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Disneyland Wants Your Hugs Again

A life size Mickey Mouse is hugging a smiling woman
Mickey Mouse hugs a guest at Tokyo Disneyland in 2011.
(Yoshikazu Tsuno
AFP via Getty Images)
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When was the last time that you hugged a stranger? What about one you’ve known since childhood — that’s maybe a little bit furry?
Getting a hug from Minnie Mouse, Mickey, Cinderella or Donald Duck is a landmark memory for many children, as well as an experience that brings a smile to many Disney adults. Or did.

An actress portraying Mirabel from Encanto smiles in from of a Los Madrigal mural, depicting the members of her fictional family.
Disney guests visiting Disneyland Park in California can enjoy special appearances by Mirabel from Walt Disney Animation Studios' musical comedy, "Encanto," inspired by the people and cultures of Colombia.
(Christian Thompson
Disneyland Resort)

When the pandemic hit, two years ago, Mickey and friends had to quarantine, too. Even when the parks reopened last spring, the costumed characters were kept behind ropes and railings, waving to guests from afar. Photo ops have been restricted to selfies with Olaf or Elsa off in the background.

But as of this week, the Happiest Place on Earth is even happier, with visitors free to get up close and personal with Disney performers once more. For the uninitiated, here's what those Disney hugs and greetings look like:

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It's a worldwide hug effort — hugs returned at Disneyland Paris last month, while they're also coming back at Florida's Disney World and on Disney Cruises. The hugs are part of an attempt to return to a sense of normalcy as society enters a new phase of the pandemic.

"Recent trends and guidance have provided opportunities for us to bring back some of our most beloved magic, like character greetings and dining experiences," Disney's Shawn Slater said in a press release.

Nighttime fireworks displays, California Adventure's World of Color, and the Main Street Electrical Parade are all set to return later this week. Other live shows have also come back, with trademark experiences like "Fantasmic" still on the way next month.

The return of hugging comes as COVID-19 case numbers rise significantly in both Orange and Los Angeles counties, but hospitalizations remain low. Still, some theme park fans may be more comfortable wearing a mask — so, if you don’t want a hug, Mickey and the gang are also giving autographs.

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