Hugs are coming back to Disneyland: ‘My inner child is so happy’

A family takes pictures with Elsa and Anna characters at Disneyland.
Pictures with Disney characters at a distance became the new norm at Disney theme parks during the pandemic.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Hugs from Mickey, high-fives from Pluto and autographs by Mulan — a part of the Disney experience suspended by the pandemic — are coming back.

Walt Disney Co. announced on social media Thursday that its Disneyland and Disney World theme parks will end social-distanced interactions as early as April 18.

They were adopted when the parks reopened from COVID-19 closures last year, forcing characters including “Frozen’s” Elsa and Anna to wave to guests from behind roped-off areas or elevated stages.

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At Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Chewbacca and the Stormtroopers greet visitors from platforms several feet away.

“Recent trends and guidance have provided opportunities for us to bring back some of our most beloved magic, like character greetings and dining experiences,” the company said on its Twitter feed. “While not all locations will be available immediately, we anticipate reopening in phases throughout the spring and early summer.”


The immediate response on social media was mostly positive. “My inner child is so happy,” responded a Disney fan on Twitter. “I can’t wait to get hugs from my favorite Disney character Mickey Mouse,” another fan wrote on the Disney blog.

The pandemic forced unprecedented changes at the world’s most popular theme parks, such as capacity limits, a new reservation system, mask requirements and extra cleaning at attractions and eating locations. Parades and nighttime fireworks displays were put on hold.

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Among those changes was the requirement that costumed characters no longer hug, touch or physically interact with guests. In the last few months, Disneyland has slowly dropped many of those restrictions, including the capacity limits, and has begun to add back parades and fireworks displays.

Later this spring, Disneyland is set to relaunch its nighttime attractions, including World of Color, Disneyland Forever, Fantasmic and the Main Street Electrical Parade.