What’s the Plus Side: Leveraging Next Gen

Written by Tim Grassey. Posted in Disney, Features, Walt Disney World

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Published on November 03, 2013 at 3:07 am with 63 Comments

“We have known for a really long time that getting our visitors to Walt Disney World to make decisions about where they spend their time before they leave home is a powerful driver of visits per guest. When they get into the Orlando market and their time isn’t yet planned, they can be subject to everything you see down there, which is a lot of in-city marketing for all the many products that people have put there to basically bleed off the feed that we fundamentally motivate. So if we can get people to plan their vacation before they leave home, we know that we get more time with them. We get a bigger share of their wallet. So that’s one thing for you guys to think about.

And the second thing is, what happens to purchases when they become much more convenient and you don’t spend time queuing up for a transaction, queuing up to get in the park and you actually have more time to enjoy the entertainment and subsequently spend more money doing things other than standing in line which, of course, you can’t spend any money while you’re doing that”.​  -  Disney CFO Jay Rasulo, on the 2013 2nd Quarter Earnings Call

 

Without upgrades and additions, My Magic + is going to be largely perceived as a trip planning tool and scheduling assistant. This offers many benefits for Disney from scheduling staff, to offering discounts and setting park hours. More importantly, the perception is that if you have multiple items scheduled such as dining or attraction reservations, you will be less inclined to go elsewhere with your money. There is some logic to this belief, but it is not without flaws.

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Disney has made it advantageous for guests to stay on property, because it is also advantageous for them. They’ve offered “complimentary” transportation from the airport to Disney property so that guests are not “tempted” by the other offerings in Central Florida. The cost of the Magical Express is built into the price of the hotel rooms. More importantly, the “cost” is absorbed by keeping guests on property as opposed to sending them and their money elsewhere. The Disney Dining Plan has a similar structure. With meals paid for in advance, guests want to ensure they are getting full value out of their meals. If the meals are already paid for, they’re not going to visit an offsite restaurant.

Fastpass+ is similar in concept and motivation. It was not driven by guest demand – it was driven by the desire to keep people on property. The belief is that if a guest has multiple ride reservations scheduled, that has value to the guest. From Disney’s perspective, they believe the guest won’t want to concede their reservations in favor of visiting another Orlando theme park.

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All of these concepts are logical from a business standpoint, however to the consumer they are nothing more than a repackaging of what is already there. The good news for Disney is that many consumers won’t recognize this as a repackaging. For me personally though, it’s getting increasingly difficult to defend marginal changes to attractions while the competition is making substantial changes.

I recognize that many of these points have been raised before, either by myself or others on this very site. However, I feel it is necessary to reinforce the true motivations behind this project. My Magic+ and Fastpass+ are the most significant consumer facing components of Next Gen. Considering the budget and scope of the Next Gen project, Disney will not let the My Magic+ and Fastpass+ components go away.

Since it has been established that My Magic+ and Fastpass+ are here to stay, the best thing us as fans can do is help shape the evolution of these programs.

 

Fastpass+

On a recent trip during low crowds, I witnessed Toy Story Mania Fastpasses gone by noon and Soarin’ and Test Track Fastpasses gone by 3 PM. While these numbers are normal during average crowds, it was my first experience with the effects of Fastpass+ on day-of Fastpass distribution. This reinforced what was already known: Fasptass+ will hurt day-of Fastpass+ availability. As expected the effects on lower demand attractions was higher standby times as well.

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More recently, paper Fastpasses for Toy Story Mania, Test Track and Soarin have been distributed for the day by 11 AM during periods of low to average crowds. This is a function of being able to book all of these attractions in advance and all at the same time. Previously, the two hour delay helped extend the distribution times later in the day, but under the new system, this is no longer an option. Disney has marketed this to guests by offering lesser attractions that previously did not require Fastpass like Spaceship Earth or The Seas with Nemo and Friends. If Disney truly believes that these attractions have an equal demand, then they are doing a horrible job of marketing their attractions.

In many cases, Disney has stated that booking Fastpass+ reservations in advance is something that guests wanted, yet Jay Rasulo’s comments seemed to contradict this. Comedian Adam Carolla has adapted a simple approach for dealing with people or companies that appear deceptive. They’re either stupid or liars. Is Disney stupid in thinking that this is truly a benefit that guests want, or are they lying and their true motivations correlate more with what Jay Rasulo said on the 2nd Quarter Earnings Call?

With regards to Fastpass+, we as fans can identify the flawed motivation in adding Fastpass+ to attractions that never previously needed Fastpass. It ties back to Jay Rasulo’s mantra, “If they plan it, they will come.” By scheduling 3 attractions per day, guests would be less inclined to leave property. In order to facilitate 3 attractions per guest the number of available Fastpass reservations needed to be expanded. The effects of this have already manifested itself during the limited testing and the end result is longer wait times. This means that the guest reward for their planning is longer wait times throughout the park.

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The other interesting dynamic of Fastpass+ is that currently guests can only acquire Fastpass+ reservations for a single park, yet all attractions are created equal. This acts as a deterrent to park hopping and there is some belief this is actually intentional. Even though park hopping is a monetary benefit for Disney, the assumption is that Disney is looking to stop guests from hopping to the Magic Kingdom as a means of better distributing crowds. By eliminating the incentive to park hop, Disney can force guests to stay in a park without having to build new rides that would otherwise keep them there.

