Yesterday ignited the beginning of a brand new Disney adventure in the hearts of every Disney enthusiast, one which celebrates the backbone of the Walt Disney Company itself – PhotoPass Photographers. Marked the first ever “PhotoPass Day”, the theme-park’s very own holiday was created in synchronicity with World Photography Day. Walt Disney World opted to celebrate this occasion by offering rare character meet and greets at both Epcot and the Magic Kingdom parks alongside a PhotoPass challenge. Obviously, the popularity of the special character experiences outweighed the free 5×7 print offered as the challenge prize. I found myself racing to the parks yesterday alongside hundreds of other Disney adventurers in a crazed excitement to finally see a character outside the typical few offered on a daily basis. I was completely unprepared for just how mutual that eagerness was amidst the Disney community.
Gideon, Foulfellow, and Pinocchio were the special guests of Magic Kingdom on August 19th at Storybook Circus, while Mushu, The Queen of Hearts,
and Dopey took center stage around the Epcot World Showcase while accompanying their corresponding character (Mulan, Snow White, and Alice located in their normal meet and greet spots in China, Germany, and the UK). I expected an overwhelming majority of Annual Passholders to take advantage of this special offering, and quickly after making it to the first queue, I realized I was right. With only a three day notice before the event launched, it could have been predicted that it wouldn’t have been quite successful. The three hour wait to see Mushu proved otherwise. The two hour wait to see Dopey followed suit. After speaking with Cast Members at the China Pavilion, I learned they hadn’t been entirely cognizant of the potential for PhotoPass Day. They claimed since Mulan wasn’t normally that popular of a character,
they hadn’t planned for Mushu to provoke that large of an audience either. Instead, they had a lengthy line of sweaty guests they didn’t know where to place or how to deal with without the occasional complaint that “someone told me I could come back at 2:30 and would only have to wait fifteen minutes! I’m not waiting three hours!” The line normally winding through the gardens of China was moved to circle around the Temple of Heaven, where Mulan and Mushu could be seen inside. Although the air conditioning was welcomed, I was a little disappointed that the photo op had been moved to an indoor location because of the resulting poor lighting. Not only that, but I was duly discouaged when the photographer on hand refused to take candid pictures of our lengthy character interaction. Three hours in line should yield more than eight photos for a group of four. For that reason, if anyone is planning to attend PhotoPass Day next year, my recommendation would to be to have someone in your party take a few photos during your interaction just in case your PhotoPass pictures aren’t as plentiful as you’d hoped.
After arriving at the China Pavilion at 1:15 and being told we would be slated for the 3:50 meet and greet (of which we actually got to see Mushu by 4:20) , my party decided to split in order to maximize our possibility of meeting more of the rare characters. One member of our group remained in line while the rest of us got in the line to meet Snow White and Dopey. Again, for future reference, I would suggest being willi
ng to split your party if you find a line to be extremely long. With the amount of people partaking in the event, it would have impossible for our group to have seen all the offered characters at Epcot alone if we hadn’t chosen to make decisions such as these. Unlike the convenience of Mushu’s queue, Germany doesn’t offer much space for an indoor waiting area, so a
resultant two hour wait in the sun provided for an exhausting wait. Out of poor preparation, I did not come ready with an umbrella to protect against Florida sun – which would be recommendation number three if a small country in the World Showcase is a participant in next year’s PhotoPass Day. However, I feel it’s important to mention the helpfulness of the Cast Members, as they were encouraging for us to stay hydrated and holding places in line for guests who came alone and needed to get water or use the restroom. Character Attedants were the shining stars of the event, truly kind and happy to help in the face of outnumbering guests.
I was not disappointed with any of the interactions, even though the wait times were extensive. Disney had their best performers on the job, and character integrity was at its
peak. Despite the friendly attitude they all had, it was clear to see Disney was still trying to determine if PhotoPass Day would be an event continued in the future, with the many visiting officials (such as Walt Disney World Ambassadors) scattered about the park at PhotoPass Day locations. And while they weren’t advertised, the event was made even more special with sightings like Ariel appearing with Eric at the International Gateway. Between continued surprises and close monitoring, the atmosphere was so different than on a normal day at the parks. I loved being there and getting to experience something different, and Disney choosing to bring back characters I spent my childhood with is what I loved even more. And because it was PhotoPass Day after all, thank you to Tina who made this girl feel like a princess by having an unprecedented photo shoot with her in Morocco. Everyday is an adventure, but some days are just bigger than others. I just happen to believe PhotoPass Day is one of those big days.