Character Interaction

I've been asked numerous times in the last year or so how I've been able to create some of the character interactions that are in the pictures from my various Disney trips. I don't feel I am an expert of the subject, but with several trips coming up with the Disney Inexperienced I wanted to create a blog that might help when it comes to making sure magic is created. By no means do I think anyone should just follow this as a play by play. Part of the fun of Disney is just letting the magic happen, and by making your own.
First and foremost, invest in the Disney Photopass service. For Walt Disney World there is a dicounted price if you purchase the disk before you travel. Don't purchase it too far in advance, though. I normally purchase it a couple of weeks before our trip so that it does not expire before I can see the photos. Even better, if you decide there aren't enough photos you want you can get a refund. Disneyland does not offer a preorder special - in fact, you can't preorder it at all - but it is considerably cheaper to purchase (presumably because there are two parks, not four + 2 water parks). This is helpful because you can have the photopass photographers take as many photos as you'd like and you can look at them online - ALL FOR FREE - before deciding to purchase and you aren't the one holding the camera! You can also have them take a few for you on your own camera, but note that some photopass photogs are just as amatuer as the people they are taking pics for and may not take the best photos with your camera. For more information and tips on photopass I recommend the Stitch Kingdom guide.

Once you've figured out the Photopass system - use it. It's so much easier to interact and capture the moments when you're in the moment and the photopass guys are there to make it happen, but don't be disappointed if you don't see a photorapher with the character you are meeting. Each character has a "friend" or "handler" who deals with the organization of the lines and will be more than willing to snap a photo or two. If you are like me and have a DSLR camera - make sure to have it in full point and shoot mode, and have the camera zoomed out as much as possible - trust me, most Cast Members really don't know much about cameras and feel overwhelmed when they look at my rig. Always make sure to ask for them to take multiple photos and to feel free to snap the interactions as well as the posed cheesey smile. Photopass photographers are supposed to already know to do this, but it never hurts to give them permission to do so.
It's ALWAYS Erin's fault!
Before heading to the parks - familiarize yourself with the characters that you're most likely to see. Knowing some of the characters cartoons/stories/personality traits really helps with the interraction. For example: Chip and Dale are friends & "roomies" and were first introduced as annoyances for both Donald Duck and Pluto. One of the most famous cartoons is "Pluto's Christmas Tree" where Chip and Dale live in the tree that Pluto and Mickey choose to chop down to decorate for Christmas. Subsequently the chipmunks create havoc in the tree and tease Pluto ultimately resulting in the tree and decor being destroyed and Mickey Mouse to freak out and call Pluto a bad dog (and dumb mutt). For the picture above, we started out talking to our "favorites". I prefer Chip - who is the brains, and Erin prefers Dale (the goofball). Christmas was already going on in Disney's parks, so I quickly turned the conversation to Christmas Trees and I asked Chip if he was getting along this year with Pluto. He mimed (the classic fur characters do not speak, though the technology may start changing soon with that - at least for Mickey Mouse) that he promised that he was. So I brought up the fact that it wasn't very nice that they played such a mean trick on Pluto (he laughed at that) and I said he should try to be nicer. Chip then pointed at Dale suggesting that DALE was to blame, and that Chip was innocent (he mimed a halo), Dale then pointed at ME suggesting *I* was the trouble maker and then I said "no, I'm the good one, Erin is naughty" so then we all pointed at Erin and the photo is made.

Familiarizing yourself with the Characters also helps the children recognize them in the parks which may help with the anxiety of meeting them. Some children have no problems going up to the characters right off the bat. Others are super shy or even terrified of them. It should be up to the child, and not the adult, to decide if the child will meet any of the characters. Some things that help are if the child sees some of the adults in the group getting silly and having fun with the characters. One of the best places for this comfortable spontaneous interaction is through a character meal. The characters each visit the tables at least once, and if you spend enough time and it's not too crowded (go at an off time during the day, or during the off season) you can get them to return to your table several times. The shy members of your group will have a better chance of seeing the characters up close and at their leisure. We used this method and got great results with my neice in Feb. This is a great way to start your trip as it gets the kiddos ready to meet the characters while touring the parks, and it's overall less overwhelming.

Haille scratches Pluto's nose. That's Disney Magic.
This is where you can teach the kids how to interact and have conversation with the non speaking characters. For example: The easiest is probably Pluto. How would you treat your family pet? Scratch his ears or his nose and watch for a reaction. Chances are you will have a very happy puppy and kiddo. This was the trick that broke the ice for my neice and she spent the rest of the night dancing with Goofy, playing tricks on the rest of us with Dale and chatting about shoes with Minnie Mouse. Who knew she'd come out of her shell just because she scratched Pluto's ears?! The meals are expensive, but you're getting an interactive experience and the memories really do become priceless. It's one of the vivid memories Haille has (the only other one is the Snake on the Indiana Jones ride, and that's not a positive memory for her). Try to get in at least one Character meal with your child(ren) and put it towards the front of your trip. I assure you it will help you judge how the rest of the trip will go. (Also, encourage your child to tell Pluto that s/he's going to scratch his ears so that the character is prepared to interact. They may not see your little one and therefore will not know it's happening.)

The final big tip I can give is - research and figure out who, when and where the characters will be out. If you're like I am, you'll plan your day around rides and characters. Be flexible, most characters come out several times a day. If you can't make one meet up, or the line is too long, try again a little later. Ask a cast member if any special "non scheduled" characters will be out and about. This is normally how princes, secondary characters, and villians are found. If a character is getting set to take a break - don't leave the line. Minnie only needs about five minutes to check on her apple pie that she has baking in the back. Some people in line will leave when she does, so your wait time will be less if you just stick it out. So be paitent and know when and where to be. And don't feel bad meeting the same characters more than once. Each interaction will most likely be different and so much fun!

The main ingredient to a positive and magical interaction is you. The Characters feed off of what you bring to the meeting. If you're all business you'll most likely only get the standard picture. If you don't seem willing to play games, they won't push the issue for fear of offending or wasting your time. If you're just into collecting character pictures, then please move right along, but if you're into the fun photos and memories that last far longer than your trip then take a risk, look a little silly and have fun! Happy snapping!

Want more tips/tricks/ideas? Let me know in a comment or email! I'd be happy to point you towards the magic.

This was originally posted on Thoughts by Tonichelle.

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