MiceAge contributor, Tim Grassy, shares an open letter to Disney today regarding concerns with MyMagic+. Read along and see if you agree.

Dear Disney,

The recent announcements of MyMagic+ and Fastpass+ have raised concerns in the fan community over Disney’s priorities. These concerns were shared by United States Representative Edward Markey, and led to a methodically crafted, yet somehow juvenile response from CEO Bob Iger. Now it seems that basic things like first impressions are being ignored in favor of operational efficiency and cost cutting. Most recently this included:

  • Test Track 2.0: Upon opening after a seven month overhaul, significant show elements are not functioning properly. Most notably, the vehicles that guests design before boarding are not consistently syncing with the corresponding on-ride evaluation of these vehicles.
  • Journey of the Little Mermaid: The attraction opened prior to the Flotsam and Jetsam animatronics working properly. They have remained switched off since then.
  • DisneyWorld.com/MyDisneyExperience/MyMagic+: The new website and associated mobile applications went live despite major technical and security problems.

I applaud that some aspects of the parks and park experience are being addressed, but when these enhancements aren’t suited for public consumption, they should be delayed.

In the limited roll out of MyMagic+ and My Disney Experience, the most egregious issue has been problems with the new website. Many guests have reported seeing another family’s personal information. Reports have even stated that upon refreshing the website, a third family’s itinerary will appear. Guests are able to make changes to another family’s itinerary, potentially disrupting multiple vacations. On a smaller scale, dining reservations are not always syncing properly with a guest’s account and tech support has been unable to repair many of these issues.

Historically, the Disney website has always been difficult to navigate. Whether it’s trying to find an official refurbishment schedule, a valid dining menu, or disability information, Disney needs to do a better job of presenting this data online. Is it the company’s intent to mislead their guests? It seems that misdirection and intentional vagaries permeated Bob Iger’s response to Representative Markey, and that has carried over to lengthy opt out policies on the website as well as the aforementioned issues with navigation.

The investment in Next Gen is significant, and mobile applications like My Disney Experience are welcome additions. However, much of what these applications accomplish is already addressed more accurately with third party sites.

Perhaps the biggest concern amongst the fans is the loss of privacy and the transition to Fastpass+. Representative Markey asked pointed questions regarding how the collected data would be used, and if people that opted out of this data collection would see longer lines at attractions. These questions were not sufficiently answered, and the response to date has only been that guests will get a more convenient experience if they participate in MyMagic+.

It seems the recent trend is for Disney to turn every swatch of pavement into a profit center. Location specific merchandise has given way to more generic and cost effective “One Disney” offerings, and now it seems that MyMagic+ looks to turn the guests themselves into profit centers. Disney seeks out every penny they can from us while we’re on vacation. Now, through tracking our spending, it appears that Disney will sell the information on every penny spent to any and all interested companies.

The sale of personal information and spending habits is troubling to many individuals. Many people choose not to shop at establishments that require a membership or loyalty card. These companies can follow trends in spending to not only determine what products they can incentivize, but also use products purchased to establish if a woman is pregnant or a couple is recently married. I anticipate Disney and the companies that purchase this spending data will be able to learn far more about each and every MyMagic+ user than is ever disseminated publicly.

It appears that more often than not Disney is asking, “How do we stop this from happening?” without asking “Why is this happening?” The result has been band aid solutions to real problems while larger investments are allocated to lower priority issues. Reportedly, Next Gen has an ever expanding budget, while existing show quality and guest safety at the parks has deteriorated:

  • Preventative maintenance was ignored at Splash Mountain resulting in a piece of the mountain falling into the load area. The band aid solution was to place a tarp over the load area until the current refurbishment.
  • Preventative maintenance was ignored at The Tree of Life resulting in a branch of the tree falling. The band aid solution was to place netting along the Discovery Island Trails.
  • Improper design has led to a Yeti animatronic that’s been stationary since 2007. The band aid solution was to pose the Yeti above the track.

I applaud the investment in infrastructure, but infrastructure has never been anything more than the cost of doing business. Infrastructure should never be considered a driver of attendance. More importantly, while the advantages of this new infrastructure can improve the guest experience, other infrastructure issues are being ignored. The monorail system has been abused and neglected to the point where necessary maintenance has limited its operation during Evening Extra Magic Hours. Routine attraction maintenance has been ignored, Evening Extra Magic Hours have been cut from three hours to two, and the attraction lineup during Extra Magic Hours was downgraded as well. This points to the inaccurate mentality within Disney that all attractions are created equal. Replacing Splash Mountain with The Enchanted Tiki Room during Evening Extra Magic Hours is not an even exchange. More importantly, it is speculated that Extra Magic Hours are not long for Walt Disney World, making the extent of the cuts more substantial than what has already occurred.

All guests are created equal under the current Fastpass system, but that is not the case with all attractions. Currently, all guests have equal access to the Fastpass system but the current system restricts Fastpass availability on an individual attraction basis contingent on demand for that attraction.

This has been reversed under the new Fastpass+ system. Fastpass+ divides a park’s offerings into one of two groups and limits the number of these selections to a total amount per day. More importantly, Fastpass+ will prioritize guests that opt to use the MagicBand and are willing and able to make Fastpass+ reservations prior to their arrival. These guests will have greater access to the higher demand attractions at the cost of other guests.

The highest demand attractions are typically family friendly attractions that have lower capacities like Peter Pan’s Flight, Soarin’ and Toy Story Midway Mania. These three attractions effectively use the current Fastpass system on a daily basis. Conversely, attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion and Spaceship Earth have been added to the new lineup of Fastpass+ attractions. While all three have a high demand, they all have high capacity and would rarely require Fastpass usage.

By distributing three or four Fastpass+ reservations to guests on a daily basis, the higher demand attractions will be the first to run out of Fastpass+ availability. This will limit same day Fastpass+ availability for those attractions even further. By adding more attraction and entertainment options to Fastpass+, false demand is created for attractions that did not previously need it. Prior attempts to spread crowds using “Surprise Fastpasses” achieved only minimal success, and this new approach of adding Fastpass+ to more attractions is likely to suffer the same fate.

Through unnecessarily expanding the number of available Fastpass+ eligible attractions, Disney is artificially manipulating the system and intentionally deceiving guests. While each guest may have the same initial access to three or four Fastpass+ reservations per day, many uninformed guests will be sold on this perk without realizing that Fastpass it not needed for several of these attractions under the current system. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and The American Idol Experience are treated equally under the new Fastpass+ system. This deception is the equivalent of saying that dinner at Le Cellier is the same as dinner at Nine Dragons.

The problem I foresee with Fastpass+ is booking reservations days, weeks, or months in advance. This would place the Fastpass+ system in a similar model as the Disney Dining Plan. Guests are often persuaded into purchasing a dining plan, despite not knowing that they need to make reservations 180 days in advance at higher demand restaurants. The Disney Dining Plan has made casual reservations less available and arguably resulted in a decline in food quality as well. I foresee a similar fate for attraction availability with the change to Fastpass+ reservations. This could materialize through a decline in show quality as well as less “day of” Fastpass+ availability at higher demand attractions.

Many guests have feared that Fastpass+ will end any level of spontaneity associated with a day at Disney World. Defenders of Disney will argue that very little about a Disney vacation is truly spontaneous, but guests are forced to adapt their schedule multiple times per day for a variety of reasons. How often do guests book a dining reservation 180 days in advance, show up 20 minutes early, and still have to wait 30 minutes after the reservation time before they’re seated? This is often chalked up to “unforeseen circumstances”, i.e. other people not operating on the schedule Disney planned to turn over that table. With that in mind, a child’s bladder cannot be scheduled days in advance, nor can the rumbling of a stomach, or any other potential hindrances to a schedule. People have “unforeseen circumstances” at a much greater rate than Disney, yet we as guests are held to a higher standard than Disney is holding themselves. What happens when my dining reservation is delayed by 30 minutes and I miss my Fastpass+ reservation?

What’s more discouraging is that there are actual components of Fastpass+ and MyMagic+ that really interest me. I love the thought of walking into Epcot at 11 AM and heading straight for Spaceship Earth. While in line, I would use the mobile app to book a dinner reservation at Le Cellier for later that night, a Soarin’ Fastpass for mid afternoon and order food at Sunshine Seasons for lunch. It’s very intriguing to be able to do all of these things day of.

Alternatively, if a guest doesn’t have a smartphone, feel free to have them utilize the touch screens in the Spaceship Earth descent instead. Technically speaking they’re still planning their future…

All kidding aside, I fear with advanced reservations that Disney is eliminating the biggest advantage of this new infrastructure: the availability of same day access. What’s more likely with my 11 AM Epcot arrival, is an artificially inflated wait time at Spaceship Earth and all Soarin’ Fastpasses are distributed for the day. And unless you woke up at 6 AM 180 days ago, you can forget about Le Cellier.

Another issue with new technology is and always will be education. There are people that don’t understand the current Fastpass system, and the new system is more complex. The new system should be simplified to guests on the front end, despite any complexities behind the scenes. Additionally, it is expected that Extra Magic Hours will be eliminated in the future and resort guests will expect a comparable replacement. So with that said, here are my proposals that aim to blend the two systems as well as simplify the front end for the guests.

Front End

  • Disney Vacation Club Members, Resort Guests and Annual Pass Holders can make one Advanced Fastpass+ reservation per day.
  • Non-Resort Guests and Non-Annual Pass Holders will not be eligible for Advanced Fastpass+ reservations
  • Disney Vacation Club Members and Resort Guests would be eligible to make all advanced Fastpass+ reservations for the length of their stay upon check in.
  • Annual Pass holders would be eligible to make Fastpass+ reservations one day prior to entering the park and usage would be limited on a quarterly basis.
  • All guests would have the same access to the day of Fastpass+ distribution.

