My Magic + Mini Review, the Jitney and Phil Holmes

Written by George Taylor. Posted in Disney, Disney Parks, Imaginerding, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

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Published on December 09, 2013 at 2:00 am with 28 Comments

Today George brings us a triple threat of subjects.  He just returned from Walt Disney World and shares his mini review on the ups and downs of the MyMagic+ system.  Next he takes a ride on the Jitney!  Finally, he runs into Phil Holmes, Vice-President of the Magic Kingdom.

MyMagic+

I just returned from a week at Walt Disney World. I wanted to try out the Magic Band and I needed to interview some people (but more about that later). If you’ve kept up with the great articles from MiceAge (MiceAge Disney Parks Update: Iger’s Ire) and Kevin Yee (Privacy at WDW Waning), then you know that not everything’s going as planned for the Mouse House. I spoke to a high-level manager who reinforced the current thoughts on My Magic + and the Magic Bands. He said that that front-line cast members were frustrated about the training and the anger and confusion of the guests. But there’s a billion dollar plus price tag, there’s no going back now.

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I made some observations during my visit that I’d like to share. I hit all four Disney parks and made my first visit to Islands of Adventure as well (more on this later). I did spend two days at Magic Kingdom and saw the most obvious changes there. Getting into the parks did seem about the same, although not having to negotiate turnstyles seemed to make it easier. Disney did a great job with the colors on the scanners. It was apparent, at a glance, whether it was working and what the status was. I did find out that blue isn’t a color you want on Mickey.

The best thing I heard all week was from a little guy waiting in the Fast Pass + line for Big Thunder Mountain. He was behind me and after his sensor turned green, he exclaimed, “Mickey said yay!” Honestly, that’s what Disney wants us to experience with My Magic +.

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Yeah, I’m waiting at the end of the Fast Pass + return line for BTMRR.

The first hiccup that I ran into was near the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad queue. The area in front of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad has always had congestion issues because of the Frontierland Railroad Depot, BTMRR and Splash Mountain. I’d never seen it like this, though. The Fast Pass + return snaked at least fifteen minutes into Frontierland and almost to the walkway to the riverfront. I heard so many comments from guests wondering why the Fast Pass line was so long and why would Disney do this. This happened twice at different times of the day, as well.

The other issue was that the exit for BTMRR needed to bisect the queue for FP+ causing more consternation, confusion and general irritability. Disney is going to need to fix this before the busy Spring Break season. The queue for BTMRR was the most obvious culprit, but My Magic + still caused issues at most every other attraction. The first week of December has always been a slow period historically, but the Mountains all had more than a 45-60 minute wait for most of the day. When I had to schedule three experiences a day I found myself really disliking the thought of sticking to a schedule to the detriment of experiencing other attractions or just the park itself.

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Since I was on my own at Walt Disney World, my experiences were different. When I gauged what my family would have wanted to do based on availability and wait times, it was a fairly depressing situation. If I’d spent $3,000-$6,000 for a week for my family of four and we were relegated to planning at this level, I know that we would have missed a lot more than a typical vacation. Especially with the limited Fast Passes and the longer queues for the D- and C-ticket attractions.

It seemed obvious that the waits for standby were longer than should have been, Both Pirates and Mansion were over a half hour with barely anyone using the FP+ entrance. One of the bigger disappointments was the change in the queue for Pirates. The standby queue used the entire plaza entrance to the attraction, which I’ve not seen since a Spring Break 2007 trip. The left queue has some minor modifications and the right queue is solely for FP+. The left side has always been themed as the living quarters for the solders of Castillo Del Morro while the right side was the dungeon (and the famous pirates locked in a chess stalemate). Not sure if it was just my nerdiness that was disappointed that I needed to make a FP+ to see the dungeon side for an attraction that should never require a FP reservation.

So, what did I like about My Magic + and the Magic Bands?

It did seem pretty easy to get into the parks. Once people understood that there were two scanners on each side and it was okay to step in front of the person using the scanner in the back it seemed to flow. Using the band as a room key was handy (although I kept looking at my band to tell me the time; it felt similar to wearing a watch), especially when I was tired and didn’t want to dig into my wallet for my room key. Using the band to get into the resort was alright, although I needed to remove the band for the security cast member to scan it. With the Extra Magic Hours, there were cast members at each attraction with a handheld scanner that verified you were a resort guest. It didn’t take up much extra time, but still required cast member interaction. It did make me wonder if large scale readers could be used to pinpoint guests that weren’t staying at a resort for easy identification.

