By Robert Johnson
Orlando (FL) Sentinel Staff Writer
April 21, 2003
Although Walt Disney World started increasing the number of costumed characters
in its parks and resorts last fall, the meals with Minnie Mouse at MGM-Studios
were recently eliminated.
The "character meals," where actors playing the roles of famous figures from
Disney movies visit and play with children, are so popular that there currently
are 20 of them in Disney World's parks.
In fact, since last fall, says spokeswoman Rena Callahan, "we have increased
the character presence across our property by more than 25 percent."
It's unclear whether the MGM-Studios character breakfast and lunch, held daily
at the medium-priced Hollywood and Vine buffet, weren't matching the success of
other character venues at Disney World. But the elimination of those character
appearances leaves MGM-Studios as the only one of Disney's four theme parks
without a character meal.
"We have been making adjustments to our character dining experiences and added
a new character dining venue at the Norwegian Pavilion at Epcot last year,"
said Callahan. "We recently made a change to the character dinner experience at
the Grand Floridian to feature Cinderella, which has been extremely popular."
Some Disney experts say the MGM-Studios breakfast simply had too many good
competing eateries nearby. "You look around that park and the restaurants are
wonderfully themed, even without characters. That put a lot of pressure on
Hollywood and Vine's character meals to be special," says Arlen Miller, a
Disney memorabilia dealer and historian who frequents Disney World.
Indeed, the character buffet lunch was up against four popular restaurants at
MGM-Studios, including the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant, which almost
always has a line of customers waiting. It features burgers, steaks and seafood
served on tables in faux convertible cars in an old-fashioned drive-in movie
setting. On a huge screen, the previews play from 1950s era black-and-white
science-fiction films. Some servers are on roller skates.
MGM-Studios may well offer more eating opportunities per square foot than any
other Disney World theme park. Even the park bookstore, The Writer's Shop, has
snacks and gourmet coffee in a comfortable library setting.