The Disneyland Resort has denied that it plans to prohibit characters from performing "walkarounds" at its theme parks, following claims that it hopes to increase PhotoPass sales by ending the practice.
A report on MousePlanet by renowned Disney author David Koenig claims that Disney management are set to implement the change imminently. This would see characters only being available to meet guests at specific points around Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, removing any chance of a "random" encounter elsewhere. The Orange County Register has reported via its Twitter account that Disneyland officials have denied the story, but no further details have been given.
Koenig claims that the rumored decision to constrain characters to predefined meet-and-greet locations is designed to increase sales of the PhotoPass professional photography service. PhotoPass photographers are positioned at meet-and-greet locations, and take pictures of guests with Disney characters that can be purchased later. It is still possible for guests to take pictures with their own camera.
Disneyland merged its PhotoPass and Entertainment departments in late 2009, making the same unit responsible for both photography and character interactions. Koenig says that the number of walkaround characters has been reduced since the merger, although it is still possible to see "atmosphere characters" wandering freely on occasion. The resort is also said to have banned characters from riding attractions in the theme parks.
Cast Members in Disneyland's character department are said to be up-in-arms about the proposed ban, while fans have reacted angrily on blogs and social networking sites. Disneyland is yet to publicly respond to the report beyond its brief denial to the press.