The day began with breakfast at the Carnation Cafe, which is tucked away in a little alcove about half way down Main Street USA. The Carnation Cafe is one of the best places to eat in the park and yet, surprisingly, given its heavily-trafficked location, you can almost always get a table. I had Oscar’s Scramble (with Oscar himself visiting our table just as we were leaving to make sure that everything was up to snuff) while my sister Amy and her husband Sam had the Croissant Benedict.

(Like last year, we’re here with my sister Amy, her husband Sam, and their kids, Isabel and Henry.)

Our first princess of the day was Ariel, who maintains a grotto adjacent to the Matterhorn. (Which, geographically speaking, isn’t really feasible, but at Disneyland you tend to let things like that slide.)

Zoë, Ariel, Isabel, and Emma
Zoë, Ariel, Isabel, and Emma

When you have kids, one of the things you really come to appreciate about Disneyland is the tremendous job the Disney “characters” do. No matter how long they’ve been there signing autographs and having their picture taken, they always take time and really focus on each child. All of them are great, but occasionally you’ll get someone who’s especially “on.”

I still remember a Cruella DeVille we met at Disney’s California Adventure two years ago. Our brief little photo/autograph interaction lasted maybe two minutes, but it was a masterpiece of villainous sneers, raised eyebrows, and snide asides. It wasn’t until we looked at her autograph later that we saw the little bonus she’d left us. On each page of the girls princess autograph books there were line drawings of various Disney princesses and Cruella had taken the liberty of “decorating” the princesses on the page she’d signed by drawing a handlebar mustache on Snow White, giving Belle a pair of glasses and a goatee, and adding a big scar to Sleeping Beauty’s forehead.

Well, when we visited with Ariel this morning, she asked each of the girls their name and then referred to each of them by name at least once during the rest of the conversation. As she signed each autograph book, she took the time to ask each girl a couple of questions (“What kingdom are you from?” What ride are you most looking forward to going on?”), listened attentively to their answers, and responded with sometimes lengthy answers of her own. All of it perfectly in character.

But halfway through signing Zoë’s book Ariel looked up and noticed that Zoë was wearing a T-shirt that featured Hello Kitty riding atop a leaping dolphin. Then, without skipping a beat, she said:

“You know, I have many dolphin friends, and yet I don’t think I’ve ever seen Hello Kitty riding one in a two-piece.”

Perhaps you had to be there but, in context, it was the funniest line of the day. Leave it to a fashion-conscious, adolescent, sea-dwelling princess to notice Hello Kitty’s swimwear.