First Look at New Characters for Pixar Fest!

Pixar Fest is a celebration featuring fireworks, a brand-new daytime parade, dance parties, and other entertainment at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure–plus a huge lineup of seasonal snacks, merchandise & more. Now we know that the “and more” includes a variety of new characters from some of the studio’s more recent movies that previously haven’t appeared in the parks.

Some of this was already known. The centerpiece of Pixar Fest is an all-new daytime parade called “Better Together: A Pixar Pals Celebration!” at DCA during the celebration. This features high-energy dancing and appearances by more than two dozen Pixar characters, including familiar friends like Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl from The Incredibles, Miguel from Coco, Mike and Sulley from Monsters Inc., and Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story. Obviously, none of these characters are new to Disneyland.

During the Better Together Parade, there’s also rare Pixar characters: Red Panda Mei and her friends rocking out to their favorite boy band, 4*Town; Joe Gardner and 22 from Soul celebrating the sweeter things in life; Luca, Alberto and Giulia from Luca enjoying their time together on the water’s edge in Portorosso; and more.

Aside from the “Better Together: A Pixar Pals Celebration!” daytime parade, Pixar Fest also introduces new Pixar characters to ground-level at Disneyland for the first time including characters from the most recent Pixar films like Elemental, Luca, Turning Red, and more.

Some of these pals will appear at the Pixar Pals Playtime Party at Fantasyland Theatre in Disneyland. This is a high-energy show, featuring interactive games, photo locations, and activities inspired by Pixar feature films–you can even watch a selection of Pixar shorts on the big screen.

During Pixar Pals Playtime Party in Disneyland, guests will have the opportunity to interact with characters, such as both Luca and Alberto from Luca. Here’s a first look at these characters, who we had the chance to meet for a first look during the Pixar Fest media event:

Characters at Pixar Pals Playtime Party will appear on stage, on the dance floor, or at a number of backdrops located around the periphery of Fantasyland Theatre.

As you can see from our photo above, one of these is a postcard-perfect backdrop of Portorosso for the Luca characters. I liked this one a lot–it’s a clean and vibrant background with a bit of dimensionality in the foreground. I still haven’t seen Luca (I know, I know), so I’m not quite sure why Grumpy Cat is making a cameo, but I approve.

Tucked away behind the seating area is another backdrop. This one is a bit more generic, making it more of a flex space that could host a variety of different Pixar pals. Sarah caught Wade and Ember from Elemental up here.

I was taking photos of food or something while this happened–I honestly had no idea they were even up here. I wasn’t alone, as apparently these characters had the shortest line and were easily overlooked. Here’s hoping that remains true and word doesn’t get out during Pixar Fest, as it’ll make these characters easier to meet.

Up near the stage and right next to the dance floor is the van from Onward, where Barley and Ian from that film appear. This was by far the longest line we encountered for any characters. That probably speaks more to the cool backdrop and location than the popularity of Onward, or so I’d guess.

On the other side of the dance floor is a backdrop for characters from Up:

It’ll be interesting to see how all of these character encounters actually work in practice, especially the ones right at the edges of the dance floor and stage. Disneyland has yet to confirm whether these will be dedicated meet & greets with consistent set showtimes where the characters will actually pose for photos with guests.

This could end up being crowd-dependent. Meaning that if Pixar Pals Playtime Party proves popular, you might only be able to snap a quick selfie–or you could be able to get a posed photo when it’s slower. I wouldn’t expect there to be autographs or PhotoPass photographers in any of these locations. Even with the nice backdrops, it’s probably going to be more laid back.

There also will probably be some characters who start on stage and then come out and mingle on the dance floor. Those are another scenario where the type of photo you’re able to get is crowd-dependent. If it’s busy, only expect quick selfies; if it’s slow, posed photos (albeit quick ones) could be possible.

