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Disney confirms FastPass+ and MyMagic+, but questions remain

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Published: January 7, 2013 at 10:55 AM

Disney Parks President Tom Staggs posted to the Disney Parks Blog in the wee hours of the morning today, publicly confirming Walt Disney World's new FastPass+ system.

Staggs didn't reveal anything new: FastPass+ will be a "NextGen" system that allows certain WDW visitors to reserve multiple ride and show times in advance of their visit, instead of having to collect individual FastPass paper tickets on the day of their visit. Visitors will make their reservations via Disney World's new "My Disney Experience" website and mobile app, using a process that Disney's calling MyMagic+.

MagicBand
Photo courtesy Disney

Once visitors arrive, they'll get a "MagicBand" wristband, an RFID-enabled device that will function as their theme park ticket, FastPass+ ticket, Disney PhotoPass and hotel room key.

What we don't yet know for certain is if people not staying in a Disney hotel will have access to the MagicBand or FastPass+. (Could it become a paid extra for non-hotel guests? Your guess is as good as mine here. *See the update below....) Nor do we know if paper FastPass tickers will be going away, or what the percentage of available rides will be reserved for FastPass+ users, as opposed to traditional FastPass reservations or stand-by riders. (The more people using FastPass+, the longer the wait for stand-by riders, of course.)

Nor do we have an official launch date for the new systems, just Staggs' words that Disney will "be testing, adjusting and adding features to MyMagic+ and My Disney Experience over time and will continue to make improvements based on our guests’ feedback."

Update: Some additional information, from a WDW press release:

"The MagicBand is initially available to select Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests and guests who purchase other specific products. Other guests will be able to use their standard ticket to access the benefits of MyMagic+, such as making FastPass+ selections on My Disney Experience."

Readers' Opinions

From Rob Pastor on January 7, 2013 at 11:32 AM
Glad to hear other sites reporting that it won't be ready till later in 2013. We will be at Disney for 16 days in April/May, and I didn't really want to be vacationing at Disney when this thing was starting up. We're going to do Universal exclusive in 2014 & 2015 and maybe 2016 since WDW doesn't have anything substantially new coming in (SDM hardly counts as an E ticket). I hope it goes smoothly, but I have my doubts. By the time I return to WDW in 2016 or later, there should be a more solid idea of whether this is something I want to deal with while trying to enjoy a relaxing freedom from schedules vacation. My first thought is it's going to be a real cluster f..., but I'll reserve my final judgement until after it is fully limited. One disturbing thing that I saw when planning my Disney resort over the weekend was the much shorter theme park hours and gradual disappearance of late & early Magic hours from last year. The economy isn't doing bad, Disney raised all prices way over the yearly inflation rates, and they cut theme park hours. The suits at TDO are something else. A good way to turn off guests and further lessen the magic that's left. I'm thinking the Grinch escaped from Universal (when GE & Black Stone sold out), and is hiding in the TDO management suites.....One other thing. Tom staggs, if you're going to spend all of this money for Next Gen, how about hiring some people to answer your phones. Disney mails me a special pin for a room discount last week. I've tried to call their number 4 times since then, have been put on hold every time. I've stayed on the phone for about an hour each time and finally hung up. Did some on line work while waiting so as not to waste the time. Disney, you really need to get your act together and your priorities straight..
From James Rao on January 7, 2013 at 11:36 AM
As I love to extensively plan my theme park trips, I am cautiously optimistic that MyMagic+ is going to a huge success - for me. Like Rob, though, I would not want to be part of the initial roll-out. Perhaps in 2014 when I return (I do think a completed New Fantasyland, including the Seven Dwarves coaster, is worth a special trip) Disney and I will have a better handle on this interesting, new technology.
From 82.8.37.223 on January 7, 2013 at 12:05 PM
I'm not impressed by this system. I think Disney will be losing quite a few visitors when they implement this. It's a bit unfair that guests who do not choose to stay in a WDW hotel, but still pay the same ticket price into the parks will be forced to queue much longer whilst hotel guests just turn up 5 mins before the ride/show time. It will take all the fun and magic out of the holiday as queuing with small kids whilst those with magic+ walk straight on in, will be ridiculous. It will be interesting to see how well magic+ works when rolled out but if queue times reach astronomical levels then I will be deflecting from Disney to Universal. Universal are already promising far better rides in the next couple of years anyway.
From Tracy Bates on January 7, 2013 at 12:41 PM
I want to see it, but I do plan stuff out ahead of time. And with mobile app support, it would be nice to reserve a space on a ride from the other side of the park, and have it ready when I get there.
From Russell Meyer on January 7, 2013 at 12:45 PM
I am also intrigued by this new NextGen technology. I appreciate the steps that Disney is taking to make WDW more like a "resort" instead of a collection of theme parks and hotels without alienating those who do not want to stay on site. I think Disney understands that there are ways to encourage on-site stays beyond profit-sucking promotion, and this new technology might just be the trick and far more fair and transparent than Universal's system. It satisfies the uber-fans that plan vacations to the n-th degree and still allows for spontanaity.