The last Fastpass+ component that is especially frustrating for myself personally is that Disney has specifically mentioned that users of the new DAS system should incorporate Fastpass/Fastpass+ into their touring strategy. Given these new accelerated distribution rates, this represents a significantly flawed understanding of how autism works. It’s simply not realistic to plan an autistic person’s day 60 days in advance even in a manner that is supplementary to the DAS system.
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Fastpass+ is a ruse to sell guests on what’s already there. Every component of it is designed to deceive guests into staying on property. It has been stated by the company that the roll out will be limited to three Fastpass+ reservations per guest, per day. If they stick with this approach, the Fastpass program will no longer be a competitive advantage from a guest satisfaction standpoint.

Rolling out the electronic system while still utilizing the distribution rules for legacy Fastpass would be beneficial to guests. Personally, I think this will allow Disney to still “save face” by leveraging the infrastructure that they created without discouraging their guests. In a time when their closest competitor is investing in new attractions, they can’t afford for these infrastructure changes to be anything but convenient.

My Magic+/My Disney Experience

After a recent trip, I received a survey about the My Disney Experience application. I gave it mixed reviews because simply put, it’s not as useful as it can be. One of the primary rules of an easily navigable website is limiting the number of “clicks” for the user. This is largely my biggest complaint about the application. I want to see wait times, and I want to see them alphabetized or of just my selected attractions. To do this requires four clicks at minimum from the start of the application. At this point, third party applications are still superior despite not having the visuals of the My Disney Experience application.

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Another complaint I had centered around dining. Recently Disney expanded the credit card guarantee to all table service locations. Despite the fact that Disney painted themselves into this corner with the aforementioned Disney Dining Plan, I support the expansion of the credit card guarantee given the circumstances. Having said that, cancelling or modifying your reservation should be much easier. Currently, if you would like to reduce the number of people in your dining party on most reservations, the only way to do so is the 407-WDW-CNCL/DINE phone number. This is largely because the current online/mobile system does not acknowledge your existing reservation as something that can be manipulated, it can only be cancelled. Additionally, linking existing reservations to a My Magic + account, even those reservations made under that account’s e-mail address has resulted in complications that could not be resolved by the mobile application’s technical support.

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From a simpler standpoint, finding in park quick service dining information is simply not navigable at this point. The application pushes guests towards making a reservation. The easiest way to find a quick service menu is to know that restaurant’s name and manually type it into the application. This is wildly inconvenient from a guest satisfaction standpoint.

My last complaint on the survey was about the speed of the application. Admittedly I was not using the free wireless internet in the park, and have heard more favorable speed reports on the wireless internet.

Leveraging Next Gen

So despite all these complaints, I do feel that there is some good that can come from Next Gen. In its simplest form, it is a large infrastructure enhancement capable of being integrated with a variety of things in the parks and resorts. The problem right now is that they invested a ridiculous sum of money to build this infrastructure and the efforts to leverage the investment seem to be primarily focused on deceiving guests into staying on property. Nothing about what Disney is currently doing with Next Gen is “wowing” guests, and yet the system is capable of doing so.  Their actions are the equivalent of building a billion dollar football stadium, and then hoping that a Pop Warner team can fill the place.

The Next Gen system should be used to enhance the guest experience with interactive components throughout the park and its attractions. The priority should be personalization, and not in a 20+ year old E.T. Adventure equivalent type way. I don’t want to see interaction programmed into attractions where it doesn’t belong, but some of the more recent additions lend themselves to My Magic + integration:

Test Track: The design your car component can be done before hand on a computer, tablet or phone with unlimited time. This would allow these guests to bypass the machines in the queue and improve throughput.

Star Tours: The Rebel Spy on Star Tours can be identified by the name attached to the Magic Band, and Disney could track which of the 54 sequences the guests have seen. In theory this could help promote re-rideability in a very efficient attraction.

Other possibilities have also been suggested around it’s a small world and character meet and greets, but there is really two very significant possibilities for really leveraging this technology: Star Wars and Avatar.

Both Star Wars and Avatar lend themselves to physical effects that can be activated remotely. Imagine walking through a Star Wars land, waving your hand like a Jedi and activating one of many physical effects. Similarly, guests should be able to utilize the Magic Bands to activate the flora and fauna of the World of Avatar as well.

One of the most popular features of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort is the Ollivander’s Wand Shop. Inside, effects are “activated” by the wave of a Magic Wand. It is a supplementary component to the land that truly adds to the experience. My Magic+ should be used to supplement our experiences in the parks, but it should not be the primary driver of the entire vacation. Guests should be able to activate things inside and outside of attractions by using their Magic Band.

Right now, they’re not leveraging this system into one that enhances the guest experience on attractions. They’re leveraging the system into one that enhances their ability to get more money out of the guests. As fans, how would you like to see Disney leverage this technology in the parks? Do you believe that this system can truly be a benefit to the guests?

About Tim Grassey

Three months before being born, Tim enjoyed his first trip to Disney World. Ever since, frequent trips to Disney World and Disneyland have helped feed the obsession. After a three year run as a podcaster, Tim currently co-owns the Disney information site, WDWThemeParks.com. You can follow the site on twitter @wdwthemeparks or follow Tim directly @tgrassey

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  1. [...] What's the Plus Side: Leveraging Next Gen When they get into the Orlando market and their time isn't yet planned, they can be subject to everything you see down there, which is a lot of in-city marketing for all the many products that people have put there to basically bleed off the feed that … Read more on MiceChat [...]

  2. WDW has resorted to trying to trick the uninformed vacation guest with buses and armbands, etc. “We will get suckers programmed to thinking about our 3 attractions per day and then hope they don’t hear about Universal Studios”.

    Walt made the PARK so innovative and amazing that nobody wanted to leave.

    Universal just had a gigantic record quarter because of Despicable Me, new Simpson’s Land, and Transformers all added to WWOHP. When Diagon Alley opens along with the Hogwarts Train and guests start to hear more about what Universal is giving them, will watch out Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney Studios. If Universal gets close or passes any of these in attendance, then a theme park earthquake will be felt throughout WDW.

    • Hopefull they will surpass one of those parks. That would be a great day for us theme park fans, as Disney would get the clear message. We want awesome immersive lands and attractions, not unlimited meet and greets and shops all selling the same stuff, and we don’t want to plan what rides we’ll be riding months in advance. Rediculous!

      • Totally agree with the above comments. Next gen is the most self-serving thing that WDW has ever put on the table. And I thought the table was already pretty full. WDW management is COMPLETELY out of touch with their Guests. Completely.

      • Like anything I will reserve final judgment until it’s out of test phases but the more I hear the less I like. It’s a long haul for us to WDW and won’t happen again til 2015. But so far this next gen stuff makes it More likely that I will spend More time at Universal and I’m already planning to finally see Sea World. This will mean less time at WDW of course. Shame

      • When I think about the fact that a billion+ dollars could put a new E Ticket in every domestic Disney park it makes me physically ill.

    • I’m just glad that this strategy in Orlando would prove useless here in Southern California. The Disneyland Resort “doesn’t” have to rely on keeping guests captive on-site. In fact, they don’t want people to think of coming here on a “Disney vacation” only. They want them here as part of a “Southern California” vacation. That’s the big lure they want to project.
      The most visited cities in the U.S. are:
      1. Orlando
      2. New York
      3. Chicago
      4. Anaheim/Orange County

      Los Angeles isn’t even in the Top Ten, even though they get lots of tourism. That’s because Anaheim/Orange County is where everyone choose to have as their “home base”. But all the other venues and attractions are nearby. So Disneyland and California Adventure are pretty much a given. They may spend the day in Hollywood, or relax on the beaches, but they’ll come home to Anaheim.

      • Ms. Hughes, it’s plainly obvious that the captive, exclusive guest model is the goal of all Disney resorts, so I’d expect that Disneyland Resort will continue along that path (as it already has, going from a single park to two, from a single hotel to three, etc.)

      • “Come home to Anaheim” could be the marketing slogan for the Walt Disney Retirement Home I’m planning to live in during my upcoming Golden Years…

  3. When you’re looking at something like this, I think it’s important to understand that most Disney executives don’t really like their own product, and they don’t really understand those of us who do—which is why we get hit with so many surveys. In fact, looking at how they run Walt Disney World, it’s a safe bet that a lot of them hold the fans in contempt. They are money guys and when they go on vacation, the last thing they want to do is sit on some faux main street and watch a guy in a mouse suit cavort all over the place. Who could be entertained by that? I mean you’d have to be a moron or a simpleton.

    With My Magic Plus, you’ve got something the money guys can get behind. It’s an aggressive strategy to try and get more guests to stay on property, and not leave the Disney fold for their entire vacation. If you take advantage of My Magic Plus, you have shorter waits in line, secured dining reservations, and a much smoother ride during your stay.

    Unfortunately the downside of this, of which I don’t think they’re taking adequate account, is you’re improving the on-property guest experience at the expense off all your other guests. Which means you’re going to have a lot of people whose Disney experience will be spending $100.00+ per person per day to wait in exhaustingly long lines and who will be unable to have dinner at a sit-down restaurant because everything is booked. Now, maybe the brain trust at Disney thinks these guests will stop and think, “Wow, next time I’d better stay in a Disney hotel.” But what they’re really going to think is, “Wow, that was the crapiest vacation I’ve ever had. I’m never going back there!”

    Unfortunately, again, for Disney, people who aren’t staying on property are also those most likely to visit competing theme parks in the area. Universal is, of course, going out of their way to wow people—something Disney World hasn’t done for years—and they’re offering attractive deals to stay in their hotels—not trying to leverage people as Disney is attempting. So it’s no surprise when one hears the gentlemen running Universal parks is a theme park fan. I don’t think Disney understands what a tremendous advantage this is for Universal.

    Now Universal is not going to unseat Disney overnight, or even realistically in the next decade, but, if things keep going the way they’re going with Universal trying to wow their guests and Disney trying to milk theirs, the balance of resort power, could look very different by 2025.

    • Very well thought out comments. I agree totally. I can’t imagine spending almost $100.00 per day to “enjoy” 5 attractions – with perhaps only 3 of them being E Tickets. With longer wait lines and even less popular attractions now being filled beyond capacity, this doesn’t seem like much of an advantage to me. My comments of course, relate to someone who IS staying on Disney property. I can’t imagine the pain to be inflicted on someone who doesn’t.

      I love Disney Attractions, but I’m not sure I love them at $20.00 a piece. Then look at adding Dining Plan onto this and your real drain of resources begins.

      Either Disney doesn’t get it, or we don’t. Either way, I think the next few years are going to be very educational for everyone in the Florida Theme Park market.

    • I am friends with several Disney middle managers, and managers turned subcontractors. And none of them are as passionate about the history and legacy of Disney as the people on these bulletin boards. For many of them it is simply a paycheck. And their bonuses are based on revenue generation and cost reduction, guest satisfaction isn’t even part of the equation anymore.

  4. Great article. At a base level I have no problem with My Magic+. Anything to help on my vacation is a good thing.

    However, front-of-the-line programs only work if there is a reason to stay in the park when you are not in the front of the line. Exceptional food or shows or attractions and a nice cool place to relax and recharge keep me in the park.

    The front-of-the-line program at my local Six Flags does not encourage me to stay longer. I pay the fine when a new attraction arrives, hit the important stuff, and get the heck out of there as fast as I can. Nothing else there makes me want to return or stay longer.

