Meeting and collecting autographs from favorite Disney characters is one of the most beloved activities for Walt Disney World visitors.
Guests of all ages - both young and old - really get a kick out of it. It is also one of the most inexpensive souvenirs you can bring back home with you.
Truth be told, we used to be hesitant when it came to meeting characters but all it took was a few times to have us convinced that even if you only meet 1 or 2, visiting with the characters is something not be missed on your next Walt Disney World trip.
Ready to learn more?
Tips for meeting characters
Before you can get to the point of snagging those coveted Disney character autographs you'll have to find them first.
Here's a few tips to help with locating the characters plus some suggestions for enhancing the interactions.
How to find characters in the parks
You can find characters in all of the theme and water parks (Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon) and the My Disney Experience app makes locating the characters in the parks a lot easier than it used to be.
Here's how it works:
- Open up the app and select/touch the park map located at the top.
- Once it opens up all the way, at the top of the map you'll see a menu with a drop-down arrow next to it. It usually defaults to "Wait Times" but you can change it to "Characters."
- You can keep it on this map view OR change it to a list view by selecting "Show List" in the upper right hand corner.
And that's it!
The paper versions of the park maps that you can get inside of the park as well as the Times Guides will also list character information, but the locations on the map are just marked with a Mickey head, which isn't anywhere near as handy as the app which will tell you who is meeting where.
Sometimes there are some characters that aren't listed anywhere, but most all characters will be there including the majority of characters you can find during Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party:
Other places you can find characters at Walt Disney World
There are tons of restaurants at Walt Disney World that offer character meals.
Character meals are a great way to meet a bunch of characters without having to stand in lines or hunt them down in the parks.
There's a wide range of character meal options, including both buffet and traditional meal service. Plus, some character meals are located in the resorts (and not in a park) making them a great choice if you're looking for something special to do on a non-park day.
To help you decide which ones might be best for your family, check out our Complete Guide to Character Meals at Disney World.
Disney Visa Card Character Spots
If you have a Disney Visa Card you'll find a couple of exclusive character opportunities in the parks.
Both Epcot and Hollywood Studios have locations for Visa Card holders to meet characters.
These spots typically have short lines and are an easy way to meet a few characters with minimal waits.
Best times to visit characters
Most of the in-park characters work in scheduled sets, and not all are available for the entire park day.
If you have any must-see characters on your list you'll definitely want to make note of their schedule which you can find both in the My Disney Experience App and in the Times Guides that are located anywhere you can snag a map in the parks.
Tip: Trying to do some planning at home for a trip in the future? Another good spot to find character schedule info is on the website Walt Disney World Entertainment.
For the shortest lines, if you plan to skip attractions you can hit up characters right at park opening (keeping in mind their posted schedules). The characters at the front of the park will typically form lines the fastest simply because people see them first.
In those instances, it may make more sense to head back to them later in the day when fewer people are passing by.
If you do plan to ride attractions during those very important early morning hours but you still want to meet characters, late afternoon is a pretty good time and you should aim to try to arrive around 20-30 minutes before their next scheduled set.
Ideally, for characters that don't meet continuously, if you can line up for a character before the character comes out you'll have the shortest wait. As soon as people see a character, they'll flock to the line.
Should you use FastPass+ for characters?
Some characters that meet in permanent and enclosed locations (like Princess Fairytale Hall at Magic Kingdom) offer FastPass+.
While we don't recommend you use FastPass+ for all available characters, there are a few at Magic Kingdom that you may want to consider if you have your heart set on meeting them:
- Meet Mickey at Town Square Theater
- Meet Cinderella and Elena at Princess Fairytale Hall
Check out our touring plans and FastPass+ recommendations for all 4 parks.
What to expect when meeting characters
Unlike Disneyland which frequently has characters roaming around without assistance, in most situations characters at Disney World are located in 1 spot.
Characters at Disney World also don't meet alone.
They have special Cast Members (sometimes lovingly referred to as "Blueberries" due to their bright blue shirts) who help control crowds while also assisting the characters.
If a character is out, you'll typically see a line that has formed, and to meet that character you'll just need to join the line.
In some instances, if the character is at the end of their current set the Cast Member will tell you that the line is "closed." That means you'll need to wait for the next set to meet the character.
