Disney Parks Celebrity Encounters

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Disney Parks are swarmed with celebrities, from world-famous mice to royalty. Most of them have scheduled times you meet them, get their autograph and take tons of pictures with them. But what do you do when you notice a celebrity in the Parks that isn’t on the Times Guide?

It may have happened to you. You’re waiting patiently in line for one of Disney’s great attractions when you realize that you vaguely recognize a person standing behind you. And then it hits you: You don’t actually know this person – you just saw him/her in the latest hit movie! It’s so out of context, your brain needed a minute to make the connection. So, what now? Before you go over and start hounding someone famous for an autograph, stop and think before you act. Remember, they are there for the same reason you are: to enjoy a Disney vacation with their family; they’re not walking the red carpet to promote their celebrity status. Try to imagine how you would feel if someone came up to you and started bugging you. That’s what you might actually be doing if you gush, ask for an autograph or try to initiate a conversation with someone who is actually a total stranger.

Hugh Jackman recently visited Walt Disney World with his family and posted this shot on his Instagram.  Can you guess what movie project he's working on?

Hugh Jackman recently visited Walt Disney World with his family and posted this shot on his Instagram. Can you guess what movie project he’s working on?

Recently, I had the great fortune of sharing the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train experience with Hugh Jackman and his family. It took me a couple of moments to realize why this man was familiar. Once the wheels in my brain made the connection, I was faced with a decision: what do I do, now? Leap across the row of seats between us to smother him in kisses? Whip out my camera and act like a one-woman crazed paparazzi? Shriek in girlish delight? As much as this handsome, Tony-hosting, adamantium-claw-sporting Aussie causes me to swoon, I kept my cool. Before the ride swooped us into world of the dwarves’ mine, Hugh turned around and made eye-contact. I smiled and nodded, a silent admission that I recognized him, and he returned my courtesy with his own stomach-flipping grin. After enjoying the attraction together, we exited the ride vehicle. I could’ve asked for a photo, an autograph, a hug, but as I saw him with his family, I knew the last I’d want to do is disrupt his time with his daughters and wife. I smiled at him one last time and he smiled back and I walked away (immediately texting everyone I knew!). It was a special memory for me, and I like to think that by not making a spectacle, I helped him have a special memory, too.

Here is a guideline of some do’s and don’ts for when you might encounter celebrities on a Disney vacation.

DO

Mariah Carey and her celebrity husband, Nick Cannon are frequent guests at the Disney Parks on both coasts.

Mariah Carey and her celebrity husband, Nick Cannon, are frequent guests at the Disney Parks on both coasts.

  • Do maintain composure. Yes, they may be as charming in person as they are on screen, but keep it together, and hold your inner screaming fan in check.
  • Do be courteous and conscientious of their privacy. This can be especially true when they’re with their families.
  • Do make small talk. If you run into a celebrity at the valet stand, bar, or in line, and if it seems appropriate, you can make small talk (about the weather, the food you just ate, etc.). The trick is to only do it if it feels natural.
  • Do give praise. If you have a chance to chat, it’s perfectly acceptable to let a celebrity know that you truly appreciate their work or body of work. Just don’t overdo it.
  • Do take a deep breath and remember that celebrities are people, too. Most of the time they just want a moment with those they are close to.

DON’T

  • Don’t interrupt celebrities while they’re eating, no matter whom they are with or if they are alone.
  • Don’t actively follow (i.e. stalk) a celebrity throughout the parks, and especially leave them alone if they head to the restroom!
  • Don’t ask celebrities any personal questions, try to slip them a script or piece of your own work, or make negative or questioning comments about their careers or projects.
  • Don’t stare – enough said.
  • Don’t shout their name across a crowd to get their attention. They may be hoping for a bit of anonymity while on vacation with their family.
  • Don’t take pictures or video of celebrities without their permission.

