Many Disney World guests (including us here at the DFB team) get flutters of excitement when they get to meet and get photos taken with their favorite Disney World characters. And if you’re a parent to little ones, you likely get a burst of joy seeing your kiddo meet Mickey Mouse for the very first time.
Disney World’s PhotoPass photographers have become a vital component of these character meet-and-greets, and many vacationers choose to purchase the Memory Maker package for unlimited downloads of the resulting photos. (Disney World Annual Passholders get Memory Maker for free). During our recent visits to a few meet-and-greet locations, we’ve noticed the addition of automated cameras in lieu of PhotoPass photographers, and Disney Fans are NOT HAPPY about it. We’ll explain why in a minute, but first let’s talk about what these actually are and where you can find them.
We’ve seen these automated cameras in use at Mickey and Minnie’s and Tinker Bell’s meet-and-greets in Magic Kingdom and at Chewbacca’s meet-and-greet in Hollywood Studios. We’ve also spotted what looks to be an automated camera box in Anna and Elsa’s Royal Sommerhaus in Epcot, but it was not in use during our most recent visit.
So, How Do These Cameras Work?
When we visited Mickey and Minnie’s meet-and-greet, we documented our entire experience so we could tell you about it! These new automated cameras have been placed inside a themed box. This one, in Mickey’s dressing room, is located inside a bookcase.
Guests will look at the camera as if they were looking at a PhotoPass Cast Member. The Character Attendant should assist you in knowing when to pose. The system is on a timer and took five or six photos when we were visiting.
After taking your photo with the box, you will scan your MagicBand on the PhotoPass kiosk so that the pictures will be linked to your My Disney Experience app.
But Wait…Why Are People So Mad?
Well…lots of reasons. Some people are upset that Photopass Photographers are losing jobs. Some are sad to lose that fun interaction with the photographers themselves. But the majority of folks are nervous and frustrated that the photopass photos themselves won’t be as good as when a human being takes them. Which is KIND of true.
While we still had a few decent photos at the end of our recent photo-box interaction, it was much more difficult to get those fun candid shots — like little Suzie hugging Minnie for the first time — that only a real human can capture, because…they’re not robots…or automated…or on a specific timer. They can see those special moments — Mom tearing up at Mickey bowing to Grandma, little Jimmy photobombing Tink’s photo with his sister, or even an actual proposal happening front and center. Imagine how badly a robot camera could botch up photographing a PROPOSAL. Or a gender reveal??!
Photopass photographers know how to get the shot…the best shot…the shot that will become a magical memory for your family forever. Can a robot box do that? In our experience so far…eh….kind of…but not really.
And while we’re getting LOTS of responses about this from our readers, we want to share one response in particular, which brings up a good point. Our reader visited Anna and Elsa’s meet-and-greet in 2017, and noted that Elsa “spent over 5 minutes with both [of her] grandchildren and the whole time the photographer circled them snapping away. Over 40 pictures were available from loads of angles on PhotoPass. That interaction, quality and quantity would never ever be achieved with a box on a wall.”
Disney World Cast Members really are the greatest, aren’t they? They go above and beyond to create magical moments like this, and many of our readers are understandably concerned that this magic might be lost with the addition of automated cameras.
But there’s one silver lining to remember — you’re not in there alone with the characters. There are cast members who are character handlers in the meet and greet with you, and they’re still happy to use your own camera to snap a few photos. So…maybe they’ll become the new de facto human photopass photographers?
Is Memory Maker Still Worth It?
Now, we’ve seen some calls for guests to stop buying Memory Maker — Disney’s pre-purchasing system to get access to all of the digital photos taken of you and your family during your vacation — in order to send a message to Disney that guests aren’t happy about the photo boxes. At $169 if you buy it in advance, it’s not all that cheap after all. But whether it’s still worth it to buy isn’t all that clear cut. It honestly depends on what you plan to use Memory Maker for.
Do you plan on riding lots of attractions with on-ride pictures and going to a character meal or two? Those ride photos are so much fun and can be great reminders of the memories you made on your vacation. Or are you planning not to ride too many photopass-enabled rides and only have one or two meet-and-greets scheduled? Think about how much use you’ll get from Memory Maker before buying it — it could easily still be worth it for your family since the automated boxes would only affect a few character meet-and-greet locations.
But it’s VERY important to note that we’ve only seen these automated cameras in a few places so far, so it’s difficult to say how prevalent they’ll become. Disney has stated that there are still over 100 Photopass Photographers in the parks. You still have plenty of opportunities to get those candid photos you love and cherish.
And if you do happen to visit a location with an automated camera, go ahead and ask the handler to snap a few pictures with your phone as well. 🙂 Stay tuned to Disney Food Blog as we’ll keep you updated if and when we find any more cameras around the parks!
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Do you have an experience with an automated camera in Disney World? If so, tell us about it in the comments below!