The Disney parks have this beautiful thing called character meet-and-greets.
(aka the incredible opportunity to visit with your favorite characters).
How COOL is that??
After performing in the parks, I not only gained a deep appreciation for the characters, but I also learned that there is a very specific layout of meet-and-greets.
The typical layout of a meet-and-greet is:
Character meet-and-greets include the princesses, Pixar characters, and more.
Each meet-and-greet has a character or two, a character attendant (basically a body guard for the character), and a Photopass photographer who takes photos of the fun interaction.
While the characters are spread out all over the four main Disney parks, most meet-and-greets are approximately 60 seconds (sometimes less, sometimes more).
Even if you have been coming to the parks for years, you may not know that there are definitely ways in which to make your meet-and-greet a more memorable, special, and positive experience for both you and the character.
Here are 10 tips for how to properly experience meet-and-greets at the Disney parks (and to avoid characters from secretly hating you):
Prepare for your audition: It helps to do a little research about Disney auditions in general. Knowing what to wear, what to expect, and how to act will make the audition run a lot smoother for you!Be sure to read the audition description multiple times so you are as prepared as possible!
Be friendly: Be sure to talk to other people around you. Chances are you have at least one thing in common (ex: a love for Disney!) Making friends at auditions is a great way to not only network, but it will also help you feel less nervous about the audition! You may have more in common with those around you, which will help you build confidence.
“You do you” :
Don’t feel as though you have to be a ballerina or a super-star singer in order to audition, because that’s not the ONLY thing Disney looks for in a performer. Stay true to your style and stand out!
Don’t let anyone intimidate you: Be confident in yourself. I am NOT a dancer by any means and felt awkward many times during the audition. It doesn’t matter what kind of performing experience you’ve had in the past- just have fun. It may feel like you are surrounded by a million beautiful people, but you never know what kind of face/body the choreographers are looking for… they could be looking for YOU.If you feel more comfortable listening to music or reading a book before your audition begins- then do that! Just be sure to smile and be friendly when someone talks to you!
Support each other: It’s okay to be nervous, but don’t let that stop you from going through with the audition!! My friends and I had to support each other the whole time (especially when we were tempted to run away!!) Encourage others and compliment those around you. I promise, everyone is nervous. Ask to practice dance moves with a new buddy and cheer on others auditioning!
Feel free to message me with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments below! Best of luck!
I attended a Disney Character Look-Alike/Parade Performer audition in Nashville. The audition was at 9am, and my friends and I arrived an hour early. The lobby of the dance studio was already packed with 200 young men and women exciting chattering about all things Disney.
The two choreographers asked everyone to stand in line in the main studio. I noticed more than half of the girls there had their hair in a tight bun and were styling a leotard and ballet shoes. For a second, I thought my friends and I accidentally walked into a hardcore Disney dance audition. I turned to the girl behind me:
“Are you a dancer?” I asked. “Yes!” She squealed with a smile. “I’ve been dancing my whole life!!”
Oh boy… I’m in trouble.
From the moment everyone walked in, the choreographers watched us to see if we interacted with each other, stood with (or without) confidence, and had “the Disney look.” Within three seconds, the choreographers could tell if an individual exuded confidence, joy, and spirit.
After standing in line for almost 45 minutes, my friends and I made it to the registration table where each person wrote down his or her name and e-mail address. The choreographers gave us all an audition number and measured everyone’s height. I stood as straight as I could to at least make it to 5 feet (#shortpeopleproblems).
When the last individual signed in, they told us what we were to expect for the day:
“Channel your inner child,” The choreographers advised us. I tied my hair in low-pigtails. It was game time.
FIRST ROUND: All 200 individuals learned a basic step routine (grapevine with some claps and some jazz hands) and after practicing the routine a few times, they split us up (randomly) into two massive groups. I was in the first group and after we danced 4 people at a time, the choreographers lead us into another room where we waited while the second group auditioned.
When both groups finished the first round of the audition, the choreographers called everyone back in to the main studio to announce the numbers of those who were asked to stay and continue to the next round.
“31” The choreographer announced. My heart skipped a beat. That was me.
I applied to the Disney College Program (DCP) in March 2014 after attending a WDW character performer audition.
Even though I had completed the rounds of the audition, I was almost too nervous to apply to the DCP. I forced myself to complete the application. Little did I know I was starting an experience of a lifetime…
Applying to DCP is exciting, but also nerve-racking. There are many “hoops” to jump through, and it may even become overwhelming.
Therefore, I wanted to share a few thoughts regarding the Disney College Program application process in hopes that it will encourage you apply!
As I write this, I’m on lunch break inside the Magic Kingdom Utilidors, also known as “the underground” or “the tunnels.” I still can’t believe I work here.
Sometimes while performing at Magic Kingdom, I’ll turn around and remember I’m in front of Cinderella’s castle. I’ll stand there in awe and wonder how I ended up working at Walt Disney World. I only saw this happening in my wildest dreams, but I’m so grateful it became a reality.
Three months ago, before starting my job as a character performer, I wrote a blog post titled, “A Whole New World.” In it, I described the audition and application process. I discovered a few days ago that my scores from that audition are high enough so that I qualify to perform in top parades and shows such as Festival of Fantasy and Fantasmic!, as well as special events: weddings, conferences, etc. This was extremely exciting news for me. I was thrilled to know how much there was left to learn, but unfortunately, I will not be here at Disney long enough to be trained for or perform any of the roles.