If you really must have an autograph, and the individual has indicated that they’d be willing, ask politely, for an autograph or a photo. (Don’t forget to have your own pen and paper handy, if seeking an autograph.). This situation requires common sense and discretion. Be sure that you make this request in the right moment: not during their meal and not if you are interrupting their time with their family/friends. Finally, whether or not you approach the star, remember your manners and be respectful of their privacy. Don’t take it personally if they don’t want to sign autographs or pose for a picture. Say “Thanks!” when they are able to take the time to sign something for you or stand still long enough for you to snap a photo. Let them get on with their lives, as you get on with yours — and know that now you have a great memory and something cool to brag about to your friends.

So what about you? Have you had any celebrity encounters in the Disney Parks? Share your experience in the comments below!

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Posted on June 25, 2014

51 Responses to “Disney Parks Celebrity Encounters”

  • On our first trip to Disney, we saw Ginnifer Goodwin in the custom T-shirt store. Luckily, my daughters didn’t watch OUAT then, otherwise they probably couldn’t have contained themselves. My husband never recognizes actors, but I was sure it was her. She’s in the background of some photos I took of our kids, and we did confirm that she’d been there that weekend for an event. We were quietly thrilled but didn’t speak to her or approach.

  • by Laurel Stewart on June 25, 2014, at 11:20 am EDT

    Not in a park, but I saw Teri Hatcher in the spa lobby on the Dream.

  • I went to the Celebration of Harry Potter event at Universal in January, and during the evening of the private event at the WWoHP my friends and I literally ran into the cast behind Olivander’s as we were exiting Dragon Challenge! They were obviously trying to be discreet (there was a gang of people literally hunting for them the whole evening, it would have been chaos if people knew they were there) so we said hello and they said hello back and then we whispered ‘We won’t tell!” and walked away haha. They looked pretty relieved that we didn’t cause a scene. They were waiting there to go up to the stage for a photo-op before they went to their own reception behind the Three Broomsticks. And wouldn’t you know it, a crowd of about a hundred people waited outside the entrance they went through for the whole night and wasted a golden opportunity for free food and drinks and walk-on rides all night.

  • A few years, my then 5 year old, mom and I met Paula Deen while waiting for our table at Liberty Tree Tavern. There were two benches facing each other and she sat down after me, when I looked up there was Paula right in my face. We just started chatting like you would anyone who was looking right at you while waiting. I did not ask for a picture. But, what was interesting is that we were seated by her family in one the smaller sections. There were mom’s coming up to them and plopping their kids right by Paula and asking for pics while she was eating. Her “people” quickly put an end to the that. She could not have been nicer and I was so embarrassed for those people asking for pics because I thought it was so rude.

  • by Jamison Braly on June 25, 2014, at 12:06 pm EDT

    I don’t watch TV and watch very few movies so short of Mel Gibson or Janet Jackson popping up in line with me at Space Mountain, I wouldn’t know any stars if we shared a kabob at O’hana’s.

  • We were at MNSSHP in WDW a couple of years ago and Penn from (Penn&Teller) tried to skip the line in front of us for Dumbo at midnight. Unintentionally of course, he was very appologetic about it.

    • I love Penn Jillette. Someday I’m going to take a Vegas trip just to see Penn & Teller perform. He’s so distinctive looking, though, he’d never manage to hide his identity, even in a MNSSHP costume.

    • I saw Penn Jillette at Stonehenge in England in 1996. My wife and I were honeymooning in the UK, and we hit the monolith early one morning. We had it all to ourselves save for Penn and his female companion. Nice people who chatted with us as we walked around the giant piece of pre-history.

  • We saw Lady Gaga in March in line for spaceship Earth.

  • Joe Perry, lead guitarist of Aerosmith. With wife, child, and “vip” cast member running them around. He handed the CM his credit card for…wait for it… food from Casey’s.