    At Disney, I like Star Tours for example, but I’ve seen it and seen it and seen it. I’m probably not going to wait an hour to see it again. If the new program is going to try and encourage me to stay at one park each day, I’m probably not going to stay another day for each park. I’m probably just going to skip the lesser parks.

    If Disney starts making some massive infrastructure improvements, I could see this really working. But if getting 3 fastpasses means being stuck in one park, long lines everywhere else and no place to eat, I’m not sure how this makes things better for anyone.

  5. There’s nothing new here, just a repackaging of the same complaints about the same perceived grievances about same imagined corporate conspiracies.

    We were invited to use the magic bands on our last trip and I think the pre-planning made the trip better. You are already pre-planning your airfare and lodging. Reservations are very important for the better DisneyWorld restaurants because they are popular. With the exception of devoting a day or two at the Magic Kingdom, we always park hop, the three fastpass+ reservations didn’t affect this at all, in fact at the Toy Story ride we were able to ride three times in a row, walk on and using both fastpass and fastpass+.

    I was able to change reservations using my Ipad and the old fashioned way at the concierge desk. The magic bands are the best advertising for the magic bands because the guests that didn’t have them wanted to get them. My only complaints were the magic band was a little small for my wrist and sometimes required a little more precise aiming and positioning to operate the hotel room door.

    I thought it was pretty ironic that despite the fact that this piece was slanted negatively against Disney’s financial culture, there doesn’t seem to be any hesitation in accepting advertisement from the Disney Vacation Club and Disneyland because after all a rising tide does raise all boats.

    • Of course you’re going to like it. You’re the target demographic. You are exhibiting exactly the kind of behavior Disney is encouraging. You stay on property and pre-plan. For you and people like you it’s a great thing. For the rest of us, not so much.

      You also have to realize that this site is a collection of bloggers that do not have some unifying editorial philosophy imposed on them. What they write is their own unfettered opinion; it is not necessarily the opinion of the management—so to speak.

      • And the target demographic for Disney is quite large, so large that the population of those who are chronically disgruntled occupies the negligible end of the bell curve.

    • Let the record show that Dusty has me on here as a guest, the advertising on the site is unrelated to the article. However, I do have advertising on my own site and that’s generated by keywords and other activity by the user, just like any other Google Ads.

      As for this being a repackaging of other complaints, while I readily admit that at the beginning of the article, I find this comment somewhat ironic. One of the primary complaints is that Disney is repackaging what’s already there, so a complaint about the complaints being repackaged is bordering on some sort of repackaging parallel universe.

      It should be noted that eventually the “double dipping” you were able to do will be going away. I also think that once Fastpass+ is fully integrated that it could be a lateral move, provided that same day availability isn’t compromised. However, it’s difficult to avoid compromising same day availability without building new attractions to offset current demand. Adding Fastpass+ to attractions that didn’t need Fastpass previously is not going to work.

      I suspect that in the coming years I will shift my focus and my spending to Disneyland where I really don’t see the 60 days in advance Fastpass planning going over as well with the locals.

    • Don’t have any desire to carry my Ipad around the parks to make things easier for WDW.

      You always try to dismiss the same compliants because they “are old”. You never answer the compliants and niether does WDW. So, the compliants remain and momentum builds against WDW by the folks who love theme parks but are tired of being taken for granted. Because you think they are “old” doesn’t make them go away.

      You and Malin and Bradley’s mom would support WDW if they slapped your face at the entrance and kicked your butt as you exit. The rest of us have seen how WDW is treating the guests, and have faced these facts, and moved where guests and their dollars are appreciated.

      Fantasyland is fine to visit but you shouldn’t live there.

      • Operating an Ipad does require a higher level of sophistication that using a programmed soda cup.

    • “Double dipping” implies some sort of cheating when it was simply nothing more than sun all the resources available. The fact is even if you have a fastpass+ for a ride you can still get a fastpass for the same ride. There is nothing nefarious about giving consideration to those who plan ahead, airlines have been doing this for years.

      • I believe Tim’s comments on “double dipping” are based on the fact that once implemented, the “old” Fastpass system will disappear. You will no longer be able to get your Fastpass + reservations AND your regular Fastpasses. So if Disney allows you 3 Fastpass + reservations per day, that’s ALL the Fastpasses your going to get, period. I can see why you liked the set-up on your recent trip as I would also love to have both systems available. But that is not what the future holds for any of us. You will only get 3 passes per day.

        This is what is so upsetting about the changes to the Fastpass system.

  6. Tim, you need an editor.

    • Hah… I’ll have to speak to her – what did I miss?

  7. This whole ride reservation pre-planning idea for me, in a nutshell, boils down to over planning. Just reading about the complexities of it stresses me out. Can’t I just go to a park and enjoy the day spontaneously? There were plenty of times growing up in the 1980′s that I didn’t get to ride EVERYthing I wanted at Disneyland, or Magic Mountain for that matter, oh well, next time. If I have to reserve a place for all my attractions, that’s too much work for me. Last time I was at WDW (2010) the parks were overcrowded and all fast passes gone by noon and standby times were 70 plus minutes for most everything. If the parks are that overwhelmed so regularly now, build some more parks, don’t just make the ones we have a reservations nightmare. A billion dollars would go a long way toward another park.

    • Haven,

      Back in March, I wrote an article “An Open Letter to Disney” about Fastpass+. Much of the content/complaints were similar, but I just re-read it looking for the following blurb:

      “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.”

      If they want to move things to smart phones and/or in park kiosks, but still have same day availability, I’m 100% on board. I understand the trend, and I love the idea of being able to get a Fastpass reservation from my phone. To me, that still very much allows for spontaneity, while properly leveraging this investment in infrastructure.