Honestly, there didn’t seem to be a good reason to use My Magic + unless you wanted to reserve experiences well before your trip. If you’re family had one attraction that was a must do, then you could do it. But, if you’ve got seven to eight attractions (like at the Magic Kingdom) that are must dos, then you are going to miss some things or spend more time in queues. I’ve heard extremely mixed reactions from friends but that’s to be expected with a new program. In my case I found myself watching the clock more than enjoying the parks because I was afraid of missing an experience.

Also, it was disconcerting to have the cast members yelling at the FP+ entrances for the guests to have their Magic Bands or tickets out to speed up the process.

Another issue was that I needed to use the Disney World app all the time to keep up with my reservations. Of course, that killed my battery and had me messing with my phone more than enjoying the parks. Overall, I’m not too thrilled with all of the features and it feels like it kills the spontaneity and excitement of the parks. It’s nice to know that you’ve got one big attraction scheduled, but it’s a bit demoralizing to realize you could miss so much more due to the aftershocks of FP+, My Magic + and the Magic Bands.

The Jitney!

I ran into the Jitney on my first morning at the Magic Kingdom and it made my heart glad. It seemed like the vehicles weren’t being used as much on recent trips. I snapped a few photos of the yellow Jitney. Enjoy!

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I love the light on the back and the 1915 Florida license plate! FLA 1915 D 9764

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Just a little bit different from the Autopia controls, eh?

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Glad to see the detailing kept up.

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Check out those headlamps!

 

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The font choice made me think my photo was a little blurry.

Phil Holmes LIVE!

I happened to see Phil Holmes, Vice-President of the Magic Kingdom, three times during my trip. Each time was on Main Street USA, though. I was able to catch a few photos. Too bad I didn’t have my stalker lens.

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Phil Holmes and his entourage represent!

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Phil wears a Magic Band?

So, it looks like Phil is wearing a Magic Band and he chose the blue one!

How many Fast Pass + reservations does Phil Holmes get to make? I wonder if Iger uses it to track his whereabouts?

So, what do you think about My Magic + and Magic Bands? 


ImagiNERDing is written and edited by George Taylor

About George Taylor

George has been obsessed with Disney theme parks since the first time he saw a photo of the Haunted Mansion in the early 70s. He started writing about Disney in 2007 and has amassed one of the world's largest Disney-related libraries.

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  • Country Bear

    Thanks for the informative article George.

    I agree that it’s great to see the old vehicles out on the road as they do seem to be rare these days. They add so much character to the Main Street area. Was there a FastPass+ line for this as well?

    It’s unfortunate that your FastPass+ experience played out the way it did. Most reviews of this system seem to say the same thing as you did. Larger lines and less access to favorite attractions. I was a little surprised to read your comments about the FastPass+ line wait being 15 minutes for BTMRR as the old FastPass line would have been closer to a 5 minute wait. Sounds like it is becoming less of a Fast Pass and more of just an Access Pass. I can’t see this working in anyone’s favor. You say you visited during a slow time? The crowd in front of BTMRR looks huge! Can’t imagine this during a peak period.

    I’m still waiting to read the positive report that shows this system will enhance my WDW vacation as opposed to annihilate it. I really want to see it work well but it hasn’t shown much of anything to support that so far. If the line ups are only going to get longer, I can’t see how this will work in Disney’s favor. People will not return if they make a visit to their parks a frustration as opposed to a joy. Goodness, they may be forced to actually add an attraction to bring people back after this potential fiasco. The more reviews I read, the more I want to not go to their Florida parks because the reality seems to indicate that they are now a planned nightmare for every Guest with little chance to work around it. I see that there are some conveniences to the system but by and large, the inconveniences they are adding to a guests visit seem to outweigh any added bonus. Am I missing something? It just doesn’t make any sense to me so far.

    Thanks for the update George.

    • CaptainAction

      Hi Country Bear,
      Saw a question from you about Loew’s Resorts at Universal but the post was old so I knew you wouldn’t see my response there.
      I don’t know the details about the Universal relationship with Loews except that it is unique from all the other Loew’s Resorts worldwide. The specials at Universal are all unique from the other resorts as the other Loew’s specials never seem to apply to Universal resorts. Universal must be geting a good chunk of the resort $’s.
      I think you have a Universal trip coming up. Here are my best tips:
      1. Universal AP gets best discount on rooms and you only need one AP for your entire family for the discount.
      2. Be sure to join the Loew’s First program at Universal before you check in and ad it to your reservation. They give you a free welcome gift like giant cookies and pitcher of milk, or fruit basket w resort cd of music,or chocolate tuxedo dipped strawberries, etc. These gifts would easily be around $40 at WDW.
      3. This Loew’s First program only works at Portofino and Royal Pacific and not Hard Rock.
      4. After a few stays, the Loew’s First program has great benefits like automatic free room upgrades, $100 in free meal credits at the resort restaurants given at every check in, free upgrades to 900 sq ft suites with large two full bathrooms. These suites would be easily $750-$1,500 per night at moderate resorts in WDW but we can get them w Uni AP discount for $184-$250 per night at the 4-5 star Portofino.
      5. You can ride a very nice boat through the beautiful landscaped canals to the front of the parks instead of standing up on a bus and hanging around bus stops at WDW.
      6. Your room key and pass from the hotel will skip all the lines except for 2 rides and 1 attraction.
      7. Your key will get you in the park 1 hour early as well.
      Hope you get this and that you guys have a great time enjoying all the new stuff at Universal!
      We can’t wait for Hogwarts and Diagon Alley in the next 6 months!