Back End

  • Advanced Fastpass+ reservations would be limited to 25% of an attraction’s available Fastpass+ distribution. If needed, this will make a minimum of 75% of an attraction’s daily Fastpass+ allocation available day of.
  • An exception to the 25% limit would be preferred viewing locations for Parades and Fireworks, which can be distributed up to 100% in advance.
  • Fastpass distribution for shows should be either eliminated or limited to preferred viewing.
  • All attractions set up for Fastpass+ will be available for advanced reservations.
  • Day of Fastpass+ reservations would only be available when wait times are expected to exceed 30 minutes for more than one hour of the day.
  • Day of Fastpass+ distribution and availability will remain consistent with the current system and guests will not be allocated a set number per day.
  • Return windows will increase based on popularity of the attraction. Higher demand attractions (return time greater than 3 hours in advance) will continue to have a one hour return window. Moderate demand attractions (return time 1-3 hours in advance) will have a 2 hour return window. Lower demand attractions (return time less than 1 hour in advance) will have a 3 hour window.
  • The maximum elapsed time for the next available Fastpass will increase from two hours to three hours. The minimum will remain at 40 minutes.

Perhaps my biggest objection to the entire Next Gen project is the misallocation of funds. Reports have the investment at over $1 billion dollars to “fix” aspects of Walt Disney World that weren’t really broken. It’s an investment intended to repackage the existing offerings as opposed to building new ones. If given the choice I would much rather see the company return their focus to building quality attractions that drive attendance. After all, in the words of John Lasseter, “Quality is the best business plan.”


A Concerned Fan

  • Wagi

    Currently living outside of the States, we’ve several times visited WDW as part of an organized group tour, who provided transportation from off-site lodging and provided guides in the parks for non-English speakers. Generally the guides would go collect Fast Passes for one attraction while everyone rode another. It was actually nice having someone else go deal with Fast Passes for us, and the pricing for the organized group was actually less than if we just went on our own.

    I’m wondering exactly how similar guided groups will work out in the future?

    We generally don’t even know in advance which park we’ll visit on which day, so we’ve learned to head for Guest Services as soon as we arrive to make any dining reservations, and we have to be flexible with the times we are willing to eat (usually in the free hours the group has at each park).

    I foresee either groups strictly following a pre-set schedule with little or no wiggle-room and a lack of free time…or losing out on access to a lot of attractions. Either way seems to lessen the experience.

    Organized groups tours of the parks, especially for foreigners, are a big deal at WDW. Be interesting to see how they work them into this new system…or not.

  • Tim, I really appreciate your thoughtful comments on MyMagic+. Like you, I have love hate relationship with it. I think the loss of adventure by forcing everyone to plan months in advance is the biggest issue and will really suck a lot of life out of the theme park experience. Creating classes of guests and data security are right up there as well.

    However, being able to make same day reservations on my phone, see accurate wait times, etc, would be awesome. I don’t even mind those RFID bracelets. But I worry Disney will go too far with all of this and use all that data in ways that makes me uncomfortable.

    • wsiirola

      Dusty, you can already do all of that stuff on the free Disney Mobile Magic App. I used it when I was in Disney World over the weekend. It worked perfectly. It gives you official, accurate wait times and Fastpass return windows, park maps, event schedules, and access to dining reservations and menus. It even told me that Maelstrom was temporarily unavailable before I lugged myself all the way down to World Showcase! Everything that you said you wanted out of MyMagic+ is already available on that app!

  • Tim Grassey

    At this point, I suspect that this will benefit planning for large tour groups. Tests have shown that you can make the same reservations for all members of your party, and while these tour groups are larger than families, this can certainly help them.

    Having said that, I’m guessing that tweeks will happen along the way to all aspects of Fastpass+ and NextGen in general. Things will have to change in order to stay relevant.

  • Trumpet

    Great Letter Tim

    I 100% agree with what you are saying. There has been too much investment for a little outcome in my opinion. they need to update and improve their rides instead of worry about Mymagic+ or whatever they want to do. Theme parks are about attractions and themed environments, not expensive alternative that do not benefit all of their guests. it is a bad move Disney, and it needsto be stoped before they through more money at it (and subsequently down the toilet)

    Thanks Again Tim, and i look forward to more letters like this in the future

  • Tim Grassey


    I think Fastpass+ could be a very good thing. I just fear that it’s going to affect park touring/planning in the same negative way that the Dining Plan has affected park touring/planning. Here’s hoping they don’t misuse what could be a great benefit to guests.


    When we first heard of NextGen and the $1 billion budget, I thought, “When has Disney spent $1 billion on anything and it didn’t result in something positive for the fans?” I hope my initial thought was correct, and would love to look back on this article a year from now and see that my fears are never realized.

  • Wreckless Abrandon

    Loved this article. I have to agree that the Disney websites tend to be not very user friendly. They’re pretty to look at, but many questions aren’t easily answered. For example, it’s actually more difficult to find the FAQ section for Disneyland AP Holders. You can’t find the page quickly on the AP home page. I had to go to the Help Center to find FAQ’s as I wanted to figure out if it financially makes more sense for me to upgrade to the next level based on the number of times I may have to purchase the block out passes throughout the year. It took a lot of clicking and Googling to find the official response. Yahoo has answers, but they’re outdated with the wrong prices.

    Fastpass+ seems like Apple Maps/ GPS… released too soon with too many bugs.

  • Timekeeper

    Great Article, Tim.
    I agree with you on almost every aspect that’s covered in your letter, especially the last full paragraph, quality is really needed back in WDW; quality in food, in shows, in attractions, in merchandise, in everything. Quality that has not seen the light of day in the theme parks; Quality that has disappeared since the appearance of budget-cuts to even the most basic of needs for theme parks.


  • lionheartkc

    Unfortunately, it appears that Disney management is becoming more and more like other corporations. The number crunchers are always looking for another way to make more money and they are pushing everyone in operations to do more, faster, and roll things out far before they are ready, so that they can milk it for every possible penny.

    I blame Microsoft for mastering the art of releasing a product far before it was ready and having the public pay to work as their quality assurance department, doing their product testing. Disney is doing the same thing. Why hire people to test and wait months to make money when you can have people pay you for the “privileged” of testing your product?

    My initial thought about all of this was, once it was in place, they were going to be able to use it as a foundation for much cooler things, but… if they end up a) killing all spontaneity and relaxation in Disney vacations, and b) selling people’s info to outside sources, I think it will blow up in their face.

    One thing I know for sure. They need to hire better web developers. Nothing I’ve ever done with them, online, has gone entirely smoothly, and their user interfaces are far from being all inclusive, which the really need to be.

    • chesirecat

      MK has poor animatronic upkeep as they don’t have a dedicated maintenance team that just maintains the animatronics. I think the whole situation is in flux, but obviously they have had problems for many years when you look at Splash, even the Yeti, and now Mermaid and the malfunctioning wardrobe in Enchanted Tales with Belle.

      • Tim Grassey

        MiceAge contributor Garner Holt now handles the Animatronic maintenance if I recall. However, that doesn’t mean that the appropriate resources are being allocated to Garner Holt and his employees.

  • WesternMouse

    Good gosh. When I go to Disney, I just want to ride. I don’t want to memorize a playbook. This ain’t the NFL.

  • chesirecat

    This article reminds me of the “Airing of the Grievances” part of the Festivus holiday (Seinfeld). There are some accusations which are unfounded:

    1. That Disney will track guests and sell data to companies. I doubt that what ride you went on is valuable data worth anything to companies that don’t sell Mickey Mouse t-shirts and schedule princess meet and greets. This is a just a conspiracy theory started online by some disgruntled APers who want new rides for WDW, which the resort does need, but making up stuff about MyMagic+ won’t help.

    2. MyMagic+ privacy issues. The conspiracy theorists believe MyMagic+ will be used by pedophiles with M.I.T. level hacking skills to track down their kids in the park, when in fact the whole system is a security upgrade as traditional card swipe locks are already very “unsecure”. There will be initial bugs, but I’m sure Disney will have everything worked out.

    3. Disney as a corporate villain. It’s been no secret that Disney sell tons of . . . stuff . . . to tourists each day, including fudge on Main Street, t-shirts, and the like, for many decades. While I don’t deny that Disney is a commercial enterprise, not a non-profit, it has been this way for a long time, it’s nothing new.

    4. Fastpass complaints. Guests who hate lines will use FastPass as much as they can, but the system doesn’t increase ride capacity one bit, it just helps placates some guests who hate lines. With whatever system Disney implements, there will be a trial and error period, if it works—great, if it doesn’t then it will be modified. But if people can reserve Fast Passes ahead of time (I would be happy to reserve RSR FastPasses months ahead of time), then I think some will take advantage of this. There will always be Stand-By lines, and probaby in-park FastPass machines for a while, but as everybody has much more experience using computers, I see the new system becoming popular.

    There are good points made with upkeep, I will say, and MK needs more attractions, at some point folks won’t go as they won’t be able to get on as many rides, then Disney will have to build some new attractions.

    Mermaid is a cheap ride, and MK just cloned a cheap ride without thinking about the consequences for MK. Their bad.

    • Tim Grassey


      Your “airing of greviences” comparison is fairly accurate. However many of your conspiracy theory assertions were also articulated by Representative Markey as well. I also think you’re underestimating the value of this spending information.

      In the article I acknowledged how loyalty cards are utilizing this information. I encourage you to read this article about some of the knowledge that Target has been able to gain:

      What I think is very realistic is that Disney will be able to get more accurate estimates on a family’s annual income as a result of their in park spending. Information like this is often given willingly by some people, but less willingly by others. However, all of this information has value and it appears that many (including Representative Markey) are concerned about this.

      • Monorail Man


        But these aspects come with the use of any technology-based service. Even here on MiceChat, we could look at the times and IP address that a user logs in to determine their workplace or working hours. We could use their device string to determine their income (if they are using a $2700 Mac Pro or a $200 Chromebook or an iPhone vs. an inexpensive feature phone, etc.), and other information. We don’t use it, but Disney already can when you’re logged into an account on their website.

        Data itself isn’t worth money, but using that data correctly is. Disney’s privacy policy explicitly doesn’t allow them to sell the data. Like Google ads, or any other online advertising service, if they do sell targeted ads, it’s a double-blind system. It’s not just like they hand over a credit card, and say “Oh, here’s the file on Monorail Man!”

