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Disney says character hugs and other interactions will return soon at US sites

<i>Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images</i><br/>Ready to get up and close and personal with a Stormtrooper from the
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Ready to get up and close and personal with a Stormtrooper from the "Star Wars" universe? That time is coming soon at US Disney properties.

By Forrest Brown, CNN

Of the many safety measures that Disney Parks had to set up to operate during the Covid-19 pandemic, requiring guests to keep a six-foot distance from the costumed characters must have been one of the hardest. At least emotionally.

For kids (or kids at heart), running into the waiting arms of Mickey Mouse and other beloved characters had been such an impulsive and quintessential part of the experience. Hanging back can be tough.

But finally, hugs are back on the horizon at US Disney properties.

As early as April 18, Disney “will start reintroducing traditional character greetings at Disneyland (in California) and Walt Disney World Resorts, as well as aboard Disney Cruise Line and at Aulani Resort in Hawaii,” according to a new post on Thursday on the official Disney Parks blog.

Up close and personal

Getting autographs, snapping photos close up and just sharing a laugh face-to-face with characters such as Mulan and Goofy will all be back on the table.

Disney has a new YouTube video celebrating the upcoming change, with plenty of embraces and high-fives being distributed.

It’s all part of the unwinding of coronavirus restrictions — both at the Disney parks and in the United States at large.

“During the past two years, we’ve taken a very gradual, intentional approach to health and safety protocols,” wrote Shawn Slater, senior communications manager for Disney Live Entertainment, in the blog.

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

What else is coming back

It’s not just character interactions that will be returning later this spring.

At Disneyland in California, guests can look forward to the return of several nighttime spectaculars, including:

• “Disneyland Forever”
• “Fantasmic!”
• “Main Street Electrical Parade,” celebrating its 50th anniversary
• “World of Color”

On Disney Cruise Line ships, fireworks at sea and Broadway-style shows will be coming back.

At Walt Disney World in Florida, shows such as “Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire” have already returned.

On-site hotels

On-site lodging is also bouncing back.

For the first time since March 2020, “all Disney Resort hotels that are part of the Disney Resorts Collection at Walt Disney World” in Florida are now open, according to another Disney Parks blog post on Thursday.

Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort reopened on Thursday, the final resort there to do so.

Remaining safety measures

Disney still isn’t 100% back to pre-pandemic operations. Take face masks, for instance.

They are optional for fully vaccinated guests in outdoor and indoor locations. Disney asks that visitors who are not fully vaccinated continue wearing face masks in all indoor locations.

And face coverings are still required by all visitors 2 years old and older on Disney buses and monorails. You can click here for their latest safety updates.

Shanghai Disneyland closed

While things are opening up more and more in the United States, Disney has theme parks around the world. And each one must respond to local conditions.

China, an area of the world that has had few spikes during the pandemic, has seen a big increase in cases as the BA.2 variant sweeps through the country.

As a result, Shanghai Disneyland has been closed since March 21.

It’s a reminder that park patrons must be ready to adjust to changing conditions, even two years into the pandemic.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Top image: Mickey Mouse poses with visitors at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, before the pandemic. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

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