New Character Meet and Greet Debuts at Walt Disney World

Disney's Animal Kingdom
Credit: Disney

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Walt Disney World’s fourth gate debuted on Earth Day in 1998 and has remained an Orlando staple ever since. Walt Disney World introduced the Tree of Life cupcake, special anniversary merchandise, and a new character meet-and-greet as part of the festivities.

Moana Disney's Animal Kingdom

Credit: Disney

Fans of Disney’s 2016 animated film, Moana, will finally have the chance for photo ops, autographs, and new character interaction not previously available in the theme parks (aside from special events). Although Moana of Motunui has been featured in theme park parades, stage shows, and cameos at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, the title character has never had a permanent home.

She will be taking up residency at Character Landing on Discovery Island (the former home of meet-and-greets featuring Pocahontas and Winnie the Pooh characters). The covered space is also decorated using Polynesian banners as depicted in the beginning of the film. Although Moana’s animal friends Pua and Hei Hei have yet to be slated to join in the fun, images of them can be found on the banners along with Maui’s hook.

A Moana-themed land has also been rumored to be in development where Dinoland U.S.A currently stands.

Moana concept art from D23 at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Credit: Disney

Concept art of this area has spawned optimistic theories of a Moana-themed flume ride similar to Splash Mountain (or Tiana’s Bayou Adventure) and an aerial carousel-style ride similar to Dumbo the Flying Elephant and The Magic Carpets of Aladdin (at Magic Kingdom) or Triceratop Spin (in Disney’s Animal Kingdom).

In addition to the new meet-and-greet, Moana will be receiving her own walkthrough attraction at EPCOT called Journey of Water and will be re-imagined in a live-action version of the popular film.

As an ambitious adventure-seeking young woman, Moana quickly became a role model for millions of young girls as the first Polynesian Disney Princess. Along with the other cast of characters, including Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) she ventures out to save her island home and honor her family.

The new meet-and-greet just began on April 22, 2023, and is available starting at 9:15 a.m. daily.

About Steven Wilk

Steven has a complicated relationship with Disney. As a child, he visited Walt Disney World every few years with his family. But he never understood why kids his age (and older) were so scared of Snow White or Alien Encounter. He is a former participant of the Disney College Program (left early…long story), and he also previously worked in Children’s publishing, where he adapted multiple Disney movies and TV shows. He has many controversial opinions about Disney…like having a positive view of Michael Eisner, believing Return of the Jedi is superior to The Empire Strikes Back, and that Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge should have never been built (at least not at Hollywood Studios). Every year for the past two decades, Steven has visited either Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Aulani or went on a Disney Cruise. He’s happy to share any and all knowledge of the Disney destinations (and he likes using parenthesis a lot…as well as ellipses…)