That’s been our experience with dance party-like scenarios at Disneyland, and we actually sometimes prefer this to the long lines of dedicated meet & greets. Don’t get us wrong–those are great and it’s nice to have the certainty and also hugs and autographs for guests who want them, but it’s nice that Disneyland has a wide variety of character encounters. This also allows for free-flowing interactions and roaming characters–it’s a more laid back approach that works well at Disneyland.

By far the coolest new character appearing for the first time during Pixar Fest is Dug the dog from the Pixar film Up! While it’s possible you’ve met Dug before, this version is new–it’s talking Dug! He’ll appear at Disney California Adventure during Pixar Fest.

We had the chance to meet Dug in a different setting as part of the Pixar Fest media event–you can hear a wide variety of his lines here:

This is absolutely awesome, to the point that it made me I can’t believe they didn’t do this before! Due to his voice modulator (or whatever it is), Dug is the perfect character for a talking meet & greet like this.

He’s such an obvious candidate that I can’t believe Disney didn’t use him when testing this concept over the years. I’m also just a sucker for Dug and think his lines from Up are hilarious, so it’s awesome to have them recited for an in-park meet & greet.

Although, technically Dug isn’t a meet & greet in the sense that he doesn’t have a dedicated location. Dug will be off-leash, a free roaming character in Grizzly Peak in front of Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Guests can check the Disneyland app for appearance times (like the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge characters, expect to see a range of times, rather than a set schedule).

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dug moved back to the Grizzly Peak bypass trail, as I think having him as a free roaming character out in the main walkway is going to create crowd flow issues and turn this into a pinch-point. Maybe I’m just overestimating the popularity of Dug and dogs, though.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with all of the characters that Disneyland Resort is rolling out for Pixar Fest. There is one rather large exception to that–the panda in the room, if you will. While I appreciate the added characters and all of the love Turning Red has been getting at Disneyland Resort (starting with Lunar New Year and continuing with a big presence in Pixar Fest), it still boggles the mind that Red Panda Mei isn’t a meet & greet character!

In case you haven’t seen Turning Red (not that anyone cares, but it’s my favorite Disney or Pixar movie since Coco–I like it even more than the fan-favorite Encanto), there is literally a meet and greet with Red Panda Mei in the movie itself. It’s such an obvious idea that it’s wild to me Disney hasn’t done it yet. Red Panda Mei is cool and all in the parade, but this is the most huggable Disney character in ages, and is begging for a meet & greet. It would pay for itself in the merchandise and plush sales it would help push. I’m not even kidding!

Finally, it’s important to note that Disneyland is billing all of these characters as appearing for a limited time only during Pixar Fest. It’s possible that some of them will be extended beyond that “by popular guest demand,” but we’re inclined to take Disney at its word here. Disneyland in particular hasn’t been afraid to lock popular things into the Disney Vault to generate FOMO and hype for their returns (see Wondrous Journeys and Rogers: The Musical, among many other things), and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that happen with elements of Pixar Fest.

To that point, Pixar Fest will return to Disneyland Resort through August 4, 2024. There are also events and offerings overlapping with Pixar Fest. Now until June 2, there’s Season of the Force at Disneyland–including Duckling Droids, Hyperspace Mountain, new Star Tours destinations and specially themed food and beverage, merchandise and more for a limited time. Then there’s the modified Fantasmic, which makes its long-awaited return to the Rivers of America on May 24, 2024.

Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and many other SoCal cities.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of Pixar Pals Playtime Party or Better Together Parade? Excited to encounter new characters from Luca, Turning Red, Elemental, and other recent Pixar movies? Excited to experience Pixar Fest again, or wish Disneyland would’ve done something different for Summer 2024? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

7 Responses to “First Look at New Characters for Pixar Fest!”
  1. toughmudder April 29, 2024
    • MomOTwins April 29, 2024
  2. Ash April 27, 2024
  3. Laura S April 26, 2024
  4. Brianna April 26, 2024
  5. Erin Grzesiowski April 25, 2024
    • Tom Bricker April 25, 2024

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