Ultimately, no system is going to be perfect, but this appears to be a giant step forward beyond the existing FastPass technology. I think the lack of details demonstrates the unknown about how guests will embrace the system and how far Disney will take the technology. When FastPass first debuted, people initially thought it was terrible, but it's now considered the gold standard of free crowd control and line management. The new system does have a huge bit of "Big Brother" to it, but when you enter a Theme Park, you are already giving up some of your privacy, and by walking on someone else's property, you have the right to be tracked. The possibilities of what can be done with this technology are nearly endless.

From 75.64.40.38 on January 7, 2013 at 12:54 PM
I wonder if it will be available for people with annual passes staying at a WDW resort.
From Russell Meyer on January 7, 2013 at 12:55 PM
In response to your comment Rob, I do find it funny that Disney is so frequently ill-prepared for the run on vacations when room discount e-mails go out. I ran into the same issue the last time I booked, but have found the Disney booking website far more useful than trying to book over the phone these days. The phone customer service is essentially performing the same thing that you would do by booking online. Now that restaurant booking has gone on-line as well, there's little reason to call unless you have something special you need (specific room number or multiple adjoining rooms) or are booking a very complicated or unusual vacation, and even then, I've found the online Live Chat feature to be pretty good at ironing out complicated questions and issues.

Also, the new phone system that launched late 2011 provides an estimated wait time, so if you were waiting on the phone for an hour, you should have known that it was going to take that long when you were first placed on hold. If the estimate you were given was far less than you waited, it might be helpful to email Disney to let them know about your frustration and the inaccurate wait time.

From Rob Pastor on January 7, 2013 at 1:07 PM
Russell: Usually I use the online hotel booking but this was a larger discount this time than that offered on line. As to the phone service. No time estimates were given on any of the four occassions using the number they provided on the pin discount offer. They just kept repeating the all operators are busy and then would switch to a new advertisement with background music. They may have different services with different numbers. This was not the same number they use on the internet site. In fact, there were 2 different pin offerings, both using different phone numbers. Maybe they're outsourcing to different companies? I have no idea how their internal phone servicing works.
From Brian Emery on January 7, 2013 at 1:11 PM
“That there is my Magic Band – Ja- Ja -Ja - Jenny…” (Said in my best Forrest Gump voice)

Now I can look forward to more folks burying their heads in Smart phones and walking into us at every moment… Yippee!!!!!

I do not like to plan every moment of every day of every ride on vacation…. Just go with the flow, be flexible. Just imagine a family running across the park to Tomorrow Land to get to the ride on time (knocking down a 3 year old who just does not get it.. ) Planning for Stress, run to a ride, get pissed when you have to wait- “Oh the Pain”….

I thought vacations were about relaxing and having to be nowhere committed to anything?

From James Rao on January 7, 2013 at 1:40 PM
You do not have to use all facets of MyMagic+. If reserving a few key attractions adds stress to your day at the parks, you don't have to use that perk. But every type of user will benefit from certain aspects of this technology: quicker entry into the parks, easier payment options, attraction interactivity, etc. Again, it does seem as though Disney is making it beneficial for any and all takers. Or at least trying to do so.

For the Anon poster who asked about Annual Pass Holders, the MagicBands are free to them as well. Here are the details as we have them so far (from InsidetheMagic.net):

Basic MagicBands will be given to guests staying in Walt Disney World hotels, annual pass holders, and anyone who purchases a photography package. All other guests wanting to take part in MyMagic+ and My Disney Experience will need to purchase a MagicBand. Those not purchasing the MagicBand will still be able to use FastPass+, touch-to-enter, and touch-to-pay via RFID-embedded tickets.

From Rob Pastor on January 7, 2013 at 2:02 PM
It'll be interesting what happens with the FP+ lines. It may depend on if they hold X number back until the actual date. If they don't, my guess would be that the "major attractions" FP+ will be filled up by hotel guests long before the due dates, especially during summer, spring break & holiday seasons. That would make moot the flexibility of moving a major attraction Fast Pass+ the day of use, and would essentially only leave open the use of FP+ by day guests for minor attractions. Will they have a mathematical formula, based on the season & attraction? And the shortening of park hours leaves less daily capacity for the major attractions.Will stand by lines be longer? Some web sites are guessing yes. Lots of questions. Once again, I'm glad I'm going in a few months before the full program comes out. I'll come back in a few years once I see the program works, & the bugs are out, and hopefully some new attractions are built.
From Jorge Arnoldson on January 7, 2013 at 2:27 PM
A Great Wolf Lodge wristband, plus FastPass? Sign me up!
From Tim Taylor on January 7, 2013 at 2:36 PM
If FP+ really takes off, this will be an absolute nightmare for stand by riders.

I also agree with the comment above about everything not needing to be planned out. I'd be more worried about being late to my next scheduled time to ride, than actually enjoying my time at the park.