      I don’t think people will mind waiting Standby for things, if they feel they can make reservations for other things while waiting in line. I know personally if I’m in a 60 minute line at Toy Story Mania, I’m likely spending much of that time on my phone anyway. If I can reserve a spot at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and make a dinner reservation at Brown Derby for later in the day, that all seems wildly convenient.

      • This is a more appealing scenario. And what about all the people that plan ahead but don’t show up? I have friend that lives less than 5 miles from the Contemporary parking lot (off of Reams Rd). They received MagicBands as part of a resort stay a few months ago, and they have their PAP tied to their bands. The wife is a stay at home mom with two pre-school age children. She used Disney as her personal neighborhood playground with the girls. As an PAP holder with a MagicBand she is able to reserve upto 14 days of FastPass+ at any given time; so she books something everyday for the next two weeks, in the event that she might take the kids to the park. Half the time the FastPass+’s go unused but yet they take spots out of the system for other guests.

        This is like dining reservations. People double and triple book dining reservations hedging their bets on where they will want to eat. Yet many cancel at the last minute or simply don’t show. Hence the need for the new credit card cancelation policy. How long before they need to implement a credit card cancelation policy of FastPass+ reservations to keep people from making reservations and not using them?

        The guest using FastPass+ have no stake in the game, so they don’t care if they take a FastPass out of the system and don’t use it.

      • I think MiceChat contributors like to use the modifier “wildly” a lot. :)

    • Here here! At tokyo disney sea and disneyland I recently did 13 and 14 attractions during the day using the current system. It works great and it’s equally accessible to everyone. Don’t fix what’s not broken.

      “We get a bigger share of their wallet.” That says it all. No thanks I’ll go to Disneyland, Tokyo, seaworld/bucsh or Universal.

    • Agree. Everyone should consider buying 1 annual pass to Universal and 2 day park hoppers for the rest of the family. Get an AP discount at Portofino Bay for 1 night and check in before early morning hours at the park. Get your passes to skip the lines at check in and then take the beautiful boat ride to the front of the parks. They run enough boats so that we’ve always been able to have a seat.
      Then you and your family CHOOSE which park to go to and which rides to skip lines for! What a novel idea. You and your family choose whatever and wherever you want to go skipping lines at 95% of all the attractions. Then take the beautiful boat ride back or enjoy the beautiful walk back to the 4-5 star Portofino Bay.
      This Portofino Bay will cost the same or less than a WDW moderate resort. At WDW you can have an armband tell you where your family had to decide to go 180 days ago. Armband tells you which park you are going to and which rides you are riding whether your family changed their m inds or not. Or you can stay in a lesser but more expensive resort, and can stand up on a bus and chase more fast passes all day with the boss of your vacation – armband.

    • A billion dollars would go a long way toward another park.[\quote]
      They don’t need additional parks. They need additional capacity in their existing parks. The have the space available. Each park has expansion pads, and abandoned attractions that could be utilized for additional guest capacity.

  8. If I wanted to have my day and meals planed six months in advance, I would book a cruise.

    Now I’m SOL, if I book Spalsh mountain and fireworks in advance and there is a thunder storm all day when I go. WDW is in Florida. If I decide what I’m doing the day of I can see that it is storming outside and go to a movie or something indoors.

    The whole magic band is very wasteful. The two year battery is built in and it does not look like it can be easily recycled. Now I have to trash my mug after each trip too. If it has a chip just reactivate it when book again.

    The My Disney Experience encourages people to always be walking around on their phones not seeing what is going on. People have enough distractions in a theme park and now they have to use a phone app to get around.

    Why should I agree to get tracked and data mined for free?

    • It’s worse than this. You are paying a ton TO get data mined if you’re at WDW wearing an arm band.

      Great point on the arm band problems with weather.

      What about being out late with the wife and kids and having to be at a certain park the next morning or you will all miss your fastpass reservation to the Muppet Movie, or Hall of Presidents, or Imagination?

      What’s next? Arm band reservations for the themed restrooms?

      WDW wants us to schedule our restaurants, fast passes, parks we visit all out 180 days.
      You know there are some executives at WDW wondering how to make us schedule our bowel movements at the themed restrooms 180 days in advance.

      Anything else the guests can do to make planning easier for the WDW execs?

      • Theres something about scanning your wrist at an electronic podium at big thunder mountain or jungle cruise that seems to destroy the theme of 1900 frontier or 1920s victorian exploration doesn’t it? Nobody has talked about that yet either.

      • danielz6,

        It’s a good point, however I will say that the Fastpass+ scanning posts have been well done given the circumstances. They electronic component doesn’t always fit in thematically, but they did do a good job of blending everything else in.

        Having said that, much of this should be unnecessary.

      • I love your comments CaptainAction! Carry on!

      • danielz6 & Tim Grassey
        I’m not necessarily a big fan of the green glowing Mickey head at the themed attractions. Nor the signage above each of the queue entrances “Standby” and “Disney FastPass+”. The signs are not thematically matched to the attraction. There is definitely less sign pollution in Anaheim.

    • “If I wanted to have my day and meals planed six months in advance, I would book a cruise.”

      I actually think that’s a pretty darned good way to look at the Walt Disney World resort model, since the 1990s, at least. Like a cruise, you are a captive guest on the “boat.” The parks are the ports of call, and the fast pass/ fast pass + stuff you choose are the excursions.

      Moreover, like a cruise company, Diz encourages longer stays at their hotels, or on the “boat.”

  9. I’m heading down in a couple weeks. I am looking forward to utilizing the magic bands as I like the idea of getting into my room, paying for something or getting in a fastpass line up with it. What I do not like is preplanning my days. Weather for one is going to play havoc with rides and fireworks displays. Splash Mountain when it is 40 degrees? no thanks. Sure you can change and get a new fastpass for the tiki room, but who wants that? When I was young we had fastpass+, it was called my Aunt. Everything was regimented regardless of what we wanted to see or do. I dont like being told where to be and at what time on vacation.