If you are on the hunt for a specific character but they aren't out yet, you may still see a line forming near the location that character is supposed to meet. That's the best time to join the line as in all likelihood it will get longer as soon as the main star appears.
Once the character comes out, the Cast Member will direct people where to go.
If you are planning on getting an autograph, make sure to have your book out and ready (opened to the correct page) before it is your turn.
When you get to the front of the line you'll be directed to set your bags nearby so that they aren't in the way or messing up your photographs.
Special note: characters inside of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge (Rey, Chewie, etc.) do roam but they don't usually stop for autographs or photos. You can, however, find several of the characters (BB-8, Darth Vader, and Chewbacca) meeting guests inside of Star Wars Launch Bay.
Not all character meets will have a PhotoPass photographer, so if you want a pic make sure you have your camera or cell phone ready. The Cast Member working at the character meet will be able to assist you in taking photographs if you are solo or if you want your entire group in the picture.
In a few instances, some of the character meets have photo boxes that automatically take your pictures.
These are fairly controversial and not the most ideal option. We recommend that if you are at a character meet that uses them you take some of your own pics as backup just in case.
If you plan on meeting lots of characters Memory Maker might make a lot of sense because you'll get all the PhotoPass pics included on it.
Character interaction ideas
If you're new to meeting characters, here's a few ideas to help you ease into it.
Keep in mind that the characters are experts at interacting with all levels of enthusiasm, but the more into it YOU are, the more into THEY will be!
There are 2 main categories of characters: face characters and non-face (or fur) characters.
- Face characters are the ones without anything covering their heads and faces. These include the princesses like Aurora, Cinderella, Ariel, etc.
- Non-face or fur characters are the ones that have something covering their heads. These include Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Vampirina, Fancy Nancy, Chewbacca, etc.
Face characters can talk to you, which makes interacting a lot easier. Non-face characters can only point and use their bodies to communicate, which means you'll have to get a little inventive if you want to have a two-way conversation with them.
Here's some of our favorite ideas for making interactions easier:
- Bring some props - consider bringing along a prop with you to help get the conversation started. This can be especially useful with non-face/fur characters. Even pointing out your Mickey ears to Mickey himself can be fun.
- Costumes and clothing - Disneybounding or wearing a shirt with your favorite character on it or maybe you have somebody fresh off a visit to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique? All are great things to chat about when meeting characters.
- Talk about their story - a good safe conversation starter is always the character's story line. You can ask Merida how her brothers are doing or ask Mary Poppins how Bert is. Need a refresher? We have a list of all the movies you should watch before you go to Disney World.
Things you shouldn't do
Most of these are probably pretty obvious but these are things you should definitely NOT do when meeting characters:
Try to get someone to break character
Just don't. This ruins the magic for those around you and simply isn't fair to the people working hard at creating a fun experience.
Force a scared little one
Some kids and little ones are very eager to meet characters, and others (even some adults) aren't.
And, you may find that your character-loving child from your last visit just isn't into it this time.
Don't force it. It will make for a not-so-fun experience for them, you, the characters, and the people around you.
Be rude to the Cast Members
The Cast Members working with characters have a very difficult job to do. They are responsible for crowd control as well as for making sure Mickey gets his scheduled breaks.
It can be tempting to get frustrated with them (since you can't really get mad at Minnie) but they too are working hard to create a magical experience.
Disney character autograph ideas
Now that you know all about how and where to find characters, let's talk about some of the different fun (and creative!) ways you can collect those autographs!
We asked readers to submit their favorite ideas. Here's some of what they had to say:
We spotted this backpack in the parks and fell in love.
We wish we had caught the owner's name because she deserves all the credit in the world for this amazing piece of art!
She used a white backpack and had each character sign with a Sharpie. Then when back home she'd embroider over their signatures with coordinating floss.
Isn't it gorgeous?
Even if you can't embroider, asking characters to sign a white backpack like this one would be a fun way to show off your autographs.
Here's a similar one on Amazon (link is an affiliate link).
Photo Mat Boards
Photo mats, like this one from Mellysa Caemano, are a popular option for character autographs:
The key is making sure the mat is wide enough to fit lots of signatures, like this one (affiliate link).