From Sylvain Comeau on January 7, 2013 at 3:00 PM
I'm tired of all these elaborate, high tech schemes to squeeze yet more money out of the public. They spent over a billion on this system; imagine if they had invested that money into new attractions, refurbs and upkeep (or even higher pay for CMs)?

Here's a radical money-making scheme for Disney: keep reinvesting in all your parks until they are of world-class quality. That will work a lot better than a zillion advance reservation, high tech doodads.

From 71.178.217.74 on January 7, 2013 at 3:19 PM
NYT had an article about it today:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/07/business/media/at-disney-parks-a-bracelet-meant-to-build-loyalty-and-sales.html

From Tim Hillman on January 7, 2013 at 4:00 PM
I actually like this idea. As someone who is married to a night person, I can actually get a fastpass for my wife without having to make multiple trips to the park. The old fastpass system never worked for me because it seemed they were always gone before I got to the distribution centers or they were available at a ridiculously late time.

I would like to add that I wish that they had spent the money on building new attractions instead of a crowd management system, but when it comes to Disney I'll take any improvement I can get.

From James Rao on January 7, 2013 at 4:03 PM
Why not invest in both? $1.5B on DCA... $400M on NF.... $500M on Pandora... however many millions on the pending DHS refurb... it is not like they are holding back. Disney has enough money to advance their parks AND bring in Next Gen. Perhaps we should wait and see a little bit. I am sure Disney has thought of all these "problems"... you don't get to be the #1 theme park company on the planet by playing guessing games.

Besides, I still don't see a huge downside based on what we actually KNOW. Too much conjecture and not enough facts. This stuff is pretty new, so just relax and wait for the details.

From Anon Mouse on January 7, 2013 at 4:04 PM
I hate wristbands. This will be a pain to use. I can't imagine how they will publicize the rule and regulations on using this new system. Be sure to read the fine print, which I think will be virtually all of the multipage Terms and Conditions. Sign and initial. Good luck!!!
From TH Creative on January 7, 2013 at 4:53 PM
Mr. Pastor writes: "Disney, you really need to get your act together and your priorities straight.. "

I Respond: Yeah! You guys are acting like idiots! I mean, just because your worldwide theme park attendance in 2011 was 121 million people (or about 75 million more people than the second place theme park operator -- Merlin) doesn't exactly demonstrate that you guys understand how a theme park can operate in a manner that ehances the guest experience and maintains overall customer satisfaction.

(Chuckle)

From Rob Pastor on January 7, 2013 at 5:21 PM
TH: If you weren't isolating quotes,as is your usual MO, it is obvious I was referring to "WDW" mgt., where attendance has been flat even though the economy has been improving. Please TH, quit isolating my comments out of my general context. It gets irritating.....On a more positive note, I have faith that within a couple of years, TPI readers will have found all the loopholes and best operating procedures to allow us readers to work the future Disney system, whatever its final form, to its utmost potential.
From 50.89.13.35 on January 7, 2013 at 5:43 PM
Mr. Pastor writes: "If you weren't isolating quotes,as is your usual MO, it is obvious I was referring to "WDW" mgt."

I Respond: Yeah! What does WWDW "mgt." know about running a theme park that can operate in a manner which ehances the guest experience and maintains overall customer satisfaction? Their lame theme park operation only garnered 47.4 million guests in 2011. Talk about a bunch of rank amateurs!

(Chuckle x 2)

From Rob Pastor on January 7, 2013 at 5:56 PM
On WDW Magic forums they were reporting that Channel 6 Orlando interviwed Disney VP Nick Franklin. Franklin reportedly said that FP+ will be limited to three per day and regular Fast Passes are going away.
From Rob Pastor on January 7, 2013 at 8:54 PM
TH: You're obviously a very funny fellow. I politely ask that you refrain from referring to my posts in the future.
From Todd Donahue on January 7, 2013 at 9:13 PM
Rob Pastor, you can't try to be polite to TH or Some others they still come back at ya with some cheap joke that no one thinks is funny but them. Even Dom and Skip had better comebacks. I do instigate this because I've seen the best way to fight these things is to put some more coals under the fire like fastpass+ + magicpass+ = gay....it's really simple math
From 98.21.200.25 on January 7, 2013 at 9:23 PM
With this new Fast Pass Plus they have turned the park into a caste system rewarding those who were rich enough to stay on property or pay for the upgrade. Park admission is no longer the same thing to everyone buying a ticket.

They had a good thing going with regular fast pass. It was free to all and was a great service to everyone who paid for a ticket.

From Rob Pastor on January 7, 2013 at 9:31 PM
Todd: You are for real funny. Thanks and have a good evening.
From 67.149.9.101 on January 7, 2013 at 9:35 PM
I plan every moment of my Disney Vacations, and I couldn't be more thrilled for this! I hear many say that it is not 'relaxing' to have to stick to a schedule, but for me, standing in line with a 2, 4, and 6 year old for any amount of time OVER 15 - 20 minutes is the definition of stressful. Instead of 'relaxing', I am doing back flips to keep them all happy, because once one starts whining it becomes contagious. (It even spreads to my husband)

I already plan everything out thanks to touringplans.com, but not having to run across the park with my entourage of little people just to grab a paper fastpass??? Yes please!!! I would PAY for that option. In fact, on my 2005 honeymoon, I DID pay for it at Island's of adventure, and it was the best 'extra' money we spent on the trip. But Disney's giving it away for free!

