In recent years, some guests have begun collecting autographs from the characters found in the parks. These are unique souvenirs of the guest’s stay, and are quite popular with young children, obsessive adults, and licensed Disneyphile forensic graphologists.
The popularity of autographs offered Disneyland both opportunities and difficulties. Disney quickly took the opportunity to offer guests themed autograph books, such as the one pictured here for sale in the Emporium. Many of autograph books have expiration dates (this one expires in 2011), giving guests impetus to fill the book as quickly as they can. (By the way, Disneyland is no stranger to fads, having happily catered to the whims of public desire by creating merchandise to leverage the popularity of princesses, pin trading, postcards, floater pens, mouse ears, stickers, pressed pennies, hula hoops, and frontier-style fur hats, and is poised with a whole host of offerings for 2012′s highly anticipated “churro mania.”)
But autograph hunting has a Disney downside as well. The demand for autographs made life difficult for the characters who once wandered the park seemingly at random. Instead of chasing each other about, pantomiming for guests, and performing impromptu feats of hilarious slapstick and vandalism, they were mobbed by autograph hounds like frozen-faced, fur-covered Beatles. This necessitated the creation of special character meeting spots so that autograph seekers could be corralled and controlled. The desire to keep the character experience pure was also challenged by the fact that young guests were comparing autographs, and their parents were complaining loudly at City Hall if siblings “comparing their Poohs” found significant differences. This lead to the “one cast member; one character” policy, under which only one cast member is allowed to play each character, leading to massively long work weeks for some of the most popular characters (Mickey, Alice in Wonderland, Abraham Lincoln, etc.), but ensuring consistency of autographs for the length of a guests’ stay.
Coming up next: Souvenirs and Novelties