Disney’s MyMagic Failure

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

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Published on March 30, 2014 at 3:00 am with 96 Comments

Tim Grassey returns with his thoughts on Disney World’s MyMagic+. As you can gather from the title, this isn’t a column the Disney suits are going to like. However, it’s an important discussion as the new MyMagic+ fundamentally changes the theme park dynamic for both Disney and its guests. Give it a read and then let us know your thoughts. Do you agree with Tim or do you have a different view?

I will often point to the Happiest Celebration on Earth as the last great Disney promotion because it brought forth the main thing Disney fans want: new attractions. The Happiest Celebration on Earth began in May of 2005 and continued through September 2006. Soarin’, Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show and Expedition Everest all opened in the first 11 months of the celebration and the result of this investment was a substantial increase in attendance from 2005-2007.

logo

 

2000

2004

2005

2006

2007

Total

Magic Kingdom

15,200,000

15,200,000

16,100,000

16,640,000

17,060,000

 

Epcot

10,300,000

9,400,000

9,900,000

10,460,000

10,930,000

 

Hollywood Studios

8,800,000

8,300,000

8,600,000

9,100,000

9,510,000

 

Animal Kingdom

8,200,000

7,800,000

8,200,000

8,910,000

9,490,000

 

Rate
increases

Magic Kingdom

 

 

5.92%

3.35%

2.52%

12.24%

Epcot

 

 

5.32%

5.66%

4.49%

16.28%

Hollywood Studios

 

 

3.61%

5.81%

4.51%

14.58%

Animal Kingdom

 

 

5.13%

8.66%

6.51%

21.67%


As attendance rebounded after 9/11, the new slate of attractions resulted in each park seeing at least 12% growth from 2005-2007 (Source TEA-ERA reports). However, I speculate that in the halls of Disney’s offices they at least partially attribute this growth to three other substantial changes that began during this time frame:

  • January 2, 2005: Disney launched the Magic Your Way ticket system. The concept was the longer your stay, the less you paid per day. At its inception each day beyond day 5 of a multi day ticket was only $3 more per day.
  • January 2, 2005: The Disney Dining Plan launched in conjunction with the Magic Your Way ticket system. This gave guests three different levels of pre-paid options based on the types of restaurants they wished to experience.
  • May 5, 2005: Disney launched Magical Express, a service that gave guests free transportation from Orlando International Airport to every Disney owned resort.

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These three initiatives were done with a singular objective: keep guests on property. Guests that stayed on property were inclined to give more money to Disney. If a family of 4 only spent $12 more on tickets per day, they thought they were getting a good value. As a result, that family was more willing to dismiss the cost of the hotel room, food and merchandise spent on those extra days. With Magical Express, guests no longer needed to rent a car. Not only could the money that would have otherwise gone to a rental car company be spent on Disney property, the lack of a rental car meant a guest could not easily travel elsewhere in Central Florida.

Immediately following the 2008 economic crisis, Disney offered deep discounts on resort stays and park tickets. Through early 2010, discounts included an offer to “Buy 4 nights, get 3 nights free” at Value, Moderate and Deluxe hotels. As the economy recovered, the discounts decreased and attendance remained stable from 2008-2012.

 

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

Total

Magic Kingdom

17,063,000

17,233,000

16,972,000

17,142,000

17,536,000

 

Epcot

10,935,000

10,990,000

10,825,000

10,825,000

11,063,000

 

Hollywood Studios

9,608,000

9,700,000

9,603,000

9,699,000

9,912,000

 

Animal Kingdom

9,540,000

9,590,000

9,686,000

9,783,000

9,998,000

 

Percentage
Increases in Attendance

Magic Kingdom

0.02%

1.00%

-1.51%

1.00%

2.30%

2.80%

Epcot

0.05%

0.50%

-1.50%

0.00%

2.20%

1.25%

Hollywood Studios

1.03%

0.96%

-1.00%

1.00%

2.20%

4.18%

Animal Kingdom

0.53%

0.52%

1.00%

1.00%

2.20%

5.25%

While attendance remained stable, it was a far cry from the growth seen during 2005-2007. Still, Parks and Resorts revenue was increasing in large part due to an increase in guest spending per day.

Hotel
Occupancy Rates

 

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

Occupancy

78%

83%

87%

89%

89%

87%

82%

82%

81%

79%

Available Room Nights Domestic (in thousands)

9356

9587

9644

9424

9367

9549

9629

9625

9850

10558

Per Room Guest Spending Domestic

$204

$206

$218

$225

$233

$214

$224

$241

$257

$267

The preceding numbers include both Disneyland and Disney World. The Disney World numbers have historically been $4-10 less in Per Room Guest Spending due to all Disneyland Hotels being in the deluxe category. Disney has seen a steady increase in spending for their resort guests, but this has largely been a product of price increases. Without organic attendance growth or higher room occupancy rates, the continued growth is unsustainable.

MyMagic+ is Disney’s attempt at organic growth.

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More than ever, Disney executives seem consumed with guest spending per day. In Disney’s eyes, this is even more important than increasing the number of guests. MyMagic+ reinforces the motivation to increase guest spending through incentives to stay on property. The incentive of MyMagic+ and Fastpass+ is the application of a value system to attraction reservations. By granting earlier access and better reservations to resort guests, Disney is rewarding guests that are paying more per day. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a company making money, but the approach to doing so can certainly be questioned.

Guests have previously seen these incentives manifest themselves through high demand reservations at restaurants. Currently, guests struggle to make a dinner reservation at Be Our Guest restaurant 180 days in advance because resort guests can book up to 189 days in advance. The initial fear with Fastpass+ was that it will be the dining system revisited. While capacity at attractions is higher than at a restaurant, non-resort guests are already being shut out of Fastpass+ offerings at Princess Fairytale Hall.

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Disney has long adhered to the John Lasseter philosophy that quality is the best business plan. If guest satisfaction is high, people are more inclined to spend money. With MyMagic+ and Fastpass+, Disney is taking a different approach. The motivation behind the original Fastpass system was guest satisfaction. The motivation behind Fastpass+ is strictly monetary. Looking towards the summer, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts will draw guests towards Universal Studios. However, Disney believes if a guest was on the fence about leaving Disney property, Fastpass+ reservations at The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and/or other attractions will keep them on property. Rather than try to compete on an attraction level, Disney has opted to reward those guests that “lock in” their plans 2 months in advance.

One of the criticisms of the original Fastpass system was the advantage experienced guests had over the inexperienced guest. The experienced guest knew what to prioritize while the inexperienced guest didn’t know what to prioritize or even how to use Fastpass at all. Disney will never attempt to resolve this ignorance, nor should they. All Fastpass+ does is allows Disney to profit on this ignorance.

Since Fastpass began, Disney has tweaked it by removing it from many high capacity attractions where it was deemed unnecessary. It was removed from most shows for the same reason. Guests would save less than 5 minutes using Fastpass at some attractions, and save no time using Fastpass on shows.

Fastpass+ is technologically superior to the original Fastpass. However, from a Fastpass distribution standpoint, Fastpass+ reverses any evolutionary gains over the last 15 years of Fastpass by adding it back to attractions that since had it removed, as well as adding it to attractions that never necessitated Fastpass usage. The motivation behind this is to get more guests to be able to make more reservations per day. In doing so, they will have “locked in” that guest and prevented them from traveling elsewhere in Central Florida. Disney has assigned value to Fastpass reservations like Spaceship Earth that are wholly unnecessary with the intent of deceiving guests into staying on property.

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When it comes to shows, Fastpass+ typically results in a guest losing time as opposed to gaining it. Guests can walk into most shows up to and after the official start time. The Fastpass+ return window for shows is 20-5 minutes before a show begins. For example, a Fastpass+ for a 1 PM show will have a return time of 12:40 to 12:55, but at 12:56 you can still walk into the show through the standby line.

The intentional deception of guests is necessary so that Disney can sell guests on the availability of 3 Fastpass+ reservations per day. In Disney’s eyes, 3 seemed to be the magic number for when a guest was “locked in” to those reservations and therefore unwilling to leave property. The problem is that in order to achieve 3 reservations per guest per day, Disney had to add those reservations where they didn’t belong. Simply put, aside from the Magic Kingdom none of the other Florida parks have the attraction capacity to meet the true Fastpass demand necessitated by Fastpass+.

While tweaks to Fastpass+ are certainly likely, the advanced booking concept does not seem to be going away. A recent guest survey indicated guests could soon make Fastpass+ reservations at multiple parks per day and/or acquire additional reservations once the original three are used. Despite what sounds like an improvement, the advanced bookings still give preference to resort guests, making Fastpass+ another service that Disney can sell as “complimentary” but is really anything but.

These advanced reservations are another cog in the machine to keep people on property and increase guest spending per day. These choices seem to be made in lieu of new attractions or raised expectations at the resorts. A decline in quality and an increase in prices have resulted in the stagnant hotel occupancy and attendance numbers seen since 2008.

The opening of headliner attractions during the Happiest Celebration on Earth showed that sustained attendance growth it still possible, but Disney no longer seems interested in that approach. For the first time in Disney’s history, they will go 11 years between headliner additions to Walt Disney World (Expedition Everest in 2006, Avatar in 2017). The longest previous gap between E-Ticket attractions was 6 years (Horizons/Journey Into Imagination in 1983, MGM Studios and Wonders of Life in 1989). With that unfortunate reality in mind, it stands to reason that Disney’s new approach to growing revenue is through increasing guest spending. Initiatives like Magical Express, the Disney Dining plan, Magic Your Way Tickets, and now MyMagic + are infrastructure and philosophy changes all designed at increasing guest spending but not necessarily the number of guests that visit the park.

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Disney has chosen to no longer compete in the theme park wars in the way that fans desire. Fans want to watch Disney and Universal exchange blows like two prize fighters trying to one up each other in attraction technology. Disney has decided they would rather reshape how theme parks work with MyMagic+. Fellow MiceChat columnist Kevin Yee as well as WDWMagic poster WDW1974 have helped introduce the concept of “Blue Ocean Strategy” to the Disney fan community; this concept is the core of My Magic+.

The simplest explanation of a Blue Ocean Strategy vs. a Red Ocean Strategy is that a Blue Ocean Strategy involves competing in an industry or in a manner that does not yet exist. A Red Ocean Strategy is competing in an existing market under existing rules and parameters. Walt Disney often existed in “Blue Oceans” where he created demand for products that people didn’t necessarily know they needed. Defenders of Walt will argue that he did so as an innovator and that’s what separated him from the finance minded decisions typically at the root of today’s Blue Ocean Strategies.

