MyMagic+ is Coming to Other Disney Parks, but How Will It Change?

December 26, 2014, 2:48 PM · Disney will roll out its MyMagic+ vacation planning system beyond the Walt Disney World Resort to its other theme parks, Disney Parks Chairman Tom Staggs told the Orlando Sentinel. Yet the system will change as it moves to California's Disneyland Resort, and potentially to other resorts abroad, Staggs said.

But how will it change?

Using a MagicBand with MyMagic+
Photo courtesy Disney

As I mentioned in the same article from the Sentinel, MyMagic+ has upset many long-time Disney fans because it disrupted the way that they had planned and enjoyed their Disney World vacations. All that experience and knowledge that guests had built up over years and years of visiting no longer mattered as much in a new system where the rules for securing ride times on popular attractions were very different.

MyMagic+ is hardly the first time that Disney has disrupted it systems, and each time something like this has happened before, the parks' attendance and revenue has continued to grow. Remember the variety of ticket and vacation packages that Disney offered before the Magic Your Way ticket structure? People howled when Disney introduced Magic Your Way, but most of those critics came around and found how to make the new system work for them, too.

What about when Disney started requiring credit card numbers to hold restaurant reservations? People who were exploiting the old way of doing things complained because they couldn't sit on blocks of reservations times any longer. But the rest of us started getting more chances to get the reservations we wanted without having to go through self-appointed third-party gatekeepers online. Eventually, everyone adapted.

Imagine if we'd all been on the Internet back when Disney started allowing people to call in advance for Epcot restaurant reservations instead of requiring you to use the in-park video conferencing screens that Epcot used in its first years. I suspect that there would have been a handful of very vocal critics howling that Disney was dumbing down its futuristic video calling system that rewarded fans who got to the park early in favor of letting lazier visitors book reservations with just an old-fashioned, low-tech phone call. (Full disclosure: I, uh, probably would have been one of them complaining about that. Sorry.)

We already are seeing operational changes on the west coast in preparation for the introduction of MyMagic+ at Disneyland. This month's switch to a World of Color-style Fastpass reservation system for Fantasmic! at Disneyland provides one example. Are some people who've been coming to the park after work and holding spaces for hours in advance of the show upset that they can't do that any longer? Sure. But many more of us are happy to see the New Orleans Square riverbank free of campers in the early evening, giving everyone a little more space to walk around the often-crowded area. Of course, that's distributed more people throughout the park in the hours leading up to Fantasmic!, but if you're one of those people who otherwise would have had to been sitting on the ground in front of the river trying to hold a space, it's nice to be able to enjoy the rest of the park for longer, for a change.

The point is: Whenever you disrupt a system, many of the people who had optimized their experience under the old system will be upset that they have lost their advantage over people who didn't optimize their experience. But the new system creates new opportunities. And, I suspect, given past experience, that the people who figure out how to make the new system work for them will pretty much be the same people who figured out how to work the old system, before.

So, here's the challenge, and my question for you. Given all that you know about MyMagic+ and your experience visiting theme parks, what would you like to see Disney do as it rolls out MyMagic+ to other parks to help ensure that the change helps more people? How would you like to see Disney adapt MyMagic+ to better serve the different audience in Southern California? And how would you like to see Disney tweak MyMagic+ in the months ahead to better serve its existing audience in Orlando?

Let's make one thing very clear, however. Going back to the old way is not an option. MyMagic+ is driving more guest spending at WDW, as new visitors embrace it and old visitors who complain about it keep spending their money at Disney anyway. The system is working for Disney and it's not going away.

But it will change. Staggs has said that. So let's take this opportunity to talk about how we'd like to see that happen.

Replies (22)

December 26, 2014 at 3:36 PM · I don't really have a huge problem w/ MyMagic+ in concept, it's the execution that could use a tune-up. If I could nimbly change ride times or schedule a new fastpass+ immediately after using one it might actually be pretty rad.
But with the clunky app in play and spotty wi-fi throughout the resort, the whole system just comes off half-baked. Add in a sizable percentage of guests not packing smartphones, and I just don't see who this system is meant to be optimized for.
I've wondered, would the system work as advertised if the Disney folks didn't have to potentially deal with every make and model of smartphone on the market? You can check out, free of charge, an old-school cell handset to do the fun World Showcase Adventure... Maybe down the line Disney hands each party arriving at the parks a cheap-o mini tablet designed specifically for MyMagic+. Bonus for Disney- it'll be like handing out digital cattle tags a la Uber's God view.
December 26, 2014 at 4:16 PM · I used MyMagic+ wonderfully to plan my one trip this past year to Disney World. I can see some disadvantages for local residents in Southern California. A local will have to pre-purchase a pass far in advance to reserve rides or shows. The dining issue isn't a problem as there isn't much table service restaurants, but I would like to see more special dining opportunities that can be reserved. Dining is still the blind spot in MyMagic+ since the guest must purchase a dining plan and be a on-site guest. They will still need a credit card since the My Disney Experience website cannot do everything.

