Meeting characters in Disney World can be one of the most magical experiences of the whole vacation. It’s just you, your favorite Disney friends, and …a robot?
Back in 2019, Disney debuted a new way to take photos at character meet-and-greets. Instead of having a PhotoPass Cast Member taking pictures, there were “hidden” cameras with AI technology that would take your picture for you. This essentially turned the meet-and-greets into big photo booths! The feature was met with quite a lot of backlash, and it didn’t last long, as Disney World closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic shortly after the change. Now that Disney World is up and running again — with many character meet-and-greets already back and even more on the way — we’re starting to see the automated cameras return as well.
What are automated PhotoPass Cameras?
Disney began testing automated PhotoPass cameras back in 2018. Rather than having PhotoPass photographers at the meet-and-greets, there were cameras hidden in a decorative box or in the wall that would take guests’ pictures.
The feature officially debuted in 2019, and Disney planned for it to be at 9 different character meet-and-greet locations. When we saw the cameras in use, there was still a Cast Member present who would point guests to where they should look for the photos.
The cameras took several photos during the character interaction, capturing both candid and posed pictures. Then, guests would scan their phone or MagicBand at the PhotoPass kiosk inside the meet-and-greet location, which would connect the photos to their My Disney Experience account and allow them to see and download the pictures.
Guest response to this new feature was mixed, with many people not happy about the change.
Why are they controversial?
The main complaint about the automated PhotoPass cameras was that they didn’t capture the magic of the character interactions nearly as well as human photographers do.
The camera stays in one place, so it can’t catch multiple angles of the meet-and-greet. And it didn’t usually start taking pictures until several seconds after the guests approached the character, which meant the camera might miss that first interaction. If your little one ran up to Mickey Mouse for a big hug, the camera probably wouldn’t be quick enough to catch that moment.
And since the camera is automated, it can miss the more candid, fun moments, as well. From our experience, it was better at capturing posed photos where everyone is still and looking at the camera.
That might have been a problem for big, special moments that people would want to be documented, like if someone proposed during a meet-and-greet. Unlike a human photographer, the camera wouldn’t know that the moment was special, and it might not get enough pictures of the event.
When we used the automated cameras, we found that you could usually still get high-quality posed, traditional photos with the characters (like the ones we’ve all used on a holiday greeting card), but there aren’t as many pictures of the interactions and candid moments.
Initially, guests were also concerned that the photographers would lose their jobs over this change. However, Disney addressed this on social media back in 2019, stating that there were still over 100 locations with PhotoPass photographers in the parks, and no one would lose their job due to the automated camera change.
What’s going on with these cameras now?
Now that many character meet-and-greets are back (including Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater, Disney Princesses at Fairytale Hall, Olaf at Celebrity Spotlight, and more), we’ve been heading in to visit some of our favorite Disney friends.
On a recent visit to Town Square Theater to meet Mickey Mouse, we saw that the automated camera is once again in place and being used at this location.
The camera is still in the bookshelf, but it isn’t quite as “hidden” as it was before. A Cast Member was there to direct guests to look at the camera.
Just like before, guests would scan their MagicBands or phones at the PhotoPass kiosk to link their photos to their My Disney Experience account.
We’ve also seen the automated camera return to Celebrity Spotlight in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where guests can meet Olaf.
While we were there, however, the camera (which is “hidden” in a beach chair) wasn’t working, so a PhotoPass Cast Member was there to take pictures instead.
We also spotted the cameras at Adventurer’s Outpost in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which is where Mickey and Minnie Mouse greet guests together. The cameras at this spot weren’t working either when we visited, so a PhotoPass Cast Member was there as well.
Disney hasn’t announced yet if they will continue to use the automated PhotoPass cameras or if these cameras could come to more meet-and-greet locations soon. We’ll keep an eye out and let you know about any changes!
Stay tuned with AllEars for more of the latest Disney news.
Click here for a FULL LIST of character meet-and-greets that are currently available in Disney World.
Join the AllEars.net Newsletter to get the free list of the best snacks at Disney's Animal Kingdom! Click here to get started!
What’s your favorite character to meet in Disney World? Let us know in the comments.