From M. Ryan Traylor on January 7, 2013 at 11:26 PM
I'm happy to hear that there will be a limit to 3 attractions per day. And come to think of it, I don't really ever remember a time when I acquired more than 3 FP's in a day.

With that restriction, I don't see the standby line wait times increasing drastically. What really sucks about this system is you have to start thinking about attractions well before getting into the park. 180 days for dining reservations is 6 months before your vacation. Who wants to start thinking about food that early?

Now, what will we do with all those FP Distribution Centers?

From AJ Hummel on January 8, 2013 at 12:38 AM
I'm still undecided whether I like this new system or dislike it. On one hand, it is nice to know that if you absolutely want to do something you can reserve it months ahead and be certain you'll get to ride, but on the other hand it also means that if you get to the park and the ride has a short line while another is really long, you're out of luck. I'm also not a huge fan of having a maximum number of reservations allowed, although I do think it is reasonable to say only a few may be made in advance and the rest must be made on the day of the visit. Personally, I think my ideal system would be something like this:

All Fastpass equipped rides have return windows of one hour, set in fifteen minute intervals. Approxmiately 30% of a ride's hourly capacity is set aside for these reservations, divided evenly over the windows. Before visiting, a guest can reserve up to four time slots for each day of their visit provided they have already purchased tickets. Reservations may be made up to three months in advance. Rides may only be reserved for one park per day, regardless of whether the guest has a hopper ticket or not.

Upon arrival at the park, guests may visit a central kiosk to make additional reservations and/or change existing reservations to any available time slot. When reserving attractions, they may select from the time slots that are not already full. In addition, the following restrictions apply:

-Guests may only reserve one time slot per attraction per day
-Guests may not choose any time slots that overlap with each other
-Guests are able to change reservation times using their smartphones, but must visit the central kiosk to make additional reservations
-Once the hour window has begun for an attraction, the reservation may not be rescheduled.
-If a reservation expires without being used, guests may not rebook the attraction for later in the day and must use the standby line if they wish to ride.
-In the event of a ride breakdown during a reservation time, guests who check in at the attraction will recieve a readmittance pass good for any time during the day. Guests who do not check in will be treated as missing their reservation and will not be compensated.

From Ben James on January 8, 2013 at 1:20 AM
I wanted to add as someone who previously worked in a Call Center. The FCC regulates call centers and there are limits to how long you can be on hold without being answered, how long you can be placed back on hold, and if you request certain things (i.e. a supervisor) that they have to comply with.

Don't sit back and take what happens to you when you call as acceptable. We can all vent about our frustrations and that does affect persons opinions about partaking in that company's business.

I implore you that if you truly have a problem, one that is not solved by venting to friends on and off line. Then file a complaint with the FCC. They will launch an investigation into the call center. The company has to maintain records of every call and how long they are on the line, how long they are on hold, how often they are placed on hold and if a call is escalated.

From James Rao on January 8, 2013 at 4:31 AM
I apologize to those not involved for this momentary thread hijack. I have tried to remain somewhat above the mudslinging, but recent posts won't allow it.

@Todd, after the endless series of cheap shots and lame jokes you have posted on this site (Jerry Sandusky "jokes", mom "jokes", gay "jokes", personal attacks, and outright hostility) you continue to surprise me with your audacity. Please review all your recent posts with an objective eye, see the error of your ways, and try to be a better man in the future. I will do the same. Moreover, if somewhere along the line I have unintentionally offended you with my words, I do apologize.

@Rob, you've been a long time poster on this site, with interesting opinions, but I am disappointed in your most recent stance. To call Todd and his crass and tasteless posts "funny" - thereby lending support to his continued hostility - is an insult to the competitively friendly nature TPI. Furthermore, if you don't like when people challenge your assertions, don't post. This site will be diminished without your insights, but if you aren't willing to be debated, what is the point of posting?

Whatever...look, I'm done. I have said my piece and stand by it.

Again, sorry for the thread hijack. Carry on.

From 139.149.31.230 on January 8, 2013 at 4:32 AM
Is this wristband going to affect my vacation tan?? :-)
From TH Creative on January 8, 2013 at 4:56 AM
Disney started FastPass at its parks in 1999. The company weighed the advantages of the program, implemented it, monitored its impact (including guest reactions), changed it as required and continues to manage it as part of its day-to-day operation.

They've been using Fastpass for almost decade-and-a-half ... and it works! With attendance as a fair yardstick, they have maintained their standing as a theme park operator that provides its guests with an exceptional experience.

