Meeting a favorite character can be the highlight of an entire Disney vacation. There’s nothing quite like getting to chat face-to-face with a lifelong hero, whether you’re 5 or 75. We all know where to find the most popular Disney friends: Mickey, Minnie, the princesses, Buzz Lightyear… the list goes on. Disney knows that some of its characters are more in-demand than others, and as such provides ample, obvious opportunities to meet the more famous personalities of its ever-expansive collection. But what about the rare characters? What if your favorite isn’t among the elite to hold a dozen Meet & Greets across Disney property? What if you’re looking for a bit of variety in your photo-ops for your next vacation that you haven’t gotten yet? To be sure, snapping a picture with a lesser-known character isn’t as easy as finding the likes of Cinderella or Donald Duck. It can be done, though! And as special as it is to shake hands with Mickey Mouse each vacation, it’s just as thrilling to make new character friends you’ve never seen in the parks before. Here are the top ways to find rare characters at Walt Disney World.
6. Character Dining
There are a few characters who can only be found at a character dining location. They don’t hold traditional Meet & Greets in the theme parks. However, since they are more or less guaranteed to be at the meal, I don’t know if I’d call that “rare” as much as I’d call it “exclusive” (if they’re there every day, are they really “rare”?), thus putting this item at the bottom of our list. Still, there are quite a few fun finds! Here is the list of characters who can only be met during a meal include:
- Piglet and Eeyore, breakfast/lunch/dinner, Crystal Palace, Magic Kingdom Park
- Beast, dinner, Be Our Guest Restaurant, Magic Kingdom Park
- Handy Manny, breakfast/lunch, Hollywood & Vine, Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Evil Queen, Queen of Hearts, Maleficent, and Cruella de Vil, dinner show, Club Villain, Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Saturdays only)
- Prince Charming and Lady Tremaine, dinner, 1900 Park Fare, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Lilo, breakfast, ‘Ohana, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear, breakfast, Covington Mill, Hilton Orlando near Disney Springs (Sundays only)
Three things to note about this: 1.) With the exception of Be Our Guest and Club Villain, other characters also appear and meet at these meals. The characters listed are just the ones who are exclusive to that meal and don’t hold a greeting elsewhere. 2.) While character dining usually sticks to a set schedule, appearances are subject to change without notice. I’ve seen various characters substitute for one another at multiple locations, so keep in mind that no one is truly guaranteed. 3.) There’s always the chance that you’ll find the characters listed here at special events or random appearances (more on those later). In terms of a (semi) secure, set schedule, though, these are the only places to regularly find them. All character dining has some degree of “rare” to it, though, because the characters almost always appear in outfits exclusive to the restaurant. It’s a great opportunity to meet some favorites in a different way.
5. Disney Parks Blog Meet-Ups
These are once in a blue moon, but when they happen, they deliver. The Disney Parks Blog (an official blog managed by Disney itself) sometimes holds meet-ups at Walt Disney World for blog readers. They’re usually free, but operate on a first-come, first-serve (well, actually, first-email, first-serve) basis. One of the recurring meet-ups is an advance screening for a new Disney film. More often than not, characters from that film appear at the meet-up for photos with guests. Since it’s an advance screening, their film isn’t released to the public yet, which probably means those characters haven’t started making appearances in the parks yet, which means the meet-up attendees are the first guests to ever have the chance to meet them! This happened for the meet-ups for Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6, and Inside Out… it was even more significant for Inside Out because Joy and Sadness didn’t start meeting in the parks until 10 months after their film debuted. Like I said, these don’t come around very often, but when they do, try to make it if you can.
4. Holidays at Resorts
What a wonderful, hidden tidbit! Instagram introduced me to this one. Each Easter Sunday, Halloween Day, and weekend before Christmas, almost all Disney resorts host special character greetings. While they’re typically not with any super-rare characters, they do include favorite characters in extremely rare outfits, some of which you’ll only find on this one day each year. Elvis Stitch at Halloween, Donald dressed to the nines for Easter, Minnie in vintage turn-of-the-century regalia for the holidays… the list is nearly endless. You can’t get these photo-ops anywhere else. If you’re vacationing during any one of those periods, check with your resort’s front desk for specifics on these special appearances.
3. Magic Kingdom Parties
Out of all of the items on our list, these are probably your best bet for a happy medium of character hunting: getting guaranteed rare characters while also still being able to do a bit of the exploring and finding yourself. Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in September and October has several exclusive villain Meet & Greets, while Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in November and December can usually be relied upon for greetings with Scrooge McDuck, as well as the Disney princes with their princesses. Both parties have a photo-op with all seven of the dwarfs! Mickey and the gang are also always dressed for the occasion. The specific list of characters changes slightly from year to year. Outside of holidays, Magic Kingdom is typically the park for other nighttime special events, like a recent Disney Vacation Club party that featured appearances by such rarities as Darkwing Duck and Robin Hood, to name a few.
2. Surprise Appearances
You never know when these might happen, but when it rains, it pours. Several locations throughout Walt Disney World are known for hosting surprise character appearances that aren’t listed on a Times Guide, sometimes with just a friend or two and sometimes with large groups of characters. These are unannounced and sporadic, and quite often rely on being at the right place at the right time. Still, it never hurts to ask a Cast Member if they might have any insider information. Sometimes you’ll get common characters like Mickey and Goofy, other times you might get Bert and Gepetto. You just never know. At the time of this writing, these spots include Epcot (at Imagination, World Showplace, International Gateway, and The American Adventure), Disney’s Hollywood Studios (at Tower of Terror), and, oddly enough, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort (in the lobby).
Here it is. The king dog daddy. If you want the rarest of the rare, the most hard-to-find of them all, you’ll have to lace up those running shoes and participate in a runDisney race! Disney holds several race weekends throughout the year, some with a specific theme (like Star Wars or princesses), and others not. The one thing they all have in common, though, is rare characters. How rare are we talking? How’d you like a photo with Prince Eric, Aladdin, Flynn Rider, Hercules, Tarzan, and Phoebus all together? Yep, you read that right. From Jack and Sally to Pain and Panic to entire casts of a film all together, runDisney pulls out all the stops and always keeps things different from year to year to make each race a fun surprise as to who you’ll meet along the way. Often the characters have special backdrops or even a parade float to pose with. It’s really something.
What’s the rarest character you’ve met before? Where did you find them?
(Images from the author’s personal collection.)
Blake studies Electronic Media and Film at Appalachian State University. He will participate in the Disney College Program in Fall 2016. Blake’s favorite attraction is the hub grass. You can find him on Twitter @blake_242 or at BlakeOnline.com.