Mickey and friends in front of castle

Character Meet-and-Greets Returning To Walt Disney World

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For kids (and even some adults), meeting Disney characters is one of the highlights of any trip to the Walt Disney World theme parks. Unfortunately, ever since Covid-19 took the world by (viral) storm, things like Disney World character meet and greets, parades, stage shows and other live entertainment have largely been put on pause. 

However, with the kickoff to Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration past us and the holiday season ahead, things are finally starting to look up for live entertainment and character meet-and-greets at Disney World. That’s right, get ready to meet Mickey Mouse again – sporting EARidescent flair, of course. 

Meet-and-Greets & Live Entertainment Coming to the 50th Anniversary

Disney characters and their stories are at the heart of Walt Disney World and, as a result, many family vacations. So, while you could get your fix from afar for Mickey, Minnie and the princesses while watching the character cavalcades, during a chance pop-up encounter or at one of the modified Disney World character dining experiences over the Covid-19 pandemic, not being able to actually meet your favorite characters up close has put a bit of a damper on the Disney magic. 

50th anniversary banner and tree of life

Finally, we are happy to report that you won’t have to wait much longer. Starting in November at Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios (no characters in Animal Kingdom yet), you’ll be able to get up close and personal with some of the most popular Disney characters once more. Well, not quite as close as you could before thanks to Covid-19, but it’s a start. 

As noted on the Disney Parks Blog in the announcement for the returning experiences, “although the environment is not right just yet for hugs and autographs, you’ll soon be able to have individualized time with some of your favorite characters, getting to visit with them in a theme location and snap a photo or two.”

In other words, get excited for socially distanced selfies! The following Disney World meet and greets will be available in November (exact date yet to be announced):

Magic Kingdom Park

  • Mickey Mouse meet-and-greet in EARidescent attire at Town Square Theater on Main Street, U.S.A.
  • Disney Princess meet-and-greet at Princess Fairytale Hall

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • Minnie Mouse meet-and-greet at Red Carpet Dreams
  • Disney Junior meet-and-greet in the Animation Courtyard

For those less interested in characters and more interested in other things to do and see as you wander around the parks, you’re in luck. Since The World’s Most Magical Celebration launched on October 1, some beloved entertainment offerings have already begun returning to the parks. 

Fireworks in the sky over water

Along with Epcot favorites like the Voices of Liberty and Mariachi Cobre, guests exploring World Showcase and the Epcot Food & Wine Festival can now enjoy the powerful percussion of the Matsuriza Taiko drummers in the Japan Pavilion and the rousing fiddle tunes of the Canada Pavilion’s Alberta Bound. Prefer to laugh instead of tapping your toes to the beat? Then stop by and see Sergio, a laugh-out-loud funny master juggler and mime, in the Italy Pavilion.

Over at Magic Kingdom Park, the magic starts early with the Let the Magic Begin welcome show, where the likes of Mickey & Minnie, Cinderella & her evil stepsisters, Chip & Dale and more take to the Cinderella Castle stage to greet the first guests of the day. And when it comes time for lunch, there’s no better place than listening to the Casey’s Corner Pianist as you munch on a loaded hot dog or some corndog nuggets. 

But wait, that’s not all – more live entertainment is also returning to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Hollywood Studios and some of the Disney World resorts. At Animal Kingdom, guests walking through Anandapur in the Asia part of the park will be able to move to the rhythm of Chakranadi, while over in Africa, acts like Kora Tinga Tinga and the Tam Tam Drummers will be back strolling the streets of Harambe starting in early November. 

EPCOT ball in multi-color

Heading to Disney’s Hollywood Studios? There’s plenty of star-studded fun making a comeback here as well. For a bit of nighttime excitement, the Disney Movie Magic projection show is set to make its return on November 7. But, this isn’t the same ode to Disney’s live-action films that you’re used to. You’ll now get to enjoy a whole new sequence featuring scenes from the epic tale of Mulan. Or, for even more action-packed thrills with a dash of comedy, don’t miss out on the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, opening its auditorium to guests again starting December 19. 

Those who love doing some Disney World resort hopping will be thrilled to hear that some popular entertainment offerings will also be coming back before 2021 is finished – beginning October 14, to be precise. Soak up the nostalgic charm of America’s great waterfronts at Disney’s BoardWalk, where street performers like magicians and jugglers will dazzle guests with their skills when the sun goes down. Staying at one of Disney’s Port Orleans Resorts instead? Yeehaw Bob will have guests rolling with laughter at the River Roost Lounge at Port Orleans Riverside.  

Here are all those entertainment acts and returning dates at a glance:

Animal Kingdom 

  • Chakranadi in Asia – Early November
  • Kora Tinga Tinga in Africa – Early November
  • Tam Tam Drummers in Africa – Early November

Hollywood Studios

  • Disney Movie Magic – November 7
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular – December 19

Disney World Resorts

  • Streetmosphere performers at Disney’s BoardWalk – ?
  • Yeehaw Bob at Port Orleans – Riverside’s River Roost Lounge – October 14

Additionally, although it was left off of Disney’s most recent announcement, we’d be remiss to forget about another grand stage show that will be finally making its return to Walt Disney World. Opening November 18, 2021 at Disney Springs, Cirque du Soleil is back with Drawn to Life, a whimsical acrobatic stage show inspired by the artistry of Disney animation. 

Still Waiting on Your Favorite Experience to Return? Try These Instead 

Mickey Mouse topiary with grass

While meet-and-greets, parades, some stage shows and performing acts were temporarily nixed, character encounters and live entertainment have still been around in a modified capacity. So, if your favorite characters aren’t coming back for a meet-and-greet just yet or your must-see performing act was left off the list, here are some alternative Disney character experiences and live entertainment offerings to try instead.

Go to a Disney Character Meal

Disney character dining may still be on hiatus at some restaurants at Walt Disney World, but at others, character meals are back – albeit in a modified capacity. Similar to the modified meet-and-greets coming this fall, character dining at Disney World does not involve any close-up interactions like hugs or autographs. However, you will get to watch the characters parade past your table and perhaps snap a socially distanced photo. 

Wave at the Character Cavalcades, Motorcades & Flotillas

While we certainly miss Festival of Fantasy and other Disney World parades, we’ll admit that the character cavalcades, motorcades and flotillas have been a respectable substitute. Not only is it just as fun to wave at the characters as they ride or float past, but as these pint-sized parades breeze through the parks a few times each day, you don’t need to rearrange your schedule completely to catch them. And best of all, there’s no need to worry about wasting time staking your claim on a seat. 

Enjoy a Disney World Stage Show

Lion King Animal Statues

Though some stage shows at Disney World remain closed, others have pulled back the curtains and are entertaining guests again. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, sing along to songs from some popular films at Beauty & The Beast Live on Stage or For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration. And over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, a modified version of a fan-favorite is back in the form of A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King. 

Watch One of the New Walt Disney World Spectaculars

To mark the beginning of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary, a few new spectaculars have made their debut, hypnotizing guests with captivating kites and windcatchers during the daytime at Animal Kingdom and glittering fireworks in the evening at Epcot and Magic Kingdom. Over at Animal Kingdom, Disney KiteTails takes to the sky above Discovery River Theater several times a day, with intricate 3D kites dancing through the air during two unique shows inspired by The Lion King and The Jungle Book.

Disney Enchantment transforms the Magic Kingdom like never before during an all-new fireworks display, featuring immersive projection effects that cover not just Cinderella Castle but the buildings of Main Street, U.S.A. Or, for Disney World fireworks that are as inspirational as they are impressive, Harmonious at Epcot inspires with music from some of Disney’s most well-loved movies sung by a global group of 240 artists from around the world. 

Check Out Some of the Other Performing Acts

While you may not be able to listen to music in the Morocco Pavilion or watch acrobats show their skills at the China Pavilion in Epcot, there are still tons of other live entertainment offerings that are well worth checking out. Voices of Liberty and Mariachi Cobre are true Disney treasures, while the JAMMitors charm with their bucket and broom-fueled percussion. 

50th anniversary sign and attraction

Magic Kingdom is another great park to listen to some music thanks to acts like The Dapper Dans and the Main Street Philharmonic. And for those looking to spend some time outside the theme parks, don’t skip out on the live entertainment at Disney Springs, where local performers serenade shoppers and diners as they explore the massive complex. 

Are you excited for character meet-and-greets to make their return in 2021? Which atmosphere performers are you excited to see again? Let us know in the comments below!

Want to make more time in your day to enjoy some of these returned entertainment offerings? Maximize your trip with our 1-day plans for Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Then, save some cash with our discounted Walt Disney World tickets