Disneyland Scraps Reported Plan To Limit Roaming Characters

Part of the appeal of taking your kids to Disneyland is the ambiance. You know — the opportunity to watch their eyes light up when they gawk at an underpaid actor dressed up in a demeaning mascot suit amid your day of magical line-waiting.

A MousePlanet report said that Disney planned to limit roaming characters in order to coax more customers to pay for the privilege of semi-private meet-and-greets. Possibly backing down to public outcry, Disney says its initiative has nothing to do with restricting access to characters, but providing customers more opportunities to see Mickey and the gang. Most importantly, Disney says it will not restrict certain characters from roaming its parks, as was the alleged original plan.

What’s your favorite amusement park? Do you value the presence of roaming mascots or do they skeeve you out?

Roaming Charges: Disney Denies Plan to Clamp Down on Characters [via MousePlanet via Ain’t It Cool News]

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  1. Adam9932 says:

    I like it when they park themselves at a certain spot at a certain time (published) so I can get photos with the princesses. (no, not with me, with my daughter)

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      Hey, I would sit for a pic of me with the princesses.

      Yea, if my daughters posed with the princesses, it would be “Princess Overload”. My girls can out-princess those Disney wanna-be princesses!

    • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

      Rather than stand in long character lines for a measly 2.3 seconds of time (okay, okay – so it’s more like three minutes if you’re lucky) and then running around the park to find the next one, we opted for the character breakfast route. Yes, you get the same three minutes of time but they come to you and you get to eat while waiting. In our case, our kids also got to be in a parade around the restaurant with the characters. It was well worth the price for us, YMMV.

  2. balance776 says:

    My wife always loved the roaming mascots, but I have to admit the semi-private setups were alot better usually.

    at least the super awesome breakfasts were so tasty, and you could monopolize the characters for pics way easier.

  3. pop top says:

    What would the people who play the characters prefer?

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      Considering they only spend about 20 minutes out at a time, I doubt they care. Pretty much every Disney employee starts out as a suit-character till they get their face privileges though.

      • Blueskylaw says:

        Did Robert A. Iger, President and Chief Executive Officer of Disney start off as Goofy?

        • MarvinMar says:

          No BUT…
          John Lasseter joined The Walt Disney Company, and was promoted quickly up the ranks to a Jungle Cruise skipper at Disneyland in Anaheim.

      • framitz says:

        I would have to disagree about the new employees.
        My son and sister in-law work at Disneyland – Employees don’t start as characters. All employees are “cast members” with various roles.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        if you mean performers, yeah. but goodness knows there are always enough grunts to do the other jobs in ‘non performing’ cast member roles.
        several of my friends were always auditioning for character roles just to get away from cleaning toilets or taking tickets. i’m 5’4″ so i never had the chance. it’s the one height there’s no character role for. they had to exclude SOMEONE, hehe

      • Pax says:

        No, you do not start out as a costumed Character.

        It’s actually HARD to get that job (and it’s increased pay), and cast members have to AUDITION for the role.

        • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

          Yeah, that’s what I meant – you don’t start out as cinderella, you start as someone in a suit, if you’re doing charachter work.

          • Pax says:

            No … you don’t even start off as someone in as suit, you start off as a Handler. :) And before that, you start off as some OTHER job in the parks.

            Remember that the people in those Mickey, Donald, etc suits … they are Disney’s front-line representatives. Disney takes the quality of it’s Character interactions very seriously; in many ways, Mickey IS Disney Land / Disney World.

            So, they don’t just stuff anyone into those suits – if you want to wear a Mickey suit, you have to really work at it – get the movements, the personality, etc down well enough to beat out the other X hopefuls.

            And as I understand it? It’s a promotion, to be able to put on that suit. A promotion that comes with a decent raise!

      • The Porkchop Express says:

        you do know that the characters make up a very, very, very small percentage of the employees right?

        That dude pushing buttons to start the ride or the chick giving you the overpriced soda have not yet been a character and may never be unless they really want to and fit the size, energy level, and some other requirements unknown to me.

  4. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    What the heck in the hootnanny is a roaming charge?

  5. no says:

    At Universal, the Marvel characters come at specific times to the same place every day. They make a short show of their arrival/departure. They post for pictures for some time, and then leave. It happens pretty much every hour. We had no issues whatsoever getting to them. Roaming might have prevented that.