        When you use your Key to the World card, they have all the same information and the same data. It’s essentially a really fancy room key system, that I don’t think is worth the billion they spent on it. For them, the billion is combining all these disjointed systems into a single one – which from a logistics and company standpoint is awesome. However, I just think that WDW needs the money spent in other areas. The problem is, they already believe they have the superior Orlando product, so they chose to go with developing this system.

        I’m fully in the camp that a system like this will change the way we interact with theme parks in the next 20 years. We’re growing up with the ‘Social Me’ generation, and this is what MM+ is all about, allowing people to feel like they are in control, Disney is responding, and their vacation is all about them.

  • RD Sussmann

    As I’m in the process of planning out a WDW vacation for 2014, I can fully appreciate the level of detail that you’ve gone into. The concepts behind the new FastPass + system is a lot like Marxism: It works in theory, not in practice.

    As of the past long while, Disney has begun using loads & statistics to run the parks, whether for good or for bad. I can see why: Balancing out the loads is critical to avoid becoming SixFlags with overpopulated rides next to empty ones. This in itself is a good thing, but there are limits to how and why a park should do this.

    Being paraplegic has challenges where using the FastPass+ will be a useful tool to some degree for me- I can figure out the best methods & scheduling for being able to do the WDW properties without having to travel excessive distances or wait longer times. Knowing that Disney’s overall handicapped policies are dreadful (to be very polite), the new system is going to help me out quite a bit in making the most of every Disney minute I’ve got there. Most people do not want the rigid planning out of how the system works- and I can understand and respect that completely. But I also think this new tool can be quite powerful if used right.

    I do think that Disney is over- planning a park stay though for the ‘average’ guest. This is starting to remind me more & more of the movies “Westworld” and “Futureworld” where everything is done for you in the name of fun. Whereas I like being able to plan everything out, seeing Disney plan everything out for you is a wee bit too strict.

    Hopefully everything will work out nicely in the end- and the system will hold up for what I’m doing there.


    • Tim Grassey

      As a paraplegic, Disney would likely allow you to use a Guest Assistance Card. What I also fear is that the implementation of Fastpass+ will result in even greater abuse of this beneficial program. By making Fastpass usage more difficult, the guests will look to an alternative approach to improve park touring. That’s the Guest Assistance Card. Presumably what would happen after that is a change to the Guest Assistance Card policy, thus hurting those people that genuinely need it.

      This hypothetical scenario is another potential instance of Disney asking “How do we stop this from happening?” without asking “Why is this happening?”

  • disneylandfan8

    My simple two cents:

    Outside of planning what days I’ll be in the park and where I’ll stay, I do NOT want my action planned for every hour while I’m there. I work with deadlines and when I’m in the park I do NOT want to be stressed about being somewhere at certain time. That takes all the fun out of it.

    And I do NOT want to have to wear a wristband ticket, Fastpass thingy either.

    I tried to read the above letter, but it got way too complicated for me and if this is what going to Disneyland will be like count me out. I want to relax, not be tracked, prodded, told what to wear, which Fastpass line to be in, etc.

    My grandson turned one last week and I have been looking forward to the day he will walk under the (left) bridge and enter Main Street, USA. But if this type of marketing and policies continue he will never know the magic that Walt intended, just the greediness of the current company.

    • Tim Grassey

      My apologies that the letter was too complex (or perhaps simply too long). But as you said, this points to our respective attention spans (myself included). If we can’t figure something out quickly, we’re not interested in it.

      If nothing else, I’d encourage you to read my suggested “Front End” implementation of the Fastpass+ system (bullet points towards the end).

  • disneylandfan8

    In the first paragraph, that should’ve read: vacation, not action.

    (Could not figure out how to edit my comment)

  • RSZero1

    My family and I have been looking forward to visiting WDW for such a long time, we visit DL at least once a year since our child was born, however each year I read more and more of WDW’s decline, restriction of offerings, shuttering or downgrading of attractions and I am beginning to wonder if we should still plan a trip of if we should just be happy we have DL.

    It’d be nice to see all WDW has to offer, but it seems at this rate we’ll book a trip, flight and hotel to only be able to visit the Tangled restrooms after obtaining a PottiePass+ guaranteeing a wait time of between 3-4 hours with no other rides available as they have all been closed or fallen apart…

    • Tim Grassey

      Disney World is certainly visiting if you’re a Disneyland fan. There are aspects of it where it’s superior. Having said that, as a Disney World fan, I find myself gravitating to Disneyland more as the quality of Disney World has declined.

  • DLFan1995

    RE: Tim Grassey
    March 19, 2013 at 10:26 am

    “MiceAge contributor Garner Holt now handles the Animatronic maintenance if I recall. However, that doesn’t mean that the appropriate resources are being allocated to Garner Holt and his employees.”

    As Garner Holt is based in California, does he have people in WDW to maintain all the animatronics there? Is he just on call if something goes awry? Or does WDW have their own maintenance CM’s capable of maintaining animatronics?

    • Tim Grassey

      I’m not 100% certain on the relationship, so I don’t want to present any misinformation.

      • Semiquaver

        At the moment, animatronics at WDW are still repaired by Disney “trained” electricians. They have animatronics classes given by someone from WDI, but after the initial training there is no continuing education.

