The Disney Moms: How to Keep a Good Character Meal From Going All Wrong!

Amanda, Disney’s Cheapskate

Ah, the joy of Disney Characters Meals, or is it the agony of Disney Dining defeat? A Character Meal sounds like a fabulous idea to book for a Disney vacation, but is your child really ready to dine with Mickey and all his pals, at your large expense?

The Disney Moms, Mouze KateerzWe see the Disney television commercials and we watch our Disney planning videos, and all the children featured here are full-body-hug embracing Disney characters and stuffing their mouths with delectable dishes. Memories are made, photos are taken, smiles are exchanged, and the vacation life is indeed lookin’ good. But this isn’t always the reality, especially if your child is young and has not spent a lot of time around unusual looking costumed-adults. If you’ve ever seen a child flip out on Santa’s lap at the mall, then you know exactly where I am headed with this. Disney characters can be frightening for small children, and “small” doesn’t have to be the diapered crowd.

My sons took me to Chef Mickey’s for my Christmas present last December for our very first character meal. At the ripe old ages of 11, 13, and 42 for our first character dining experience. The little girl seated on her mom’s lap in the photo below appears to be about four years-old, maybe five.

The Disney moms, Mouze Kateerz

Oh, no! This is where it all started to go so wrong.

We watched this family come into Chef Mickey’s, and everything seemed fine, until delightful Disney characters started popping up at tables nearby. When Chef Goofy, over 6 feet of him in a large costume, approached her table, she let out a piercing scream that stopped conversation eight tables away. When Minnie touched her chair, this child’s screams warped the ceiling beams of the Contemporary, and uh-oh, breakfast was over.  Her dad quickly removed her from the table and took her to a spot in a corner, far away from characters and her mother, her grandfather, and her grandmother. These three adults then picked at their meals, looked unhappy, and glanced at dad and daughter composing themselves in the most un-magical of spots 30 feet away.

Character meals are some of the more pricey family-dining experiences at Walt Disney World. Click here for my review, with meal costs and menu items, describing if Chef Mickey’s is worth the Big Buck$ you’ll pay to dine with Disney Characters. I have no doubt that if this little girl and her dad were unable to complete their breakfast, (and no, they hadn’t come back when we finished gobbling up our Mickey waffles and doughnuts,) that Disney probably reimbursed their money. I frequently tout the Disney Company for going that extra mile to keep their customers satisfied. But mom, granny and pop-pop just forked out over $40 each for this breakfast including the tip, and they didn’t seem to be experiencing the joy we almost demand from a meal so pricey and full of expectations.

So what can you Disney Moms do if you’re not sure how your child will handle the characters, but you really believe now is the time to start Character dining?

I asked some real Disney Moms on our facebook page to provide some suggestions from real moms who had been there. Here’s some ideas we came up with to help you make the most of your vacation time and money.

1. Let your child take the lead, in terms of how close he/she allows the characters to get. You need to be accepting if your child wants to watch the character from a far. Don’t freak out if there’s no photos of your child hugging Mickey. Is this about the enjoyment of the meal or a photo op?

2. Point out the characters from a distance,  and if your child doesn’t want the character to hug them, explain that to the character or Cast Member close by. Every child is different, thus certain characters can get different responses. Don’t assume because you child loved Goofy, that they are going to be totally fine with Donald. Being straightforward with the characters is the best option. Disney Cast Members are highly trained and have handled plenty of screaming children before. Well, hopefully not plenty!

3. If you know your child is hesitant about characters, seat them away from the aisle and ask the character to just wave at first. This will provide the child with a few extra moments to decide if he or she is ready for a big character hug.

4. Make sure you schedule your meal at a time of day when your child is most rested and happy, whether it’s breakfast or an early dinner after a good nap. A 1 p.m. lunch may not be your best option.

5. Relax, and try to set your expectations a little lower than Greatest Meal of Our Entire Lives. This way if something does go wrong, you can handle it so there are not two people freaking out at the same table. Maybe you should save the freak out for when the bill arrives!

Here’s to wishing you a fun-filled vacation creating memories and magic at Disney World. Let us know, at The Disney Moms, if we can help you with planning your next vacation or answering any questions from a mom’s point of view. We appreciate your feedback and your support of The Disney Moms.

Thanks for coming along for a photographical ride!

Amanda, Disney’s Cheapskate

Come see us at Disney’s Cheapskate Princess on Facebook and Cheapskate Princess on Pinterest.

2 comments for “The Disney Moms: How to Keep a Good Character Meal From Going All Wrong!

  1. 28 February, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Thanks for the tips! My one memory of a character meal when I was 5 was that my 3 year old brother was totally cool with it until Mr. Smee came to our table. He promptly freaked out and hid under the table for the rest of the meal. We still tease him about it 30 years later!

    We’re taking our 3 year-old son to DW for the first time this April and debated the character meal. He likes Santa, but won’t sit on his lap. Is happy to just wave from afar. Finally we booked lunch at the Tusker House. He said he doesn’t want to hug the characters, just look at them. Fine. We’ll see how it goes!

    • 28 February, 2012 at 12:34 pm

      We hope you have great success, and thanks for stopping by! Let us know if our tips work…

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