Kevin Yee brings another update from Walt Disney World, where there’s good news and shocking news to share.

First Test of FASTPASS+ Successful

Last weekend, Disney World conducted a test of the MagicBands, that crucial piece of jewelry in the MyMagic+ system which enables FASTPASS+. For these 5,000 test users, the first ones to actually see and use the system who weren’t Disney CMs, the chance to try out the technology was a thrill. Users from the Contemporary Resort and Animal Kingdom Lodge were invited up to a month ago to select their rides in advance and participate in the test.

FASTPASS+ gives users the ability to make ride reservations before the vacation even begins; even weeks or months before. For this test, the users were given only THREE reservations per day, and if they accepted the MagicBands, they did not have an option to also obtain regular (“day of”) FASTPASS tickets. They were stuck with just three reservations per day.

They were interviewed and focus-grouped intently… and I’m a bit surprised that the majority of them were happy with the results. Many were extremely happy. Three was apparently enough for these paying visitors from afar; something Disney has obviously known about via their heavy use of surveys tracking of Big Data the past several years. I would have expected more people to demand five or even ten FASTPASS reservations per day, but this is a good reminder that not everyone uses the parks the way we weekly visitors do.

There were some technology glitches, and those made people upset, but the key takeaway for me was that they liked making reservations in advance and didn’t demand spontaneity beyond what they could do in Standby lines. And this is the key feature of FASTPASS+ (perhaps even in the larger MyMagic+ system), so in that sense, this test revealed that Disney has what they must perceive to be a winner on their hands.

Some of the implementation team are saying the “magic number” of reservations will stay at three for everyone: resort visitors, annual passholders, and ticket holders staying off property. But others seem unsure what will be decided eventually, and it’s hard to tell if they are hedging their bets because they know something or if it’s because they just know Disney often changes its mind. I’d be surprised if they don’t find a way to reward people staying in their own hotels via extra reservations – that seems a no-brainer to me, but for now we just don’t know.

We also don’t know from this limited test what the effect on the parks of wide scale adoption would be. There is still not enough information to figure out if standby lines for things like Pirates of the Caribbean would go up, or go down (or be unaffected) if the whole park was full of people visiting with FASTPASS+ reservations made weeks ago. The info most needed is how many reservations will be issued per day. Take Space Mountain. If they used to issue 20,000 tickets in a day (to make up a number), that led to a certain length of wait for Standby. If they move it to be only 10,000 tickets per day, that would make the Standby line much faster, since the ride is able to load the same number of people per hour under both systems. And if they issued 30,000 tickets per day, that would make the standby line slower.

Now take that thought experiment and magnify it to the level of the whole park, adding in the additional wrinkle that now you’ve got rides (Small World, American Idol Experience, a ton more) that are part of the advanced FASTPASS+ reservation system which previously were standby only. That MIGHT make the E-ticket rides have quicker standby lines, if some visiting tourists opt for Small World instead. But I think the number with bigger importance is how many reservations are allowed for the E-ticket ride itself. Regardless of what’s happening elsewhere in the park, if Space Mountain has more reservations pre-assigned for the day than it did in the paper FP world, that will make for slower standby lines.

Those paper FASTPASS machines will stick around for the transition, but by sometime in 2014 when the parks fully transition to MagicBands and FASTPASS+, the paper machines will go away entirely. Any day-of reservations, changes, or cancellations will be handled digitally at the less-frequent screen kiosks already in the parks.

Feel free to chime in about FASTPASS+, the magic number of three, or the entire “reserve in advance” concept in the comments section below!

SpectroMagic Destroyed

It’s sometimes said that the best way to remove a band-aid is to rip it off quickly rather than drawing out the process, so here goes: the floats from SpectroMagic have been demolished, cut up, and put into dumpsters. A few remaining ones (and possibly the source of some conflicting reports) will be used to train future float drivers for other parades, but this parade is not coming back.

Disney insisted when the Main Street Electrical Parade arrived at the Magic Kingdom that SpectroMagic would return; that the Main Street Electrical Parade was a temporary replacement. Well, the SpectroMagic floats were stored in a way that exposed them partly to the Florida elements, and the floats could not be salvaged. I first reported on April 30 that the floats were damaged and likely to never return, and now it seems the demolition took place. (Addendum to that April 30 piece: they *did* reopen the fort escape tunnel apparently, which is great news!)

Disney has not officially confirmed the demolition via press release, but there have been multiple credible eyewitness reports of the parade units in dumpsters behind Central Shops backstage, in the white tents the units had been stored in for some time, and they appear to be confirming it privately to some individuals.