From Disney’s perspective, the infrastructure improvements, change in ticket media, RFID tracking, and Fastpass+ scheduling are intended to change how people tour Walt Disney World. These changes are taking place under the Next Gen/MyMagic+ umbrella and are being done at Disney World because they’re not being done elsewhere. The hope is that these changes will somehow increase revenue through an increase in guest spending while also avoiding a costly attraction building arms race with Comcast and Universal.

The concepts behind Blue Ocean Strategy may work under different circumstances but it’s application as it relates to MyMagic+ seems misguided at best. While it’s possible to generate more revenue per guest, you can only squeeze so much milk out of a single cow. One of the reasons the 2005 initiatives worked was because they coincided with substantial additions at three of the four parks. Attendance increased and guest spending increased. That is the most desirable option, but one that Disney is unwilling or unable to pursue today.

It’s not unreasonable for Disney to believe that Theme Parks in Central Florida are incapable of additional organic attendance growth beyond the 1-2% per year. Nearly a decade without an E-Ticket addition will result in stagnation. However, Universal Studios has proven that innovative new attractions can still drive attendance and Central Florida has room to grow. Companies are allowed to make mistakes, but My Magic+ has hindered this growth by taking money away from additional projects that would further enhance the resort.

My Magic+ spending is reportedly north of $1.5 billion. Disney is acting as if MyMagic+ is too big to fail. Expenses will continue to mount as the infrastructure associated with this state of the art system will need to continually be refreshed. This is not a project that can simply be completed because the technology behind it will become obsolete quicker than the amortization of any attraction or building already in Disney World. To paraphrase a line from Walt, MyMagic+ will never be complete as long as technology continues to evolve.

Under a management group that claimed a holiday incandescent light display was obsolete, it’s possible Disney considers MyMagic+ obsolete after five years, however it seems unlikely. It’s more likely that the components of Next Gen are not generating revenue at the same rate as the amortization of the components themselves. That means that Disney is potentially faced with the continual replacement of Next Gen related infrastructure that cannot pay for itself. While this occurs, any additional spending on new attractions that was not already approved has been halted until a revenue stream is derived from Next Gen.

To recap, in order to avoid a “costly” attraction driven theme park war with Universal, Disney has opted to go with the “less costly” alternative: a bottomless pit of an infrastructure project that to date has cost more money than the initial build of any stateside theme park after inflation.

For 35 years, Disney World had steady organic growth generated largely by continued reinvestment into the parks themselves. However since Expedition Everest debuted in 2006, Disney has failed to innovate in Central Florida. Financiers have taken over the company from the creative minds that made it great. WDWMagic user Astro Blaster recently uncovered a great Walt Disney quote that seems pertinent here:

“I could never convince the financiers that Disneyland was feasible, because dreams offer too little collateral.”

The most significant event during the Happiest Celebration on Earth wasn’t the addition of Soarin’ or Expedition Everest. The most significant event during the Happiest Celebration on Earth wasn’t Magic Your Way, the Disney Dining Plan, or even Magical Express. The most significant event during the Happiest Celebration on Earth was the appointment of Bob Iger as CEO and Jay Rasulo as the head of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

Led by Iger and now CFO Jay Rasulo, the company has sacrificed guest satisfaction in favor of getting the most money out of a guest on their current trip. This shortsightedness sacrifices future profits for current cash flow. In Disney’s eyes there will always be a new crop of guests to replace those they lose. Repeat visitors aren’t as profitable as the first timer. Every corporate decision is made with the next quarter’s balance sheet in mind while five, ten and twenty year plans are seemingly non-existent.

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Unless a change of philosophy takes place, Disney will continue to make cuts and only make safe additions to the parks. They will do so as long as the current management team remains in place and the current management team will remain in place as long as the stock price continues to rise. Strip mining Walt Disney World is not a long term plan, and it’s one that will eventually catch up with those doing the mining. There are no diamonds left to uncover, no matter how many Dwarfs are sent to look for them.

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. [...] Repeat visitors arent as profitable as the first timer. Every corporate decision is made with the next quarters balance sheet in mind while five, ten and twenty year plans are seemingly non-existent. Unless a change of philosophy takes place, Disney will continue to make cuts and only make safe additions to the parks. They will do so as long as the current management team remains in place and the current management team will remain in place as long as the stock price continues to rise. Strip mining Walt Disney World is not a long term plan, and its one that will eventually catch up with those doing the mining. There are no diamonds left to uncover, no matter how many Dwarfs are sent to look for them. For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit http://micechat.com/62433-disneys-mymagic-failure/ [...]

  2. I don’t care what anybody has to say, MyMagic+ is the most stupid thing that any themepark does not need. WDW is in need of refurbs and new rides, not stupid wristbands.

    Why fix something that isn’t broken?

    Meanwhile in Expedition Everest: No movement at all.

    • I have far less of an issue with the Magic Bands than I do with Fastpass+. Fastpass+ wasn’t broken before and they have fundamentally changed the system.

      I would be 100% on board with Fastpass+ if it was just a digital version of what we’re familiar with. That would combine two things that I enjoyed: Legacy Fastpass and Not Walking.

