Disney introduces restaurant-style virtual queueing to Magic Kingdom's Dumbo

June 6, 2012, 9:20 AM · Walt Disney World yesterday previewed the new Big Top Tent "queue" for the twin Dumbo rides in the Magic Kingdom. One of the Dumbo carousels is now open, but Disney will add a second - along with the Big Top Tent queue - in July.

Big Top Tent
The Big Top Tent, under construction earlier this year. The new Dumbo carousel is to the left, and the original will be installed behind the construction wall to the right.

The Big Top Tent, as the name implies, is an indoor waiting area. But it's not a traditional queue. It's actually an indoor playground, where children can burn off steam while they wait their turn on the Dumbo ride. Parents will be given a restaurant-style pager which will light up when it's time to ride.

Here's a look, from Disney:

Dumbo long was known as the most brutal wait in the park. The spinner ride offers a low capacity (only a couple hundred riders per hour) and used to be positioned in a shadeless place in Fantasyland, with a simple back-and-forth linear queue. Given the huge number of kids who wanted to ride with Dumbo, the wait time for the ride blew up early in the morning, and typically remained among the longest in the park throughout the day.

As part of the New Fantasyland expansion, Disney smartly added a second Dumbo carousel, doubling the ride's capacity. (And causing some of us to dub the new version of the ride "Dueling Dumbos.") That should help to cut the ride's wait time in half, and the addition of an indoor wait area should help make even that wait more bearable.

But here's my question: Will some kids decide that they prefer the new indoor playground to the ride itself? It looks kinda neat, and you can't beat an indoor, air-conditioned play area during a hot, sunny Central Florida summer. Will the play area become an attraction unto itself, drawing even more kids to Dumbo and expanding the wait? Will the need to pry kids away from the play area and onto the ride when their "ticket" buzzes slow down the loading on the ride, negating the capacity advantage of the second carousel?

I'm curious to see how this new wait area concept plays out in the world's most popular theme park. If it is a hit, and does make the wait more enjoyable without making it significantly longer, I suspect that this might be a move that Disney - and other parks - look to duplicate on other child-focused theme park rides.

Update: Hearing that the Big Top Tent play area soft-opened today. Reports?

Replies (20)

June 6, 2012 at 9:29 AM · While I'm really glad that they added an air-conditioned wait area (which is sorely lacking in Fantasyland), I am rather disappointed in the activities offered in the tent. I envisioned something more like fun video-gamey kinds of things, like a game where you use fire hose-shaped controllers to put the fire out in the burning building or something like that. You know, something adults and children can enjoy together. Instead, I'll be sitting at the sidelines waiting for eons while my children have a good time.
June 6, 2012 at 10:02 AM · It'll be interesting to see what the capacity of the hold area is. The thought of an overcrowded play area full of hyperactive children is perhaps even less bearable than a simple queue. And if the capacity is large, but not large enough, both will probably come into play on busy days. The worst of both worlds?
June 6, 2012 at 10:22 AM · @ Robert
I would imagine that the pagers will "page" people to a much shorter line with maybe a wait of a few rotations. I can't imagine they're going to be standing there going "we could start the ride, but where the heck is the Smith party? Their elephant is waiting!"
June 6, 2012 at 10:16 AM · It would have been better if it was stuff the families could do together, but it's still a million times better than what they had before. The line for Dumbo was just brutal. I rarely waited in it because the ride just wasn't worth the wait.
June 6, 2012 at 10:19 AM · Shoot, the waiting area seems like more fun than the actual attraction! But I feel this is a move in the right direction. Keep people occupied rather than the traditional queue with switchbacks that seem to go on for miles.
June 6, 2012 at 10:19 AM · How many pagers are there going to be? What are they going to do when the kids don't show up (because they are having too much fun (or fall asleep) in the cue? Is it going to be like a fast pass once your pager goes off? I love the concept but lots of things that seem could go wrong. Knowing Disney, there is more to this than the article explains, hopefully.
June 6, 2012 at 12:32 PM · "That should help to cut the ride's wait time in half"

The doubled capacity should reduce the wait, but I doubt it will cut it in half. With such a huge line before, no doubt there were people who wanted to ride but skipped it altogether because of the wait. A reduction in wait time will draw in additional riders who would have otherwise skipped it, partially offsetting any capacity improvements.

This new style virtual queue makes sense for Dumbo, but I fear the day it will no longer be possible to just go to a Disney theme park and simply ride what you feel like riding. Instead, you'll have to plan every last minute of your day months in advance. Woo boy, that sure sounds like fun.

June 6, 2012 at 12:44 PM · I'm just gonna use the queue for the AC, but the area looks really cute!
June 6, 2012 at 1:48 PM · I hate all the complainers on youtube. Dumbo is such an attraction for kids, so the play area is going to be centered around kids. This isn't a knock on WDI, the execution, color scheme, and detail in this area is great!
June 6, 2012 at 2:26 PM · I realize why some people don't like this new approach to queue lines. However, everyone needs to remember that this is the first time anyone has tried this before. It could be a great success, or a complete disaster, and while I hope it works, I think it is going to be tough to work this out. Like you said, Robert, I think that kids are going to want to stay at the play area instead of the ride, and I don't know what Disney will do if that backs up. However, I am glad and excited that we have this new idea. Even if it doesn't work out, it still is nice to try new ideas.
June 6, 2012 at 3:06 PM · "Will some kids decide that they prefer the new indoor playground to the ride itself?"

Maybe, but they still expect to ride Dumbo. I was wondering how long it takes to go from indoor queue to ride. It should not take longer than 30 minutes or the kids will get bored.

There will still be an outdoor queue. Will there be 1 hour waits outside?

June 6, 2012 at 4:14 PM · Two observations - What happens if they run out of pagers? Does that mean there will be another queue you must wait in to get one? Second, I expect this new queue approach will actually increase the wait to ride the attraction. You've suddenly made it so much easier to wait with an indoor, air-conditioned area and interactive elements for the kids.

To answer an earlier question. The pagers page you, but you'll still have a cycle or two wait before you can ride. Disney will queue up people enough people so they don't reduce capacity and have to wait for people to arrive.

Doubling up Dumbo was the best thing Disney could do to address capacity. This new queue approach is kind of nonsense. It's like FastPass, it just drives up the overall waits across the park. You may get front-of-the-line access on one ride, but you'll wait twice as long or longer in the stand-by line for another compared to the days when FP didn't exist.

June 6, 2012 at 6:32 PM · As long as they put a soundproof room for adult in there the little sugar coated kiddies can play as much as they want and burn of even more energie. Then after the Dombo attraction they can do it all over again in the water play area next to it.
Can you imagine how nice and quiet it will be during the night time parade and the fireworks. I love it.
But serieusly, yes it will become a mess and parant will have problems getting their kinds from a fun play area into a simpel flat carnival ride (yes it's a beautifull one and withouth the theming they could have put 10 in there but the kids won't see it).
June 6, 2012 at 7:45 PM · Brilliant. I mean absolutely brilliant. If you have to have any kind of wait for a ride, this is how I'd like to spend my time. Sitting down, in the AC, distractions galore.

I actually hope this isn't repeated anywhere else @ WDW. WDI has turned what used to be a bear of a wait for an iconic ride, into a full blown immersive experience. It would be a more cumbersome attraction where the ride capacities are higher.

Any operational aspects of this addition are going to ebb and flow with experience. Disney will make adjustments as needed in order to address any major issues.

I'm suprised at the negative feedback so far. I would think folks would see this as the ultimate solution to snaking queues and an hour of staring at the butt infront of you. The cynic rules the web, I guess.

June 7, 2012 at 5:16 AM · Pure genius! Disney does it again, but I am not surprised as they really are the innovator when it comes to queues that are more than just a line. Of course we still see some serpentine lines that exist on the "vintage" rides and some queues are better than others, but the Dumbo queue is ground breaking stuff!

I am quite sure they already have it worked out in their heads how the page system will work and I imagine they will probably have it set up that they call two rotations of the ride to come to the ride staging area at once for each ride so there will be no chance of having empty "Dumbos" flying around.

June 7, 2012 at 5:40 AM · Is there any way to just go into the nice A/C tent area to hang out and let the kids play? Or if we have to get a pager to get into the Big Top, can we then stay for a long time to relax even after the pager goes off? Hopefully when the pager does go off, the kids are ready to go and actually ride Dumbo. Kudos to Disney for offering an A/C indoor fun place to wait with lots of seating for adults and fun things for children to experience.
June 7, 2012 at 7:35 AM · On the article, you mentioned would kids be too distracted on playground to go to ride, which would result in lagging loading times..
----> Well I think when cast members buzz you to go to ride, they should just buzz you to literally get in the queue line, which will only be 1-2 loads away from the ride. That's how I think they should do it.
June 7, 2012 at 10:12 AM · Kudos to Disney again for offering an innovation for FREE. If this was part of most other parts they would have an added charge to wait in the AC rather than outside. FAST PASS is the best free idea ever for a theme park, and this is another great step ( like the Haunted Mansion interactive queue).
Being able to sit while the kids burn off energy is Fantasmic!
June 7, 2012 at 2:20 PM · I agree that you will probably be buzzed to go into a very short line.

What I dont see as working is the pagers. It would seem the number that they would need could really become untenable. Maybe more like getting a fast pass ticket. but with a really small time window? That seems like it might work better.

Plus, yuck to all those buzzers that are completely manhandled by all those sweaty, grubby hands. Yeah, I know, handrails and whatnot. But this really grosses me out.

June 7, 2012 at 2:21 PM · Also, if they REALLY wanted to reduce the wait times, they should just 5 or 10 of these and have the whole area devoted to the Dumbo ride!

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