What do young kids think is happening at WDW?

This is probably a dumb question, given that young kids believe in Father Christmas, but what do they make of WDW?

Do they think the castle is a real castle and Cinderella actually lives there? Do they think the face characters are the actual people? And the furry ones?

How do you explain why Cinderella’s castle is surrounded by a funfair?

This is actually an interesting question. We don’t “do” Santa Claus in our house, so our kids never really saw the characters/setting of WDW as real. Just a fun representation of the things we see in movies, etc.

But I know we’re the odd ones. ARE there kids who think it is the real Cinderella castle? It is an interesting thought! Excited to hear what others say on the subject!


Well, we do Santa at my house. And the tooth fairy. And, I didn’t want to do this, but my daughters teacher does it at school so we have to do it this year - but that dang Elf on the Shelf. And yes, they think it’s real. At least to my face, they tell me it’s real.

When we went to Disney World, they were 6. We had told them that Cinderella lives at Disney World. Rapunzel, Ariel, etc. all live at Disney World. So when we went, they were the real thing. The first time a kid sees a face character, all they have seen prior is a cartoon, so it’s real to them. They have no basis for comparison. My wife and I noticed that there were different people playing the characters and the faces are much different, so how can kids not realize this? We figured that kids must look at the dress and not the actual person. Or maybe they just forget. We figured Disney would try to get people with at least somewhat similar facial features, but apparently not.

The furry characters - I think they caught on to that pretty quick. They asked why they can’t talk. Pretty soon they asked if it was just somebody dressed up. We played along and said no it was the real deal, but they got it. They started to play along too though. They were 6 at the time.

Now they know the face characters are just people dressed up as the characters they are playing.



When my son first toddled around WDW he saw Rafiki and ran away terrified. He definitely thought he was real. Have you ever seen the stage version of War Horse? I found that I had to remind myself that the puppet horses were not real, because the puppeteers were so talented.

Don’t miss your chance with a ‘real’ prince😉.


Definitely depends on the kid. I have 4 of them and oldest DS and my DD knew before age 3 that the characters were not the real thing and that talking/walking/clothes-wearing mice did not really exist. Neither of them has an ounce of actual imagination or suspended disbelief. DD came home from preschool saying that her friends “played cats” at outdoor playtime. When I said “that sounds fun”, she gave me a look of pity and said “you know they aren’t real cats mom, right?”.
My youngest lives in his imagination even now at 7. He knows they aren’t real if asked but in the moment, he can suspend reality and they are real, especially the face characters and Star Wars ones. But before age 6, the whole place was the site of the movies to him—Cinderella lived there, the mines were the real mines of the dwarves, etc. Yep, complete belief.
So yeah, depends on the kid.


In my experience - kids are weird and random about almost everything. My boys turn 6 and 8 next week. They believe in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and that stupid Elf on the Shelf.

Meanwhile, I showed them the Elsa lighting the Castle thing a few week’s back and the 5yo called it out as “just a bunch of holograms”. He also took one look at “Sally” (Nightmare Before Christmas) and said “she looks nothing like the movie”. Uhm, yeah, she’s not a stop motion doll, she’s a human. Ugh.

This same kid is in awe of the 60 year old set pieces at a local theme park - skips the rides but is obsessed with pushing the very old fashioned buttons to light up their Sleeping Beauty display, etc. Weird and random.

So we shall see what they think of WDW. I have zero expectations.


Now who does this remind me of?


Hey. Stop talking about me! :wink:


neither of my kids have ever believed TV Characters of any kind were real… they called crap on sesame street live and disney live from the get go… they believe in Santa, Tooth Fairy, and Easter Bunny… but have questioned me several times in the last two years about the truth… I just tell them they are the spirit of the season and we carry on… my boys are 10 & 6… i don’t think either of them will be fooled much longer… we’ve never been to WDW but they know they aren’t seeing the actual cartoon character but someone who is amazing at portraying what they character would be if they were real… i can’t wait to see how they react and what they think when we get to WDW in January. super excited!

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I think it depends from family to family, kid to kid. When they are young, parents really impact what a kids believes to be real or not. We also don’t do Santa but make a point to tell the kids about St. Nick and the Spirit of Christmas. They still get excited when the door on our local Christmas tree is open and what to go visit him and bring him their lists. It’s fun to pretend for them even if they know it isn’t reality. :slight_smile:

I think it depends on the parents. We were at Norway yesterday watching Sigrid tell the story of the mischievous barn elf (who looks a lot like an underfed Santa Claus). A mother and her (maybe 4-year-old) daughter were walking by. Actually mom was towing the daughter and had to recapture her after a brief escape.

Girl: (looking back over her shoulder while being dragged away) “Mama, I just saw Santa Claus!”
Mom: (Not looking back or missing a beat) “I know, buddy. I told you he’s always watching.”

It was pretty clear what that girl thought was happening. I was happy for her. And proud of her mom.


We do Santa, Easter Bunny, etc. in our house. Mentally, my kids know the characters at DW aren’t real. Our first trip though, meeting characters was kind of funny. My 9 and 4 year olds knew they weren’t real, but they were totally thrown off by how the face characters acted like they were the real characters. So they were in awe and didn’t say too much. However, I think my 4 year old (and when he was 6) threw himself into the Disney imaginary world and loved hugging and greeting the fur characters. I don’t think it is necessary to make sure my kids believe the characters are real, but rather encouraging them to participate in using their imaginations while they are in DW.


I think it depends on the kid, the kid’s age, and the family too. Our girls are young (4, 4, 4, and 2) so they still believe in everything from Santa to the characters at Disney. They loved seeing Cinderella’s castle and I believe to them it is actually where Cinderella lives. Our girls still talk about meeting their favorite characters and how they danced with them so yea they think they are the real deal. They were studying every last detail on the princesses and even asked to see their shoes. As they get older it will change, but they are very innocent and believe anything right now. Some of that is how kids are raised. There isn’t a right or wrong way, but we choose to foster their imagination and letting them believe what they want. Some people are more honest and upfront with their kids and that is perfectly fine too. When they start asking questions if things are real then we will tell them the truth.

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I have no kids, so I can’t weigh in on that aspect, but I can on my own personal experience. I met my first Disney characters at the New York World’s Fair when I was 5; Mickey and the 7 Dwarfs made regular appearances around it’s a small world. I don’t specifically remember my parents telling me one way or the other, but I never thought they were anything other than people in costumes. It was still fun to meet them, but there was never a sense that they were “real”.

This is all very interesting to me. As an adult (allegedly) I meet the fur characters and in that moment, they are real. Not face characters so much (I’ve only met them at 1900PF and I suppose Kylo Ren is a face character even though you can’t see it), that’s a bit embarrassing to me. But Mickey, Pooh Bear etc, definitely real. We never met any characters when my kids were very small so I don’t know what they would have thought.


I’m the same. I can suspend disbelief with the fur characters. I don’t allow myself to be aware that there’s some stroppy teenager inside who thinks I’m too old and fat to be at Disney World.

But I draw the line at face characters. No suspension of disbelief is possible.

Actually, when Buzz Lightyear took a comfort break while I was in line to meet him, that kind of ruined the magic for me. The real Buzz Lightyear doesn’t need to take breaks. He’s a toy.


Oh, sure. Destroy the magic for me.


He wasn’t taking a comfort break. Andy was coming and he had to get away before Andy got there.

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