I want to start by saying that this is coming from a former theme park performer who values the meet-and-greet experience. Disney parks have always been known for entertainment and the character interactions throughout the parks. Recently, character sightings have been more prevalent. I have always loved meeting characters and engaging in conversation with them. Character hugs, in a way, have always felt therapeutic, whether I was a performer or meeting characters as a guest. Recently on social media, I have seen creators share different videos on their feelings and opinions on what’s wrong and right when guests meet characters. I wanted to join the conversation, and I also wanted to include all of you.
Let’s start with the don’ts.
All performers go through training, which typically ends with a lengthy test to ensure each performer knows all the rules and regulations. These rules and regulations also break down what they can and can’t do while on stage or meeting guests. The primary rule is to always stay in character and only do or say things that your character would know. This essentially means that if a guest were to ask a performer to do a trending dance from social media, they would not be able to perform that dance. This also goes for questions that could throw the character off and potentially get them to break character.
Another significant rule is that the performers cannot hold babies. Performers or attendants would kindly let you know that holding a child is not allowed. This is for the safety of the child and performer. Many of the standard physical rules are not in practice now because meet and greets are currently being held from a distance due to the ongoing pandemic. It is essential to respect each performer that you come across and understand that if a character says they can’t do something, it’s because if they were to do it, it could lead to them losing their jobs or hindering their safety.
Other rules include not accepting gifts with monetary value. I am not 100% sure on the value price, but when I performed, I believe that we couldn’t accept anything that cost more than $20. Being aware of arm/hand placement is very important when meeting characters as well. In training, it is said to try to make sure that both arms/hands of the guest are always visible. These are all standard rules among the surrounding theme parks.
Now let’s move on to the do’s. This part is easy.
Talk to the characters about their movie or characters within their universe. For example, if you meet Belle at Epcot and ask her about a Marvel character, she would not know about that universe, but you could ask her about her princess friends like Jasmine or Snow White. As a performer, one of my favorite things was when guests would tell stories about how the character impacted their lives. These are the stories that stick with the character performers for a lifetime.
If you want to show a character your creative side, bring them a painting or drawing that you made. Those personal gifts are things that characters cherish. I used to get characters pages out of my coloring books when I was a kid, and having the chance to hand the page to the character or their attendant are memories I have always held on to. When I was a performer, I received a drawing from a guest that was about 5 years old, and I still have that drawing displayed.
Small things like that truly make a difference to theme park performers. Due to Covid-19, the only pictures that can be taken currently are selfies, and when taking selfies while others are also trying to take them can seem not very pleasant. The best way to navigate the situation is to wait for the performer to acknowledge you and then say, “Hey, can we take a selfie?” to ensure you get the best picture possible. This also gives you a moment to interact with the character.
Again, I just wanted to share this because I have seen some things circulating on the internet that could influence guests to do something that could hinder the performer’s career. Most of the time, guests don’t know what characters can and can’t do, so I hope this clarifies.
I also wanted to share this because as we continue to push through this pandemic, more and more characters have been spotted throughout the parks. These character sightings have made me so happy recently, especially seeing all the kids and the kids at heart interacting with their favorite characters. While walking around World Showcase, I saw Snow White, Jasmine, Belle, and Mary Poppins. It was so great to see them at their respective pavilions and get to interact with them for a bit. Seeing more and more characters out and about has helped make things feel somewhat normal while the world is still not so ordinary. I can’t wait to see more character spots open back up.
Who is your favorite character to meet? Let us know in the comments below!
Hi, I'm Erica, and I write about all things Disney. Before working for The DIS, I was a theme park performer at SeaWorld, but I also performed at Disney. I have such an immense love for theme parks to the point I studied them in college.