    Saw him shortly after, and by saw I mean directly beside us, watching the flag retreat. No one else paid him any attention; we left him alone to enjoy his vacation and family time. Saw that evening that he had done an official photo op at RNR earlier in day. This was May 2011 I believe.

  • We saw Steve Harvey and his family in 2007 in line next to us for Dinosaur at AK. We didn’t act on it because he had a massive entourage surrounding him.

  • An excellent article promoting decent human behavior no matter where we should happen to bump into someone famous. Thank you!
    I bought your album, I didn’t buy your personal time. I watch you on TV or at the movies, I don’t get to follow you around your normal life. Here’s hoping society takes it a step farther and finds ways to prevent paparazzi from stalking, too.
    I’m just happy everyone who goes to a Disney Park has an opportunity to experience the magic.

    • Completely agree. I have had several celebrity encounters and have never asked for a photo or autograph. The only one I have is from a famous 70s era football player, that a neighbor who worked for that team got for me. And since I was about 4 at the time, I am sure he didn’t mind too much.

  • I’ve been to Disney countless times, but have only had two celebrity sightings.

    Back in the day, my family and I saw Michael Eisner in the Wonders of Life pavilion at Epcot (back when it was still Wonders of Life and not used as a Festival center). He was with a bunch of other suit-wearing gentlemen so they kinda stood out from the normal t-shirt wearing tourist crowd. We took a quick picture as we walked by, but didn’t stop.

    My other sighting was a few years ago, also at Epcot. My friend and I were walking around and we saw Snooki with her family. She was very tiny and very tan. We took one of those “I’m gonna pretend I’m taking a picture of you but I’m really taking a picture of the person behind you” pictures and went about our day.

    • Michael Eisner was actually one you *could* have chosen to approach prior to 2005, without breaking etiquette. After all, he was technically a Cast Member. (Or rather, *the* Cast Member.)

      I’m not sure I’d call him a celebrity, though.

  • Saw Michael Jackson at EPCOT in the early 80s while Thriller was the biggest thing on the planet. Sat in front of him at the American Adventure stage show. He had the red leather jacket and the one glove, the whole bit. He was mobbed afterwards for autographs (I only snapped a photo), but it seemed like he was enjoying it. I can’t imagine how he would have moved around the park without being mobbed; with that wardrobe, he certainly stood out.

    • by Lisa Gilmore on June 25, 2014, at 2:58 pm EDT

      Wow, seeing 80s-superstar in his heyday is a memory to last a lifetime! I agree though, he doesn’t sound like he was touring the Parks incognito, red leather jacket and glitter glove screams – “take my picture”. Still, out of politeness, I would snapped my photo and moved on.

  • Our first DVC trip, we had a two bedroom Savannah view at Jambo house. The first night I was out on our balcony, and started talking to the husband next door. We ended up having a beer or two, and did the same the next few nights.

    It wasn’t until the last day, when we saw each other in the lobby and someone asked for an autograph that I knew he was famous. Ended up being Brad Paisley, his wife and child.

  • Back in the early nineties we were waiting forever for the Studio Backlot Tour, and finally off to the side we see a van pull up with a bunch of guys with suits and earpieces and two little boys get on the first car. We were three cars back from Prince William and Prince Harry! I tell this story all the time, it’s my big brush with royalty!

  • We’ve had two at Disney World over the years:
    1. Walked by Samantha Brown at EPCOt…she had been filming a special for Travel Channel.
    2. Passed Ray Liota at the Yacht Club…not sure why he was there at the time.

  • In October 2013 my husband and I were standing in the pick up line at the Earl of Sandwich waiting on our order. I turned around and Colin Ferguson from the TV show “Eureka” was standing in line behind us (loved that show by the way). I turned to my husband and told him who was in line and we both looked back nonchalantly, caught his eye, nodded our heads, gave him a discreet thumbs up sign and turned back around. Right before our food was ready he came up to us, introduced himself, shook our hands and thanked us for not making a bid deal about him being where we all were. I told him that TV was just his day job and not who he was and that we hoped he was having a nice vacation. He was attending the Sci-Fi Convention that weekend. That was the same week Michael Douglas was there with his family and we just missed seeing him in Hollywood Studios by an hour.