        Reasons why the animatronics are in bad shape include:

        Actuators are continually refurbished well beyond the time they just need to be replaced

        New safety protocols make it a big deal to get to some animatronics in precarious locations

        Shoddy design in the first place with actuators jammed in a small location, to fix one thing everything else that’s working fine has to be removed

        Lack of continuing education and thus a uniform way of carrying out repairs

        Lastly low employee morale in maintenance and a general I-don’t-give-a-darn attitude

  • LoveStallion

    See: capitalism

    It’s about shareholders, not guests.

    • Tim Grassey

      If the guests go away, so will the shareholders.

  • BrianFuchs

    I don’t see the author’s issue with making FastPass+ available on high capacity rides. We should hope that people waste their FastPass+ usage on those rides that really don’t need a Fastpass to begin with. Would you rather have everyone only use them on the low capacity rides? If that happened, the standby wait for Peter pan would be two hours all day long.

    I really wish Disney would do away with FastPass and embrace the VIP methods every other park in the universe uses. Sell VIP access at a prohibitively high enough price to ensure a nice profit, while not selling too many VIPs which would result in horrendous standby lines.

    • Tim Grassey

      The point is, Fastpass is not typically needed on high capacity rides, but by making them available you will increase the standby time. The higher demand/lower capacity rides will likely see an increase in standby time as well because the availability of day of Fastpasses will decrease, yet the total Fastpass distribution should remain the same.

  • Tim Grassey

    Monorail Man (sorry, couldn’t reply to your post directly),
    Yes, the tracking is being done elsewhere besides Disney. That doesn’t necessarily defend it, especially if they’re tracking and selling information on children. These were all concerns expressed by Representative Markey, who has led the charge on this against other companies as well.

    Unfortunately for us Disney fans, his current campaign for Senator seems to be taking up too much of his time to follow up with Disney.

    • deggert

      While I agree with much of what is presented here, the concern over the selling of personal information is the portion of this I have the biggest problem with. No, I certainly don’t want Disney to be selling my personal information and buying/usage habits to outside companies, and I think that is the opinion of the majority of their guests. However, by simply reading the corporate and MyMagic+ privacy policies, it becomes apparent that there is zero intent to do so, as it would directly violate their own policies. I’m sure we can expect Disney to use the information itself, while we are in the park and probably after, to attempt to market directly to us an increase their sales, but in my mind, that’s acceptable. I purchased use of their park, and I go in knowing that they want to sell me more.

      Because this is explicitly laid out in the publicly available privacy policies, I also agree with the, as you put it, “juvenile” tone of Iger’s response to Markey. Had Markey actually been concerned about child safety and personal privacy being affected by the new program, his office could have contacted the company directly for more information and then, if they found the policies lacking, publicly called out Disney. By jumping straight to public accusations without any prior research it is clear that this was simply a publicity stunt to increase his public profile, which is also supported by the fact that he has been silent on the matter ever since, having already achieved his goal of large amounts of press attention. I think that a strongly worded response was necessary to ensure that the rebuttal got as much media attention as the initial accusations. A polite, boilerplate response would have been mostly overlooked, leaving the general public with only the memory of “Disney=Child Endangerment”.

  • JiminyCricketFan

    Thanks for a very thorough article. I am very torn on the issue. I love WDW and wish that new attractions were being added at a faster rate. The MyMagic+ program really does not seem to be a benefit to me. I have a hard enough time keeping my restaurant reservations as it is. There are times when I am rushing back to the restaurant to make a reservation time. That is stressful enough, so thinking about rushing back to a ride to make the pre-determined ride time is even more stressful. I believe that the motivation in all this is not to improve the guest experience but to make more money for Disney. On that, the whole structure rests. I really cannot get excited about that.

    • Tim Grassey

      My only hope is that they quickly realize the weaknesses that I (and many others) have identified.

      Another point that I neglected to mention in the article is that Disney is looking for guests to book dining reservations 180 days in advance, yet park hours aren’t available that far in advance. This again points to Disney holding their guests to a higher standard then they’re holding themselves. Is anything lost from Disney’s standpoint to decreasing the reservation window to 60 days, or even a week? 60 days is the norm in Disneyland, and without the dining plan it’s very easy to walk into any restaurant without a reservation.

  • SpectroMan

    Very well-written article/letter. Upon making plans for my recent trip last month to WDW, I encountered numerous problems with the MDE website. I had to re-link my rooms and food many, many times as the website simply “Forgot”. I also had horrible checkin problems at French Quarter even after checking in online the day before. Disney has a history of not perfecting things until they are already released, and it needs to change.

    Thanks for addressing all the maintenance and cost cutting issues as well.

  • eicarr

    Magic+ should be a WDW exclusive. If maintenance is an issue they should cut back on rides to maintain (as they’ve done with toad, snow white, and many removed EPCOT attractions). Less rides are helping make WDW parks half day experiences so people can spend half of the day at downtown disney, resort spas and getting sold on timeshares.

    • Tim Grassey

      Cutting back on the number of attractions isn’t the solution. Maintaining the existing infrastructure is, and always should be part of the continued upkeep of the parks. They have failed to do that and will continue to lose ground to Universal in attendance.

