Get Park Wise: Familiarizing Your Children with Disney Characters

Written by Jessica Ma'ilo. Posted in Park Wise

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Published on March 27, 2014 at 2:00 am with 21 Comments

If you’re like most families with young children, characters will be a big part of your Disney vacation. Who doesn’t dream of the day they watch as their sweet child runs up to Mickey with open arms and a sparkle in his eyes? I know I remember when my littles met the mouse for the first time. A magical moment indeed! But what about the rest of the Disney crew? Here’s a primer on who you’ll see at the parks and how to make sure your kiddos aren’t scratching their heads when it’s time to meet the characters.

The Big Five (+ Daisy)

I think it’s pretty safe to say most kids will know Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald and his often forgotten gal Daisy. However, if by some crazy twist of fate they haven’t gotten into Disney Junior, flip on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to introduce the big cheese and his pals. My littles are also huge fans of the classic black and white Disney cartoons which feature our fab five (and Daisy, too).

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Get Park Wise: If your kidlet hasn’t had an up close and personal experience with a furry character, consider a visit with the Easter bunny or local mascot prior to your romp through Disney. While it makes for some hilarious pictures, her first audience with Mickey Mouse is probably not the time you want to realize your daughter has a tremendous fear of giant mice with huge rubber heads.

The Princesses

There’s no escaping the Disney Princess posse. They’re everywhere you look from lunch boxes to frilly dresses to hair bows to costumes to who knows what else. The parks are no different. With character meals featuring the royal gals to dark rides following their stories, the princesses are all over the place. If your children aren’t sure which character can’t keep track of her shoes (or the time), which is the master of power napping, or who hates apples, the movies are a great place to start! Countless books, toys and games solidify the fandom among the younger set, and they’ll be raring to meet their royal counterparts.

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The Fairies

Tink and the gang are hot on the heels of the crowned heads of Disney in terms of popularity both in pop culture and at the parks. Once just the ornery sidekick of Peter Pan, Tinker Bell has turned into her own full-fledged franchise! Her first movie also brought along several of her pixie pals who take turns meeting guests in the parks. Pop in one of their DVDs or read one of the many books with your little ones, and they’ll be full of questions to ask once they meet the winged crew.

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Classic Disney Characters

These friends graced the covers of those bulky white VHS cases (remember those?), and they can be found all over the parks and resorts. While most of the characters mentioned so far permeate pop culture, some of the classic characters may not be familiar to young children today. I have to admit that my mouseketeers had no idea who Mary Poppins was the first time they met the practically perfect nanny in the parks. I know, I know. Bad Disney geek! If you’ve gotten rid of that VCR, lots of classic Disney movies can be found on DVD, as well, although they aren’t always available easily, especially if they’re back in the Disney vault. We’ve been able to find lots of “vaulted” movies at our local kids’ consignment sale, but you can also check out eBay, Craigslist and yard sales if you’re looking to introduce the classic characters to your crew.

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Get Movie Wise: Want to show off lots of classic characters in a short period of time? Fire up one of the Disney Sing-A-Long Songs DVDs. We love these! Not only do you get an array of great Disney music, but you’ll see several characters from different movies during the course of the show.

Pixar Characters

Again, chances are your kids will all know who these famous faces are, so there’s not much need to go hunting for ways to familiarize your family with them. If you’re looking to get excited before your Disney trip, though, consider a Toy Story marathon. Buzz, Woody and the gang are very popular in the parks. Just save yourself the trouble and don’t yell “Andy’s coming!” (There’s a false Internet meme that the characters immediately fall to the ground . . . they don’t!)

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Have your kids (or you?!) ever met a character in the parks you didn’t know? Who were they most excited to see? Any other tips for familiarizing the kids with the characters they might come across during a Disney vacation? Any characters you wish frequented the parks who no longer do?

About Jessica Ma'ilo

Jessica is a special education teacher by day and blogger and Fairy Godmother Travel agent by evening. When not supervising play dates or sleepovers, she can be found creating, sewing or singing. She loves hitting the Disney Parks, and she and her family escape to the World and Land as often as they can. She can be contacted at [email protected], and you can also check out her family blog, Magic, Memories, Mayhem.

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  • eicarr

    Classic Disney film series like Star Wars and Indiana Jones should not be forgotten for Disneyland prep for older kids. Having fun being afraid of Darth Vadar walking around Tomorrowland and recognizing the giant boulder in the INDY ride requires watching those Disney classics .

    Disney’s modern classics from MARVEL are a must before heading to the cool MARVEL meet and greets in Tomorrowland.

    I aways enjoy seeing charictors from Robin Hood for some reason.

  • jcruise86

    Jessica, thanks for becoming such a great and central part of Micechat!

    We’ve used the princesses to teach values. Mulan, Tangled’s Repunzel and Merida are all strong women/girls who are not bad role models. Dreamworks Fiona in Shrek has her moments.

    But the old school Disney princesses all the way through Belle have some problems. Belle stays with a guy who had kept her father incarcerated and then, for a while, wouldn’t let her leave the property. Why? Because he had changed. So despite her love of books and rejection of Gaston, Belle is out. She could have done better than the beast.

