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by Fancy Free Diva

Whenever we travel to Walt Disney World, it’s important to us that we try to find a way to bring some of that Disney magic home with us, especially since we know it’ll be a whole entire year before we’re back in the Most Magical Place on Earth once again.  Not only do we try to spread the magic throughout the year, but since we also travel to WDW with our two small children, we try to preserve those childhood days that are gone all too quickly.  Everyone always says that “they grow up too quickly,” which I have found to be true, but I find even more truth in the saying that “the days are long, but the years are short.”  I suppose that’s the irony of it all: we’re always counting down the days until our next Disney vacation, but while we’re busy X-ing off the days on the calendar, our children’s childhood is slipping away as they grow.  So how can we keep the magic and the memories?  Savor the days of their youth?  We found the answer at one of those little carts you see parked down the alleyways of Main Street USA or over by Sleepy Hollow in the Magic Kingdom.


Fancy Free Son having his caricature drawn on our most recent trip.

We started this tradition on our first trip to Walt Disney World when our daughter was just 15-months-old.  We visited the portrait stand just off the beaten path of Main Street USA and asked the artist, a young woman from France, to draw our daughter.  As for the style, my husband and I couldn’t agree: he preferred the caricature style, but I preferred the portrait style.  As a compromise, we decided that on even years she would have a caricature drawn, and on odd years, she would get her portrait drawn.


Fancy Free Daughter at 15-months having her first portrait drawn.

We’ve only ever had portraits and caricatures drawn using pastels, but my nieces both had their portraits painted in watercolors on our most recent trip (July 2015).  The process from start to finish takes approximately 45 minutes, depending upon the artist and the compliance of the subject of the art.  In terms of guaranteeing compliance, especially from younger portrait subjects, here are some tips that have worked for us:

1. The subject has to be awake.  You might think that it would be easier to get a portrait done of a sleeping child, but the artists we have worked with wanted our children awake, so wait until the post-nap period to stop by one of the portrait or caricature stands.  A child in need of a nap does not make for nearly as good a portrait subject as one who has just woken up from one and is fully rested and ready to be patient.


Fancy Free Daughter’s first caricature from her first visit to WDW.

2. Don’t go it alone.  We travel to WDW as a family of four now, and you might think that one parent could stay with the child whose portrait is being drawn while the other one takes the second child on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin again and again, trying to become a Galactic Hero (true story!), but it’s probably best if one person holds the child who is the subject of the portrait or caricature, especially if the child is young, while the other one stands over the artist’s shoulder making funny faces or, on our most recent trip, holding Mommy’s iPhone while it plays Doc McStuffins.


Fancy Free Daughter’s portrait from her second visit to WDW.

3. Be prepared.  45 minutes is a long time, especially for a young child.  Bring snacks.  Bring stickers.  Bring your favorite electronic device to use as a distraction to help the time go by.  While the portrait is being drawn, the artist may need the subject to turn his or her head, or tilt the chin in a certain way, but we’ve found that all of the artists we have worked with have been especially patient and understanding.


Fancy Free Daughter’s caricature as Princess Anna of Arendelle after her first visit to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

4. Double up.  The artist cart near Sleepy Hollow in the Magic Kingdom typically staffs more than one artist.  On our most recent trip, we were having a portrait drawn of our daughter and a caricature of our son.  Because there were two artists working, we were able to make the appointments overlap a little.  Now that Fancy Free Daughter is older, she can sit for a while on her own without needing Mommy or Daddy to distract or entertain her, leaving my husband and I free to work with Fancy Free Son.  It was especially nice that Fancy Free Daughter got to see her brother’s picture being drawn, too.  She asked a lot of great questions about art and technique, and I think it made her more excited to have her portrait drawn.


Fancy Free Daughter’s most recent portrait.

5. Know how you’re going to get your art home.  We’ve tried several different methods of transportation, and all but one have been successful.  When you purchase your portrait or caricature, it comes in a waxed paper bag to prevent the pastels from smudging.  You also have the option of purchasing a frame for your art at the time of purchase.  The frames, however, do not come in a box to protect the glass.  We’ve had two frames make it home safe and unscathed, and we’ve had two frames shatter on us.  On our most recent trip, we brought a small tube with us (it was actually an old aluminum foil tube that I saved for just this purpose) that fit in one of our carry-on size suitcases, and it worked like a charm.  You can also have your portrait shipped to your home, but there is an extra charge for that.  There is no charge, however, to have your art saved for you at the front of the park or shipped to your Disney resort room, and that’s something I definitely recommend.  These souvenirs are too precious to carry around in your park bag.

In our home, we’ve dedicated one wall to displaying these portraits.  We had each child’s first caricature professionally framed and matted once we returned home.  In addition to their first caricatures, we also display the most recent portrait and caricature, so the wall holds six images.  We have decided to keep the first piece up as a reminder of those all-too-quick years, but we also wanted to have a way to display the most up-to-date pieces, too.


One portion of our wall display.

If you’re interested in having portraits or caricatures drawn on your next Walt Disney World trip, here’s what you need to know:

You should stop by one of the carts to make an appointment.  We have never been able to just walk up and have a seat, but we also travel to WDW during the busiest times of the year.

In terms of cost, if you’re interested in a profile view, that costs $17.95, but a front view is $35.90 per person.  If you’d like to add a body to a caricature, there’s an additional $5.00 charge.  Those prices do not include tax.  Also, the artist carts are run separately from Walt Disney World, so they do not accept discounts like Annual Passes or DVC.


Fancy Free Son’s first caricature.

We have found that the portraits and caricatures make a great souvenir of our trip and a great way to mark the passage of time as our children grow.  You might want to think about adding this tradition to your next trip, too!