  3. Those of us who love Disney Parks need to seperate the love of parks from the love of Disney Executives.
    We all want WDW to return to the innovative, guest centric place that it was.
    Recognition of these facts and action on our part can help to bring back WDW.
    Those of us who ignore ALL the undeniable evidence and continue to spend money at WDW are part of the problem because we enable the Iger gang to continue.
    Admiting that WDW has been in this state of grabing money and ignoring guests comes at different points for each of us.
    My first twinge of all this began with AK. It’s ok that almost nobody will agree with me here. When AK opened I just thought it looked like a thrown together park on an ugly swamp with very lame attractions. I wondered if this wasn’t just a cheap way to add a 4th park to keep guests from considering checking out Islands of Adventure.
    We get the Yeti but when it breaks WDW puts a strobe light in.
    Around this time Magic Express began. I knew this “free” service was just to get guests to stay away from Islands of Adventure and the new resorts Universal was begining to add.
    Where was the competition from WDW in new rides?
    Then came the WDW meal plan.
    Where were the new WDW rides?
    Then themed restrooms.
    Where are the rides?
    Then New Fantasyland plans removed the Snow White ride. I thought New Fantasyland would be about the new rides but it was a 1 for 1 trade with Mermaid, which is my families least favorite dark ride. Then it was all stores and restaurants – more money for Iger gang.
    Then Magic Handcuffs are used to trap guests.
    Where are the rides?
    Then an over 2 year wait for Dwarf Coaster.
    If we want this 10 year drought to end, we will need to speak the language that the Iger gang understands – MONEY.
    At the least, start skipping WDW for vacations. Your $ is your vote. Go to a National Park, whatever but stop spending your $’s at WDW.
    If you want to speak the loudest with your vote, I know some of you can’t bring yourselves to do it, spend your $’s at Universal.
    Universal, whether you admit it or not, is competing by adding attractions, lands, and resorts with price points, which are designed to ATTRACT guests rather than trick and trap guests.
    If Universal beats AK, Studios, or Epcot, or even gets close – we will be getting a sea change at WDW.
    This is how we get WDW back from the Iger gang. Only their failure will remove them.
    Or we enable the Iger gang and ignore everything and keep spending our $’s at WDW.
    Do you love WDW or WDW execs?

    • Magic Handcuffs – lol!

      • Here’s a satire written way back in 2013:
        http://micechat.com/forums/disneyland-resort/177625-10-magicband-2-0-features.html

        And regarding the 6 year gap between major attractions that began in ’83, remember that in Oct. of ’82 (just 11 years after WDW opened with the Magic Kingdom in Oct. of ’71), Disney opened EPCOT–which I’d argue gave them the right to settle in for a few years. The Magic Kingdom’s 17 million a year might be enough, but the other three WDW parks all should have been improving with chutzpah/gusto/aggression/enthusiasm over the past 12 or so years.

        Good enough isn’t. (I’m lookin’ at you ubiquitous busses.)

      • The 11 year gap hasn’t been without additions. It’s not unreasonable to call New Fantasyland as an E-Ticket addition on the whole. At $400-450 I would hope the return was comparable to an E-Ticket.

        Having said that, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios both need 2-3 more attractions each to make this work.

    • That’s exactly what my family and I have decided to do this year. We can afford a WDW vacation, but are asking ourselves, “Why?” There is nothing substantially new or different from when we last visited in 2013, and as cool as it looks, a mine train coaster and a new parade isn’t going to be enough to bring us back to Florida for a $10k+ vacation. We’ll do some national parks this year and then next year, when the Diagon Alley crowds have died down a bit, we’ll go back to central Florida and probably spend MOST of our time at other parks with 1 or 2 days at Disney (and no, we won’t be staying on-site this time). I love Disney, I love WDW, but in the end what it comes down to is a very expensive vacation and we want something substantial for our money! I have to look at where I spend my money…doing something “new” will always bring me in to a park. WDW unfortunately just isn’t give my family enough “new” in the foreseeable future. A mine train? Out of 4 parks and 2 water parks and that’s the most exciting thing coming out in 2014? Sorry, it just isn’t enough. Most of the friends I’ve talked to out here in Denver, CO are saying the same thing…planning trips to other amusement parks because there’s nothing new to draw us to WDW in the near future. If we were central Florida locals then we would probably be annual passholders because it’s pretty easy to just jump in the car on a weekend and drive an hour or so to go to WDW. But when we’re traveling from many hours away, it has to be something special and new. Sorry, Disney! Maybe Star Wars and Avatar Land will pop up quicker than the new fantasyland took to build! Otherwise, we are done with WDW for the next 5 years or so…. I hate to say it because I used to really love that place…

      • Agree, if enough of us join this club we will get WDW execs attention and hopefully, WDW back on track.
        We are probably all Vacation Thought Leaders in our spheres of influence.
        I spend hours on the phone with friends of friends whom we have helped have great family vacations. I’m sure most of Micechat readers have too.
        I’ve explained what’s going on currently w dozens of folks considering WDW vacations and they have all decided to pass on 180 day planning ahead for meals, park of the day, and 3 fast passes.
        Many are heading for Universal due to all the new stuff and skipping WDW. The Dad’s didn’t want to to spend the money at both Universal and WDW anyway so this was a relief for them.
        As long as their kids are tall enough for the Uni Parks we are aiming them there and they are having awesome vacations. Many are buying AP’s at Universal so they can return to enjoy all the new things Uni has in store.
        If kids are small, I’m encouraging the families to head to D Land instead of WDW.