Farewell, SpectroMagic! I will honor the parade by giving you this photo retrospective (obviously taken over many nights before 2010). In the comments field below, feel free to chime in on your thoughts about this development. Are you a bigger fan of MSEP than SpectroMagic?

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Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress

I recently was invited to stay at this hotel near WDW that I’ve seen a million times but never gone to. Upshot: it’s a bargain 4-star hotel. The list of things to do here that are free (well, you paid for them with the required $22 resort fee) are staggering and I’ll be back just to do these all day:

  • multiple pools with waterfalls
  • bike and family surrey rentals
  • rock climbing walls
  • nine holes of “pitch and putt” golf – something bigger than mini golf, smaller than real golf. “Junior golf”?
  • golf driving range
  • tennis courts
  • canoes
  • paddle boats
  • kayaks
  • aquacycles
  • sailboat
  • fitness center (double the size you’re expecting)
  • 4.7 mile (!) jogging trail

My full review can be seen here.


The Original Grimms

Do you love the Disney movies? Then you’re going to love finding out where those stories came from and how they evolved… and it will surprise you greatly! I’ve got a new book out this year, and it’s something I’ve been working on for ten years. It’s a collection of the Grimms fairy tales, but it’s guaranteed to be like nothing you’ve ever read before. This is the first-ever translation in English of the Grimms fairy tales as they appeared in the Grimms’ working manuscript. These were the stories as told to the Grimms directly; these are the tales, in other words, that truly capture the spirit and intended messages of these peasant stories.

The version of Grimms fairy tales that you’ve read before (if you’ve read them at all) is actually a translation of the seventh edition published by the Grimms. They changed the stories constantly, and it’s a revelation to view them in their original, unexpurged state.

Ever wonder why Cinderella’s prince can’t just recognize his dancing partner by face? You’ll learn the answer by reading the original and comparing it to the final version in Grimms. The Disney movie was not based on Grimms so much as another fairy tale author named Perrault, but our comparison of the Grimms versions reveals the underlying moral message which explains the princes actions in all versions, including the Disney movie.

To give you just a taste of what this book holds, consider the case of Snow White. You may think of this at the moment as a story about true love, probably due to the influence of the Disney movie. The fairy tale in the published Grimms collection is gruesome by comparison, with the evil stepmother punished for her sins with torture and death. But this was not the original Grimms story. My book will let you see the story as it appeared in the manuscript, which is different still. Gone is the stepmother, and gone is the prince as rescuer. Serving those same functions in the original story are the girl’s mother and father. If you consider that for a moment, you’ll recognize that this changes the story dramatically. It’s now a family drama, and the queen is jealous of her own daughter’s beauty. The implication is that she is worried about losing her man to the more beautiful girl. Yes, there’s a minor implication of incest in the original story, made stronger by the fact that the father does rescue the girl at the end and puts his own wife to death. Squeamish about all of these messages, the Grimms hastily replace the mother with a stepmother, and the father with a prince from the outside.

That’s not all. The Grimms kept tinkering with the story. When it was first published in the 1812 edition, the father is absent from the story, and a prince rescues Little Snow White. However, in this early version, the girl is not jolted awake when taken from the dwarfs. Rather, her coffin is carted about the prince’s castle so he can look upon her whenever he wished, and abusive servants, irritated that they had to shoulder her weight constantly, smacked her corpse in anger and accidentally dislodged the magical bit of apple.

Now that you know the true origins of Snow White, won’t it be hard to view the story the same way in the future?

This book will hopefully have an effect on readers just like that for all the stories discussed. It looks at the original and final versions of several popular tales, including Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, Hansel and Gretel, and the Frog King, which was the source material for Disney’s movie the Princess and the Frog.

An essay accompanies each translation to put the different versions into context, provide some cultural analysis, and also compare both text versions to more popular modern retellings, including Disney animated features, if there is one for that tale. We even look at other Disney fairy tale movies, even if they don’t originate from the Grimms. Accordingly, you’ll find a discussion of Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, and the Little Mermaid. The little mermaid interpretation in particular may surprise and even shock readers.

The book is 114 pages long and can be purchased at and several international Amazon websites. It retails for $6.99. You will also find the book available as an e-book for Kindle devices, or the free Kindle-for-PC software. The Kindle version costs $5.99.

More information and updates

Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History. Readers are invited to connect with him online and face to face at the following locations: