Posts Tagged ‘character meals’

The True Value of Character Meals: Are They Really Worth It?

by on August 22, 2013

475 I have proven through my series of articles on Walt Disney World character meals that my family and I like to eat with Disney “celebrities.” The itch that I’ve been trying to scratch for quite some time is: are these things really worth it?

Granted, my kids love them and sometimes that’s enough…but sometimes it isn’t. Character dining is expensive, time consuming, and often featuring sub par food. On the other hand it offers a chance to kill two Disney activities with one Cinderella outfitted stone: eating a meal and meeting some characters. I have longed for the day when I could sit down and calculate the “true value” of a Disney World character meal.

Luckily, the very smart gentlemen at Mighty Men of Mouse (part of the TouringPlans.com Podcast Network!) did much of the work for me. A recent episode of theirs unveiled a simple yet interesting formula called a Leveraged Equity Number…or L.E.N.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Meeting Characters at Disney World

by on June 12, 2013

While the rides at Walt Disney World get all the buzz, very often it’s meeting Buzz, or some other Disney character, that becomes the highlight of a child’s vacation. Here’s the scoop on what you need to know about meeting characters at Walt Disney World.

Characters are often much larger than children.

Characters are often much larger than children.

SPOILER ALERT – I’ll be using words like costume and mask which may dull the magic a bit for true believers. If you’re in that camp, feel free to move along now. On your way out enjoy this video of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Hot Dog Song. OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way …

What is exactly is a character?

Characters are the live version of animated creatures/people found in Disney films and television programs. Characters appear in the Walt Disney World parks and resorts in parades, stage shows, and in guest greeting opportunities. While a character may be just inches tall when you see him on TV, all the in-park characters are adult human size or larger (sometimes much larger).

There are two types of characters: fur characters and face characters. Fur characters are those with an oversized, non-moving mask serving as their entire head. Typically the fur characters are animals such as Mickey and Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pooh. There are a few “human” fur characters, notably Captain Hook and the Incredibles, but these are less common.

Face characters have a fully human form – they look like real people. The essence of the character is conveyed via costuming, wigs, and makeup. Face characters include all of the princesses, Peter Pan, Jack Sparrow, Mary Poppins and more.

Other than appearance, one of the key differences between face characters and fur characters is that face characters talk, while fur characters generally do not.

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Character Meals: Vol 8 – Hollywood and Vine

by on May 8, 2012

I had always considered the Disney Junior Play ‘n Dine character meal at Hollywood & Vine in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (yikes, lots of words there) to be second rate character dining. What I mean is that it is attended by zero of the big characters. While that is true, there is still a certain charm in dining with lesser known figures, so we decided to take the leap and play ‘n dine for breakfast.

Atmosphere

It was very tough for me to accurately judge the atmosphere at Hollywood & Vine. It is meant to resemble a diner with linoleum flooring and lots of shiny metal, but I feel like the theme falls well short. The room is way to big and open to look like a real diner, and there are many chain restaurants that go for the same look. It comes across more as a chain than a diner (welcome to Bob’s Big Boy!…wait, is that still a thing?).

The other factor that made it tough for me to judge the theme was the overwhelming lack of customers. Our reservation was for 9:20am (so we could grab our Toy Story FASTPASS tickets prior to eating), and I expected the restaurant to be partially full. What I found was a nearly empty eatery, with approximately 11 tables of customers when we arrived. By the time we left at about 10:30am we were one of five tables. It was weird and made for a very subdued atmosphere.

 

Characters

The characters you find at Hollywood & Vine are most certainly not for everyone. If you do not have a child between the ages of 2 and 8, you have probably never heard of Jake (from Jake and the Neverland Pirates), June (from Little Einsteins), Special Agent Oso, and Handy Manny. As a father who has had many experiences with all of these shows, I can comfortably say that you are not missing much.

I'm pretty sure this picture captures everyone in the restaurant.

Children’s show quality not withstanding, the characters are fantastic, exactly as I expected. They looked great, acted wonderfully, and interacted with the kids perfectly. I can say those things confidently becuase we saw each character about 456,751 times (I may be exaggerating, but not by much). In all honesty, I lost count when June came to see us for the seventh time. Due to the low number of people in the restaurant, the characters got bored. They therefore decided to seek out whomever was around…which was us.

This is in no way a complaint because I would rather see the characters too much than not at all, but even my three year old rolled her eyes the last few times she got up to hug Handy Manny. I tried to get Jake to sit with us for a while, but that is probably against protocol. One thing that is done regularly is a dance routine to one of the popular songs from the represented shows. These are led by a very excitable cast member along with the characters. They try to get as many children as possible to come up and dance with them. As you can imagine, when there are only about 7 children in the building, they do not have great luck.

My daughter was the one and only child in this dance "party."

Overall I have no problems with any of the characters or handlers at Hollywood & Vine, but I did feel bad for them. They were clearly bored, and even the kids could only get excited a handful of times to see the same people.

Food

Blah. Okay, okay, I will elaborate. The food was blah. Fine, I’ll explain what I mean. Since it was breakfast, we had eggs, sausage, bacon, Mickey waffles…all the same stuff you will find at every character breakfast buffet on property. It was fine, but clearly heatlamped (yes, I’m reduced to making up adjectives). The food would not keep me away, but I would certainly not go there for the food, either.

If you would like to judge for yourself you can click these links for the breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus (dinner is non-character).