      • You spend $10,000 on vacation? Take me with you.

    • Or go on a Disney cruise if you can’t bear to be away from people in mouse costumes. That said, the non-Disney parts of the world are just as magical as the Disney parts. Wish I’d learned that sooner.

      • ^ ^ I second that. Disney cruise to Alaska or in Europe with your $10,000.

  4. I’ll be surprised if anyone at the top will still have a job at Disney after all is said and done.

    • It should be quite a show to watch when Iger’s tenure ends in July of 2016. Things might not play out as peacefully as everyone expects.

      As for MyMagic+, there is nothing about the program which makes me want to plan a vacation to Walt Disney World any more than before. However, Universal has added so much stuff in the last few years that we’ll be staying at a Universal hotel the first couple nights of our next Orlando trip (great hotels which include front of line access to the attractions at the Universal parks). While we’ll still be visiting Disney, they’ll be getting 20% less of our money – in part because they decided to spend their money on MyMagic+ instead of new attractions.

      Eventually the shareholders will catch on and demand some accountability on the 2 billion dollar NextGen initiative. MBA actobatics to squeeze more money out of guests isn’t the same as building new attractions to add capacity and entice new guests. For once, Disney can learn something from Universal, which has a very high guest spend rate AND which is constantly offering new attractions, shows and experiences to guests in exchange for their dollar.

      How many kids woke up this morning and demanded that their parents take them to see the new Harry Potter rides at Universal? How many woke up and demanded to get a wristband from Disney? That’s a question that Disney shareholders are ultimately going to want answers for.

      • Iger will replace Iger in 2016–he just did this and will do it again. He’s set up Dan Qualye & Joe Biden #2s that no one will want to see take his place. Staggs might have a shot, but Iger is better on TV and still looks healthy, and as Chair of the Board, he gets to lead the effort to pick his replacement.

      • I’m sure all the execs are realizing now that the 2 Billion investment in MyMagic+ could have been much more profitable invested in something else. But after all that investment, you almost have to see it through to completion.

      • Again, “too big to fail”
        vs.
        the intro economics concept of a “sunk cost”

      • Hey Dusty, I hope you guys enjoy the Universal Resort you have chosen.
        I hope you enjoy the boat rides to the front of the parks and the return boats to the beautiful resort you chose.
        Remember to join the Loew’s First Club before check in. The stays add up REAL fast and benefits are VERY generous.
        Every stay you will receive welcome gifts which would easily be $40 + at WDW.
        They offer free upgrades to suites, free upgrades to next level of rooms, etc.
        We are thinking that it will take us at least 3 early mornings just to hit all the Harry Potter stuff when it opens. One morning for the train to Hogsmead and then Forbidden Journey. The next morning for the train to London and then hitting the new Olivander’s (maybe) and exploring London and Diagon Alley. Then next morning for Gringott’s and then exploring the rest of London and Diagon Alley. Planning to exit these areas after the end of the first hour as all the other folks pour in.
        Hope you have a great time.

  5. It’s a shame because, in my opinion, Iger has done a ton for the company and made it thrive. He has overseen the overhaul of California Adventure and, during his tenure, Disney has put out some great movies, and other very successful projects – added Marvel and Star Wars – the list goes on and on. However, this Magic + business may not only be his undoing, but also his legacy. Not to mention, I still don’t think anyone is convinced of this Avatar business.

    Even in closely following the magic band story, I’m still not clear on what it is or what does for me! I’ve even seen the commercials on tv, but I’m thinking “huh?” I cannot believe they were convinced to invest over a billion dollars. A billion dollars could have created a lot of rides and other attractions. Then you could sell more merchandise, themed food, etc… This seems to just be created a lot of ill-will toward Disney and Disney World.

    And I wish they’d just put a halt on the Avatar project. No reason you couldn’t put an Ewok village in AK or something if they’re itching to do a movie tie-in. Star Wars is a proven entity over 30 years. If it weren’t for upcoming movies, Avatar would be next to forgotten already.

    • airick75,
      According to the WDW commercial, the purpose of the Magic Handcuffs is to make a cool green light turn on when you enter the parks.
      I think that’s all.

    • ^^ Maybe Magic Bands were designed and budgeted to help make Staggs and Rasulo less attractive replacements for Iger, who–as you wrote–has had some impressive successes and presented them in a professional way, unlike the sometimes less polished Eisner before him.

      So just as Eisner (according to the late, great Bernie Brillstein) deliberately set up the most powerful person in Hollywood to fail: Michael Ovitz, so to, Iger may have spent over a billion primarily so that he could continue to earn $30-40 million a year. (Rasulo and Staggs with their MyMagic+ won be seen as the same quality as the guy who got Star Wars, Carsland, Shanghai Disneyland, and Marvel.)

      The short term goal of Iger earning $$$$$$ (and Staggs & Rasulo earning substantial fractions of that), is currently the ultimate goal of the Walt Disney Company.

      The current biggest shockholder, Steve Jobs’s widow, and Marvel guy and George Lucas are all too deferential to Iger. There is no Roy Disney, Jr. in the company questioning the CEO. And quality visionary, John Lassater, no longer has his big, potentially scary sponsor, Steve Jobs, allowing him to push through excellence like Carsland.