  • jediblueman

    There is a lot of nonsense being written by people who are scared of MyMagic+, and this response certainly shares some of it, but more than any other actually talks about some of the more important intelligent things people should be concerned about and less about the nonsense. I’m not going to address the privacy concerns or the concerns about what Disney is doing with your information because I really don’t care about any of that and don’t think MyMagic+ is anything new when it comes giving Disney your information. Key to the World cards have been doing that for a long time and nobody has cared.

    However, i have a much more optimistic view of these, somewhat more reasonable concerns.

    Concern 1 – Doesn’t work very well.
    This is a legitimate thing to worry about. Does the website work? Does the system work? Is it ready? Is it full of bugs?
    My optimistic point of view is….probably yes, but if it is, they’ll hold back until it is fixed. Nothing to freak out over.

    Concern 2 – Concern about same day fastpass availability and spreading demand around in a way that will make lines longer:
    -This is going to be very hard to tell what will happen until it is tried. The beauty of it is that they can continue with trial and error until it is perfect. They can keep changing the amount of fastpasses you are allowed to get. They can keep playing with the ratios of how many to allow in advance, day of, and total. They are also showing so much commitment to making the stand by queues an even greater experience than ever. If your concern regarding inequality of attractions both in popularity and efficiency becomes a concern of most people, they could even implement an A, B, C, D, E ticket scheme where you’re allowed 2 E-tickets and 4 D-tickets and so on…whatever works. They could have schemes that give some preferential treatment to resort guests. I don’t know, but the possibilities are endless until they get it right.
    I’ve always been a believer that fastpasses, whether given day of or in advance, have never made stand by lines longer….only slower. All those people cutting in front of you in fastpass line are people that would’ve been waiting with you in standby line if fastpass didn’t exist.

    Concern 3 – Extra Magic Hours –
    Extra magic hours don’t work to me. I’d rather just have the park open longer for everyone. Everyone from the hotels all decides to go to the same park at the same time, and especially at places like Hollywood Studios with limited rides, it’s just a crowded mess. I would love to see this end once fastpass+ has a proven successful system including some extra perks for resort guests.

    Concern 4 – Too much money into this project instead of maintenance, new attractions etc.
    My optimistic point of view is that Disney noticed that guests are having shorter attention spans and that those families who come from a long way and only get to come one time have a lot of stress and just want to make sure they will definitely have time for a couple of favorite attractions. Also, that whole everyone rush in the morning to grab your Toy Story or Soarin’ fastpass is just not fun. Also so many technological things at the resorts were just way behind the times compared to other hotels. This is a huge technology catch up game and leap ahead that us hardcore Disney fans may not understand, but is needed to keep up with the general public. I have optimistic hopes that when it is completed…and fully working…the focus will return to new attractions and upkeep. They are already doing great things to enhance queues at attractions and even little details like Rapunzel’s restrooms at Magic Kingdom are really pushing the park forward in beauty and detail. It is feeling more and more like Disneyland detail and quality every day at the Magic Kingdom, but in its own special way.
    I’m sure Disney knows that Universal’s attendance and profits soared because of the quality of Harry Potter and California Adventure’s attendance and profits soared due to all their investments in beautifying the park and making quality attractions. Something like MyMagic+ will never be the reason people visit, but it might make it better once they do. Disneyland and Walt Disney World have done a lot of things differently but they are still the same company and Disney knows that in the end it is the parks and attractions that matter. But they also know that if they don’t catch up with the technology to make the experience the way modern people are used to

    • horizonsfan

      Regarding Extra Magic Hours, Disney would likely not keep the parks open later if they get rid of Evening Extra Magic Hours. Instead, they’ll just close at the same time. For example, EPCOT will still close at 9:00 and won’t have nights where it would be open later. This is a cost-cutting move if it happens, pure and simple.

      Regarding your fourth point, Disney is missing the boat on what made the company great. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, Disney World grew so popular because it was clean, had amazing attractions, and offered great service. Universal has had high-tech rides that matched Disney since its Orlando park opened, but they’ve never been able to top Disney. The technology is not the reason Universal is catching up. It’s because the Harry Potter section has a great attraction and is well-maintained. This is what Disney is missing. People may not go home thinking “That park had great maintenance”. but it gives them reassurance subconsciously. If things are off, it gives a lesser experience that is causing some visitors to shift to Universal.

    • Tim Grassey

      Honestly, the privacy concerns are less of an issue for me. Sadly, it’s the world we live in now. But I do feel that companies know far more about us than they’re telling us. I really don’t think companies are incapable of Vanilla Sky marketing, they chose not to for fear of turning off the consumer. Simply put, Google ads are very targeted and we see those every day.

      My concern here is that they are turning your vacation into a chore. I’m a total Type A personality, yet this still screams overkill.

  • horizonsfan

    This letter has a lot of solid points that Disney seems intent not to address. The privacy issues are part of it, but I’m more concerned with the effect on the guest experience. A lot of the crowd control problems currently faced in the parks are caused by Fastpass, but I recognize its helpful effects in planning out your day. Part of this assistance was minimized when Disney started enforcing the return times, but that’s understandable because it sets up for this new service.