The first article I read about Disney NextGen appeared in the Orlando Sentinel in January of 2010 -- three years ago. By that time the development of the project was well underway. And while there will certainly be anomalies in the management of the programs affiliated with NextGen, I find it dubious to assume that a majority of very obvious concerns (some of which are posted here which I won't ... or apparently have been asked not to reference) have not already been identified and addressed by Disney Parks.

Walt Disney World welcomed 47.5 million guests in 2011. It seems reasonable to assert that the company has the potential to implement this program with great success. As a theme park guy who has great admiration for multiple park operators (not just Disney) I lean toward a school-of-thought that advocates the proposition "Let's see what happens" as opposed to "Let's hammer 'the suits' before the program has even been implemented." I tend to give the planet's most successful theme park operator the benefit of the doubt, rather than post (as an anonymous person did) "I'm not impressed by this system. I think Disney will be losing quite a few visitors when they implement this."

And for the record, any TPI poster can feel free to pull any quotes out of any of my posts and respond. Slap me around. By all means irritate me. My ego can take it.

(Chuckle x 3)

From Rob Pastor on January 8, 2013 at 7:52 AM
James Rao: I don't mind being debated on a topic. I just don't like quotes pulled out of my comments that may not fully reflect the points I was trying to make. After all, I indicated I would reserve final judgement on FP+ in my first post. If anything was quoted, that would most indicate my position. Debating should be done on the merits of the whole. Pulling a quote out of discussions is just a cheap debating trick that clouds the issues. You have indicated that you have issues with a particular poster. I also indicated I have issues with a different particular poster....I've always enjoyed discussions with you on the site. You are generally very respectful of other's opinions and bring up some excellent points. The vast majority of posters to this site are knowledgable and amiable ladies and gentlemen. I have no problem with you or any of them. commenting on my overall positions on a topic.
From Skipper Adam on January 8, 2013 at 7:40 AM
I'm hardly on this site anymore because it's become more about uninformed opinions and mudslinging and less about fact and intelligent discourse. And yet here I am getting my name dragged into conversations long before, if ever, I join in.

I think that most people who have fears of the new system aren't grasping all the facts, and I don't blame them because so much of what people have heard about the system is coming from other people's imagination and speculation and so little fact is out there yet. Here are a few detials that should assuage most fears.

- No more passes will be handed out than are in the current system. In fact, there might be less handed out.

-Guest Assistance Cards, those red passes that are handed out now will be extremely limited if not eliminated. People using the GAC cards now makes up to 40% of the Fastpass line. With GAC cards under control, the Fastpass lines will slim down dramatically, and so will stand-by.

- There are limits. There is a limit on passes you pick ahead of time, with more to acquire the day of. There is a limit on the number of D and E Ticket attractions you can use.

-There will be twice as many attractions with Fastpasses available. You can bet that people really want to get passes for the smaller, less busy attractions. As bad as this may sound, it will encourage crowds to spread evenly to more attraction, allowing shorter lines overall.

- You can plan ahead on a limited basis. More importantly, there are passes that can be reserved on the spot the day of, anywhere anytime before that passes time. On that note, you can switch those passes anytime for another attraction for whatever reason, including a short stand-by line existing after all.

- The MAGICBANDS ARE AN UPGRADE FOR A FREE SYSTEM. Everyone's tickets will include and RFID chip automatically, including CMs and APs.

And while you think about those points, remember Fastpass+ is just a small part of the integrated system of Nextgen. For example, the roses at Be Our Guest lunches and white cards at Test Track are fillers until the RFID cards and MagicBands are in use. There will be new ways to enter the park, pay faster and worry less.

My favorite example of how this tech will improve so many little things is lunch at Be Our Guest. The RFID enambled tables prevent that obnoxious table saving practice to provide a quicker service and less time and stress wasted on mealtimes.

On a more extreme scope, the idea is to take the system to pick up Guest's RFID cards so provide an interactive atmosphere that harkens back to the original focus of theme parks, to convey the notion that you are somewhere else, not there just for some rides.

From James Rao on January 8, 2013 at 8:23 AM
@Skipper You mean to say that WDW Mgmt has actually put some thought into this slapdash idea and has a goal to improve the guest experience, not kill it? Sounds great, sign me up!

@Rob I agree, if someone misquotes or misrepresents you, you have every right to call that person out and defend yourself. I am not debating that right. By the same token, anything we post in a public forum is fair game. It is part of the package deal. As for me having problems with one poster, that is not a fair statement. I have an issue with anyone who posts hostile, vulgar, or derogatory comments on a regular basis. Furthermore, I question anyone who by action or inaction condones such comments. I am an amiable guy, and turn the cheek quite often, but there always comes a boiling point when someone goes too far. It is at that point that even amiable people have to take a stand.