    The whole idea of royalty–of fortunes & political power acquired through birth is a bad (though too realistic) message. When Disney CMs used to greet my daughter with “High, princess!” She’s respond, “I’m not a princess, I’m a Jedi!” One said, “What about Princess Leia?” Though not a Jedi, we were cool with that.

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ By why, I meant, “Why did Belle stay with him?”

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ And “Hi,” not “high.” (Understandable error since I’m writing this from Colorado.)

    • Cory Gross

      “But the old school Disney princesses all the way through Belle have some problems. Belle stays with a guy who had kept her father incarcerated and then, for a while, wouldn’t let her leave the property. Why? Because he had changed.”

      Actually it was because Belle voluntarily took the place of her father as the Beast’s prisoner, because he was old and sick and she knew he would die if she didn’t so something. Of course she does try to escape after living with the Beast becomes unbearable, but then he saved her life after she is attacked by wolves. After that, he actually does begin to change in response to her. People change sometimes.

    • Thanks for reading!

      There are definitely some lessons to be learned from our dear princesses. I do like to newer more independent gals, but I definitely have a soft spot for the classics.

  • jcruise86

    P.S. I got a couple of free Disney Visa photos with characters, but with less than six exceptions, I never took my kid’s photo with characters. (She Tinkerbell one here is an exception.) Instead we always informed the character that we didn’t want a photo, but that my daughter just wanted to meet her or him. Two out of three times the character became thrilled since the autograph/photo routine bored them. Many of the characters were funny and wonderful.

    Many of the live musicians around Disneyland are fantastic and love kids too. They were a great first experience with live music for my daughter who twice got to direct the Disneyland band and as a toddler often danced in front of them.

    And I’m getting off topic, but even if you’re not staying at the Grand Californian, I suggest taking your young kid to hear the storyteller by the fireplace at night.

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ Last typo correction: “The” not “She” before Tinkerbell.

      And while I’m here, the princesses at the meet and greet (next to that excellent new theater in front of the castle) were all really funny. We went in there despite our anti-princess stand because there was no line (once), and when we said we didn’t want photos they enjoyed talking with my daughter while staying in character. They reminded me of Amy Adams in “Enchanted.” Disneyland seemed to have recruited the most beautiful improv comics from The Groundlings or the L.A. outpost of the Upright Citizens Brigade.

  • the702senior09

    Great article :)

    ^Obviously some people think WAY too far into the whole Princess thing, and can’t just appreciate them for the fictional characters they are and teach their children moral values on their own. Personally I love all Disney Princesses.

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ Yeah, thinking shminking! Stories have NEVER about teaching lessons or really any thinking. Oh, gotta get back to my Michael Bay movie.

    • Thanks for reading!

  • amyuilani

    I really like the tip about taking the kid to meet Santa or the Easter Bunny before a Disney character. When kids watch these characters on TV, they expect them to be smaller than them in real life. When they have that first reality that this character is much, much bigger, it can seem like a monster coming to life to them. Baby steps are important.

    • Definitely! Like I said, hilarious pics but possibly traumatizing. ;)

  • BradyNBradleysMom

    It is a glorious day when I notice a new Jessica column up. It’s funny you have that Mary Poppins picture in here. I feel like Jessica is kind of a Mary Poppins character herself. She gives us good advice and wisdom. She brightens the day with her columns. I think if I ever ran into her in one of the parks I would be more excited than if I saw a Disney character. I just love all of her advice and I don’t know how she keeps thinking up such great ideas for columns but every one is better than the one before. I wish I was like her, but we can’t all be Jessicas. She is a special and original person.

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ I agree that Jessica is a great addition to Micechat.

    • DobbysCloset

      Mom’s right as usual. Yes, can’t wait until you have enough stuff for a book, Jessica!

    • Thanks for keeping up with Park Wise!

  • DobbysCloset

    Please remember to use the library as a resource for borrowing Disney movies if you are budgeting for a Disney vacation!

    Tinkerbelle and Princesses make me happy but what about little boys’ needs to be involved as well? What’s special for a Boy’s Day at Disney? Whatever happened to Davy Crockett? Tarzan? Hercules, even? Marvel and Star Wars should even out the mix, I would hope.

    In addition to a visit to the Easter Bunny or even the kangaroo hawking payday loans on the corner, why not watch some youtube showing characters interacting with kids? The annual Disney vacation DVD is a must for me, at least.

    I volunteered to be an Easter Bunny once for my local Humane Society. It was an unseasonably warm day (I think it got to eighty-three degrees) and I was supposed to stand on the sidewalk waving to passing cars. I empathize with the CMs.

    Beauty and the Beast teaches us that even the most arrogant soul can heal if touched by examples of love and devotion. Having a dog makes me partial to Beasts in general — training a Beast is work but the rewards are great.

    Maybe all Aurora did was fall in love and fall asleep but Princesses like Mulan and Pocahontas (not to mention Leia) don’t even wear pink!

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ OK, an occasionally beastly dog is one thing, but discourage your daughters from marrying a former beast, or entering into a relationship with the expectation of great change. If your spouse becomes beastly, of course you should work on changes before splitting up the family, especially if there are kids involved . . . wait, are we talking about Disney movies? :)

      Good post, DobbysCloset!

    • Thanks for popping in with your thoughts!