    This Fastpass+ service is not designed for the passionate Disney fan that goes frequently, tours effectively, park hops, and rides their favorite attractions multiple times in the same day. It’s set up for visitors who want to to do “The Disney thing” with their family and have “experiences”. They’ll ride a few big rides, meet some characters, and have a nice meal. These guests typically have a lot of money too. Disney is catering to that guest and not to its devoted fans. They’re also catering to people who don’t pay attention to attraction maintenance and don’t realize that quality control has taken a back seat.

    It’s a sad reflection on the state of the company, and I really hope that they modify this program based on guest feedback to at least retain daily Fastpasses and offer more flexibility. The current set-up is far too rigid to do anything but hinder the guest experience.

    • Tim Grassey

      I think they’ve already made the Fastpass system worse with the strict 1 hour return windows. I really think that Fastpasses for attractions like Jungle Cruise, Buzz Lightyear, or some of the high capacity Fastpass+ offerings should have a much longer return window. They’re not distributing the total allocation of Fastpasses for those attractions, the backlog of the Fastpass queue shouldn’t be a concern.

  • Tim Grassey

    Semiquaver, thanks for the comments on the previous page. I don’t know enough about the issues surrounding maintenance other than when I can see something not working correctly.

    I had heard that staffing was less of an issue than a willingness by management to fix things. I have no idea if that’s true or if it’s simply fanboy nonsense.

  • Amy VandenBoogert

    “Journey of the Little Mermaid: The attraction opened prior to the Flotsam and Jetsam animatronics working properly. They have remained switched off since then.”

    I was in the parks as recently as last week, and the Floatsam and Jetsam AA’s were working fine. I actually noticed their mouths moving and hearing their dialog for the first time since I first went on the ride back in October during dress rehearsals.

    • Tim Grassey

      You are correct, I should have revised that as they have been turned on within the last month or so.

  • kymfilms

    I am an OCD vacation planner, the dining reservations while annoying aren’ t that bad. The thought of planning rides 6 months ahead of time is a bit much even for me. I like the sponteneity of choosing what attraction you want to go on next and it makes it relaxing even though a Disney vacation is not always relaxing. I think there should be limits on the fast pass+ without making it impossible to get fastpasses on the day of. I’m not sure if you can do both fast pass + ahead of time as well as still get fast passes the day of, and that to me would make a big difference if this whole thing will work. Flexibilty is important on vacation and I hope it doesn’t get lost. I agree that only time will tell and that they will continue to tweak things until the get it working efficiently. We just have to wait and see.

    As far as the selling information goes it says in their fine print that they’re not selling it. And not for nothing it’s the 21st century and there really isn’t any privacy, but hey we all still use facebook.

    Keep your fingers crossed everything works out for the best!

  • Gullywhumper

    Great article!

  • Gregg Condon

    I know I’m in the EXTREME minority among the MC staff regarding Fastpass+ but I’m actually really looking forward to the system. As somebody that really does like to plan out my vacations it’s going to be an amazing thing. I’m also willing to wait and see what happens when the system is fully rolled out and not jump to any conclusions.

    I do think it’s uses are going to be greater for WDW vs Disneyland since we all know Disneyland is a locals park. Unfortunately I think FP+ is going to create angry Disneyland AP’s who are going to start demanding things from front of the line CM’s. It will be a great thing for true vacationers however.

    Maybe I’m fine with the system because I likely won’t be using it anytime soon since our AP’s expire in May and we have no intention on renewing them anytime soon. But when we start planning our next FL vacation (hopefully next year sometime) we will certainly be utilizing all things FP+.

    I can’t imagine what a great selling point this will not only be for Disney travel but other travel agencies like our own Fairy Godmother Travel.

  • Tinkd

    Thanks for the letter, I too have concerns since it’s coneption. I was originally surveyed on all it’s parts as a top secret project 4 or 5 years ago. I had all the same ideas come up, as far as spontanaety, what happens to the FP if your plans change and you end up at a different park…does that take away from the guests trying to get FP that aren’t using the Mymagic…on and on…but I have warmed up to the idea as a Disneyland guest. I have to disagree with your front end plan as that does not accomodate out of town/state guests that are not staying on the property but caters to AP’s. As it seems there are too many local AP’s now that eat up the FP’s and don’t buy merchandise or dine, I would like to be able to use the MyMagic and at least have a few gaurantees and not have to fight the locals. We don’t always get to stay on property but that shouldn’t take away from our “guest” experience, I think that would get into preferential treatment, which I can’t imagine that’s what Walt wanted, or that Disney now intends. As it is just because you stay at WDW, doesn’t mean you are staing on the property. When we did go, we tried, but it was sold out and had to stay elsewhere. A friend has stayed at WDW in Dec and was chosen to participate and it was nothing but frustration and more so since she had special needs and was in a scooter. There was lack of coordination between rides and dining. Now your backend idea seemed more logical as adapting to the needs of the park. It doesn’t seem like this is going away anytime soon, I hope it works out since we can’t stop it. I also know they are working on their website and blog to be more user friendly.

  • ParkerMonroe

    If/when Disney responds please post that as well.

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