You can see the Disney characters in live shows and in parades. For times, consult your Times Guide. If you have the time and money, you can share a meal with the characters (see our post on this subject). But if you want to meet the Disney characters in the parks, get autographs, and take photos, it’s helpful to know where the characters hang out.
Disneyland Resort includes information about characters in its handout park maps and entertainment Times Guide. A listing specifies where and when certain characters will be available and also provides information on character dining. On the maps of the parks themselves, Mickey’s gloved hand is used to denote locations where characters can be found.
At DCA, look for Disney characters in Hollywood Land near the Animation Building, in parades, and in shows at the Hyperion Theater. In Cars Land, you’ll find interactive incarnations of the series’ automotive stars. Anna and Elsa from Frozen hold court inside the Disney Animation attraction, while Olaf the Snowman gives warm hugs in Hollywood Land. Marvel’s Captain America and Spider-Man also appear in Hollywood Land, near the entrance to the Hyperion Theater, and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (a long-lost forerunner of Mickey Mouse) meets guests near the park entrance. Elsewhere around the park, characters will be less in evidence than at Disneyland Park, but they will make periodic appearances at Flik’s Fun Fair and Buena Vista Street (the central hub).
Disney Characters in High Demand at All Parks
The last few years have seen a number of Disney initiatives aimed at satisfying guests’ inexhaustible desire to meet the characters. At Disneyland Park, Disney relegated four (Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, and Donald) of the “fab five” to all-day tours of duty in Mickey’s Toontown. The fifth “fab,” Goofy, works a similar schedule most days in Frontierland but also spends plenty of time in Toontown. Likewise, Pooh and Tigger can usually be found in Critter Country, and Aladdin and Jasmine in Adventureland. The Fantasy Faire plaza adjacent to Sleeping Beauty Castle is the prime place to meet Aurora, Ariel, Cinderella, Belle, Mulan, Merida, and Rapunzel. Tinker Bell and her fairy friends draw long lines at their Pixie Hollow area off the central hub between Tomorrowland and the Matterhorn. Star Wars celebrities can be spotted in and around Tomorrowland’s Star Wars Launch Bay. Characters less in demand may roam the “lands” consistent with their image (Br’er Bear and Br’er Fox in Critter Country, for example). Tiana, Dr. Facilier, and Louis from The Princess and the Frog can usually be found in New Orleans Square or on the Mark Twain Riverboat.
While making the characters routinely available has taken the guesswork out of finding them, it has likewise robbed character encounters of much of their surprise and spontaneity. Instead of chancing on a character as you turn a corner, it is much more common now to wait in a queue to meet the character. However, you are still far more likely to encounter free-range characters in Disneyland than at Walt Disney World, especially in the slower morning hours when they are given a longer leash to roam. Be aware that lines for face characters move much more slowly than lines for nonspeaking characters do, as you might surmise. Because face characters are allowed to talk, they often engage children in lengthy conversations, much to the consternation of the families stuck in the queue.
Be Prepared for Long Lines when Meeting Disney Characters
If you believe that Disneyland Park already has quite enough lines, and, furthermore, if you prefer to bump into your characters on the run, here’s a quick rundown of where the bears and chipmunks roam. There will almost always be a character in Town Square on Main Street and often at the central hub. Snow White hangs out near her wishing well in the courtyard of the castle; the aforementioned Br’ers cruise Critter Country; and Alice and her Wonderland friends wander around Fantasyland. Any characters whom we haven’t specifically mentioned generally continue to turn up randomly throughout the park. Character selection can vary seasonally, with some (such as Jack Skellington) appearing only around Halloween or Christmas.
Characters are also featured in the afternoon and evening parades, Fantasmic!, and Fantasy Faire. Performance times for all of the shows and parades are listed in the Disneyland Park’s daily Times Guide entertainment listings. After the shows, characters will sometimes stick around to greet the audience.
Mickey Mouse is available to meet guests and pose for photos all day long in his dressing room at Mickey’s Movie Barn in Mickey’s Toontown. To reach the Movie Barn, proceed through the front door of Mickey’s House and follow the crowd. If the line extends back to the entrance of Mickey’s House, it will take you about 25–30 minutes to actually reach Mickey. When you finally get to his dressing room, one or two families at a time are admitted for a short personal audience with Mickey.
Many children are so excited about meeting Mickey that they cannot relax to enjoy the other attractions. If Mickey looms large in your child’s day, board the Disneyland Railroad at the Main Street Station as soon as Toontown opens for the day (usually 1 hour after the rest of the park), and proceed directly to Mickey’s Toontown (half a circuit). If you visit Mickey within an hour of Toontown’s opening, your wait will be short. Minnie receives guests at her house in Toontown most of the day, as well, and Donald and Pluto are frequently available for photographs and autographs in the gazebo in front of the Toontown Town Hall. There is, of course, a separate line for each character. Also, be aware that the characters bug out for parades and certain other special performances. Check the daily Times Guide entertainment listings for performance times and plan your visit to Toontown accordingly.
For all there is to see and do at Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, check The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland by Seth Kubersky with Bob Sehlinger, Len Testa, and Guy Selga Jr.