Memory Maker is a hit or miss. They lost a few of my photos.

Locals looking for a quick ride or two, or a day of spontaneous enjoyment will be disappointed at having limited options. I tend to plan around the spring specials or Halloween parties. I hope MyMagic+ won't disappoint at Disneyland.

December 26, 2014 at 7:02 PM · Given the way it's functioning in Florida, I think Disney needs to drastically alter the way they set up FP+ in California. With only two parks and so many attractions, the idea of three Fastpasses per park is not going to be very helpful. I personally don't like the idea and loved how easy it was to visit Disneyland using the old Fastpass system. If they start to institute the same restrictive system in California, I'll be sure to get out there beforehand to at least enjoy it using the better system at that point.
December 26, 2014 at 10:26 PM · I hope it starts with the beginning of the 60th. It will be the first time I have been there in two years and I would love to be able to tweek my stay over the next five months. Selfish? Yes. More bang for my bucks? Roger that!
December 26, 2014 at 10:47 PM · WDW is primarily a destination resort, and pre-planning makes a lot of sense. Disneyland is not. For locals, and even for tourists, they spend a few days, not a week. So the fundamental idea of booking things well in advance at DL is simply flawed. MyMagic+ should be more of a "day of" system at DL, where you use your pass/band to pick FastPasses, but more similar to how it's done now, yet without the paper tickets. I'm not saying you have to run to a FP+ kiosk, but that you perhaps can't get a FP until your in the park. Perhaps DL resort hotel guests can book attraction FP+ earlier, but maybe only at check in, or a week or so before? At least, I think it's worth a test, as I really don't think the WDW system (WDW is basically a cruise ship / all-inclusive resort where guests are locked in) works at DL (much more traditional theme/amusement park).
December 26, 2014 at 10:50 PM · I haven't used MyMagic+, but based on what I know of the system the Fastpass+ will need an overhaul to work well in California. I would suggest the following changes:

-Guests staying at a Disney Resort may reserve attractions 60 days in advance. Guests at a good neighbor hotel may reserve attractions 45 days in advance. Day visitors may reserve attractions 30 days in advance as long as they have purchased tickets.

-Guests may make reservations at either park, but may only reserve three attractions per day in advance.

-Guests may have three active reservations at any given time. In other words, once a Fastpass is used another may be obtained immediately. Day of Fastpasses must be reserved at a kiosk in the park but may later be modified using a smartphone.

-To aid those who purchase tickets on site, kiosks will be installed by the ticket windows so guests do not have to wait until park opening to make their initial reservations.

-Guests with annual passes will be given a certain number of advance reservations per year (approximately 70 for the cheapest pass up to 150-200 for the Premium). Only three or four days' worth of attractions may be reserved at any given time. If reservations are not used or rescheduled before the reservation window opens, the reservation is forfeit.

-Fastpass will be available on 40-50% of the attractions at each park. Only about 20% of each attraction's hourly capacity will be made available as a Fastpass. There are no attraction tiers.

My brother is visiting Walt Disney World in a couple months, so I'll have to see what he thinks of MyMagic+. So far he's liking the Magic Bands and not really liking Fastpass+.

December 27, 2014 at 5:41 AM · Having used MyMagic+ just a couple of months ago in Florida, all I can hope is that the version that goes to other parks is greatly altered before being introduced to other parks. Namely, when a guest uses MyMagic+ to reserve times on an attraction, they should actually be able to experience that attraction at that time. During our trip, it was a complete crapshoot as to whether or not our reservations would actually work, and even four separate trips to Guest Relations was unable to fix (including one where the cast member removed all of our existing reservations and assigned new ones, taking away popular attractions like the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and the Anna & Elsa meet & greet and then telling us we were "out of luck" because he couldn't get them back after deleting them). Even when the reservations were set up by City Hall, they didn't work.