  • Love these stories! I don’t know if I can match some of the others but… In our stays at the Grand Floridian, we’ve encountered some celebrities – Al Roker and Meredith Viera during marathon weekend, Jodi Benson – voice of Ariel (so thin!!); my mom saw the Jonas Brothers in 2008 (back in their heyday) and we saw Blaire Underwood in front of Mexico at Epcot. Going in July so hope to add to this list. ;)

  • That’s not Nick Cannon in the picture. Kinda racist, no? “All black people look the same” comes off…

    • Or an honest mistake. Those still happen.

    • by Lisa Gilmore on June 25, 2014, at 5:02 pm EDT

      Hi Hayden,
      I didn’t mean to imply that the person in the picture was Nick Cannon. He’s probably a friend, family, or even security. I just meant to address that both Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon are often in the parks – not that they were both in that picture. I apologize if the caption is misleading.

    • you sound like the racist to me, automatically accusing (without a factual basis) of a racist activity. everyone was able to see what she meant but you.

      • Yep..absolutely ignorant comment. And she might want to look up the definition of “racist” before attempting to use it ever again

    • (Yawn) People use the term “racist” in such a knee-jerk fashion these days that it’s belittled the true meaning.
      Some people’s “racist radar” is set way too sensitive these days.

  • My wife inadvertently had an exchange with Amy Adams last month at California Adventure over at Disneyland. My daughter (5) struck up a conversation with her daughter about her princess dress, as she is wont to do, and when my wife started talking to the mother, she realized it was Amy Adams. She was evidently as nice as can be, and my wife, who is a huge fan, did an admirable job of not completely freaking out.

  • by Sam Winston on June 25, 2014, at 5:57 pm EDT

    We had a table next to Cesar Romero at the Brown Derby when it first opened. It was one of the outside tables and he was doing a photo shoot with CM dressed in 1920′s peroid costume. I heard this laugh—
    and thought “that sounds familure” turned around and there he was.

  • As we were being seated at The Plaza Restaurant, we spotted Richard Gere, his wife, Carey Lowell, and their son eating at the table next to us. We remained cool and didn’t look their way for more than a quick glance or two. They were really sweet and were trying to get their son to eat his food, just like all parents. As they were finishing up, he stood, turned toward us, squatted down between my wife and I, and said, “You folks have a nice family.” I said, (because i wanted him to know i knew who he was) “Thank you, Mr. Gere!” He responded, “I really appreciate you guys letting us eat. We rarely get to eat a whole meal in peace.” He was really kind and it made my wife’s week! He let us take a pic, but this was in 2005, and the camera on our flip phones weren’t all that great! Still, I’ll forever be a fan because he was genuinely nice to us.

  • In DL I ran into Cody Brown and some of his family from the TLC reality show Sister Wives. Very nice and gracious and on a family vacation!

  • First vist, 1982. Just walked through the gates at DW Magic Kingdom and the steam train comes by with Michael Jackson waving from the engine cab… Well this vacation is off to quite a start.

  • Apparently I have the same tastes as Steven Tyler. We were eating brunch at Cape May, dinner at Prime Time and another dinner at Japan when he was at Disney promoting Rock-n-roller coaster. Tried to discretely include him in a photo of my son because he was with his family.

  • In the fall of 2000 I was a cast member as a part of the Disney College Program. The guy I was dating his parents came to visit and we went to eat at the California Grill. They new the two of us were cast members so they set us in this dining room off to the side. As we were eating people were leaving, but they were not seating anyone else in the room as people left. In the middle of dinner, in walks Julie Andrews with her family! It was so cool. Of course we couldn’t say a word, but it is my favorite Disney celebrity moment!