      • Country Bear

        Thank you for your suggestions CaptainAction. I will heed them all. Based on the reviews of MagicBands, it looks like we’ll be spending a lot more time at Universal this next trip.

        Thanks again for your suggestions.

    • George Taylor

      Thanks for commenting, County Bear!

      At MK, the lines seemed longer. At Epcot, there wasn’t a reason for FP+ except for Soarin’. DHS was for Toy Story Mania and DAK was for Everest and the Safari. For all the other attractions, it seemed to make their stand by queues longer.

      For my family, this system will be a nightmare.

  • CaptainAction

    Looks like the architects of Obamacare may be the architects of Fast Pass Plus Armbands as well.
    The more you find out about both, the more your suspicions are confirmed.
    Looks like the best bet is to resort to old style, pre fastpass tactics. Hit the parks early and race from ride to ride just ahead of the crowd until the park clogs up.
    Nice job WDW Bozo’s.
    Think I’ll continue to skip WDW and enjoy Universal. Might hit Disneyland before they screw it up.
    Hope Disneyland folks can keep this armband at bay.

    • eicarr

      While I’ll be saving $290 per month in healthcare come January, I see no benefits in dealing with Magic+. It will COST me money and force me to stay longer if I want to ride the same amount of stuff. The only way this can generate revenue quickly for Disney is to give front-of-the-line perks to timeshare owners and those with weeklong “luxury” resort rooms

      • DLFan1995

        Over time, the Affordable Care Act has improved it’s system, removing some of the initial problems and providing improved services. Hopefully, the MyMagic + can also overcome the early problems it has encountered. If not, it’s hard to say how Disney will deal with it.

      • George Taylor

        eicarr,

        That’s a really good point about needing to extend your vacation to fit everything in. Sounds like a tenet of Rasulo to me!

      • CaptainAction

        Yes, if the goal is to have MORE uninsured than were insured, Obamacare is a success.
        4,500,000 more human beings with no insurance, 75% of folks paying more, 80,000,000 more folks from small and large corporations to lose their insurance next year.
        Lost their insurance they liked and lost their doctors whom they liked.
        The world class hospitals like MD Anderson Cancer Center, Mayo, etc, aren’t covered in Obamacare.
        Mission accomplished.
        So you folks are part of the 33% who like Obamacare?
        I didn’t think they really existed.

  • JCSkipr79

    Soon the only place to walk in to Pirates and Mansion will be in Anaheim.

    • George Taylor

      Sadly, I agree!

  • tink1953

    I just do not like the magibands…..nothing about them
    we had problems with them from the start.
    I feel like Disney wasted a lot of money on something that was not needed…the system didn’t need fixing it was working just fine in my opinion

    takes all the “magic” out of a Disney trip

    • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

      You’ve perfectly explained the entire problem with MyMagic+ . . . it wasn’t needed to begin with. Disney is trying to fix a problem that didn’t exist and as a result they have made things worse for many guests.

      There is nothing magical about having to plan every aspect of your park visit in advance. Especially when it makes lines even longer than before.

      • DLFan1995

        They also have to try and convince guests that there IS an issue that My Magic+ fixes. While there are some guests who do plan their trips out to where the MM+ system fits into their strategy, I would imagine that a majority of guests will experience the same sort of problems that have been mentioned in these reviews.

      • davidrusk

        Well said: There is nothing magical about having to plan out a Disney vacation in advance. Some may say it’s optional, but I think scheduling when to see popular attractions is now a must, just out of “self-defense” to be able to avoid having to wait in the extended stand-by lines for every attraction. I also agree, fastpass wasn’t broken, and we all know “If it ain’t broke…”

      • DavePurz

        We took our first ever trip to WDW last year. The property felt very different from Anaheim – not intimate or homey. The “convenience” features of the “Magic Your Way” system seemed more like a way for Disney to keep its hand in my wallet – searching for ANY extra cash that I might try to leave without spending on their property.