    However it is nice to be able to get some fastpasses for rides like Soarin and Test Track as well as midway mania as they are very hard to get. It just seems like Disney has added a lot of “day of” headaches should you need to change things.

    Having said all that I plan on going down and doing what I always do and that is relax, take in the sites and sounds and turn back into a child with my kids. I realize that even with my concerns above I will still be at the place I like to be at most. Hopefully Booby Iger and friends don’t screw it up for me.

    • A much better solution to the high demand Fastpasses at Soarin’, Test Track and Toy Story Mania would be to build new attractions. Not putting in the Monster’s Inc attraction at the Studios hurt, as has not updating Imagination. There’s been short sighted decisions made that put Disney into this position.

      Deep discounts have been a large attendance driver but that well has been slowly drying up. Next Gen seems to be the next approach. In the mean time, the competition now has at least 3 attractions that are technologically superior than anything Disney has in Disney World and they’re not stopping there. Universal is continuing to build and the growth has been dramatic (7-8% last quarter).

  10. I can’t believe Disney are admitting that they are trying to trick and blackmail people into staying in the parks instead of making them so good you couldn’t drag the guests away. TDO’s arrogance and contempt for guests is astounding.

    I was in the parks last week and the negative effects of MyMagic+ are already apparent, at least to locals like myself.

    First of all on entry time, the myth that you won’t have to queue to get into the park is ridiculous. Yes, the turnstiles may be gone, but the mickey head and scanner take twice as long to go green, and you still have to wait in a long line with everyone else even if you have MagicBands.

    Standby ride times seem to have increased massively. Presumably this is due to guests who would normally get FastPasses for rides finding they are no longer available (due to FP+) and going on other rides instead as standbys. I also saw lots of Band holders complaining – when I was at MK Splash had gone down for the day, and I saw some Banders with FP+ booked complaining – they were offered a Fastpass for any other ride they wanted, but didn’t seem impressed.

    The novelty of the bands, and ignorance of what they do, will make them popular with resort guests for a while, but the whole NextGen will go down badly with day visitors – most of whom will just think the lines are long and the standard of attractions were crappy, telling them that only those staying in hotels get good service and they should have planned their vacation in advance will go down just as badly as telling someone trying to get into a restaurant that they should have known they felt like a steak 180 days ago.

    The MagicBands seem to have plenty of technical difficulties too. I saw plenty of exasperated looking Cast Members, I suspect you’d struggle to find a single front-line worker in favor of the project.

    As for the Experience app… I tried to book a restaurant, it got confused and told me to ring the phone line. The person on the other end told me that next time I should use the app for my bookings. I suspect the call center workers have never even used the thing or they would know it just doesn’t work that well.

    There are a couple of good points so far from NextGen: The plastic cards are better than the paper tickets by a long way, and the USB charging points by Rapunzel’s Restrooms are very useful. But a billion dollars for that? That’s a lot of cash!

  11. I would rather have new rides.

    Everything that the band does could be done with only the iphone/Droid app except tracking where you are and collecting personal data. I would rather have fast pass bar codes scanned from my smart phone like a coupon then having to wear an annoying band all day.

    Disney is forcing you to wear a radio tracker like an animal on National Geographic. Your banded

    • Your phone has GPS and a unique IP/MAC address. By agreeing to the terms and conditions (in the very, very small print) of the app you could give Disney permission to track the location and movements of your phone. So no need for the band.

  12. Universal is kicking WDW’s rear so bad in giving guests new attractions and experiences and now they are about to do it again with a value resort.
    The new Cabana Bay resort will be better designed rooms so that families of 5-6 can all get ready easier by dividing restrooms and adding seperate sinks. The rooms will have kitchenettes and sleep 5-6.
    The resort will have a wave poll and lazy river.
    All this for around $90-$110 per night.
    WDW value resorts sleep 4, have no frills, and not even a slide at a pool, and easily run $140-$170 per night.

    • All very true CaptainAction. But that’s not news to those who look at it honestly. Not spin, just simple facts. That’s how Universal is winning this game.

      • Again, empirical math, driven numbers don’t bear this tush kicking out. Which is to say that, as of yet, the general public hasn’t caught up with the theme park advocate mindset, and isn’t aware that Disney is “out” and Universal is “in.” It will happen, but it will take awhile…and unfortunately, while it’s happening, Disney will be creating more money per guest while (I theorize,) pursuing a near-exclusive long-term guest model.

      • @AaroniusPolonius
        This doesn’t only pertain to the Theme Parks. It also holds true for Feature Animation.
        Disney has put out some mediocre films (Planes, Cars 2) in the past decade. Yet people line up opening weekend simply because it’s Disney. And even though they may not have liked the film they add the DVD to the collection, simply because it’s Disney.
        On the flip side Dreamworks/SKG has put out some great Animated films, that simply don’t get the attention because they are NOT Disney films. Had Katzenberg stayed with Disney, and therefore produced and released any of the SKG titles as Disney’s imagine how much more popular they would have been.

      • @PecosBill: I think that’s the thesis for those who critique Disney to a T:

        Disney is trading on brand image and legacy to make money at the presumed eventual expense of said brand image and legacy.

        And they would be correct. Since EuroDisney’s overbuild and the Pressler/Eisner epoch, Disney has basically been using the Disney name, the Disney brand and their beloved status in American culture to bank cash on mediocrity versus build a greater brand and legacy via better product.

