It’s been more than two years since fans have been able to get close to and hug their favorite characters at the theme parks. But as of April 18, 2022 all of Orlando’s major theme parks are back to allowing characters to interact with their fans without social distancing.
Disney announced last month that the company would start reintroducing traditional character interactions at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World as soon as April 18. For the last two years since the pandemic upended the theme park industry, many theme park characters greeted guests from behind barriers or from a six-foot distance.
That meant no hugs or autographs; just waving, air hugs, distanced selfies, and staged photos. But now kids and kids-at-heart can hug characters like Mickey Mouse, Dr. Seuss characters at Universal Orlando Resort, and Sesame Street characters at SeaWorld Orlando.
With the return of hugs and traditional character meet-and-greets, most theme parks are back to normal operations after more than two years of mask rules and distancing. Most parks have also brought back popular entertainment like parades and shows while also introducing new rides and attractions.
And while opening new lands and rides and celebrating milestone anniversaries like Walt Disney World’s 50th is exciting, the return of hugs and personal meet-and-greets is special for many fans and Disney employees.
In an interview with the New York Times, Disneyland’s general manager of entertainment operations, Robyn Vossen, said social media has made character interactions more popular than ever.
“Character interactions are such a big deal because they provide an emotional touch point,” she said. “That personal, one-on-one interaction may be the most powerful offering that the Walt Disney Company has.”
Over at Universal Orlando, characters from Spongebob Squarepants and Marvel Comics were seen posing with and hugging fans as they paraded around the parks.