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Insider's Update: A whole lot of shaking going on

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Published: March 29, 2014 at 11:35 AM

Walt Disney World visitors who aren't staying at a Disney hotel and who aren't annual passholders will get their chance to make advance reservations for Disney World attractions, starting Monday. On March 31, Fastpass+ reservations become available to "day visitors." You'll have to create a MyMagic+ account by following the "My Disney Experience" link at the top of disneyworld.com, then register a WDW admission ticket with that account, but once you do, you'll be able to make Fastpass+ reservations up to 30 days in advance of your visit, the same as annual passholders. (Disney World hotel guests get to make Fastpass+ reservations up to 60 days in advance.) Disney will be selling MagicBands to day guests for $13 each, but you can use Fastpass+ without a MagicBand, though you might have to upgrade to an RFID-chip-embedded ticket if you've been using an older WDW ticket card. You can make that switch at any WDW ticket booth or guest relations office. And if you don't make your reservations in advance, you can continue to make or change Fastpass+ reservations at kiosks inside the park.

My Magic+
Using a new chip-embedded ticket at Walt Disney World to enter a park.

Tokyo Disney is giving its hotel guests a way to make ride reservations before its "day guests," too. But Tokyo's taking a significantly more old-school approach. It's letting hotel guests into the park 15 minutes early. [Google Translate link. You've been warned.] That's not much of an early entry, compared with the extensive early entry benefits available to hotel guests at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, but with Fastpass reservations disappearing so quickly at the Tokyo Disney parks on most days, that extra 15 minutes can help get hotel guests a coveted Fastpass to one popular attraction and place at the front of the line of another before the mass of the crowd gets into the park.

The big news in Souther California last night was the 5.1-magnitude earthquake that shook everyone in the area, up and down the coast and halfway to Vegas. Disneyland's standard operating procedure is to close all rides for inspection after a significant quake, and with little quake damage to show, many local TV stations decided to focus on closed rides at Disneyland for their earthquake coverage. If you'd like a smarter take on what to do if an earthquake hits Disneyland, we've created a discussion thread. If you've been in a theme park during an earthquake or other natural disaster, your comments are appreciated!

In other Disney news:

Because everything is better with bacon, Busch Gardens Tampa has created a pretzel-wrapped bacon snack as the "signature" food item for its new Pantopia land, opening around the new Falcon's Fury drop ride this spring. I joked on Twitter about Busch Gardens deciding between pretzel-wrapped bacon and a bacon-wrapped pretzel, and a Busch Gardens representative responded that, yes indeed, they did try both! The pretzel-wrapped bacon won because it allowed for crispier bacon. Skip to 2:30 in the video below for the bacon goodness, or just watch the whole thing to learn more about what'll be for sale in Pantopia.

Finally, if you're a fan of the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal's Islands of Adventure, head over to Goddard Group's Facebook page to see some early concept art from the attraction. Did you know that the first concept was for a Superman ride, before Universal secured the Marvel Comics rights instead of getting the rights to DC characters? You can see the early storyboards for the attraction, as well as a ride map for when Spider-Man was going to be an omnimover-style attraction, before the switch to its current motion-base system. Click the "download" link on those photo pages to download the files so you can zoom in on your own computer for better detail.

Readers' Opinions

From Brandon Townsend on March 29, 2014 at 11:53 AM
My family and I really dislike the new Fastpass+ system. You used to be able to get to a park early and strategically get your Fastpasses, then park-hop and pick up several more at multiple parks. You could arrive at DHS late in the afternoon and still ride Tower of Terror 4 or 5 times using Fastpasses. Now you are limited to three at ONE park. And when you pick your FPs 60 days out you are given times like 11:30, 2:30, and 5. This really puts a crimp in our normal park hopping plans. Depending on how my upcoming May WDW trip goes I may not pay the extra for park hopping next time. I am a serious Disneyphile, but Universal really got it right with the Express Passes. Sorry, Mickey.
From Annette Forrest on March 29, 2014 at 1:08 PM
This Insider's Update was incredible. I loved it. Just the right mix of news and a few silly jokes.

I know that Robert is a big fan of Universal and when I first started reading TPI I felt like he took needless jabs at Disney...and I even wondered if he might be paid by Universal to do that. I think I've been reading TPI for about a year now and on some points I've come along to Robert's side, while on others I think differently in new ways.

I love that Universal has spent a fortune on the new Potter stuff and am so grateful for it. I'm actually re-reading the Potter series now so that I can get through all 7 books before we get to experience Diagon Alley in the fall. I plan on spending a whole day in a Universal park for the first time ever, because we are buying the two-park passes to be able to ride the train and go back and forth between the two lands. I am so excited thinking about it. I can't remember the last time I was excited about anything at WDW in this way.

I actually try to think about what could make me excited like this for WDW, where I would be sitting here six months out counting the days to get down there. For me, Disney will have to build a truly immersive world like Universal did for Potter. But I don't know what world that would be. My husband and boys would love a Star Wars world like that, on the level of Potter or above. But, for me I wish that they could build something like Wonderland or Oz maybe...though, let's face it, Potter with all the specific foods and drinks to try is just unbeatable in that sense. It's such a unique thing.

That being said, Potter's still the only thing at Universal that I have interest in and I think the rest of their parks are junky. Painted cement, broken things, missing things, mismatched themes, bad sightlines. I know I have to go to Universal to get to Potter but when I am in Potter I pretend Universal doesn't exist and I just enjoy my Potter.

Disney clearly doesn't feel a need to build anything on this level because it makes enough money right now and shareholders are happy. But if they ever did build that Star Wars World then my husband for sure would be like "I am going to DHS just for Star Wars" the way I see going to Universal is just going for Potter.

From Annette Forrest on March 29, 2014 at 1:16 PM
I just saw what Brandon said about the FastPasses and I just want to offer a different perspective. Fastpasses always stressed me out and confused me. So we never used them. And we never saw the point in parkhopping. I am not in the best physical shape and I cannot move very quickly so racing around and stressing out to get Fastpasses felt like on TV when you see those Black Friday stories on the news about people bloodying each other up and trampling one another to get a TV for $99 or whatever after Thanksgiving. I never wanted any part of that. I don't like my time in the parks to be stressful.

This morning, I am helping my best girlfriend plan her first trip to WDW with her two little girls. She is staying on property and she is getting to use MyMagic+ and is loving it. She is asking me via fb text what she should do on what days and I am using the TPI tips and planning advice to tell her. She's getting able to setup Enchanted Tales with Belle and then planning where to eat and all that on what days. It's such a stress-free situation, as opposed to waiting until the day people get to a park and then running around like a crazy person to get Fastpasses.

Now, I can see why people who were good at getting fastpasses do not like this change to MyMagic+. Previously, these people had an advantage because they knew how to work the system and people like me who found fastpasses intimidating and didn't use it lost out. But now the playing field is being leveled. I see that this is not being received well by some people, but on the other side of the coin my friend Mia is having a relaxing day today getting all her reservations set and is happy knowing when she gets to Floria in May that she is going to be able to experience everything her girls want, without having to race around and stress and get trampled or anything.

From Anon Mouse on March 29, 2014 at 7:57 PM
@Brandon: You're under the assumption Fastpass+ is done. Why do you assume that? They barely finished converting all 4 parks to the system, then made it possible for Annual Passholders and Resort guests to use the system. I am sure when they refine the system by adding more than 3 FP on a less than busy day, they will get around to park hopping such as allowing one to still have 3 FP at two to three parks, but getting to 4 FP will take much more data crunching.

Just wait and see. Praising Universal while all this stuff is going on at Disney is a failure to notice how far ahead Disney is going with their system. And I love how FP+ is not an extra charge like the Universal Express Pass.

From Gabriel Schroll on March 30, 2014 at 5:17 AM
For those who live in Orlando, or a few hours drive of Walt Disney World, I think the Fast Pass + system is incredible. They are frequent visitors to the parks, and have ridden all of the rides more times than they can count.

I am an AP holder but no longer live in Florida, so when I took my most recent trip earlier in March, it was fantastic to book FP+ for the entire trip the day I arrived, and not have to wake up early and rush to the park upon opening, just to ride Big Thunder Mountain, Expedition Everest, and Rockin Roller Coaster (hey, I love roller coasters).

For those coming from out of the area on an actual vacation though, it depends on what kind of guest you are. If you're in relatively good physical condition and have researched exactly how to hit up the rides for maximum efficiency, this new system is a hinderance. For those who come in wide eyed and bushy tailed and full of wonder, and don't just want to relax at a leisurely pace, then I think it's a great option.

The sheer scale of WDW prevents it from doing what Universal Orlando does with Express Pass, of course. With only three hotels (Cabana Bay doesn't include the same front of the line access), it's not difficult to reward the high spenders for staying at a nice hotel. I've stayed at Hard Rock and Portofino Bay, and the Express Pass was amazing. I absolutely love it!

With that said, Disney needs to look at a tiered system for their hotel guests, as I've said before (and will say again). Value guests get 3 daily ride slots. Moderate get 4. Deluxe gets 5. Season pass gets 3. Annual pass gets 4. Premium AP gets 5.

It makes sense to me, and Disney would have yet another way to make money by up-selling on both annual passes and resort stays.

From James Trexen on March 30, 2014 at 1:20 PM
I knew that there was originally talk of the DC Comics area before it turned into Marvel, but I hadn't known that it was themed around the whole universe. The plans I saw years ago showed that it was only going to be a Batman themed area.

Link

From Rob Pastor on March 30, 2014 at 8:00 AM
James: Over at Orlando United there's a discussion forum topic on the early planning stages of IOA. It's over 10 pages long of illustrations & plans of many of the attractions & lands that didn't make the final cut and also the big model mock up in the sound stage planning IOA.. There's also a good video interview with Mark Woodbury on the early years. It's very interesting but takes a while to go through the large mass of info.
From David Brown on March 30, 2014 at 12:42 PM
As someone who lives in the UK and therefore can only visit WDW every 4 or 5 years I have very mixed feelings about `Fastpass+. I have loved the Fast Pass system - egalitarian, easy to use, and a system that allowed for a lot of spontaneity, (with the honourable exception of Midway Mania and Soarin'). I didn't have to decide which park I would be in 3 months before I arrived so I was free to adjust my schedule according to the weather forecast the night before. It was easy and utterly fair.

Part of me admires what Disney have done in meaning that you no longer have to stampede to Midway Mania upon opening to get a wait-free ride. Equally allowing me to book decent viewing for Fantasmic, Fireworks, etc., is a good thing. But unless it expands beyond the limit of 3 passes per day and starts to allow for park hopping Fast Pass+ will seriously compromise our experience next time and that saddens me. There's plenty of time for it to bed in and make changes so I am with-holding judgement until nearer our next visit but as it stands at present it makes Disney less attractive to me than it was....

From 70.240.27.76 on March 30, 2014 at 4:02 PM
I just got back from Orlando for a spring break trip. I hate to say it, but I did not like the Fast Pass Plus at all. As a matter of fact, I think it is so bad that they should scrap it entirely. Now, I do like the armbands. I could not care less that they track me. At pools it is wonderful. It was good for tickets, and I admit I like the fact that you do not have to keep up with the little pieces of paper. What I observed was as follows: the experienced Disney visitor hates the armband. I could easily experience every attraction at peak times before, and you most definately cannot do that with the current system. The inexperienced visitor suffered even more. I saw many people use a Fast Pass Plus at 9:30 AM for Pirates or Haunted Mansion. I also believe that it creates longer lines for rides that did not need reservations to begin with. My mother in law had to be helped with the system, and we had to plan out her entire trip, giving her zero spontenaety. The people that liked it were the ones that like to go very slow during the day. I think even if they increase the numbers, you still have a system that is worse than what was before. The fact is that many people will benefit from the new system, but I think most people will be worse off. The other huge problem is weather. There are other issues like planning for weather, having to map out a vacation in advance, and other things made it less pleasant. I certainly hope they fix it. We also spent three days at Universal, and when we left Orlando, the kids said that they would prefer to just go to Universal next time. This is coming from a family that is Disney nuts. We have been to both coasts and exclusively use the Disney Visa card. I hope they fix this soon. Apparently the money used on this could have purchased a fifth theme park. I hate to be so negative, but it did diminish our visit. Nevertheless, we were still there and had a great time. Hopefully it will be substantially changed before our next visit.
From Anon Mouse on March 30, 2014 at 5:00 PM
As a local in California, I would like to see Fastpass+ come here. I'm not in good position to take advantage of the current Fastpass system. The most popular rides are gone before 12 noon. With a young kid, it is not feasible to run to the next attraction across the park only to be forced to come back in the evening when it is likely I won't be back after 5 pm. Spontaneity from Fastpass is no such thing. You're still required to follow their imposed schedule for FP ticket distribution. I know it is fun to get as many as you can anyways, but your FP schedule is tied up if your return time for one big attraction is Space or Splash Mountain on a particularly busy day and it ends up being 8 pm. Sometimes the FP system allows you to get a second one earlier. Then you just keep playing the game with many others running to another attraction.

I would like to get my 3 guaranteed attractions. I'll just leisurely walk to the preferred attraction at the appointed time. Less wear and tear on my feet.

From Anon Mouse on March 30, 2014 at 7:34 PM
"The fact is that many people will benefit from the new system, but I think most people will be worse off."

Huh? There's a lot of assertions without saying what is worse off about Fastpass+. You get the rides you want. So you use Fastpass+ on Haunted Mansion at 9:30am. Were you supposed to not do this?

Misery all around as opposed to letting the regulars have the advantage of knowing how FP works compared to novices.

From Brandon Townsend on March 30, 2014 at 11:19 PM
To those that responded to my initial comment about Fastpass+ I appreciate the different perspectives. This will be my first trip using the new system and I will have to save my judgement until the trip is over. (I do like the tiered number of Fastpasses based on class of hotel that was mentioned.)
Does anyone know if you can get more Fastpasses from the kiosks over your initial three once you are in the parks?
From David Brown on March 31, 2014 at 12:05 AM
"Huh? There's a lot of assertions without saying what is worse off about Fastpass+. You get the rides you want. So you use Fastpass+ on Haunted Mansion at 9:30am. Were you supposed to not do this?"

Surely the point of this argument is that Fastpass+ is distributing fast passes at times of the day when they are not needed. No one ever needed to grab a fast pass at 9.30am for the haunted mansion so what Fastpass+ has done is force a guest to cash a valuable 'front of line access' at a time when they could have walked onto the attraction anyway. That's not an improvement however you look at it....

From Anon Mouse on March 31, 2014 at 4:58 AM
A person picking Haunted Mansion at a time when it should be a walk-on is likely to NOT be a thrill attraction rider. Anyone savvy about theme parks should pick FP+ attractions in the afternoon or evenings when the park is crowded, but you don't know their schedules. Some people favor mornings and want to be done before dinner. The incorrect assumption is they are using FP+ wrong. Everyone needs to use it as they see fit.

What I see is some people like the original Fastpass because they know how best to accumulate many attractions to their benefit. Many people are left in the dust. Now, they notice some will use it differently and somehow that is a weakness. Pay attention. Everyone has a even shot. This wasn't true before.

From 96.231.110.248 on March 31, 2014 at 8:02 AM
Just came back from a trip to WDW with the school marching band and orchestra. Had no clue there was a change to the Fast Pass system. It's an EPIC FAIL for Disney! We told the staff at every ride how much we hated, they've been hearing it non-stop apparently. Only 3 Fast Passes per day and limited to 1 park...ridiculous!. The paper system was so much better. It took our group of chaperones 20 minutes working with the staff person to get our passes settled. The whole system is so confusing, not user friendly, and limiting. The paper system of 5 years ago was SOOOO much better. This system limits park hoping...so why pay more for park hopping tickets. FP tickets are out minutes after the park opens, unused passes can't be given to other guests. This system stinks, it's a failure. We want the old paper system back. The other 104 chaperones and students agree with me.
From Tim Hillman on March 31, 2014 at 9:14 AM
You know, I think Annette has cracked the code when she said that she thought that Robert Niles was being paid by the Universal PR department to take jabs at Disney.

I think she’s right. Robert and this site are one big Trojan Horse with the sole purpose to promote all things Universal and to malign all things Disney.

Look at this photo supposedly of Robert in his salad days at the Magic Kingdom.

http://www.themeparkinsider.com/art/news/robert-parade.jpg

Totally fabricated. This picture is meant to embarrass Disney. Everybody knows that all Disney employees that are allowed contact with the general public are much more attractive and intelligent looking. There’s no way that a Disney would let an employee like this work crowd control for parades. At best, this individual would be behind the scenes working in the sanitation department or in the laundry.

That nice-looking family that he supposed takes with him to the Disney parks to review the attractions and food? They’re actors; hired by the Universal PR team and given scripts to make their comments and pictures about the Disney experience seem authentic when all they are trying to do is slip in a little doubt about the quality of Disney’s attractions and food. Everything they say or do is intended to make the Universal experience seem equivalent or superior to the Disney experience.