        My ongoing annoyance with that side of the argument is the use of hyperbole or flat-out untruths in the debate. Universal is kicking nobody’s posterior at Disney, other than in mindshare regarding passionate theme park fans. The casual visitor to Orlando’s paradigm hasn’t changed from Disney plus something else (ideally, more Disney,) and that’s bore out in attendance figures, where SeaWorld is losing to UO and WDW, but WDW…on minimum investment is holding, gaining and in some cases, record-breaking on their attendance figures.

        So…while I agree with the critique of Disney, I’m not a fan of the tactics, nor do I like when Disney comes under attack for something they actually did right, like a fully themed land over in New Fantasyland, or a dark ride that consumes tons of guests versus one that leaves them in line for hours (Mermaid.) Like, there’s plenty to bitch about, so why bitch about getting the goods out of the company?

  13. The theme and realities of this article make me want to vomit. WDW is on a decline that cannot be stopped.

    It’s hard to argue for Disney’s side when they are blatantly focusing on your wallet and nothing more. The reduction of Fastpasses allowed per day alone makes me shiver. Lines at WDW are already nasty in length, and now they’re introducing this 3 pass maximum “gift” to make it more convenient for pre-planning 3 rides, but a nightmare for everything else you hope to do? Who thought this was an advantage in any way to the visiting Guest? My guess is, no-one did. I don’t want to buy a ticket to a WDW park and ride only 5 attractions because I stood in line the remainder of the day.

    I don’t mind pre-planning some aspects of my trip such as flight, hotel, transport, theme park of the day, even some dinner reservations. But this has now become a COMPLETE trade-off for any spontaneity at all. You must pre-plan everything or you are damned! I get WHY they want to do it (money), I just don’t believe they are going to be successful with it reaching their goals. If you want my money, put something in your parks that forces me to come visit you again and again! People are gullible it’s true; but people will wise up to it eventually. Once they’ve spent a vacation or two standing in lines that don’t ever get shorter, paying prices that don’t ever go lower, eating food that doesn’t ever get better and riding the same old attractions that don’t ever get new friends. Business marketing 101 – It’s a lot easier to keep a customer than try and find a new one. People are going to revolt against Disney for what they are doing to their theme park experience and they’re going to tell lots of other people about it. That revolt is when Disney will finally get it, because it will be about money NOT coming in anymore.

    Disney has lost touch with what their customers want. They want rewarding attractions, good food, interesting shopping and a positive, memorable day at a Disney Park. What they are going to get (very soon it looks like) is not going to be a positive day, though I think it will stick in their memories for a long time. I didn’t even mention Value for money paid because Disney obviously no longer knows what that word means.

    Such an amazing company gone to crap. It’s sad because they used to really get it.

    • Country Bear you nailed it when you said, “It’s sad” about what WDW is doing.

      It is incredibly sad. I take no joy, and I can tell you don’t either, in pointing it out these facts of the last 10 years.

      It will take a change of leadership at WDW to fix this mess. They need someone there who loves the parks and the guests.

      Thank goodness there are folks over at Universal who are busting their rears to earn our $s and our time. We would really be in a jam around this part of the country.

      No matter what WDW does in the next 10 years, they are going to have a tough time getting me back for anything substantial. We are pretty loyal and reward those places with our $s when they bust their tails for us.

      • Many of us thought we were getting that with George Kalogridis

  14. As WDW has developed over the years, they’ve gone more and more into a long-term, on-property, exclusive guest model for their money. It’s almost as if they are trying to be a modern-day Catskills for multi-generational families. Clearly, Disney sees the most profit for their buck in these visitors, or a the very least, those that book a week or so at the House of Mouse.

    MyMagic Plus is merely the latest, and perhaps most craven, attempt to capture and optimize this market (for Disney, under the guise of more effective Disney vacation planning.) This is also their latest and certainly most craven attempt to discourage the casual WDW visitor, and either convert them to a long-term, exclusive WDW guest, or “socially market” the benefits of long-term visitation through witnessing the benefits afforded to the on-property, long-term visitor during their casual, spontaneous visit.

    I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t a pie-chart somewhere with “long-term visitor” filling up the entire circle as the “goal.” Certainly, from MGM-Studios onward, they’ve done everything and anything to create and cater to long-term guests, so much so that I suspect that without those long-term guests the attendance at the non-MK parks is lower than the Universal parks at least (and possibly the Busch parks, as well.)

    Now, while anecdotal evidence is anything but, I’ve never been one of those theme park visitors that (a) go out of my way to plan my theme park visits or (b) forsake a ‘cooler’ and equally as costly vacation that might require extensive planning to go to a theme park (Picking your excursion guide through Pompeii, for example, is something that I would, and have, planned for and paid for.) I’ve never understood the theme park planning mentality, where every aspect of your day, every day is managed down to the wick, and treated as if theme parks (fun and amazing though they may be,) are the equal to Towers Eiffel or Roma Coliseo or even the Balenciaga store in Monaco.

    It strikes me as patently absurd to know that I’m going to want to eat at Restaurant X after I go on Ride Y 200 days before I go to the park itself, and it seems that spontaneous exploration is being actively discouraged here. I’m the dude who pays Universal $50 extra so I don’t have to wait in any of the lines, specifically so I can walk around at leisure.

    Maybe it’s because I was once a Floridian with easy access, maybe it’s because I don’t generally like to view domestic vacations with a military mentality (although I’m a total international planning admiral,) but I’ve never “gotten” the long-term WDW guest with the plan for the day. Every day.

    But…

    …those guests clearly exist. With or without Fastpass, with or without MyMagic+, those guests exist and have been coming to WDW for decades. Those guests spend a week or more on-property, buy Vacation Club timeshares, and cause signature restaurants to be booked hundreds of days out from their visits (a brief moment of judgement: seriously, guys. It’s a restaurant at a theme park. Grab a turkey leg and go, yo.)