  • In December 2013 we saw Neil Patrick Harris various times around Epcot and MK in the few days after his candle light processional reading nights. People noticed him but no one was really bothering him or anything.

  • by Marion Durham on June 25, 2014, at 9:00 pm EDT

    We rode Big Thunder Mountain with the cast of The Middle recently and then saw them filming at Epcot. Also saw Wicked Witch from OUAT and rode Splash Mountain with her. I admit to taking pictures! But didn’t speak to them or bother them.

  • by Lisa Gilmore on June 25, 2014, at 9:15 pm EDT

    It’s so great reading all of these stories you all have shared!

  • I got to ride Soarin’ in DCA next to Dylan McDermott one time. I didn’t realize it was him until after we had taken off. I didn’t say anything, but it was so exciting!

  • by Kylene Hamulak on June 26, 2014, at 12:04 am EDT

    When I was a kid, Neil Patrick Harris was sitting in front of us at Country Bear Jamboree. This was during his Doogie Howser, MD days. We saw him earlier in the park, so it wasn’t a total shock to see him in the theater. My grandmother pointed him out as “Dookie”, but we didn’t take pictures or ask for autographs. Who could’ve guessed that 20 years later we’d hear him read the story of Christmas at the Candlelight Processional!

  • Last week we were finishing at be our guest and in line to get a pic with the beast. In front of us was Gloria Estefan with her two grand children. She was very kind.

  • by Larry McGomez on June 26, 2014, at 5:48 am EDT

    I was once trying to use the John at the EPCOT when Neil Doogie Hoser came up behind me at the urinal and yelled “package check!!!” then touched me in the dirty place. I didn’t find that magical at all.

    • by Daffystardust on June 26, 2014, at 7:40 am EDT

      Is this a spurious lie, or just a ridiculously unfunny joke?
      Either way: Thumbs Down, Dude

    • I find this post funny.
      …possibly because it seems believable.

      • October 2012, we were just about to load on to TSM at HS and I noticed Robert Irvine from the Food Network just finishing and unloading from his ride. Big smile on his face just like all of us when we are done riding TSM. After our ride we exited and he was standing outside looking like he was trying to decide on what to do next. We made eye contact as we were walking by, I stuck out my hand, he grabbed it, we shook hands and I said “we enjoy watching you on tv” he said thank you, I appreciate that. I barley broke my stride during the encounter. He is not a tall man, but his shoulders and pipes are as big as they look on tv.

        • This just jogged my memory that we saw Irvine as well at EPCOT back in January of 2007, I think, along with a couple of other Food Network folks. He was over between the UK and Canada where they sometimes do pop-up character greetings, and seemed to be “on the job” at the time.

  • We had the pleasure of meeting Buzz Aldrin in MK (2009) when he and Buzz Lightyear returned to Earth and were in the Buzz and Buzz parade. My husband and I queued for a couple of hours to get an autograph and all I could stutter was ‘wow this is a bit of an honour’. He said ‘pleasure to meet you too’ and twinkled. Total bloody legend.

    • I would like to make a correction. I was a little confused. We were at WDW October 2009. I saw Robert Irvine January 2012 at HS. I hope you will all forgive me.

      Rach, I would have stood in that line to meet Buzz Aldrin as well.

  • I saw Richard Jenkins walking around and could NOT remember what his name was. He is probably one of the most consistently working actors… Finally remembered he was in Eat Pray Love and thank you Wikipedia… found who he was. I was fangirling while walking the same direction, but totally left him alone because neither my husband nor myself wanted to bother him while he was having a casual vacation with his wife. It was so cool to see him just enjoy a vacation and now every movie he is in, I have a vested interest in its success. Way to let me down, White House Down.

    • Also saw Gilles Marini on the line for Soarin’. He came in with an entourage and a VIP guide. We all rode the same “hang glider.” That was pretty great, but not as awesome because he was acting like a huge star.