That trip that Robert took to Asia to review the Disney and Universal parks in Japan and Hong Kong and supposedly paid for out of his own pocket? Totally funded by Universal to promote their parks in the same venue as Disney parks when even to the casual observer the Disney Parks are far superior because they have the “magic.” Universal even instructed Robert to say that Tokyo DisneySea was the best park in the world and that Disney’s Tokyo-based parks were the best two park combination in the world just so it could look like his observations were authentic while he was secretly promoting the Universal parks in the same series of articles.

The family trip to Disneyland Paris that Robert supposedly paid for out of his own pocket? Yep, you guessed it. A clever smear of Disney funded by Universal because Robert used a glowing review of Disneyland Paris to hide a hack job on the Disney Studios and to show Disney in an unfavorable light. It is all part of a greater plan to erode the Disney “magic” and to insidiously promote Universal.

The reviews of the west coast parks and the cross-country trips to the Florida parks are also part of the plan to give false authenticity to this site and to promote Universal at the expense of Disney. This site is a façade, and Robert is obviously in the employ of the Universal PR department. Even that TH Creative guy who claims to be moonlighting for the Disney PR department is a plant. Every time he says something nice about Disney, he turns around and says something nice about Universal or tries to show some current or historical pictures about the Universal parks when we all know that his only purpose is to mention Universal in the same breath as Disney. Why he even worked on Men In Black! Now if that’s not a conflict of interest, I don't know what is.

I wish I had known about the bias on this site when I joined it over ten years ago so I wouldn't have wasted all my time reading these supposedly objective articles. What a bummer! ;>)

From Tim Hillman on March 31, 2014 at 9:15 AM
I gotta learn how to post pictures.
From 75.151.69.253 on March 31, 2014 at 11:03 AM
I have seen nothing posted here to make me believe this site promotes one theme park over another. As to Universal, I am a Disney credit card holder. I will always go to Disney. The last time I went to Universal was in 2000. We just got back. I can tell you that it has improved by leaps and bounds. I can also say that Disney has not. We go there for attractions, and while Universal has some stinkers (Disaster, Posidon's Fury, etc.), the additions have been miles above of any new attraction at Disney. Transformers, Simpsons, and Harry Potter are amazing. The Fast Pass Plus at Disney stinks. I hope and believe that Disney can turn it around. The dining is still much superior, and the resort choices are great, but they made a major wrong decision to sink one billion into armbands when they could have built more rides or even a fifth gate. To turn it around they need to do a few things. One, admit the new fast pass system is a mess and fix or discard it. Second, make a Star Wars land at Hollywood Studios. It can't be just a shop and a ride or two. It needs to have a resort, several restaurants, and AT LEAST four additional cutting edge attractions. Six would be better. Third, make a fifth park. Of course people are praising Universal. They are not resting on their laurels. Disney's response to Harry Potter? An extremely lame Little Mermaid ride and a coaster that has taken way, way too long to get going.
From Rob Pastor on March 31, 2014 at 3:47 PM
Tim: You are too funny!!! Great humor.
From Bryce McGibeny on March 31, 2014 at 3:52 PM
Annette thinks that Universal is all "painted concrete" and is all junky and trashy. Lol.

I remember Annette on WDWMagic.com, under the alias of Patricia Melton. All she did was type the same things over and over. I would also post pictures of Islands of Adventure's lands such as Port of Entry, Lost Continent and Jurassic Park. They remained unacknowledged.

Anyways, I'm going to Hollywood Studios soon, and since I'm a Florida resident, we won't be staying onsite (more of a day trip). I'm pretty excited since I haven't been to DHS in a while, but I'm worried about actually acquiring the FastPasses themselves, since we will probably be purchasing the ticket online (the 3 park deal). Then, we will be going to MK and Epcot a few weeks or months later, and I'm curious if you have to reserve all of the passes at once (for all parks), but since we are spacing the parks out, I'm curious if they will expire after 30 days since I'll be reserving the rides at DHS way before Epcot and MK. Hopefully I don't have to reserve times for all of the parks before I go to DHS.

From Tony Duda on April 1, 2014 at 11:59 AM
I have a simple technical question about off-site guests using advanced Fast Pass Plus. When they go to MDE to make reservation FP+s, do they just get to choose FP+s for the exact number of days the ticket has OR can they reserve 7 days in the next 30 (same as APers) OR up to 30 of the next 30 days?

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