Monday, July 14, 2008

What a Character!

One of the biggest thrills for the kids is to meet the Characters. We all know that these characters are costumes, but there is something about meeting them that you seem to forget this. Maybe it's Disney "Magic" (although, not all GKTW characters were Disney, Universal also had some characters). Anyway, there will be lines all over the parks for a chance to meet the character, get an autograph and get a picture with them. GKTW invites several characters to come meet their kids privately on the campus several times a week. This allows these special kids a chance to meet the characters without the crowds, and without having to leave campus (if they are not feeling up to it).

Disney has strict policies regarding how the characters must "act" and it is fascinating to see it up close. All the full costume characters (typically these are animated characters) are not allowed to speak. I imagine it is difficult for many people to do the voices, such as Donald Duck, but I'm not sure if this is the reason. So, all the costumed characters show all their responses through hand motions. They do a great job of this! It was amazing to watch how the characters could hug on Ashleigh, and greet her and dance around, then turn around and gently caress the knee of a child in a wheelchair, who you could see did not feel well, or touch their cheek to try to bring a smile to their faces. I truly appreciate these cast members for loving these kids enough to come and treat them so special. The characters who are not in a full costume (like Cinderella) are allowed to talk, but I believe they have to talk "in character" while they are dressed in character. We met Belle (from Beauty and the Beast) and she always spoke with a "Belle" voice. This has to get tiresome! They also have certain poses they do for the photos that helps them be in character. One thing we know, Disney does not miss any details!

Our "magic button" as we started calling it (Ashleigh's GKTW button) was to be used to help us get on the rides quicker, and for parking passes. We quickly learned that each experience actually depended on the response of the cast members. The characters spots, where you can line up to meet the castmembers, were not one of the places guaranteed by our button to get us to the front of the line. We had heard stories of parents (who had waited in long lines) getting upset when Wish kids moved right to the front. Usually, we didn't try to get up front, but we also didn't have to go to a lot of these, since the characters came to GKTW. We went to Epcot, and Ashleigh wanted to get some signatures really bad in her autograph book, so we checked out the character spot. I went up to ask the cast member what characters were there, and she saw Ashleigh's button and took us right in. We moved through quickly, and were able to see 5 different characters at once! While we were in Magic Kingdom, Alex saw Chip and Dale as we were getting ready to leave. He walked up to the castmember and asked them about seeing the chipmunks, and they spoke with the parents at the front of the line. Those parents were kind enough to let Ashleigh go ahead. Those 2 chipmunks fussed all over her! They hugged her, twirled her around and just treated her so sweetly.

It is funny to watch these characters sign the autograph book. Because of the costume head, they have to hold the book up to one of the eyes to see, and usually end up resting it on the top of their nose while signing it.

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