      Flat attendance at WDW with gains at Universal Orlando in 2015 MIGHT cause Wall Street journalists to take notice.

      • ^ ^ typo 1 in 2nd pargraph: “won” should be “won’t”.

        Thanks for writing about an important but not so fun subject, Tim. Parents and kids going to Walt Disney World can top Christmas and birthdays for some families, and I respect your attempt to improve what should be one of the best things in America.

      • ^ ^ “parAgraph” Arrrgh–I wish I needed less editing! :)

        (“Many of us wish that Jcruise86.”)

  6. By the way, Universal hasn’t finished Diagon alley yet and new lands and rides are begining construction.
    Universal is making the most immersive waterpark ever. The new waterpark will be on the grounds of the old Wet n Wild. There will be theme park water rides, immersive theming, and waterpark features but all will be amped up to levels never seen in a waterpark before.
    The Universal execs have been all over the Fear Factor Auditorium and grounds next to New London. The rumor going through Universal Casting is that construction is about to begin on The Ministry of Magic from the Potter series! Wow, how cool could that be!
    Also, construction plans have been approved to add a new Island at Islands of Adventure. The new Island will begin just behind the large Jurassic Park restaurant at the drop of the River Adventure ride and go all the way to Dudley Do Right. The new Island will be Skull Island from King Kong and will have a E Ticket atttraction with a footprint the size of WWoHP!
    The new E Ticket attraction will include animatronic versions of all the giant, disgusting bugs from the Peter Jackson Kong movie. Of course Kong will be there too!
    This is the way I want a theme park to try to earn my money instead of trying to trap me with buses and Magic Handcuffs.

    • Wow, Captain universal on a WDW topic promoting universal….again….getting old.

  7. Great Article. I totally agree that this only helps on site visitors. Your also right that they are basically fooling people to get a fast pass to something they don’t need one for like space ship earth. I was there 3 weeks ago hoping to miss this system but I was part of the experiment as they called it. Even the system itself is as extra line for people to wait for a cast member to use their tablet to help you get your 3 tickets. BTW, the meal plan hurts outside visitors as it is difficult to find a restaurant to get into.
    It is interesting the Disney vs- Universal debate. I went to Universal and Islands of Adventure, and both parks have to get more rides. They just don’t currently have enough. It was fun, but I did not stay late and did not even use my free 3rd day. I will say the employees were nicer than Disney, which is something I did not expect.
    Bottom line my magic distracted from my visit. I probably spent less, and it makes the park hopper option less than optimal. Disney needs more attractions at WDW period. I will not be going back for many years as a lot of the rides are long in the tooth (Epcot especially). I also can’t see how this could possibly be sold in Anaheim considering the million annual pass holders. A very different demographic.

  8. In my last couple of visits to Disney Parks I have found that any type of fastpass is gone easily by noon, which prevented me from boarding anything fast. The bottom line for me is, there are too many people inside the parks at one time. When you can’t even walk, that’s the biggest failure of all. Keep cramming them in at $90 a head.

  9. What was the most depressing sentence in this article for you?

    For me it’s: “The opening of headliner attractions during the Happiest Celebration on Earth showed that sustained attendance growth it still possible, but Disney no longer seems interested in that approach. For the first time in Disney’s history, they will go 11 years between headliner additions to Walt Disney World (Expedition Everest in 2006, Avatar in 2017). The longest previous gap between E-Ticket attractions was 6 years (Horizons/Journey Into Imagination in 1983, MGM Studios and Wonders of Life in 1989)”

    • That is the most depressing sentence for me as well.
      More depressing than the strobe light at the Yeti Ride.
      More depressing than the themed restrooms instead of new attractions.
      More depressing than the Fast Pass for Carousel of Progress.

      • You 2 crack me up….LMAO…..cAPTAIN UNIVERSAL, AND JJUMPONTHEBANDWAGON86.

  10. Thank you for the great article, Tim.

    This crap+ better not step foot into Disneyland. I know plans are to bring it to the west coast but they’d better think twice.

    this was most depressing part of the article:
    “a bottomless pit of an infrastructure project that to date has cost more money than the initial build of any stateside theme park after inflation.”

    • ^ ^ I haven’t heard “crap + 1″ since film school. Excellent term, and I normally dislike the word “cr@p.”

    • ^ ^ And that was a fine selection for most depressing sentence, Jafar00! So many to choose from. :)

  11. All of the percentage “totals” are wrong in the accompanying charts. You can’t add and subtract percentages when you’re talking about change across a span of years. If you want a correct overall “total”, you have to use your starting year and your final rate figure. Otherwise the math is wrong.

    That said, part of MyMagic+ being a potential failure is because it cannot be scaled to Disneyland Resort in the way it has been rolled out to work at Walt Disney World, because of different visitor bases (locals vs. vacationers), different hotel environments (most people aren’t captive visitors in on-site hotels, and different queue space and layouts (much less available space at DLR.) This project was just blasted through as part of the One Disney initiative, but the truth is, there *isn’t* one Disney. DLR and WDW are massively different. If they weren’t, DLR would be rolling out in tandem with WDW. I think it’s a warning sign that that’s not happening.

    • I don’t think MyMagic+ will come to Disneyland. The fact is that most visitors through the gates each day at Disneyland are either staying off property or are locals. So, the MagicBands make no sense in Disneyland. Going to Disneyland is going there for the day for most people, not going there for a week. It’s one day in a bigger trip to Los Angeles, not an immersive trip to the resort.

      Disneyland needs one or two more parks and many more hotels before it could be an immersive week long trip, but even then it still is going to LA and then to Disneyland as opposed to going to WDW in Florida. There is no draw to “go see Orlando” and do anything other than Potter and maybe Discovery Cove when at WDW.

      • Uh, I’d suspect that the long term goal of every Disney resort property is to establish the Disney World paradigm of long, multi-day “theme park Catskills” style vacations. That’s been evident since they opened EuroDisneyland as a resort complex versus a stand-alone park with a hotel or two. It should be plainly obvious that they’re attempting to do this at Disneyland Resort in California, with their suite of hotels, a shopping district and two theme parks. Incidentally, only Orlando is a theme park destination basically with nothing else to do but theme park. All other Disney resorts are located “someplace,” a locale where one could conceivably do something other than Disney, and yet, all other Disney resorts are built as multi-day destinations, or with the intention to transform them into multi-day destinations. There’s a LOT of money in the integrated, exclusive resort model.

        Considering that MyMagic+ rewards guests the more they stay and play exclusively with Disney, I’d put money of the idea that part of their overall strategy for this multi-day vacationing involves programs like MyMagic+.

        Also, since Disney is a global multinational, they’ll want to monetize the cost of their investment in the technology across all their theme parks and properties as it develops, to say nothing of using the system to maximize (or attempt to maximize) their profits. It’s what they do with ride clones and ride tech clones already. This is a massive, billion plus investment.

        They. Will. Want. To. Monetize. It.

        Even if it’s not eventually successful, they’ll want to spread the pain, partially for quarterly statements, partially to “prove” success even when there isn’t any. And, as stated prior, it’s a pretty darn good tool in the belt with regards to flipping the resorts to the multi-day Catskills model.

        It may not be tomorrow, and it may not be for a few years, but no doubt… MyMagic+ will come to nest at Disney’s other parks.

    • You’re absolutely right, this has been corrected.

  12. There are a couple of things missing from this article and from discussions on MyMagic+ in general. I think it will be about 5 years or so before this becomes really obvious, but Disney is laying the foundation work for big cultural changes that are coming.

    Have you noticed how anyone under 35 is glued to their phones constantly and they have the attention span of Twitter? Try having a conversation with one of them. You have to ask five to ten questions to get an answer that’s useful, because they give half-answers and say as little as possible. Like they do on Twitter. They hate lines, have trouble paying attention, and are used to doing everything on their phones. If something takes 30 seconds, they whine that it’s not taking just 10 seconds. These are the people who decide a YouTube video is BORING within five seconds.

    MyMagic+ is really the evolution of things. It is laying the groundwork and foundation for a future that tries to respond to the ADD culture that’s coming into dominance. Disney must have seen through demographic studies that the future of guests won’t want to wait in lines and they want to have interaction with technology at all times.

    I don’t think Disney really intends for MyMagic+ to increase the number of guests coming into the parks, but it will give these guests a way to interact with things using technology that they come to expect. Eventually Universal will be forced to do something like MyMagic+ as well if they want to compete. Otherwise, Universal will seem like a boring and terrible place for the ADD crowd to visit, since they can’t use their technology there.

    To me, the main goals of MyMagic+ really are:

    * to get Disney ready in an infrastructure and tech way to change in the years ahead to meet the needs of a changing culture that is very ADD and hates waiting for anything

    * to start changing the parks so they are more interactive with technology

    * to give people a way to do FastPass using computers and their phones because the majority of guests were intimidated by the old FastPass and most did not use it

    * to increase sales on many items by making payment with that flip of the magic band, which removes the psychological barriers to spending inherent in cash and credit cards

    It’s very popular right now to bash MyMagic+ in the fan community. In fact, anyone who does not bash it gets bullied in a lot of forums that I’ve seen. But I think that the superfans are mostly angry about the fact that soon everyone will be doing Fastpass. That ends the days of superfans, who really knew how to exploit Fastpass, being the only ones who took advantage of it. Now, regular people who never used Fastpass before are going to be taking advantage of it…and the superfans don’t like that change.

    Fair enough, but big picture was it really good that Fastpass used to be something that intimidated the first time or occasional visitors and that they didn’t understand it or found it too difficult to use? I think it’s much better to be able to book reservations for rides well in advance. Takes a lot of stress and pressure off people who might only get to WDW once in their lives.

    • Yeah so, if WDW is smart they should wall in a giant parking lot, charge guests $100 to enter with a Magic Handcuff and have them wander around to different poles which change colors.
      Yes, that will put Universal right out of business.

      In the future nobody will care about rides or attractions.

      Are you married to Iger?

      • What has made you so bitter that you have to try to insult someone who outlines a thoughtful well reasoned alternative to your viewpoint? Do you feel your logic is insufficient to stand on its own merits?

      • Cap’n, I thought the “married to Iger?” bit was unnecessary and unmicechat-like.

        While we’re on the subject, my wife heard Willow Bay speak at a Blogher convention and said she did an excellent job.

    • Brady,

      Count me amongst those that are looking to shape My Magic+/Fastpass+. I’m not so delusional to think that it’s going away.

      If the insistence is there for advanced bookings, I think this should be limited to resort guests and AP holders (so many per month). I would be on board with the old distribution rules + 1 Advanced booking per day per resort guest and AP holder. I could even see AP holders restricted to 7 per month.

      Once an individual has checked into the park everyone would have equal access to the legacy Fastpass rules and it would not be available where it doesn’t belong (Shows, lower demand attractions).

      If that’s the change, I’m on board.

    • I dont think it will be as bad as people make it out to be. The article above actually had some interesting things that give me hope, like eventually expanding so you can have reservations at multiple parks in the same day and expanding past 3 FPs in a day. I assumed Disney would start charging for these additional benefits, but I am willing to wait and see how it plays out. People who are bullying on message boards are the type of people who fear change. Yes this system has had some issues and is far from perfect at the moment. It has also been a huge money pit and seemingly pointless. I am willing to wait and see how this all plays out. People are lauding Universal for building things quickly… and they have dont a great job at themeing the new areas of their parks… I love IOA. All of the new rides (Transformers, Potter, etc) are all people just sitting in front of different movie screens and moving from one to another. Personally those type of rides are one and done for me. The tech really isnt there to make it seem like anything other than a movie screen to me . I really hope Disney doesnt move completely in that direction like Universal has.

    • B&BMom, the true benefit will be for Disney, as they’ll be able to data mine consumer activity, in real time, throughout their parks. It will enable them to offer a perceived benefit to guests once this is up and running, as they’ll be able to use technology to offer experiences, dining offers and etc “just for you,” but on the other side, they’re really just using a massive gold mine of data to direct you to places where you’ll more likely part with your money, based on your personality profile.

      (No judgement. I’m not saying whether or not I think this is right or wrong. It just is.)

      As for the planning aspect associated with FastPass+, I totally agree. I’m not one who would really ‘plan’ a vacation down to the minute at Disney, but considering the resources out there in the ether, plainly and obviously there’s a market for those that do. Disney not attempting to tap this market with an internal planning and organizational tool would be foolish from a business vantage point.

      Two minor things. The first is in regards to the popularity of bashing MyMagic+ in the fan community. I’d argue that it’s popular to bash Disney in general, and has been since Rocket Rods waaaaaay back in the 1990s. Disney can never do enough right: it’s all wrong until we defrost Walt. That’s just gravy that comes with this goose.

      The second is in the use of the term “bully” with regards to Disney bashers. That’s kind of like referring to Obama or Bush II as “Hitler,” in my opinion. There are children who have taken their own lives because of genuine, actual bullying. A mass of fanwanks talking smack about their favorite punching bag isn’t remotely the same thing as bullying.

      If it helps, consider the source. One is typically negotiating the posts of two or three repeat nags (one of whom I’m certain is a rival theme park operator plant.) Imagine the light of the computer screen, flickering off glasses, dribble of Big Gulp streaming down to distended elastic waistbands.

      It makes it a heck of a lot easier to ignore the nags and focus on the goods, no?

  13. I’m just going to make this comment short and not-so-sweet…..Fast Pass+ sucks.

    I’ve been going to WDW since Day One and other than Disney’s inability to keep up with guests’ theme park wants, this whole thing takes the cake. Not only have they spent all that money on the technology (which doesn’t always work) but they have had to spend a fortune on educating CMs who can’t educate the average guest because they don’t really understand the ins and outs of the whole system. That might be getting better, but how many more CMs have they had to hire just to answer questions and straighten out problems?

    I’d just like to be able to pick some worthwhile rides, rather than settle for second tier stuff that I HAVE to chose and that I will probably not show up for. By my not showing up, does that prevent some other guest from experiencing that ride because I took their space because I had to?

    I’d like to be able to park hop and have fast passes in more than one park on the same day.

    I think I’m noticing a pattern here: Disney never really acts on the guests’ useful complaints/suggestion until the “powersthatbe” make them their own. They may listen but do they understand? I guess if you only ask guests who are newbies and totally uninformed, you’ll get the answers you want to hear.

    Don’t get me wrong…I’ll go to WDW until I’m too old to enjoy it. I still love it. I just wish they’d listen to me/us on how to correct their mistakes. (yea, right).

    But I do admit that next time I go to Orlando, my first stop is Universal and Harry Potter!

  14. It seems to me the “magic bands” are already working….for Universal that is, Its already moved Dusty towards their direction. Maybe Iger has some Comcast stock he is trying to boost,it appears to be working.Where have all the creative people gone? Walt may have wore a suit but he never smiled bigger than when he was wearing his blue jeans.The Suits need more time in the parks or Universal’s parks to get more creative about increasing their revenue.Silly wrist bands or new rides.No Brainer !

  15. Simply put, I like the Magic Bands for park admission, room keys, purchases (including using meal plan credits), pool admittance, laundry room access, resort access when driving into my hotel, etc. BUT, I dislike FP+. I wish they kept it simple, and had us just use the bands at (upgraded) FP machines to get a “digital” FP somehow, that was stored on the bands (via My Disney Experience type app I guess).

    I do sometimes like getting my FP+ for things like Midway Mania, and Soarin’ (why could the FP machines for Soarin’ have been outside the building??) And now I can get FP+ for rides I prefer to experience after dark, with ease….. But honestly, I would trade those abilities in a flash for a new ride or land.

    It makes a DisneyLAND vacation seem so much easier, and better. When you compare the stunning Carsland project to FP+, it is clear to see which is the better use of $$.

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