    Roaming entertainment fills a different role: it keeps certain people from becoming irate. It make sure there’s always an “attraction” nearby. When lines are long, roaming characters can alleviate some of the stress and agony of waiting.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      Could they possibly have more than one of each character, I realize this might be impossible and would probably cause some kids to question things but if they had a couple Mickey’s roaming and a couple in stationary spots it might break up the congestion.

      Roaming characters don’t add much for me, it would be better if the characters were sent to diffuse potential situations where guests would get angry, like for entertainment during long lines. The obvious answer for the roaming would be to have the less popular characters roam and the more popular ones at stationary spots where people could go to meet them specifically.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        Disney has multiples of each character, except for Mickey. There is only ever one Mickey out in any of the parks at a time. So you can’t see Mickey at California Adventure AND Disney land at the same time.

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          um, ish. i was in training one day at WDW and there was a mickey visible on the contemporary resort docks and inside the restaurant. dock mickey was visible from inside the hotel restaurant out the windows. out come the walkie talkies and the network got mickey moved back until he was no longer visible from inside the hotel restaurant.
          mickey is never SEEN in two places at once but mickey might very well be out in two places at the parks at the same time and certainly is in two different parks at a time.
          the handlers are well networked through base to ensure accidents don’t spoil the magic for the guests.

          • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

            oh, and that stands for all the characters. you’ll never see two aladdins, two minnies, two meeko the racoons, anything. not from the same place at the same time. it’s a huge part of the “magic” to make sure that no kid’s dream is ever spoiled by that

        • The Porkchop Express says:

          So, you just find stuff on the internet?

          as for my answer, see catastrophegirl.

  6. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    “One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going
    to take my nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old
    burned-out warehouse. ‘Oh no,’ I said, ‘Disneyland burned down.’

    He cried and cried, but I think that deep down he thought it was a
    pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but
    decided to go home instead.”

    I still think about Jack Handey today and laugh every. single. time. It definitely helps when I need to force a smile on my face.

  7. dourdan says:

    are they trying to go the way of conventions?
    the last few conventions i have been to had an entrance price “to hear the celebrity gurst speak”, then a autograph ticket price, then a photo price.

    and if you were so inclined they had “special meet and greet events” for just 100-200 dollars more!

    i feel screwed over- and I am an adult. I can only image what a child would feel like if he or she could not see Mickey Mouse because it would be an extra 50 dollars.

    • dvdchris says:

      Back in the 80s/90s, conventions were usually one day affairs that had one celebrity guest and one track of programming. Now there are fewer conventions, they tend to be multi-day, are larger, and have numerous celebrity guests, many of which pay for their own booths to sell their autographs. I am amazed at the prices some fans are willing to pay for a picture.

  8. "I Like Potatoes" says:

    I like having the characters and taking pictures of them with the kids, but I despise the “autograph book” thing. Having the characters sign their “autograph” is a huge waste of time and makes the lines move even more slowly.

    • TheWillow says:

      as a small child, I tried really hard to get one of the characters who couldn’t really use their hands to sign my autograph book and freaked out about what an idiot I was when they couldn’t… Perfectionism started young with me.

  9. Outrun1986 says:

    Amusement parks, I really don’t have a favorite. There are some good parks out there but its really hard to find a “good” park experience today, mainly because of idiotic customers. I unfortunately don’t happen to live near any of those good parks. I am not sure what about an amusement park makes everyone’s IQ levels drop to almost nothing when they walk in the door but there is something, trust me. I actually haven’t been to a park in a while, between not being able to return to your car during the visit, hour long waits for one 30 second ride and super high admission and food prices there isn’t much to like these days. I also have to take my glasses off for almost every ride, even if I use a strap the parks around here have super strict rules and they still make you take them off, which basically means I can’t see anything while on a ride, severely diminishing my experience and making it difficult to take care of my $300 glasses since most rides also don’t have a place where I can safely put them. I also can’t wear contacts so that is out.

