Disney Resorts To Allow Mickey Mouse, Other Characters To Hug Visitors Again In Coming Weeks
For Disney fans planning to attend attractions soon who have been longing for the days when they could embrace their favorite costumed characters without distancing restrictions, the next few weeks and months should be an exciting time.
Disney Live Entertainment’s senior communications manager, Shawn Slater, announced that as early as April 18, traditional character greetings will be reintroduced at California’s Disneyland, Florida’s Disney World, and on Disney cruises.
“Very soon, you will once again be able to hug Mickey Mouse, get an autograph from Mulan, and share a laugh with Goofy,” Slater said, referencing Disney’s “gradual, intentional approach” to COVID-19 protocols such as this. “Recent trends and guidance have provided opportunities for us to bring back some of our most beloved magic, like character greetings and dining experiences.”
Slater noted that the reintroductions will not be occurring all at once, an operational strategy Disney has frequently employed over the past two years for matters like this. Instead, only a certain amount of locations will be available for guests to interact at first, while more will see re-openings in phases throughout the spring and early summer.
Like every other entertainment venue, Disney parks were forced to close when the pandemic began back in March of 2020. While the parks reopened that summer — not at full capacity due to state protocols — characters could only stand and wave at distances to visitors, certainly not the same experience children and adults alike had come to expect.
Disney took further steps towards easing the restrictions last fall by allowing characters to come back to locations around the parks for individualized meetups, but they were required to remain at a distance and not touch visitors for photos.
Back in February, Disney — which previously removed on-site temperature checks — announced it was lifting mask mandates for vaccinated guests in all of its U.S. resorts, while unvaccinated guests are expected to continue wearing masks and practice social distancing.
Disney’s major COVID-19 change came in the form of a new reservation system meant to prevent overcrowding, which is still currently in effect. The system includes everything from rides and restaurants to character meetings, and allows for a “better visitor experience” according to Disney higher ups like CFO Christine McCarthy.
“It allows us to better balance load throughout the year, throughout the week, throughout the month,” McCarthy said during an investors conference. “That’s something that has really given us a toggle for how we’re going to manage attendance.”
“When you’re a guest in a park and you can’t do things and everything is too crowded, your guest experience is going to go down, your intent to return is going to go down and word of mouth will not be as good.”
Returns of classic attractions like character interactions could help Disney to continue reaching pre-pandemic attendance. Also drawing in consumers is Disney’s 50th anniversary celebration, which kicked off last October and will last until 2023 for a full 18 months.
Andrew Rhoades is a Contributing Reporter at The National Digest based in New York. A Saint Joseph’s University graduate, Rhoades’ reporting includes sports, U.S., and entertainment. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.