Disney meet and greets back 1

A Disney cast member dressed as Princess Tiana poses with a family enjoying a day at Disney. Walt Disney Co. announced on Thursday that it will bring back traditional meet and greets. Currently, guests must take photos with characters standing behind red velvet ropes.

The beloved character meet and greets will return on April 18, and guests will be able to hug, high-five and get autographs from their favorite characters once again, Walt Disney Co. announced on Thursday.

"We will start reintroducing traditional character greetings at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts, as well as aboard Disney Cruise Line," according to Shawn Slater, writer for the Disney Parks Blog

Jasmine Haynes, a character performer in entertainment for Disney, said she is excited for the character greetings to not be socially distanced anymore. 

Haynes, 25, is a UCF graduate who returned to get her degree in health sciences and works closely alongside Princess Tiana. She said she is looking forward to being able to physically touch guests because she feels she has more control of the room as opposed to just using her voice.

However, Haynes is a little apprehensive about traditional greetings returning. 

"I am nervous because kids get sick, people don’t cover their mouths or sneeze into their hands, and you have to ignore that," Haynes said. "The characters have to ignore that and continue to bring magic."

There have been many steps in place made by Disney to get to this point. Haynes said the first phase at Disney had been character sightings, where they would be outside, socially distanced and wave hello to guests. The next phase consisted of masked guests indoors with characters behind ropes and socially distanced.

Haynes said guests were really happy when the mask mandate was removed.

"Now, bringing back the actual, physical touch, I think it's more for the kids and Disney fanatics because that's their whole life - being able to touch the characters," Haynes said.

Haynes said that because she works with such an empowering character like Tiana from "The Princess and the Frog," she loves being able to voice overcoming obstacles and achieving her dreams. She said she loves to see children's faces light up when they see characters.

"I think that’s my favorite part, being able to spread hard work and entrepreneurship and just being able to hug the little nuggets again," Haynes said. 

Disney employees do not get an inside scoop about information, Haynes said. She said they find out updates, such as the traditional greetings coming back, when the public does.

Senior health sciences major Harold Silva works as a Disney trainer for food and beverage at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. He said he thinks the return of traditional meet and greets is a massive step forward for Disney. 

"That was something the guests were really craving, so now that the in-person meet and greets are back, there's going to be a lot more positivity within guests and cast members," Silva said. 

Silva has been going to Disney World since he was a child and said cast members were always his favorite part of the experience.

"I never thought I would be a cast member, but I have such respect for them because we are trained to do whatever it takes to make a magical moment," Silva said. 

Silva said that when he goes to Disney, the first thing he does is take a picture with Mickey Mouse. He said it has always been something he has loved since he was a child, and it is still very special to him. 

“I feel like guests really miss getting to hug Mickey Mouse and take pictures and have these close-up interactions with these wonderful characters” Silva said. "I am lucky to be a part of a company that makes a difference in so many people's lives."

For more information on the return of Disney's traditional meet and greets, visit the company's Instagram or YouTube channel

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