Odds, Ends, and Details

All meals served at Hollywood & Vine are buffets, although only the breakfast and lunch are accompanied by characters. The breakfast costs $25 ($14 for 10 and under), lunch is $29 ($16 for 10 and under), and dinner is $33 ($16 for 10 and under) with prices increasing during certain peak seasons.

This is Special Agent Oso who is a...panda? cat? lemming? vermicious knid?

Final Thoughts

I feel like I have been tough on the Play ‘n Dine, but it was not a bad experience. The restaurant being empty was actually a funny bonus, and we certainly did not suffer from lack of character interaction. As I mentioned the food was of no consequence, neither a draw nor a deterrant.

If you have a kid who is a fan of one or more of the characters, this is a great way to meet them and, in the case of June or Oso, the only way. Otherwise, I recommend skipping this one since there is no particular draw for someone not interested in meeting one of those characters.

Have any of you been recently? Was there anyone else there, or was my visit an abberation?

Thanks for reading!

Other Character Meal Volumes:

 

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Character Meals: Vol 5 – Cape May

by on December 6, 2011

It’s pretty well established that I love a character meal since I’ve already written about Cinderella’s Royal Table, Chef Mickey’s, The Garden Grill, and Akershus. On my last trip to Walt Disney World, my family and I decided to try a character meal that we had never done before: the Cape May Café. After eating there, we may or may not be willing to do it again (what? I can’t give away the ending in the opening paragraph). Here are my thoughts and feelings, with a smattering of facts along the way.

Atmosphere

The Cape May Café is located just off of the main lobby of the Beach Club Resort. I am a huge fan of the Beach Club (mostly because of its proximity to Epcot’s World Showcase), but for this purpose it is not the best location. You see, while Cape May is open for breakfast and dinner, the characters only appear at breakfast. The problem arises when you schedule an early meal and are required to figure out transportation from your resort to the Beach Club.

The Beach Club Resort

If you do not have a rental car your choices for arrival at the Beach Club (assuming you are not staying at the Yacht Club, Swan, Dolphin, or Boardwalk, which you can walk from) are: 1) bus/monorail to Epcot and walk all the way through Future World and out the International Gateway, 2) bus to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and boat/walk to Beach Club, 3) bus to another park or Downtown Disney and then bus to Beach Club, or 4) take a taxi. You have undoubtedly noticed that none of these is ideal, especially with children (unless your children say “Yea! We’re getting up at 6am for an 8:25 breakfast!”).

Transportation griping aside, the actual restaurant is bright, airy, and beachy with sand castles and lots of pastel colors. Most of it is open and centered around the buffet, although we were seated in a smaller side room that had a low ceiling which helped increase the noise level. Our side room also featured a large party with many small children whose response to everything was to scream. I don’t need to tell you that Tylenol was also on the breakfast menu that day.

Characters

The lovable friends that came to visit us at Cape May were Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy. The characters are always fun and accommodating, but I had some problems here; one that I blame on the character handlers and one that I blame on my own insanity.

The more serious of the two issues was that, for the first time ever, my family had to wait for a character to come to our table after we had finished eating. Wait…did I say ‘a character?’ I meant two…yes, two out of the three didn’t come to our table until we were done eating and ready to go (and we had 4 adults, a 2 year old, and a 2 month old. We were not eating quickly). I don’t know if that is indicative of the size of the restaurant versus the number of characters or if it was simply a bad day. What I do know is that if Cape May was my one and only character meal I would have been mighty peeved (as it was I was only significantly peeved).

My other minor issue is the costuming. As you can see in the pictures, the characters are dressed in their beachwear. Said beachwear consists of sea blues and greens, which makes perfect sense with the location. My problem with it? I think it’s kind of ugly, and by ‘kind of’ I mean ‘dreadfully.’

Food

Cape May’s breakfast cuisine is good, and there’s really not much I can add to that. It is a buffet so items can be dry and stale if they have been sitting or they can be fresh out of the kitchen. Nothing on the menu was mind blowing, nor was it insulting to my taste buds. There are eggs, bacon, sausage, Mickey waffles, French toast, assorted pastries, cereals…if this was $10,000 Pyramid you would have already yelled out “breakfast buffet in Disney World!”

If you’ll allow me one small rant; the toasters at all of the breakfast buffets in Walt Disney World are the slowest bread toasting contraptions I have ever seen. I’m pretty sure an Easy Bake Oven would work faster. Rant over, thanks for allowing that.

Donald was the last one we waited for. Even the kids lost interest by then.

Odds, Ends, and Details

As I mentioned above, Cape May Café is located in the Beach Club Resort near the International Gateway entrance of Epcot. Characters only appear at breakfast, which costs $28.75 for adults and $15.97 for children (prices courtesy of AllEars.net).

Final Thoughts

If I’m looking for a character breakfast buffet I would rather eat at Tusker House or Crystal Palace (both reviews coming soon!), and if I really want to meet Minnie, Goofy, and Donald I would rather Chef Mickey’s (where they appear with Mickey and Pluto…and better outfits). I’m not going to go as far as to recommend avoiding the Cape May Café because my character experience may have been a one-off. I do think, however, that you can find everything Cape May offers elsewhere with better characters, at least equal food, and in an easier to get to location.

Thanks again for reading and please let me know what you’re experiences were like at Cape May. Did you have character issues? Do you think those outfits are offensive to the eye? Am I becoming more of a grumpy old man by the word?

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