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Complete guide to Animal Kingdom characters & cavalcades

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Complete guide to Animal Kingdom characters & cavalcades

Long ago Animal Kingdom used to have a parade but its narrow walkways and lush landscaping made it challenging (to say the least).

But now the park has a fun, new way to enjoy characters: with cavalcades!

Except, in the case of Animal Kingdom, those cavalcades are even referred to as character cruises or flotillas and they are a ton of fun to see. 

Here’s what you need to know:

Looking for info on the other parks?

Check out our other posts for character information across Walt Disney World:

What is a Cavalcade?

Cavalcades are basically like a parade, but a much smaller and shorter version. And at Animal Kingdom, they take place on boats that float along the Discovery River.

While we love parades, we also adore cavalcades.

Not only do they allow you to see characters quickly and multiple times a day, but you also don’t have to camp out for hours for a good seat (or in that hot Orlando summer sun), unlike a parade.

Cavalcades really are a lot of fun and provide opportunities to wave to characters without feeling tied down to a parade schedule.

You can simply catch one as you’re on your way to hop in line for an attraction or grab a bite to eat.

donald, daisy and launchpad mcquack at animal kingdom

Cavalcades Are Magical

Cavalcades really do feel more magical. Why? Allow us to explain.

  • Cavalcades are smaller, providing a more intimate experience. You won’t be stuck in the 2nd or 3 row of a crowd – you’ll be front row with lots of opportunities to wave – and for the characters to wave back.
  • They are quick – no standing in the hot sun for an hour. You get a dash of magic and then you move along to your next adventure of the day.
  • Cavalcades bring these magical character sightings into parts of parks we haven’t seen before like seeing Chip ‘n’ Dale dressed as dinosaurs floating in a boat on a river.

How Do You Know One Is Coming?

Just like with a parade, music is your cue (at least for most of the cavalcades).

Before you’ll be able to see a cavalcade you’ll likely be able to hear it.

You can also check the My Disney Experience app for cavalcade schedules. They usually run about every 15 minutes or so.

animal kingdom cavalcade times my disney experience app

Cavalcades & Other Character Interactions

Animal Kingdom Flotillas

Since the news was announced that Disney would be bringing cavalcades to all the parks, we were very excited to see what that would mean for Animal Kingdom. 

Unlike the other 3 parks, at Animal Kingdom there really isn’t any great space for a parade – no matter how small. At least not on the land, that is.

While Animal Kingdom may be lacking wide pathways fit for a cavalcade, they do have a river: Discovery River, to be exact.

And that means that in Animal Kingdom the characters have taken to the water in fun character cruises or flotillas.

There are quite a few flotillas at Animal Kingdom. Let’s take a look!

Goofy And Pals Set Sail

goofy and pals cavalcade animal kingdom

Characters: Goofy and other friends from Donald’s Dino Bash (most frequently Chip and Dale)
Where: Discovery River

Mickey & Friends Flotilla (Currently Decorated For The 50th)

Mickey 50th flotilla

Characters: Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto
Where: Discovery River

Discovery Island Drummers

discovery island drummers animal kingdom

Characters: Discovery Island Drummers take their music to the water 
Where: Discovery River

Discovery River Character Cruise

rafiki and timon discovery river cruise animal kingdom

Characters: Pocahontas and Meeko (Meeko isn’t always included) OR Rafiki and Timon
Where: Discovery River

Donald’s Dino Boat Bash!

donald's dino boat bash animal kingdom

Characters: Donald, Daisy, and Launchpad McQuack
Where: Discovery River

Best Places To Catch The Flotillas

Anywhere you can see Discovery River is a great spot, but here’s a few of our favorite places:

  • Bleachers near Expedition Everest. The seating from Rivers of Light is a great place to catch the Character Cruises, but they can get quite hot during the middle of the day. And now that Disney KiteTails shows here, you can catch the cavalcades and the show all in the same place.
  • Near the Caravan Stage Theater. Across from where Feathered Friends in Flight! takes place, there’s a seating area that offers a good view of the river and the cavalcades.
  • Flame Tree Barbecue. The Quick Service spot in Discovery Island has some great food and an even more amazing view of Expedition Everest and the river, meaning you have the perfect spot for both the cavalcades and KiteTails.
  • Bridges. Most of the bridges will give you a unique angle to shoot photographs as the characters pass below.
meeko and pocahontas animal kingdom cavalcade from flame tree barbecue

Traditional Character Meet & Greets

You can hug the following characters, take photos, and have them sign autographs (unless otherwise noted).

Russell from Up

Russell meet and greet - animal kingdom

Characters: Russell from Pixar’s Up
Where: He’s making appearances near the bridge to DinoLand U.S.A. from Discovery Island

Meet Favorite Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost (Available With Genie+)

Characters: Mickey and Minnie
Where: In Discovery Island across from Eight Spoon Cafe

Other Character Opportunities & “Sightings”

Even with character meet and greets back to normal, there are still some character “sightings” for guests to enjoy.

You can actually have 1-on-1 time with select characters — but at a distance. This means no hugging or autographs.

Most of these experiences don’t have PhotoPass photographers, so you’ll need to take photos/selfies with your own camera and/or mobile device.

You can check appearance times for in the My Disney Experience app.

Kevin from Up

Kevin from up - animal kingdom

Characters: Kevin from Pixar’s Up
Where: She roams around Discovery Island

Live Entertainment

While live entertainment at the Disney Parks isn’t back in full force just yet, there are several opportunities to see characters and enjoy a show all at the time time.

You can always check the My Disney Experience app for the daily live entertainment schedule.

Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond! (opens June 13; Available with Genie+)

finding nemo the musical animal kingdom

Characters: Nemo, Dory, and more from Finding Nemo and Finding Dory (a reimagined version of original show Finding Nemo: The Musical and set during the timeline of the movie Finding Dory)
Where: Theater in the Wild in DinoLand, U.S.A.

Animal Kingdom Character Dining

Animal Kingdom has one character meal that you can find in Africa at Tusker House Restaurant.

While we haven’t visited Tusker House since it reopened in June 2021, we can tell you that you’re able to either book a reservation for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Instead of the traditional buffet, family-style is now offered here. Not only can you meet Safari Donald, Goofy, Mickey and Daisy, but you can also try African-inspired foods.

Note: It remains unclear if this character dining experiences is offering traditional character meet and greets.

goofy and mickey tusker house animal kingdom

Holiday Flotillas

In 2021, festive decorations and outfits were added to all of the cavalcades at Animal Kingdom.

In addition, Donald’s Dino Boat Bash saw the addition of Scrooge McDuck alongside Daisy and Donald instead of Launchpad McQuack.

Donald's dino bash flotilla

There was also one very special guest character cruise, the Santa Claus Festive Flotilla!

Animal Kingdom Santa Flotilla

You could find Santa cruising around the Discovery River in his sleigh themed boat through December 24.

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character hugs - animal kingdom
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