    Not only do those guests exist, WDW has clearly, plainly and obviously figured out that they are the ones that spend the most money on their property. So, as a casual theme park attendee, MyMagic+ does nothing for me. If anything, it would have made tons of sense to spend the billion-plus on new rides and attractions around WDW…for MY demographic, but that’s NOT the demographic that WDW is catering to, nor looking to convert ME to. And that fact has been obvious since the 90s, if not earlier.

    In that aspect, MyMagic+ is quite brilliant. Leaving the “good old days when Disney cared” mentality aside for a moment (those ‘good old days’ nearly got the company bought outright pre-Eisner,) from a corporate standpoint, getting guests to spend more money per visit, per day is just good math. Encouraging guests to stay on-property for a long period of time in order to take full advantage of the MyMagic+ system is part of the overall WDW long-term visitation plan. I’d even go so far as to say that once they’ve worked out the kinks, they’ll be offering even greater, more tiered rewards via MyMagic+ to guests who stay longer at WDW, encouraging more spending, more visitation, and more long-term, exclusive guests.

    From Disney’s perspective, this is a massive win for them, their bottom line and their overall business plan for WDW (and indeed, for their business plans at the other resorts domestically and worldwide; you have to be a total tool to think that MyMagic+ and the stay-on-property for maximum benefit mentality isn’t marching to Anaheim: they spent too much money on the system…and everything DLR has done over the past 15 years points towards a gradual, but deliberate, business model change.)

    A hole in this mentality, pointed out in this thread, albeit with emotion, vitriol and hyberbolic distortion of facts, is that Disney is leaving an opportunity for other theme parks and tourist experiences to gather and grab the short-term casual visitor for themselves. That’s absolutely true, but maybe we’re missing something that Disney “gets.” Which is to say that Disney doesn’t want you to come to the park if you’re going to spend less than X per day, so sending those people away may be, in fact, part of the plan. It’s incredibly elitist, but not out of the realm of possibility (and certainly in full practice at other businesses around the world. Audi dealers don’t want Kia Rio buyers.)

    Something else we might be missing is that WDW is clearly timing their attraction openings to fit the needs of the overall Disney corporate giant, which is to say that Star Wars Land will open with the new Star Wars films, that Avatar Land will open with the new Avatar films and so on. Pair this with the long-term guest experience mentality and you have a really remarkable “trap” that Disney has built…

    If you want to go on [amazing new franchise ride X] and have the premium [MyMagic+] experience at [park Y,] then you’ll have to stay on-property with a multi-day pass at [resort z.] I suspect that will piss the Captain Actions of the world off, but I suspect that quite a few people, who are already taking up Disney on this option WITHOUT hot new attractions (remember: record attendance at WDW last quarter,) will sign up and into the MyMagic+ eco-system.

    So, from a theme park fan perspective, it totally sucks, but from a business perspective? Genius.

    • We constantly hear about the chocking effects of the Annual Passholders in Anaheim, and with exceptional population growth in Central Florida we are just starting to see it here as well. Perhaps this is a way to curb the Passholder effects.

      • I’d argue it goes even further, in that they are trying to lower the amount of pie in the chart taken up by Annual Passholders. Which is to say that Disney has determined that it’s in their interest to cater to long-term, multi-day, on-property occasional visitors who view the resort as a destination, like Paris or New York, rather than the local yokels who drop by to ride Space Mountain after a shift at the mall.

        In Anaheim, the Annual Passholders are viewed as a deterrent to the resort becoming the Walt Disney World West they (Disney) clearly, obviously want it to be. It will be quite interesting to watch them continue their progress towards a multi-day, exclusive resort experience, and how that affects their fans, their public perception and their Annual Passholder base and adoption rate. (I’d argue that if/when they develop the third lot into a destination park and/or make moves to acquire GardenWalk, this move from an AP mix to a vacation destination mix will pick up ample speed.)

        WDW has less of this demographic in their visitation mix, but I suspect that they have a lot of one-day/two-day tourists who drop into Disney World as a part of their Florida vacation, versus their ideal “Catskills with rides” tourists who stay at Disney World exclusively on their vacation that happens to take place in Florida because that’s where Disney is. It’s always amazing to me (as a former Floridian,) that folks travel to the Sunshine State to exclusively or near-exclusively visit WDW, shunning the rest of the state in the process (Miami-Fort Lauderdale-WPB as region is both an architectural and cultural gem, for example, to say nothing of the entire state’s wealth of beaches, wildlife, etc.) But, plenty of them do, and this program clearly is for their benefit.

  15. I’m going to give Disney the benifit of the doubt here and say that they are not trying to “trick” anyone. I think that Disney probably sees this as a win-win. I work in the travel industry, and when people are traveling (especially if it’s somewhere they’ve never been before) they want to make absolute certain that they get to see what they are going there to see. People prepurchase absolutely ridiculous things that will never in a million years sell out because they want to know for sure that they are going to see the thing that they are going there for. So someone spends $2000 on airfare for their family to fly to Orlando, $2800 for 7nts at a deluxe hotel, and $1500 for park tickets. They want to make darn sure that they are going to be able to get on their favorite rides when they get there after shelling out $6300 for their trip. Now, they may get there and realize that they didn’t really need a fastpass for the ride that they picked, but most clients that I work with want that piece of mind that they have reservations for the thing that they want even if it turns out the reservations weren’t necessary. So Disney is giving guests what they want even though they don’t need it. Now, don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that Disney is doing this out of the kindness of their heart. They spend a lot of money developing this system. But I do think that Disney is doing this because it satisfies a perceived demand (whether legitimately needed or not), as well as keeping people on property and spending money all day.