    I do however visit the local carnivals, say what you want but those carnivals are inspected every time they are set up in NYS and amusement parks are only inspected a couple times a year if that, usually only once at opening. The county fairs are the best where I can get a decent selection of rides, I can wear my glasses and its pay one price for a bunch of rides and you can go all day. I can bring non riders for free or a very small admission charge, while the parks here charge full price even if guests aren’t using the rides. Lines are usually short (you can get on a ride within 5-10 min at the most), and the people are normal. Not sure why crowds differ so much between the amusement park and the carnival or county fair but that is the way it goes. I have also never once lost my glasses on a carnival ride (and I have been on a lot of them, trust me), so I am not sure what is up with the parks making you take your glasses off for every ride, even if you have a strap.

    Rides are also better at carnivals, if the crowds are low the operator may run the ride longer or do a different program, a lot of carnival rides can be controlled by the operator. I once had a 20 min ride on a himalaya due to low crowds, that was interesting to say the least! I haven’t been on too many rides that are under 2-3 min long at a carnival, which beats your typical park ride of 60 seconds or so. I sometimes film rides so I know how long the cycles are. Theme park rides are usually just pre-programmed so its the same thing every time, the op just pushes a button and it works.

    I have been riding rides since I was 5 or so and I have not been seriously injured or ever witnessed a serious accident thankfully. I’ve probably seen a ride go down a couple times but nothing ever came of it other than having to shut the ride down. That would be more than 25 years of riding stuff without ever getting hurt or seeing a big accident which is pretty good I think.

  10. Mold says:

    Cheaping on the labour.
    Disney has been trying to keep profits at level X for years. This meant increasing the number of rooms each housekeeping staffer had to clean. This meant removing services.
    However, this did not mean all the executive freebies had to be discontinued. After all, they are indispensable.

  11. Polar_Bear says:

    I’m an annual passholder and I visit the park often. From what I have seen there are plenty of characters spread around in different locations, greeting guests and posing for pictures all of the time and all for free!

    • adamstew says:

      +1 Yes. I go to Disney World frequently (not land) and it’s the same.

      Every park has one or two sections that are 100% free that has a collection of several characters that you can line up and visit (Mickey & friends area, princesses area, etc.). There are also several areas were characters are just out and about…for example Belle and the Beast will show up in Epcot over by France…Alladin and Jasmin will show up near Morocco, etc. Typically, there are lines for these greets…around 30 minutes or so to wait.

      Now, I fully believe (as a frequent disney world visitor) that the “pay” experiences are worth it. This isn’t $50 to meet a character…they involve character meals: $30 for an all-inclusive dinner where all the princesses will come to your table, take pictures, autographs, etc. Same deal for Mickey & Friends and Pooh & Friends.

      I don’t recommend eating at the Castle though…too many people, bad food, and too expensive. The other character meals are worth it though, and will save you 30 minutes to an hour waiting in line to greet the characters.

    • psemkl3 says:

      Oops, I read that as an annual a$$holder.

  12. We Have a Piper Down says:

    As a former “really good friend” of a Disney character (yeah, that’s the code we were supposed to use), I HATE the idea of paying for meet and greets because, hell, some people would pour their entire life savings to have the chance to take their kids to Disney and meeting their favorite characters and getting autographs is a part of that experience.

    Making people pay more would limit that experience to the higher class kids whose parents can afford it and, yeah, you can argue that there are millions of kids whose parents can’t afford to go at all, but the best times I ever had working there, whether as a character or not, were talking and playing with the kids who you just KNOW won’t be coming back for a loooooooong time because they appreciate every little thing you can give them and those snotty little kids who get grand Disney vacations every year are entitled little nightmares.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      Haha, I’ve heard horror stories from my “really good friends”. Pinnochio with boobs and Snow White and Cinderella out back smoking. Hah.

      • guroth says:

        Pinocchio with boobs? Where can I sign up for your newsletter?

      • We Have a Piper Down says:

        That’s absolutely nothing. I was very young and very innocent when I was there (I was a face character and part of what got me into entertainment was my wide-eyed innocent look). It was a real eye-opener the first time I saw a certain character get in a knock-down argument with her boyfriend. It was all downhill from there.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      oh yeah… a ‘take 5′ for a family who saved up since the birth of their first child definitely became 10 or 15 way more often than for annual passholders.

  13. Hungry Dog says:

    The magic was ruined for me the day I found out all those folks are forced to wear communal underwear underneath.

  14. Speak says:

    I really like to go to Knobels in the middle of nowhere, North East PA. They are still an old-timey park where you pay per ride or buy a wristband and there are no admission fees. You can pack a picnic lunch and eat it at your car or at one of the picnic tables in or around the park. It has to be my favorite park to go to, if only it didn’t take so long to get there, but that helps with crowd control. They often win amusement park awards especially for their food. Their mascot (a chipmunk) walks around and the kids seem to love him.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      Parks like these are the best, the advertising is minimal and people don’t start going insane because they are not forced to pay $15 for parking and $50 per ticket just to get in. They usually have good customer service because they want you coming back, when big corporate parks have no customer service because well, they know people will come no matter what so the individual guest is not important. I go to a park to get away from the advertising and stress of daily life not to be bombarded with 99 times more advertisements than I see in a normal day.

  15. Blueskylaw says:

    So let’s see:
    1). Disney planned to limit roaming characters in order to coax more customers to pay for the privilege of semi-private meet-and-greets
    2). Disney says its initiative has nothing to do with restricting access to characters, but providing customers more opportunities to see Mickey and the gang.

    Technically, if you limit roaming characters, you are not restricting access but it essentially accomplishes the same thing. Also, if I go there with a budget and all of a sudden I have to pay for an “essential” experience that used to be free because they limited the amount of roaming characters, then they essentially restricted access.

  16. Me - now with more humidity says:

    Sure, why not charge extra. Never mind that I’ve already shelled out a couple hundred bucks to get in, $50 for lunch, $25 for snacks and drinks, and $50 for some crappy souvenirs.

    But other than that, knock yourself out 8-)

  17. Sparty999 says:

    I went to Disney World over Christmas with my wife and kids. They get you everywhere they can. I know it was my fault for cramming a day into Disney on an already busy vacation… but that one day cost us (4 of us) about $1000. Oh… they give you plenty of receipt paper with every purchase though… I think each time one printed it was between 2-5 feet long…

    • nbs2 says:

      What? How?

      We went down for a week (granted during regular, rather then holiday, season) and spent $2k all in. And of that, I think about $50-100 was souvenirs.

    • anduin says:

      dear god man….1 grand in Disneyworld for 1 day. Im amazed.

  18. kalaratri says:

    Roaming mascots anywhere but the Disney Parks skeeve me out. Last time I was at DisneyWorld, the best and easiest way to get your picture taken with a mascot was not with a ‘roaming’ character, but by finding the posted stations and camping out for a couple of minutes.

  19. mannyvel says:

    “demeaning mascot suit”

    Why the sour tone? It’s disney. It’s not like you don’t know what you’re going to be doing when you apply.

    Try “Demeaning job of internet blogger…” on for size and see how you feel.

  20. kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

    “What’s your favorite amusement park?”

    Cedar Point, far and away. (See my review here -> http://www.thesoapboxers.com/cedar-point-review/)

    I don’t mind the characters at Disney – and in fact probably deem theme a positive. In the end, though, the thrill rides aren’t nearly as thrilling.

    I do like the way they handle lines, though (my experience is at Disney World) being able to wait inside in a staging area while watching some short video sure beats being outside in the sun.

    • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

      How odd. Seems that the closing ) is being interpreted as part of the URL and being re-directed to an article I wrote about Bank of America for some reason. That wasn’t intentional (nor can I really figure out WHY it’s redirecting to a different article instead of just popping up a 404 error).

      Here’s a clean link to the Cedar Point review:
      http://www.thesoapboxers.com/cedar-point-review/

  21. NotEd says:

    I really love not going to Six Flags just to avoid the possibility of running into “Creepy, Dancing Old Guy.”

    I do miss going to Busch Gardens and running into my favorite mascot, “Timmy the Too Many Samples on the Beer Tour Guy.”
    One year I even tried out for the position.

  22. stevied says:

    The 4 to 5 year old crowd goes absolute nutz when they see the roaming characters.

    I guess the 10-11 yr old crowd doesn’t like being groped by a horny teenage boy/girl as much.

    The roaming characters need to remain. But the actual groping, photographing etc needs to be more controlled. Whether there is a fee is not relevant, the times and locations must be known.

  23. katstermonster says:

    I have a phobia of mascots – college, Disney, and otherwise. I can deal with the “real life” characters like the princesses, but the rest freak me the eff out. Noooo thank you. I understand why roaming appeals to some people, but I’d be happier if they did the pay-to-see deal. But someday I’ll have to suck it up for the eventual kids, so I suppose I better get used to it. :)

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      honestly, the first reaction many small children have the first time they meet mickey mouse in person is fear. suddenly this animated mouse that was three inches tall on a tv screen is 5 feet tall with a giant head. it takes a few minutes for them to calm down

    • Taddare says:

      You may want to avoid Pittsburgh, Pa during the annual furry convention then.

  24. Darkneuro says:

    I waltzed on Main Street with the Sheriff of Nottingham character for a good 5 minutes. It made the day.

  25. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    having worked there in the past, i know what a sucktastic job it is to be, as one friend put it, “wearing a carpet with a bowling ball strapped to your head” in 100+ degree heat and high humidity.
    for the benefit of the characters, i wish they’d only have them meet n greet inside a/c and in the shade

  26. FrugalFreak says:

    “Disney says its initiative has nothing to do with restricting access to characters, but providing wealthy customers more opportunities to see Mickey and the gang.”

    fixed

  27. thedarkerside.to says:

    “What’s your favorite amusement park?”

    The backcountry. Where I don’t need to deal with thousands of other people while being sold overpriced crap and “food”.

  28. Carlee says:

    I like Disneyland. As a kid, I used to go each summer with friends/relatives visiting. And in the past 4 years or so, I’ve gone a bunch of times (although not with an annual pass, just the Costco 4 day, or the summer 3 day or the 2-fer tickets). I like that the park is kept clean, that maintenance crews keep it looking nice and fresh, etc. Ticket prices are expensive but I figure you get what you pay for.

    I went to Knott’s and Universal Studios Hollywood in December. Knott’s is okay but everything looks old. Part of the problem is that part of the park is set up to look like the old west so that in itself lends itself to muted, dirt-colored theme.

    Universal Studios, on the other hand, looks pretty sparkling new. They don’t have a lot of rides/attractions, but the general feel of the park is pretty nice.

    I like the characters roaming around the park. It works better at Disneyland/California Adventure (because there are so many characters available) – I’ve gotten pics with Pluto, Mickey, and Minnie and I didn’t have to wait in long ol’ lines to get them. Knott’s, though, is pretty limited to just the Peanuts gang and I can’t remember if they roam through the park. I don’t think they do – I think they are limited to the stage areas. That’s another option to get photo/autographs from characters – if there’s a stage show (like California Adventure did, with Sorcerer Mickey, Cinderella and Woody), you can usually get a photo/autograph right after the show. The lines aren’t too long. (Or you can be like me – I was passing by at the end of the show and I hurried and was the second person in line to get a photo w/ Sorcerer Mickey. score!)

  29. Pax says:

    “[…] gawk at an underpaid actor dressed up in a demeaning mascot suit amid your day of magical line-waiting.”

    Yeesh … Disney-hater, much?

    “[…] coax more customers to pay for the privilege of semi-private meet-and-greets.”

    Meet-and-greet events not attached to something like a paid meal, are free to all ticketed guests.

    Misinformation, much?

  30. Mold says:

    Knoebel’s is an undiscovered gem. The crowds don’t exist and the staff is wonderful!
    Just prepare for the Deliverance-style neighbours.
    All little kids are huggy. Kindergarten is Hug Central.
    Maybe the older kids (10+) are creeped out by the Woody Allen bad touching?
    Dorney Park used to be neat…but that was years ago.

  31. Tarceinus says:

    My favorite amusement park has to be Schlitterbahn. There are no characters. Just waterslides and my beer that I brought from home because they allow coolers.

  32. NumberSix says:

    They creep me out becasue I can’t see their face. However it’s not about what I think. My kid likes them and that’s all that matters. I just have to supress my fight or flight reflex long enough to take a picture.

  33. PercyChuggs Was Found At JFK Airport says:

    How is the “mascot suit” demeaning? I would think it would be pretty fun to put on the Donald Duck costume, shuck and jive around the park, and make kids smile and laugh. It’s performing. No different than any other actor.

    • Pax says:

      Cast Members actually get a raise for qualifying as a Costumed or Face character, as I understand it. So it’s not demeaning at all – it’s a promotion.