From Rob Pastor on January 8, 2013 at 8:34 AM
A good example that this system will probably remain in flux for a time... There were a lot of questions and concerns expressed on other internet sites regarding the financial security of My Magic+ touch to play cards & bracelets. Today Disney changed the policy. WDW Magic reports, " Disney has changed the pin code policy for My Magic+ 'touch to pay' payments effective today. All 'touch to pay' purchases and Key to the World Resort ID cards now require a pin code. Previously, only purchases over $50 required a PIN code to be entered". There will probably be a lot of changes and tweaks to the system as it becomes implemented. At least its good to see Disney positively reacting to legitimate guest concerns. The system that remains in two years may well be much different from the original implementation once Disney sees what works and what doesn't. As I said before, after my April Disney vacation, I'll wait to go again a couple of years to reserve final judgement on the system. I think the next year will be a bit confusing for guests until we can see what the actual, rather than projected guesses, trends will be. Once the system is in place, we should be able to work around whatever challenges it may present.
From Rob Pastor on January 8, 2013 at 8:27 AM
James: That was my point also.
From 165.190.165.105 on January 8, 2013 at 8:39 AM
All the people complaining about resort guests getting an advantage should really learn to read better. If you look at the comments in the psot Staggs made you can see that your park ticket will act in the same manner as the wristband, giving everyone access to fastpass+. People need to learn to be more accepting of technology as it works its way into all facets of our lives.
From Kelly Muggleton on January 8, 2013 at 9:19 AM
I hadnt logged in - it was my sarcastic comment about the holiday tan.

I really am trying to keep an open mind about this.... the proof of the pudding is in the eating as we say in the UK.
I'm not even sure I would bother to use it myself we dont stay on site, we go in the off-season etc.

I have already thought of one positive. With the 'on the day' changes/bookings...I dont have to send someone from Tomorrowland over to Splash to get a fastpass! (As I wouldnt bother to do it myself of course :-)) Although I will dread my mobile internet bill when I get back to England!

From TH Creative on January 8, 2013 at 9:43 AM
Todd Donahue writes: "I've seen the best way to fight these things is to put some more coals under the fire like fastpass+ + magicpass+ = gay ..."

I Respond: Really? You're going there? Wow.

From Rob Pastor on January 8, 2013 at 9:52 AM
Good article today on Mice Age by Al Lutz on Next Gen+, Disney mgt. layoffs & possible changes at Anaheim & TDO, and the excellent attendance at Disneyland resort during the past holiday season.
From Robert Niles on January 8, 2013 at 9:57 AM
My $.02: Technically, there's no question that this system is an upgrade from the current Fastpass system. The new system will give Disney quite a bit more ability to help people manage their vacations.

But it's the uncertainty over what Disney will do with that ability that's driving so much anxiety. From one perspective, that's a huge compliment to Disney. People care about their Disney vacations and don't want to see them messed up. But if the fear of change itself is enough to drive people away from Disney, that's bad for the company. More detail would be appreciated. Even if Disney ends up having to change the system down the line, I think people would appreciate more transparency about MyMagic+.

That said, as Disney works to an equilibrium on this, some people are going to figure out how to work this system to great advantage, and others will absolutely screw it up. The first crew will post glowing reviews online - the second will pan it and declare Disney's finished. As with paper Fastpasses, eventually, Disney and its fans will figure it out and it'll end up running somewhat smoothly.

Again, anything remotely related to the delight that is Be Our Guests' lunchtime ordering system is a plus, in my book.

From Robert Niles on January 8, 2013 at 10:00 AM
One more point, hateful and abusive comments are never welcome on the site. But I can't be everywhere all the time. If you see a comment that you believe merits a response from the site admin, email me. Thanks.
From Rob Pastor on January 8, 2013 at 10:35 AM
Change is something most people have problems dealing with, even if it may be a positive down the line. That's human nature. Yes, I agree with Robert Niles that Disney needs to release more details to allay the fears. Skipper's post was helpful in that it answered a number of areas that we haven't seen Disney address yet. Giving out details about how many Fastpasses etc. lets one envision what lines may be like much better. But Robert is also right that this may delay some peoples' vacations until they see it working smoothly. I, for one, am one of the prime people Disney spends their marketing dollars to get (and Disney Marketing does a "great" job). I spend apx. $10,000 every spring visiting Orlando for vacation. This year Disney will get the full $10,000 since I'm sure I will enjoy the New Fantasyland, even without an E ticket level attraction. But they will lose me for a couple of years until I see that the Next Gen+ works and they spend some development money on new lands or E tickets. They also lose me when they don't hire enough people to answer their phones properly, which considering how much marketing money is spent to get a customer into the parks, is a bad business practice. Remember, the number one axiom for any business is "that the customer is always right". Well, in fact, the customer may not always be right but the company needs to appear they are looking out for him, and that his purchase is important. There is competition in every business environment. And the top dog only stays there if he gives the customer what he wants. Disneyland Resort is doing an excellent job maintaining their status at the top. But for TDO I reserve judgement until I see that Next Gen+ works smoothly and a real plan for future lands & E ticket attractions comes forth.
From James Rao on January 8, 2013 at 10:58 AM
That's all we can do with Next Gen at this point, Rob, wait and see. And, hope for the best.

