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Hugs Are BACK! Disney Removes Character Social Distancing Rules

The COVID-19 pandemic has a lot to answer for when it comes to Disney magic.

From plexiglass separators to the new Park Pass Reservation system, the Guest experiences at Walt Disney World and other Disney theme parks have been modified for the health and safety of Guests and Cast Members.

During the unprecedented pandemic, Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure, Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom all followed federal mask requirements and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) face-covering guidelines.

The saddest thing for most Disney Guests was the inability to meet their favorite characters as they used to. Ropes and social distancing were introduced at places like Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater, and hugs – well, hugs have not been allowed since 2020.

But today, March 3, hugs are back!

Mickey Mouse sighting

Credit: Disney

Walt Disney World made some major changes last month to its COVID-19 policies. Starting February 17, 2022, masks are now optional for fully vaccinated Guests in both indoor and outdoor locations. All Guests are still required to wear masks on Disney transportation including buses, Monorails, and the Skyliner.

Earlier this week, Disneyland Paris also removed their mask mandate for all vaccinated Guests aged six and above, meaning that Guests entering Disneyland Park, Walt Disney Studios Park, or Disney Village can go maskless for the “first time in forever”.

Now, Disneyland Paris has set the trend when it comes to meet and greets, removing social distancing completely and finally allowing children and adults alike to hug their favorite Disney characters!

DLP Report (@DLPReport) shared some heartwarming moments on Twitter today of Disneyland Paris Guests hugging Disney characters like Winnie the Pooh:

The photos capture those special memories we have missed making on recent Disney vacations, with Guests seemingly so happy to finally hug Pooh, Donald, and their friends.

Characters at Disney theme parks have been socially distant for a long time, with new rules including staying behind a rope and only selfies being allowed.

Furthermore, meet and greet locations have changed, with Walt Disney World coping with the pandemic by having characters come out on the Walt Disney World Railroad station balcony at the end of Main Street, U.S.A.

We were still getting some magic of seeing characters, but without the true interaction we’ve always known. Now, it’s so wonderful to see Guests hugging characters again!

donald-hug-pandemic-covid

Credit: DLP Report

After this week’s debacle of a young Disney Guest not being allowed to hug Pooh when a Cast Member intervenes, it is lovely to see such a difference over in Disneyland Paris.

The official Disneyland Paris website, however, has not clarified whether this affects all character meet and greets or if this is now the new norm. The Resort’s health and safety page on its website notes:

Traditional Character meet and greets, and makeover experiences will remain temporarily unavailable.​

Many Disney, Pixar, Star Wars Characters or Marvel Super Heroes will appear in the Parks and offer guests memorable photo opportunities. From unexpected appearances to new Selfie Spots, there’s never been a better time to see beloved Characters. Close interactions, including hugs, will be temporarily suspended.

Disneyland Paris begins its 30th anniversary celebration on March 6, 2022, so these hugs couldn’t have returned at a better time.

The celebration will include a new Disney Illuminations drone show, Disney D-Light, as well as an original show featuring over 30 different beloved characters take to the Castle stage.

The Omicron strain is now seeing declining numbers after concern about a new wave of COVID-19, with cases nationwide dropping. The United Kingdom recently ended all pandemic regulations, pulling the need to test before entering the country.

We sincerely hope that character hugs will next return to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida and Disneyland in Anaheim, California now that Disneyland Paris has started the move back to “normal”.

About Melissa Cannioto

Melissa is an author, adventurer, and chatterbox, who loves to enjoy Disney's theme parks with a Mickey Premium Bar in hand! A British native, she has traveled the world seeking new experiences, and now resides in Florida with her Air Force pilot husband. Find her children's book at @thebearandthehug_book