So let's hope that when the system goes to other parks, they take the time to build a system that actually functions instead of the dysfunctional waste of $1 billion that was installed in Florida.

MyMagic+ is a great idea on paper, and I support it if it's done right. But when the implementation is a complete disaster like it has been in Florida, it's a gigantic step backwards for Disney and just results in frustrated guests.

December 27, 2014 at 7:34 AM · MyMagic+ is a fiasco no matter how Disney spins it. The $1.5 billion reportedly spent on MyMagic+ could have paid for many new attractions at existing parks, or even a third Magic Kingdom park in the middle of the country. Those investments would have fixed overcrowding at the U.S. parks in a way that MyMagic+ hasn't.

In the news today, Disney closed both the California and Florida parks at mid-day due to overcrowding issues. I hope that if anything good comes from the MyMagic+ disaster it will be a change of Disney management: away from the penny-wise, pound foolish policy of squeezing every last dime out of their customers. It's time to return to Walt's philosophy of making a fair profit by exceeding customers' expectations.

December 27, 2014 at 9:51 AM · No one wants to "go back". Disneyland works right now. This clown thinks that he can make Disneyland fit into his agenda. It ain't gonna happen
December 27, 2014 at 10:20 AM · Maybe I'm the only one then who didn't spend so much time and money in the Parks at Disneyworld this year (although I'm not usually unique so I suspect there are lots like me). When I'm on holiday I like to be spontaneous (I plan the rest of the year, after all) - the magic bands have removed all sense of spontaneity and reminded us that, actually, Disney is really only caring about how much money they can make from people. We knew this already, of course - we're not stupid; but we'd rather they worked harder at covering up that bleak economic fact and at least pretended it was all about US! They used to do that so well. I hated my magic band, sorry.
December 27, 2014 at 10:23 AM · My question is if mymagic+ comes to Disneyland will the regular fastpass go away? I don't think the whole idea stinks. Regular fastpass works fine.
December 27, 2014 at 12:55 PM · I would love to be able to change fast passes on my phone while in the park instead of having to find a kiosk. We were at WDW during the first week of December, a low crowd time. The kiosks had lines then so I can't imagine what they are like now. It looked like they did have cast member's set up to be able to change fast passes which was helpful.
December 27, 2014 at 5:01 PM · Obviously, MyMagic+ isn't going away soon due to the amount of money contributed to its installation, but has it really been long enough to consider it a success and to begin the project in other parks globally? It hasn't even been fully rolled out to all guests for a year and there has been a return of 1.5 billion dollars? I highly doubt that.

There is not doubt an increase in attendance and profits at WDW, but can't that be pointed to an overall increase in Orlando travel attendance? Universal Studios grew 14% this past year and of course guest spending is higher due to a better economy and more faith in the markets.

Whether MyMagic+ is really an improvement over how the parks previously functioned is really more of a debate than an argument that can be made factual, but I don't see the same operating procedures and rules that govern WDW working in Disneyland or other parks, even if they adjust some of the rules associated with FastPass restrictions, etc. People don't go on vacations to Disneyland that they plan months ahead and have to know all about their fast passes and restaurant reservations and meet and greets and everything else included in a vacation like the ones people go on in Orlando.

December 27, 2014 at 11:18 PM · We were st WDW last Jan staying off property, so we only got a credit card for park admits. Without bracelets, we couldn't make some FastPass reservations (some still gave paper and we could use them). Now you must have a bracelet (ie stay on property) to get FastPasses and Toy Story is FastPass ONLY!! I don't think that's fair, and that NO rides should be FastPass ONLY---half atleast should feed from the stand-by line!!! We will be back in a couple weeks and will try it out again. We have bracelets this time and have reserved our three FP's for each day so far and one dinner reservation. Hope it works well and makes staying on property worth the huge expense.
As for moving program to SoCal--Can't imagine how they will incorporate non-Disney lodging. There isn't enough Disney hotel space (thank goodness!) to give exclusive wristband privileges like in FLA. We really like the paper system THE DAY OF ATTENDANCE, so everyone has an equal opportunity to ride everything as the gates open.
December 28, 2014 at 5:13 PM · Nobody but Disney likes the Magic Handcuff System. I don't believe that it is increasing guest spending. WDW has to spin it because they spent too much to admit guests don't get anything from it.
December 29, 2014 at 7:49 AM · I'm at WDW right now and MyMagic+ has totally improved my experience. I knew I was coming during the busiest week of the year, and being able to prebook 3 attractions per park ensures that I'm going to get on the attractions I want to see. I have had no issues with the system so far, and I'm interested to see how it will work on New Year's Eve at Epcot.

I haven't been to Disneyland in quite a few years, but as someone who lives in eastern Canada, I would appreciate to ability to do the same out there. Yes, Disneyland is more of a "locals park" but those of us who come from out of state and don't know how to game the system like the AP holders need a level playing field.

December 29, 2014 at 11:07 AM · My wife and I went to Epcot and Magic Kingdom in October of this year and I found the whole fastpass plus thing to be miserable. The lines at the various kiosks were out of control and as other posters are mentioning, it completely took all the spontaniety out of the trip. We were waiting in the fast pass line for Jungle Cruise and a cast memeber kept letting everyone know, the line may seem long, but they won't allow the standby line to move until every fast pass plus person has been loaded. Seven Dwarfs mine train stand by was an hour wait at PARK OPENING, and fast pass plus reservations were already sold out when I tried to do it 2 months beforehand...I tried to make them the exact day I was first allowed and they sold out same day. I personally had one of my least fun and worst trips to the parks on that day. My last trip to Universal on the other hand, was a blast and I really like what they are doing there...I used to be a Disney Season pass holder, I might give that money to Universal moving forward.
December 29, 2014 at 11:36 AM · I noticed flaw in My Magic Plus during out recent trip to WDW a few weeks back. Guests who were not staying onsite has no ability to acquire fast passes for the most popular attractions. The clearest example of this was the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. We were staying at the boardwalk, so we had gotten our fast passes for this attraction 60 days prior to our trip, but those who did not have this ability simply could not get a fast pass for this attraction. All the fast passes were gone before the long before the park opened. This meant that anyone who was just visiting for the day was out of luck. Their only option was to wait in a 90+ minute standby line.

Also, the My Magic Plus app for the iPhone is next to useless. You can not use it to schedule new fast passes after you have used all of you existing ones for a given day (the app tries and then hangs), the attraction wait times shown by the app are almost never current, and the horrible WiFi availability in most of the parks makes the app next to useless. So many people were lining up at the MM+ terminals in the park trying to get fast passes that one park guest commented to that you needed a Fast Pass for the Fast Pass Plus terminal line.

The moral of the story, if you are not staying on site, Disney no longer wants your business.

On the plus side, I liked the bracelets. They worked well were much more convenient than having to carry fast passes and reservation info around.

December 29, 2014 at 3:23 PM · Just set up the fastpass the way it has been, with kiosks at each ride and a "take-it-or-leave-it" time. The differences are that they are at all the rides, rather than just e-ticket ones. They also are uploaded to the magic band.
December 29, 2014 at 3:27 PM · As an annual passholder at Disneyland, I go to the parks a lot with no thought or planning put into it because I live 15 minutes away on the freeway.I know many other annual pass holders who do the same. Disneyland is not a tourist park for the most part like WDW. There are 24 million people in southern California and DL is our park. We, by far, make up the majority of visitors to the park every year and we spend big bucks every year. Why in God's name would DLR want to piss off its bread and butter here in southern California?
December 30, 2014 at 9:30 AM · I'm afraid that California just lost its friendly, neighborood Disneyland park. MyMagic+ seems to be about knowing who's spending what and restricting access to those guests willing to pay the most.
January 2, 2015 at 7:31 AM · I get the advantage of the system for people that are at the parks for a week or less, because it can guarantee a visit to the attraction that you are most interested in visiting. However, as someone that travels for 2+ weeks when we go to WDW, I feel like I am losing the relaxed/spontaneous approach to our visits. We typically decide the night before where we want to go, or change our mind mid-day. This new system will take away that relaxed approach. We will now need to know months in advance which park we are going to on which day. That really isn't our approach to the parks. Someone above mentioned, that they need to limit the FastPasses to no more than 20% of the hourly capactiy, and only half of those should be available in advance. That allows both pre-planners and day trippers to keep their style of vacation. Of course, that doesn't allow Disney to alter their staffing based on peoples plans, so I doubt they will do that.

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