Several days ago Disney surprised guests by announcing that Friday, August 19 would be the first PhotoPass Day, a one-time event that would allow guests to take free PhotoPass pictures at designated spots around Walt Disney World as well as get some shots with rare and hard-to-find characters at Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. The event certainly sounded like a lot of fun, and seemed like a great way for guests to celebrate the end of summer. However, something happened at this event earlier this week that Disney might not have initially expected: it was a smash hit!
Though the success of the first PhotoPass Day basically ensures that this event will be back next year, we can't help but wonder if the character element of this event (which was far more popular than the free PhotoPass offer or challenge component) could be brought back sooner in an effort to help stem the attendance losses that have been experienced by Walt Disney World in recent months. Let's take a quick look at some things we learned thanks to this event:
1. Rare characters draw huge lines…when guests know about them
Although Disney didn’t give fans a lot of notice for PhotoPass Day (it was announced only four days before it took place), it looks like it was enough, as fans looking to meet hard-to-find characters at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot were met with massive lines right from the start of the operating day. Mulan and Mushu at Epcot (the latter of which hasn’t appeared at Epcot for several years) proved to be especially popular, as guests lined up at park opening and sprinted directly to the World Showcase in order to be the first to get in line for this rare character experience.
As the day wore on, lines got to be pretty intense, with Pinocchio, Gideon and Foulfellow in Storybook Circus drawing 90-120 minute lines at the Magic Kingdom and the aforementioned meet and greet with Mushu and Mulan topping out at a truly outrageous three hours just for a single meet and greet (for those of you keeping track, the only other characters to command such a wait were Anna and Elsa back when Frozen frenzy was still gripping the nation).
Now the obvious conclusion here is that guests really really like meeting rare characters. And while we don’t doubt that’s true, there’s a bit of a caveat here: they need to know about them first. Several months ago, Disney’s Hollywood Studios quietly brought back a number of rare characters to the parks for meet and greets, including Max Goof and Bolt. And while guests who stumbled across these lesser-known character meet and greets stopped for a minute to take a picture, they didn’t exactly line up in droves to meet these characters like they did on PhotoPass Day.
Of course, the probable reason for this is because Disney didn't announce these character meet and greet opportunities in advance, and certainly didn’t make an "event" out of them, which meant that these rare characters didn’t even get on to guests’ radar. However, with at least a little planning time, it has now been shown that guests are definitely willing to make special trips to Walt Disney World (and wait in ridiculously long lines) to meet rare characters. Which leads us to our next point…