Downtown Disney

West Side

Characters In Flight balloon ride

(2009 - present)

 

History and photos of the Characters In Flight balloon ride in the West Side at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World.

Downtown Disney - West Side - Characters In Flight - 2009 - 01 Downtown Disney - West Side - Characters In Flight - 2009 - 02

Located on Village Lake and opening in the spring of 2009, the Characters In Flight is a pay-for balloon ride that takes riders to a height of 400 feet for breathtaking views of Downtown Disney and the surrounding area.

For the first few years of the Characters In Flight, it was easy to spot the bright yellow observation balloon from many areas around Walt Disney World, especially places with large open areas such as Downtown Disney and Epcot.  The upper part of the balloon was painted bright yellow, and it featured black silhouettes of famous Disney characters such as Dumbo, Peter Pan, Aladdin, and Mary Poppins.  Naturally, those are all characters who could fly, whether it was on their own or with the help of some magic.

Downtown Disney - West Side - Characters In Flight - 2012 - 01 Downtown Disney - West Side - Characters In Flight - 2012 - 02

Perhaps the Characters In Flight balloon was a little too obvious, and perhaps even a bit of an eyesore.  Was it really appropriate seeing the giant yellow balloon in the background, and causing a clash with theming throughout Walt Disney World?  After all, theming is something that Disney takes very seriously.

In 2012, the Characters In Flight balloon disappeared from Downtown Disney as the balloon itself went through a minor refurbishment.  When it returned later that year, the previously brightly colored balloon had been repainted into a much more modest color pattern from the early 20th Century.  In fact, the new design of the balloon looked like it was heavily inspired by the balloon seen in Oz the Great and Powerful, a Disney film released in March of 2013.

Whatever the reason, or inspiration, the newer version of the Characters In Flight looks much better, and it's more fitting for the highly diverse Disney landscape.  Now if only Disney would make a balloon ride based on the Dreamfinder's airship from the original Journey Into Imagination . . .

Downtown Disney - West Side - Characters In Flight - 2014 - 01 Downtown Disney - West Side - Characters In Flight - 2014 - 02

Today, the Characters In Flight is still making flights and carrying riders day and night.  It looks like a lot of fun, and people seem to enjoy watching the balloon flying in the sky.

 

WARNING The Characters In Flight balloon does not operate during windy days or inclement weather.  Keep an eye on the weather if you're planning on riding the balloon, especially during the summer when afternoon "pop-up" thunderstorms frequently develop in Central Florida.

 

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Downtown Disney - West Side - Characters In Flight balloon ride:

Characters In Flight balloon ride - 2012 refurbishment:

Characters In Flight balloon ride - old version (2009-2012):

Characters In Flight balloon ride - old version - night: