Disney confirms FastPass+ and MyMagic+, but questions remain
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+.
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."
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.
I wonder if it will be available for people with annual passes staying at a WDW resort.
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.
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.
“That there is my Magic Band – Ja- Ja -Ja - Jenny…” (Said in my best Forrest Gump voice)
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.
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.
A Great Wolf Lodge wristband, plus FastPass? Sign me up!
If FP+ really takes off, this will be an absolute nightmare for stand by riders.
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)?
NYT had an article about it today:
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.
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.
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!!!
Mr. Pastor writes: "Disney, you really need to get your act together and your priorities straight.. "
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.
Mr. Pastor writes: "If you weren't isolating quotes,as is your usual MO, it is obvious I was referring to "WDW" mgt."
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.
TH: You're obviously a very funny fellow. I politely ask that you refrain from referring to my posts in the future.
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
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.
Todd: You are for real funny. Thanks and have a good evening.
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'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.
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:
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.
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.
Is this wristband going to affect my vacation tan?? :-)
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.
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.
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.
@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!
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.
James: That was my point also.
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.
I hadnt logged in - it was my sarcastic comment about the holiday tan.
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 ..."
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.
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.
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.
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.
That's all we can do with Next Gen at this point, Rob, wait and see. And, hope for the best.
I will be the un-silent majority.
@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.
Skipper Adam said "People using the GAC cards now makes up to 40% of the Fastpass line."
Hello James…. You are correct… I am uninformed about recent Thread fights….
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. :(
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.
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. :("
I want to curse James Rao for forcing me to perform research for 30 minutes so I could get the Jake Rivers reference.
@Eric G, You're right!!! I'm a stock holder too! Hey, quit wasting my money, Disney! Where's my dividend check???!!!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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