@Robert You run a clean site...no worries. I can fight my own battles... Well, that is unless Jake Rivers returns!! ;)

From Brian Emery on January 8, 2013 at 11:16 AM
I will be the un-silent majority.

Nothing here is\was abusive. And I know abusive and obnoxious. If someone does not have the same opinion and there is some back and forth, we can sit back and enjoy the conversation.

I do believe Disney is trying to make things better, but myself, I would rather Disney spend money for park attractions, rehabbing and adding new things… Sometimes waiting for an attraction and the calm before the storm, building anticipation of excitement is better the running to the front of the line….

From James Rao on January 8, 2013 at 11:50 AM
@Brian I was referring to a chain of discussion posts, not just this thread. But since you were not the intended target of those posts, you most likely did not notice them. But no worries. What's past is prologue, but it is still ancient history.

As for your point about Disney's spending, I will repeat, why not do both? One does not have to preclude the other. Disney has enough money for new attractions and Next Gen... why not build the best all around vacation experience money can buy? I believe Next Gen is just one piece of a much larger puzzle.

From Eric G on January 8, 2013 at 12:13 PM
Skipper Adam said "People using the GAC cards now makes up to 40% of the Fastpass line."

This statement is absolutely not correct. Is Guest Assistance Card usage out-of-control? - Absolutely! Is there massive abuse of the system? - Absolutely. But it does not account for 40% of the Fastpass line usage. There is no way!

Put your head on and think about the number of guests in attendance who have to be carrying one or have access to one so that 40% of the traffic through a FastPass line would come from one. 2 out of every 5 people who enter the line would use one. That means if I stood at the entry to a FastPass line almost every other person entering would present a GAC. That's not true!

GAC are a huge problem and especially the abuse. You don't need to tell me that. I got into a major verbal altercation in December at DHS with a group of four who admitted they were abusing the system. However, I doubt it even reaches 10% of the traffic through the FP queue, but at even 5% I would still view it as a problem.

From Brian Emery on January 8, 2013 at 12:26 PM
Hello James…. You are correct… I am uninformed about recent Thread fights….

But as in investor in companies like Disney, they will only allocate some much money for improvements. They do have a budget. And if they are investing many finds in a new FP system, that means rides like Splash Mountain, will keep getting ignored and run down.

There is not an unlimited amount of monies for improvements…

I am sure when the system is built and in operation it will be very useful. Just keep an open mind all aspects of budgets.

From James Rao on January 8, 2013 at 1:47 PM
I get what you're saying, Brian, but it certainly seems as though Disney is firing on all cylinders these days. As I noted previously, while the company shelled out $1B for Next Gen enhancements, they also allocated $1.5B to DCA, $400M to NF, $500M to Pandora, and significant cash to a complete redo of Test Track, not to mention all the expenditures on smaller enhancements like Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, night time extravaganzas, new/improved restaurants, etc. etc. etc. Point being, it does not appear that money was pulled from "attractions" to fund "Next Gen". And honestly, if Disney wasn't spending that $1B on Next Gen, my guess is that it would be lining someone's pockets, not being spent on new rides. :(

As for maintainence, I believe that budget is separate from new attraction outlays, right? Sure it all comes from one pool, as you noted, but it is one very large, Royal Pacific-sized pool! Also, Splash Mt is currently under the knife for an extended maintainence (two months), so it would seem Next Gen is just "in addition to" and not "instead of" all the other park necessities - at least that is how it looks to me.

From 108.241.62.17 on January 8, 2013 at 4:09 PM
I haven't been back to Universal since they started charging for their 'fast pass'(2003 or 2004 maybe?) and if Disney follows suit, I won't be back there either.

That's what always set Disney apart from other parks.....treating ALL of their guests equally with no 'class system' once in the parks.

If they are too short sighted to see that, screw them too.

From Eric G on January 8, 2013 at 5:55 PM
James Rao said " And honestly, if Disney wasn't spending that $1B on Next Gen, my guess is that it would be lining someone's pockets, not being spent on new rides. :("

It would be lining the pockets of the shareholders for which I am one! It's a publicly traded company. Your comment is insulting and typical of so many Americans attitudes! Making a profit is equated to a crime.

"rides like Splash Mountain, will keep getting ignored and run down."

NextGen spending has nothing to do with the maintenance of attractions. The biggest issue with WDW and ride refurbishment is demand exceeds ride capacity so the window of opportunity to close rides is very limited. When a major ride like Splash Mountain is closed the park capacity is reduced. Disneyland is afforded more opportunities to refurb rides due to greater fluxuations in attendance and the fact that the park has so many more attractions. Two of the WDW parks - DHS and DAK - have a very delicate operation with too few attractions. If you loose a major attraction like Everest or Tower of Terror all things fall apart.

The second part of the story is the origin of guests and Disney's desire to not let people down. Disneyland Resorts attendance primarily originates from locals, so if a major ride is closed those attended during that time will likely experience it on a future visit. Not true at WDW. If Space Mountain is closed for example it can be a real disappointment.

