Something new appeared in the Toy Story Mania line a couple of weeks ago. It was a videoscreen disguised as an oversized Etch-a-Sketch, displaying occasional hints about the ride but mostly offering quick puzzles and quizzes about the Toy Story movies. It’s a fabulous addition to the queue, but in many ways it’s also a perplexing one. Why now? Why spend the money to create enhancements for a ride’s QUEUE (not the ride itself) long after the ride had its debut? The mystery only deepens when you realize this is not the only place it’s happening.

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The new Etch-a-Sketch is actually a set of two back-to-back toys, with one side facing Standby and the other side facing FASTPASS return (since the return side does get backed up from time to time). It’s located near the Candyland section of the queue, which on the day of our visit wasn’t even opened up for switchbacks.

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The screens are not interactive–at least, not at present.They cycle through different pre-made screens, mostly asking the audience to guess the name of a character from the movies based on a picture or a rebus (pictogram) puzzle, but also offering simple tips for playing the game.

I suppose they could use this system to be interactive in the future; maybe something tied to MyMagic+ and MagicBands? Certainly there’s nothing stopping them from customizing everything with a screen, but in this case, they’d have to get creative to make it fit. Since it’s an Etch-a-Sketch, all the letters connect; this seems hard to me to fake this convincingly using real Guest names and information.

This is the second queue to receive recent enhancements. About a month ago, the screens behind one droid in the Star Tours queue debuted with new programming, showing aliens and describing what crime they committed to become one of the galaxy’s most wanted.

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These are presently “canned” but could conceivably be tied to MagicBands in the future, especially if they have a mind to customize text rather than add images (or they could do both, I suppose).

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Going back a bit further, we also have Big Thunder Mountain, which received numerous updates to its queue a few months ago. And we could probably lump in the enhancements to the Space Mountain queue a few years ago. It all amounts to the same thing: more stuff for people to look at, do, or play along with while they stand in the Standby line.

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It probably goes without saying that if they are spending money on something, it’s because they expect that this outlay of money will solve a problem (or perhaps prevent a problem?) From that we might infer that Disney expects – internally speaking – to see the Standby lines become even longer as FASTPASS+ becomes fully operational.

Indeed, I’m hearing some folks admit that this is already happening. This is still anecdotal, but some posters to last week’s column talked about Haunted Mansion lines stretching twice as long as “usual” on their recent visit. I’m not sure I’ve witnessed that myself, at least not at the double-length level. I would guess, also anecdotally, that standby waits have gone up for us, too, at least somewhat.

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I’m absolutely thrilled on the one hand that they are adding new experiences to the queues. I’ve always thought (and always said online) that lines should be highly themed. I think themed lines are a better solution than a day chock full of reservations, in fact, but apparently we’re going to have both. I’d rather have themed lines that move quickly. Walt famously allowed the conversations in Pirates of the Caribbean to overlap because it was like a cocktail party – too much to pick up on your first visit, which would drive interest to return again and again. But now imagine you move through Pirates of the Caribbean the way you move through gridlock at rush hour, one car length (well, boat length) at a time. You’d hear everything then. In fact, you’d hear it more than once before you moved on. That would make Pirates a lot less interesting, wouldn’t it? The same principle is likely to apply to Standby lines after FASTPASS+ is in full wide use. It may look interesting if you’re zipping along through the line, but will it be quite as interesting if you are stuck for twenty minutes?

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It’s not just enhanced Standby queues. The in-park games are part of this same strategy. With the day fully reserved for both rides and restaurants, that leaves only shopping and standby, so the games offer a good third option.

One of the things that I fret about the most is that this turn toward gamification (of both the queues and the public spaces) occurs right when the parks are otherwise doing their utmost to monetize every square yard. It’s unfortunate this move toward ride reservations coincides with the destruction of quiet spaces that formerly characterized the parks. Now, every square inch needs to be monetized and revenue-producing. That may sound fine on paper, but with people no longer in the lines, the presence of quiet spots is even more important, yet they are disappearing at an alarming rate. That goes double for such spots which are air conditioned, a true rarity here in Florida.

Do you agree standby lines are getting longer? Will the enhancements help? Let us know in the comments!

WDW Clicks – Complete photos of Etch-A-Sketch; Jingle Cruise; Grand Floridian DVC, Fit2Run, More

This week in WDW Clicks we look at Fit2Run at Downtown Disney, new Disney Springs concept art, new walkway through Pleasure Island, the Villas at Grand Floridian (new DVC wing), Christmas decorations in the Magic Kingdom, Jingle Cruise, Veterans Day salute for Limited Time Magic, new Fantasyland costumes, and the complete cycle of Etch-a-Sketch video screens in the Toy Story Mania queue.

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