To say that the global pandemic has been rough on theme parks is certainly an understatement. Many, like Disneyland Resort, remained closed for extended periods, and even when parks did reopen, they were a shell of their former selves with many of the most popular entertainment options missing from the Disney Parks. Now, the ability to hug Disney’s costumed characters is finally back, and I have to admit, it’s getting to me a bit.
While Disneyland and Disney World’s famous walk around characters haven’t been entirely missing in action since the parks reopened, up until now, guests have had to keep their distance. Characters were usually off in a place guests could not go, or the Disney photo op was managed so guests and characters didn’t get too close. Now, however, you can hug Mickey Mouse again, and as the Disney Parks TikTok shows, that’s really special for a lot of people. Check it out.
I’ll admit, the character meet and greet experiences are rarely on my itinerary when visiting Disneyland or Disney World. Beyond the occasional picture with a character that I’m Disneybounding as at that time, I skip them. And I’m fairly certain that even as a kid I never hugged any characters. Having said that, it’s clear that being able to get this close to Mickey Mouse again is truly special for these people, and a lot more people certainly feel the same way, and that’s enough to make seeing this an emotional experience. The joy here is palpable. And with the additional return of parades at Disneyland nearly here, things are really starting to look back to normal.
In the end, these are just people wearing costumes, people doing their job. But many of these Cast Members likely feel the exact same way about being able to hug guests. These are special moments for the guests, and the Cast Members know that they’re part of making special memories for these people, especially the kids, and being able to do that again must feel good, even if it’s also really hot in those Disney character costumes.
I actually really liked the way that costumed characters were integrated into the park when they first reopened. Seeing Winnie the Pooh chasing butterflies with a net off in the distance at Epcot or Goofy and Max fishing at Disney California Adventure was really cute and seeing a variety of different characters inhabiting parts of the parks that are usually just set dressing, made everything feel a bit more alive. I thought it was one of many pandemic changes at Disney World that were good.
Of course, for many, getting that picture with your favorite Disney Princess or other popular character, whether or not you give them a hug, is a necessary part of any trip, and so it’s nice that those people can do that too. I certainly hope we see the characters continuing to appear in different park environments as well as doing the full meet and greets. There’s no reason we can’t have both.
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CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.