        While it was a mostly a nice experience, the “Magic” tagging/banding of customers is NOT something we want to be a part of. While others don’t care at all – we DO care about having our every movement tracked and data mined for up-sell opportunities. That program means we won’t be returning.

        Smart-assed people like to say “if you don’t like it, then don’t go.” Well, that’s what we’re choosing… NOT to go anymore.

      • CaptainAction

        DavePruz,
        Come and try Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure Orlando.
        It’s turned into the reverse of WDW.
        Stay in their resorts and ride a boat to the front of both parks and use Resort key to skip 98% of all the attractions.
        The resorts are 4-5 star and with an AP discount are priced better than moderate WDW resorts, and you don’t have to stand up on a bus.
        Plus they have about 15 things that are brand new called rides and attractions and lands.
        WDW doesn’t remember what I’m talking about here.

  • Dan Heaton

    This is truly sad. Anything called FastPass should not have a 15-minute wait to get inside. What a mess! They really need to get this in order now, or Christmas week is going to be a madhouse. I just don’t see the value in this even if the FP+ line is working well. In this situation, it looks maddening and not worth the effort.

    • George Taylor

      I do believe that the front line cast members are going to get the brunt of the abuse from the guests. Since over a billion dollars has been spent, there’s not a way for Disney to drop the program.

      • Dan Heaton

        Good points. When the crowds pick up, people will throw their frustrations at front-line cast members. If profits stay strong, the management team will assume their move was a success. It’s just sad all around.

      • Country Bear

        I agree that front line cast members will be tortured with this program. I suspect that Disney may have a resource challenge on its hands in the coming years as most people wont put up with the hassle.

        I think that profits will stay strong for the next year or two because everybody will be getting their first exposure to the program. However, I think long-term, this program will have a very negative effect on the Disney brand. But you’re right, short-term, managers will celebrate the success of the cash coming in. But long-term (after all of these managers have been let go) there will be a decline. It is this “quick buck” as opposed to “long dollar” thinking that is so frustrating for those of us who used to love WDW.

  • davidrusk

    I enjoyed your well written report even if it did have bad news. But then most reports about Disney parks contain bad news these days.

    I have a question about something you wrote: ” Using the band to get into the resort was alright, although I needed to remove the band for the security cast member to scan it. ”

    I have visions of trying to take a tour of a resort that’s not the one where I’m staying and being told I can’t come in because my band isn’t for that resort. Now surely this is wrong. Can you expand on your statement? Where are the security cast members who do the scanning of the bands? What’s the purpose?

    Thanks!

    • George Taylor

      David–I had to remove the band from my arm to enter the hotel security gate. It was similar to the keycard except the guard had to scan the band. It was just easier than holding my arm out for a prolonged period. There was a scanner on the bus side of the entrance but you had to lean WAAAAAAY out to have it read the band.

      So, if you wanted to tour a resort that you weren’t staying at, you’d have to talk to a guard anyway.

  • stevek

    Thanks for the article. This, like many others, has completely turned me off to ever returning to WDW. I can’t imagine spending the money to go across country and have to plan so much. We loved the spontinaety during our previous 2 trips and now it’s just too much. We’ll stick to Disneyland.

  • CaptainAction

    Watch Disneyland get packed now due to Disney fans fleeing the WDW Magic Bands.
    Those in the know are a small group now but as it grows it could really have an affect on the small Disneyland and CA.

  • D.O.M.

    Was the line show for BTMRR just to get through the Fastpass+ Entrance scanner or all the way to the merge point? I can’t imagine that being a line all through the queue. But I can easily see the entrance being a bottleneck as the scan everyone’s bands.

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  • llmeeko

    Just back from a WDW trip – 1st in 8 years due to various family needs/issues. Prior to that hiatus, we went every 3-4 years. We found the parks and the experience greatly changed and not for the better. Magic+ didn’t plus our experience much at all. We have always been planners for WDW trips but found unexpectedly long lines had us constantly adjusting. For our final 2 days, we gave up and just did want we wanted, forsaking the mobile app and FastPass+ altogether. That worked out better and was much more fun. FP+ and advance scheduling was a mess. The app rarely had correct information and we ended up using our concierge a lot to make reservations, etc. The magic band itself worked fine. We had no trouble with them at all and we could see that, in most cases, wait staff and sales cast members had an easier time with the bands than with credit cards or room keys. And then there’s MyDisneyExperience. We successfully managed to “tilt” it several times. As with any enormous computer system, a tweak here caused a blowout there. Cast members shouldn’t have to spend all their time apologizing. And speaking of spending, we did a lot less than normal. All the merchandise was the same no matter where we went. And it was boring. The magic band didn’t get used nearly as often on pins, souvenirs, etc as we thought it would. Happy bank balance but we never expect to come home from a WDW vacation with money left over.