Ellen Bishop had a great idea to use a Winnie the Pooh Hundred Acre Wood map as a fantastic way to display autographs from a meal at Crystal Palace:
You can make your own with this map from Amazon (affiliate link).
Rachel McAuley created a beautiful book with her family's autographs.
They asked characters to sign brightly colored index cards and then once home, Rachel paired the autographs with photographs and had them turned into gorgeous memory photo book:
Colorful index cards are available on Amazon (affiliate link).
Justine Signore does something similar with her family's precious photos and autographs:
If this is not your first trip, Diane Wheeler has a great idea how to use a photo book to make an extra-special autograph book:
My family and I have visited Disney a few times and have great pictures. I usually make a book when I get home, but the past two trips I changed it up.
I made a book of photos that we already took with the characters. My son is 11 now, but some of the pictures are from when he was 5.
My son uses the Snapfish book to get new autographs. It gives him something to look through while waiting in line.
The non-talking characters have something to interact with...usually at how much he has grown or if their set has changed.
The face characters LOVE it. I think they recognize themselves or their friends, but they never break character.
Cinderella, in the picture below, I think knew many of the princesses. You could tell from her reaction that she was having a hard time keeping character because she loved seeing the pictures so much.
Ashley wrote to us with a fun idea on using blank Christmas ornaments:
I never did these myself (childless *old* millennial here) but I do meet a lot of characters and have seen what other families do!
I discovered my favorite while waiting in line to meet Olaf. The mom in front of me had a baggie full of blank wooden ornaments, I cant remember if they were painted or not. Anyway, she was telling me that they were getting the characters to sign one side and then when they got home she was going to print all the pictures and glue them to the other side.
Ashley went on to say that the mom indicated that the ornaments would be used to decorate a small tree that was just for the kids.
You can find blank wooden ornaments on Amazon (affiliate link).
There are lots and lots of different t-shirts that are perfect for autographs, and the great thing about using a shirt is that they are useful since they can be worn.
Functional ideas are key for Jessica Nunley. She says:
"I know if my kids just collected them in a book, it would never get used again. I need them to be functional items they can use!
The t-shirt is probably my favorite because then they get to wear it after our trip and people ask them about it and they can share stories from our trip."
Get yours on Amazon (affiliate link)...
Pillows and Pillow Cases/Covers
Pillow cases are a popular item to use for autographs. Like shirts, they are functional and easy to transport with you in the parks.
Here's what Stephanie Morstad did:
Here’s our new favorite autograph idea. We did this back in October during a cruise/WDW combo. I ordered the pillow cover from Amazon and used fabric markers.
Darker colors worked better than light colors on this particular pillow. I inserted a heavy piece of cardboard and secured with a clip to make it a little more stable for characters to sign.
We have this on the couch in our kids’ playroom.
Get the pillow cover Stephanie used (affiliate link).
Classic autograph book
Of course, there are tons and tons of autograph books out there that are perfect for capturing Disney autographs.
You can find ones for just about every style and they are readily available in most all of the stores in the parks.
You can also purchase them ahead of time from places like Shop Disney and Amazon.
If you're not sure what to get, you can never go wrong with classic look like this one (affiliate link).
Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters
The Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters (affiliate link) is a popular option, so much so that we've used it ourselves.
Before we went on our trip, though, we took the book to an office printing store (like OfficeMax or FedEx Office) and had them remove the regular binding, insert about 30 blank pages in the back (for characters not included in the book) and then asked that they laminate both the front and back covers and put it all back together with a spiral binding so that we could open it flat for autographs.
The book was a fun one for our kids to page through for years and years after our trip.
Buy it on Amazon (affiliate link).
5 Minute Princess Stories
A lovely mom wrote in with a very similar idea to the Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters. Her family uses the Disney 5-Minute Princess Stories.
She said "We love going back and reading the book and remembering when we met that princess (or prince)!"
Buy it on Amazon (affiliate link).
If you are the crafty sort, you may want to make your own autograph book like this one Lori Collier did:
"I decorate a spiral 5x7 craft book. Then we have space for 1 picture to go with the autograph. I start each trip with our family photo at Mickey's Theatre. At the parks we keep the photo book and retractable sharpies in a Ziploc baggie. (Keeps it clean, easy to grab). I also put a post-it not on the "photo" page, so all the autographs are on the right hand page."
Other great ideas
These plates that Melissa Barger did would be a fantastic addition to any kitchen cabinet:
If you know how to sew (or know somebody that does!), you can have the characters sign blank quilt blocks and then assemble them into a beautiful quilt when you return home.
Podcast listeners may remember Shakirah Drumbore's trip report where her family met 80 characters over the span of their trip!
Here's what she said:
"The goal was to come up with something that can be done on the go or in the hotel and didn’t rely on waiting to get home. Also my kids are still learning to read so the photo helps them know who is who. We dedicated a few pages to print off photos with characters that don’t sign."
- Sprocket photo printer - you can also do the Polaroid version
- Sprocket photo paper - it comes with ten. And the paper has a sticky back. We bought enough to print off 200 photos or 100 photos per kid. We didn’t use them all.
- Sprocket case - so we could bring the sprocket in our park bag
- Blank book - we liked this one because its inspired by Up
Works of Art
Kate Warner wrote in with this fun idea:
"I’ve always thought it would be cool to have the kids draw portraits of each character and then let the characters sign them. They can be from animation type drawings to preschool stick figure, crayon type drawings."
If there are only a few precious autographs that you want to get, blank Mickey ears are a great way to show them off, like these ones sent to us from Lacy:
Lacy's friend made hers but you can find similar ones on Etsy.
Choose your pen wisely
For some characters, holding pens can be difficult so we recommend you always have a large or fat pen on hand for them.
Other characters (especially the face characters) can handle regular sized writing instruments.
We typically suggest you use retractable Sharpies for autographs because they are permanent, won't fade, and there's no lid to keep track of.
BUT - only use them if they won't bleed through whatever you are using for autographs!
It can also be fun to color-coordinate your Sharpie to the character, but keep in mind that if this is something you plan to do you'll have to carry the pens around with you.
Find them on Amazon (affiliate link).
Make it easy to sign
Not only will the correct-sized pen make things easier for the characters, but also keep in mind what they'll be signing on.
If you have an autograph book with a hard cover, that makes things pretty easy.
But, some other books and soft items like t-shirts or quilt squares will need special consideration.
Oftentimes a clipboard will do the trick.
They come in a variety of sizes and are sturdy enough to make signing something easy on the characters.
Get it on Amazon (affiliate link).
Not all characters sign autographs
As you can imagine, there are some costumes that make it impossible and some situations where characters are unable to sign autographs.
For example, you can see Belle and take a picture with her at Enchanted Tales with Belle, but because of time restraints she doesn't sign autographs there.
In addition, some character meals and special character meets (like the Seven Dwarfs) also don't offer autographs.
When this is the case, you'll usually be able to still snag a photo with the character and in some instances you'll either get a special card with the character autographs printed on it (which frequently happens at character meals where characters don't sign due to time restrictions) OR, as in the case of Buzz Lightyear, they'll use a stamp.
And of course, while you can see lots of characters in the parades and stage shows, they do not stop for autographs there, either.
Know what the characters can (and can't) sign
Characters can sign a lot of things, but they can't sign anything.
For example, that shirt you're wearing? Nope.
Characters can't sign clothes that are on your body.
And don't take off a sweaty hat and hand it to Minnie to sign, either. That's kinda gross.
If you want them to sign a piece of clothing make sure it is clean (and not currently on your body).
And speaking of your body, they can't sign that, either.
Keep in mind what you'll be carrying
Some autograph books sound like great ideas and they may even LOOK amazing, but keep in mind how difficult they might be to carry in the parks.
In some instances, you may be able to store autograph supplies in lockers but that isn't always the most convenient option.
Consider using tubes if you're using a poster or large photo for autographs.
You can also keep precious items in-between 2 pieces of heavy cardboard (if they aren't too tall).
Don't forget the weather
It rains in Florida. A lot.
And, autograph books with lots of paper are especially vulnerable to being destroyed when getting wet (whether it be on an attraction like Splash Mountain or by Mother Nature).
No matter what you are using for autographs, you'll definitely want to protect it with something like a large Ziplock bag.
Check out our other tips for handling the weather at Disney World.
Have you had any unique character interactions or have you used a fun autograph idea? Tell us about it in the comments!