Within two months, I have learned a lot from fellow performers as well as several trainers, captains, and managers. When I first started, I was lost and confused pretty much all the time, and I couldn’t put together a costume without someone else’s help. Now I can (for the most part) find my way around backstage in the four major Disney parks and have mastered the art of putting on an entire Disney costume in less than two minutes. Since I’ve been at Disney, I’ve realized that this “whole new world” I was once very clueless about is spectacular – just as I imagined it. It is also at times chaotic, fast-paced, and well, smelly. I want to share a bit of what a day is like as a performer at Walt Disney World (without ruining any magic!!) So here it goes:
I perform at all of the Walt Disney World parks, as well as multiple Disney resorts and restaurants. I hang out with many different characters, although 90% of the time I’m with Mickey and Minnie. Every performer here (including princesses, princes, etc.) has to perform mask or “fur” characters. Fortunately for me, the two adorable mice are ALWAYS inside with air-conditioning, away from the intense Florida heat (with the exception of training, parades, and outdoor dance parties). As weird as it sounds, I’m usually freezing. I move around a lot while performing indoors to warm up, and I wear sweatpants and sweatshirts on breaks.
As a member of the Disney Entertainment team, each day is very different from the next. Some days I’m putting together a costume at 5:30am. Other times I’m driving to work at 3pm and leaving the Entertainment base as fireworks are shooting off at 10pm. It just depends on the character I’m hanging out with that day and the work location.
Today was my onboarding appointment for Walt Disney World. I’ve always wanted to peek inside the Casting Center across the street from Downtown Disney, and today I finally had the opportunity to explore!
I arrived 10 minutes early for my 1pm appointment. The interior of the Casting Center lobby was absolutely beautiful, and I felt like I was inside the castle of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. I found Suite 140 and walked down a long, narrow hallway with picture canvases of different Disney characters and attractions hanging on both walls.
I opened a set of doors with the sign “Onboarding” and walked into a large gray room filled with cubicles and desks. Although it looked like a corporate office, it felt more like a waiting room at a health clinic. There were about 10 other people there (in many different shapes and sizes) waiting to complete their onboarding appointment to be a Cast Member for Disney. Some of the Cast Member roles include guest services, retail sales clerk, costuming, vacation planner, custodian… the list goes on forever.
I walked to the front desk. The receptionist asked for my forms of identification. Make sure you have these!! This includes social security card, passport, birth certificate, driver’s license, etc. If you do not have the identification about they WILL turn you away and make you reschedule. I gave her my forms, and she said someone would be with me shortly.
And we’re off! Headed to “the happiest place on earth” (although I still believe home will always be the happiest place on earth). But whatevs.
On Tuesday, May 6th, I said goodbye to my Brentwood home and took the 10 hour road trip with my mom to Orlando. When we finally arrived at our apartment around 8pm, we dropped our luggage off and immediately headed to Downtown Disney to enjoy the evening. As we walked around Downtown Disney, I started to cry. I was anxious about the new job, excited about being at Disney World, and sad about being far from home, my siblings, Wes, and friends. Within 20 minutes of watching joyful children with their families and talking to current Cast Members, I felt calm and hopeful.
I spent the next day with my mom unpacking, organizing and cleaning the apartment, and (of course) Disney dining and shopping. My mom and I had a blast driving around our new neighborhood (a mile away from the theme parks!!) and running errands. During a delicious dinner in Downtown Disney, my mom told me that we could go to a park of my choice for the next day: I picked Animal Kingdom.
I love Animal Kingdom. A lot of people tend to overlook it, but even when I was a young child, I enjoyed every minute of the park. Of course we went on all the typical rides (Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, etc.) but I also took the time to observe the different characters. I visited Mickey, Minnie, Pooh, Tigger, Baloo, Pocahontas, and King Louie and watched how they interacted with families and stayed true to their characters. My mom even surprised me with a Disney autograph book. (My goal is to get every every character’s autograph by the end of the summer.) We also attended Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade and Finding Nemo: the Musical. It was truly a magical first day being at a Disney park. I still can’t believe that I’m going to be able to go to any park for free during the summer! What a dream come true.
As I write this, I am laying in bed in my swanky new bedroom. It is a purple room with big-screen TV, a queen-size bed, and window seat. It feels like paradise. The apartment has a pool as well. I haven’t been able to enjoy it yet, but I’m excited to spend an entire afternoon in the water (it’s very warm here in Orlando…obviously).
Tomorrow at 1pm, I will attend my Disney on-boarding appointment. There, I will get my picture taken for my Disney ID and will fill out a few forms before I start my training at Disney University on Tuesday.
I want to thank my family members, friends, and even professors who have continued to support and encourage me. It has meant a great deal to me. Those who know me well have probably recognized that I’m an extreme homebody. This move has definitely been a tremendous change for me, as well as an exciting adventure. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead, and I can’t wait for my siblings, my dad, Wes, and my bestest friend “Shug” to come visit! I’ll be writing soon about my appointment tomorrow! Cheers!