in park maps or times guides, and cast members at Hollywood Studios are trained to kindly downplay existence of Character Palooza, in attempts to keep attendance to a minimum.
The elusive meet and greet occurs on days that Hollywood Studios hosts a showing of Fantasmic, their nighttime spectacular. There is no exact time that Character Palooza begins, but it generally occurs between 4-7pm, weather permitting. On some days, Character Palooza will only happen once, and others will have a couple sets - again, all depending on the Fantasmic schedule and weather conditions.
Character Palooza became well known for its location over by Tower of Terror. Since then, Disney has made efforts to relocate the event every now and then. More recently, it has occurred up at the front of the park, to the left side of the turnstiles as you are heading into the park.
Who can you find?
On average, attendees can find a handful of characters that can be seen in the finale of Fantasmic, including a number of more rare faces. There is no guarantee that you will find any specific character at the meet up, and who will be making an appearance is not published beforehand.
Queen Grimhilde, also known as the Evil Queen, has been known to be a common face at Character Palooza, greeting guests both alone and with Snow White. Other Princesses have also been spotted, though they can commonly be seen in other locations around the World.
Donald Duck can be found in his original sailor attire here, one of the only locations that you can find him as such. Genie has also been known to commonly fly in from Agrabah just in time for the event.
Other rare characters that occasionally appear include Mushu, Dopey, Gepetto, and Robin Hood. Pinocchio, who remains one of the most elusive characters to find in the Walt Disney parks, has also been spotted at Character Palooza, albeit infrequently.
Tips for Character Palooza
If you are going to attempt attending a Character Palooza in the near future, here's a couple tips to hopefully help you make the most out of your experience.
1.) Social Media: Personally speaking, I'm a part of several Disney groups on Facebook and have, on occasion, seen posts from people inside the park saying that Character Palooza has begun. While this is not always the case, it is a nice way to check for updates while you may be in another area of the park or seeing a show.
2.) Photographs: In keeping with the idea that Character Palooza is a spontaneous, random event, Disney does not provide Photopass photographers for these character meets. However, there are numerous cast members who are more than willing to take photos for you. Due in part to the limited time that characters are out, have your camera out and ready to expedite the experience for both your family and others.
3.) Autographs: In the same vein as photographs, have your books and pens out and ready for signing. This prevents last minute scrambling as your child is meeting the character and gives you a couple spare moments with them.
4.) Do Not Expect It: This is the most important tip that I have and I cannot stress it enough. There is no guarantee that Character Palooza will happen, and there is no guarantee that it will occur at the time or place above. If you can't catch it or it just doesn't happen the day that you are at Studios, don't let it discourage you or damper your trip. There is plenty more magic out there, just waiting to be found.That's all I got for ya today. Have you ever managed to catch a Character Palooza set? Let us know!