I wonder why they don't have Harry Potter as a walk around. If Disney can have Jack Sparrow, why not Harry Potter? Have a kid with the round spectacles and then a la instant Harry Potter and his beautiful friend Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.
There are some photo ops in IOA, but I wouldn't classify them as meet & greets. Mostly iconic props from the movies such as the T-Rex, Hogwarts Express, things like that.
A four hour wait to meet a teen in a costume making minimum wage at that "other" park is pure insanity. Haven't been there in years... do they charge for them or is it complimentary?
It seems like Disney is all about bilking families for character breakfasts, meet / greets and everything else except innovation and expansion to help the parks feel less crowded. Of course, they would just raise the capacity when an entire new land went in.
USF is concentrating on perceived value for vacation dollars by adding new attractions faster than any other theme park. It seems like an entirely different place than ten years ago, which keep us coming back.
Even the CityWalk got a huge restaurant upgrade this year... Comcast / NBC Universal keeps handing out blank checks and it obviously pays off.
I am just happy to see USF finally get some respect among the Disney die-hards.
I agree with Anon Mouse. On my trip to Islands of Adventure in January, I was surprised at the lack of photo ops and street entertainment. The shows they put on are fine, but they are rather spaced apart and given barely any promotion. You have to find details on a tiny sign to even know a show will take place.
They have the train conductor / train, but little else. I would think they could have some generic folks circulate about in costume, such as wearing Ministry of Magic garb, Durmstrang students and Beauxbaton (siiiigh) students. Not just at conclusion of the show, but walking about for folks to be charmed and ask for a picture.
They'll have the new RFID wands - gotta think they could easily have some wizards and witches walking around shouting out spells at certain spots to generate effects for a growing crowd's delight. And then photo op.
Really am surprised they don't do stuff like this. Perhaps the new area will encourage more.
I see the character photo ops and meet/greets are a NECESSARY inclusive attraction for a theme park visit. You can't just go on rides alone. This gets old and tiring. I know some can just go on rides constantly. It just isn't for me. I need to do all things and I must have some adequate photos to commemorate my trips.
You do mention restaurant upgrades at CityWalk. Nothing wrong with just food, but why not food and characters? You're not going to pay significantly more for the addition.
BTW, if you haven't seen the talking Mickey Mouse at the Magic Kingdom at Main Street, you will be missing out. I was wow'd by that.
The first time my wife and went to WDW the characters were walking the park and it was magical to turn a corner and the was Mickey or Donald or Goofy, you get the point. We didn't have children but I can still remember there was one little guy who almost wet himself when Mickey came around the corner it was unexpected and you could call it a treat I suppose. The first time we took our children to WDW our youngest was 8, he did not want to stand in a line to see a character and I didn't blame him. The amount of time that you stood there shuffling along could have been spent waiting for a ride, which after spending an hour to see Tinker Bell you still have to do for the Peter Pan ride.
To me the meet and greets just seems like a waste of valuable vacation time, I guess if you live close and can go on weekends then the wait is no big deal but when you spend a day on planes and in airports to get there spending time to get a picture with Mickey just seems like a waste.
Last year, there was a photo op set up outside MIB with two agents and "Frank" the Pug (although I suspect is was a girl pug in a tux). There were only about ten people in line, so we waited it out and snapped some pics. Seeing that is our favorite family ride of all time...
Same goes for Transformers.. those photo ops are never packed and you rarely have to wait more than 5-10 minutes.
If there was a 30-45 minute line, not one of us would have wanted to wait it out.
Even when my oldest was 3, she had no interest in meet/greets, but she did get her picture taken with Cinderella at MK near the gate. We did a character breakfast at Ohana, Mickey selected my daughter to hold hands an march around the restaurant in a kids parade, which was really cool. She actually remembers that...
I guess we have done this so many times, we just want to get our ride on, then relax, then do it all over again until the parks close.
Certainly, you can also take advantage of character meals. In my most recent vacation, I went to the Royal Table, Akersus, Tusker House, and 1900 Park Fare. They give you access to at least 4 characters per meal round. It was quite fun to see the 4 princesses get announced at the Royal Table (Cinderella, Aurora, Jasmine, and Snow White).
Your kid at 3 years old might not care for it, but pictures taken at that age is most precious. I started the photo ops when I had a daughter and she liked dressing up like Snow White and Ariel. We went to Disneyland in Anaheim and taken photos at the new Fantasy Faire. Then we went to the Disney cruise and took more photos in her outfits. Finally, we went to Disney World and did the whole slate of activities.
I suppose my family is the opposite. Meet and greets and eating are more interesting than the focus on rides. Besides, the big thrill rides are out of their reach. Too intense for them. So we spend a lot of time in Fantasyland. Love the new Enchanted Tales with Belle, which is another chance to meet a character with little wait.