From James Trexen on January 8, 2013 at 7:06 PM
I want to curse James Rao for forcing me to perform research for 30 minutes so I could get the Jake Rivers reference.

Now let me thank him for the 30 minutes of laughs.

From James Rao on January 8, 2013 at 8:11 PM
@Eric G, You're right!!! I'm a stock holder too! Hey, quit wasting my money, Disney! Where's my dividend check???!!!

@James T, Most of Jake's "best" posts have long since been deleted. Mr. Niles did have to step in when Rivers became very abusive to some of the female regulars.... fun times!

From 71.226.19.76 on January 9, 2013 at 11:29 AM
I was on a brief research task finally taking tab oh how many GAC cards were in use. I'll tell you, and my sore finger from clicking the counter as proof, that on the new Mermaid ride, at merge point I counted that on average the Fastpass line was filled with 40% of GAC card users. A couple of hours, shockingly the majority of riders were GAC users, reaching about 1,300 of the 2,000 carried at Mermaid. Circus was a little less. Dumbo Fastpass was better balanced with GAC cards, but only because we hand out "surprise" Dumbo passes at several places. Barnstormer, Jungle Cruise and Space Mountain were again in the 35%-40% range of GAC Card users.

If we're breaking down the percentages of the Fastpass lines, 35-40% are GAC, 10-15% are No Strings and or Re-Adds (forms of guest service recover) and finally the rest is plain Fastpass.

Fastpasses don't create lines, it's everything else we send up Fastpass lines.

From N B on January 9, 2013 at 12:05 PM
TH, I noticed you tend to reason like my children. You bring up yearly attendance when someone else has a legitamate argument about the Disney parks being neglected (and they are, according to die-hards on just about every social media platform).

Are you attempting to deflect attention from a real issue or are you justifying Disney's complacency with the fact that the masses who spend all that money just aren't noticing how bad the parks are being maintained?

From Rob Pastor on January 9, 2013 at 1:32 PM
There's a good thread on the WDW Magic forums on the abuse of the GAC cards. Goes into depth on how the large numbers used on Cars Land is what finally tipped off upper management that there are problems with the system. The key was that the GAC numbers were destroying the algorithms used to make the Next Gen Fastpass + work properly. If the GAC isn't fixed, Fast Pass + won't work. That may be one of the delays right now. They need to drastically lower the usage & abuse.
From Jill Harrington on January 9, 2013 at 1:42 PM
You want to see abuse of the GAC's? Step into WDW on Monday - watch all of the folks with marathon and Goofy Challenge medals around their neck with them... Cracks me up every year! I'll be wearing one myself, and likely limping a bit due to a badly inflamed IT band, but I won't be abusing the GAC system.

And I'll be interested to check out the system this weekend. I'm not thrilled with it myself, as I am not a planner at all. I like to walk into a park and get on whatever. The regular Fastpass system works OK for me - but I'll get used to it I guess. Not thrilled with the notion of wearing something around my wrist though - I am an AP holder, so I won't get to try it this weekend, but I will likely do a little observation.

From James Rao on January 9, 2013 at 3:48 PM
Or a third option, N B... maybe the parks are still pretty darn cool and people like them - a lot? I'm not saying WDW doesn't need some love... but it is still a pretty special place. It is only diminished when compared to itself and to the idealized vision we (the niche crowd of jaded theme park enthusiasts) have of it. To the rest of the world, WDW is an infinitely better experience than what is offered at their local amusement park.
From N B on January 9, 2013 at 4:14 PM
I wouldn't mind wearing something on the wrist, but they can be easily cut and taped back together on the inside. Unscrupulous people will always figure out a way to circumvent the system.

The room key method at Universal works very well, although you have to get it out for every ride. We always wear the lanyards so the park ticket and room key are together at all times.

The scanner displays the room number, age, and gender of who is trying to use it (as does the room key) from what I understand. It also checks to make sure the key is still a working one and the person has not checked out yet, although your room key is good until the parks close on checkout day.

I am just wodering how many photographers Disney will have to employ to get things moving quickly? Perhaps some in the know (TH) could shed some light on this.

I wouldn't be surprised if UOR followed suit (RFID) at some point, but I like the fact there are two or three checkpoints for Express on a given ride. The first person waives you through at the ride entrance, the second one manually scans your room key at a point where it is impossible for someone to jump into the Express queue, usually at the loading platform.

UOR only started scanning every room key recently. They used to just take a quick look to make sure the info matched your physical appearance. They also used to use a different colored marker on the paper versions to mark off each ride you had already ridden with the one time use tickets.

The paper Express Pass gets scanned as well, so it is impossible to use them twice on the same ride or pass them off to someone else. Universal is relentless when it comes to scanning prints, I saw an entire family get booted at IOA for trying to use someone elses tickets as none of the prints would let them through.

I am glad Disney is finally cracking down on ticket abuse.

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