Indoor meet-and-greets with Disney characters are back at Disney’s theme parks, but hugs and autographs aren’t yet allowed.
Disney on Tuesday announced it is relaunching indoor visits with costumed characters at its theme parks, after putting the tradition on hold over the past year due to COVID-19.
Guests can take photos with characters but will have to keep their social distance.
“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 themed location and snap a photo or two,” Disney said in a statement.
— Walt Disney World (@WaltDisneyWorld) October 5, 2021
The change will take effect in November, when actors portraying various princesses, Minnie and Mickey Mouse and others return to indoor stages at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
Social media expresses derision
Some social media users derided Disney’s announcement on Twitter, where the company posted an image of a couple wearing masks and snapping a socially distanced selfie with Mickey Mouse.
“I want to take a selfie with Mickey several feet away from me, while I’m wearing a mask. Said no one ever,” one sarcastic Twitter user wrote.
“I think this isn’t the kind of character experience people wanted! Hugs and Autographs need to return, let’s get back to normal!” wrote another.
Thousands of workers were laid off across Disney theme parks in California and Florida during the pandemic. Disney reopened the resorts in July after closing them for more than 13 months and losing billions of dollars in ticket and concession sales.
The cartoon characters remained present at parks as they reopened, appearing in motorcades and flotillas and making surprise appearances, according to Disney.
More than 50,000 cast members have returned to work since the theme parks started welcoming guests back again. Today, the Disney World Resort division employs more than 65,000 people.