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The Big Debate: Should every theme park offer character meet-and-greets?Submitted by Natalie Sim on Saturday, May 26, 2012 09:22
In this week's poll, we ask if you think every theme park would benefit from Disney-style character meet-and-greets.
No theme park fan would expect to visit a Disney park and not have the opportunity to meet one of their favourite characters - there would certainly be cause for tears if Mickey and Minnie were not seen grinning and waving for all to smile at. Disney's whole enterprise revolves around its famous loveable characters, who meet-and-greet fans at numerous locations throughout the day.
A major feature of the new Fantasyland at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is the Princess Fairytale Hall, where guests will be able to meet a number of well-known Disney princesses. That it will replace the classic Snow White's Scary Adventures attraction just demonstrates the importance Disney places on the use of character experiences throughout their parks.
But is this the case with every theme park? The answer is clearly no. Many theme parks throughout the world don't offer any character meet-and-greets, relying solely on the attractions to draw the crowds (of course, not all of them have strong characters like Mickey and Minnie to draw on). Others host characters in limited child-friendly areas, such as the Planet Snoopy zones at at Cedar Fair parks and Blackpool Pleasure Beach's Nickelodeon land.
Many of the UK's top theme parks, including Thorpe Park and Alton Towers (at least, until the recent addition of Ice Age 4-D), places almost no emphasis on characters at all. Is this due to the cost of employing character actors, or simply due to a lack of a natural fit with the park's audience? It's certainly hard to imagine teenagers at Thorpe Park emerging out of SAW - The Ride to hug a cuddly version of Jigsaw!
Interestingly, Alton Towers does host character meet-and-greets during its annual Scarefest Halloween events. Skelvin and his friends have proven extremely popular with young guests (OK, and with me as well). Could other characters created by the park itself, rather than licensed in from Dreamworks, become a permanent feature?
So what is your verdict? Do you love meeting cuddly characters on your theme park visits? Or is it all about the rides and shows?
Should every theme park offer character meet-and-greets?
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Thanks for voting in Theme Park Tourist's Big Debate. Why not let us know why you voted as you did using the comments section below?