At parks, Disney invests in interactive experiences
With MyMagic+, the wristbands eventually will accompany a mobile phone app that lets visitors reserve firework- and parade-viewing areas, set up a meeting with Mickey or pick rides so as to skip the line. In addition, the band will gather information about a guest's behavior that could be key to even more personalized experiences in the future – a princess wowing a little girl by asking whether she enjoyed her pancakes for breakfast, for instance. The New York Times said analysts peg the total cost of the project at $800 million to $1 billion.
Disney has a rich tradition of evaluating every kind of technology it comes across for how it can be used invisibly to tell a story, according to Disney historian and former Imagineer Jeff Kurtti. And dating back to Disneyland's animatronic Abe Lincoln, Tomorrowland, and 1982's opening of EPCOT in Florida, the company has put a premium on visions of the future. With the rise of personal computers, cell phones and the Internet, though, the company was hard-pressed to build experiences that matched what visitors already had in their homes, say some longtime Disney watchers.
Today the company is facing a world where most people walking around its parks have a handheld, Internet-connected computer begging to draw their attention away from the immersive, and lucrative, experience at hand.
"It's definitely harder today and it takes more effort on our part today than it did in the past," said Scott Trowbridge, vice president of research and development at Disney's Glendale offices. "Our obligation to keep pace or beat that pace is also our opportunity to create new forms of magic ... as technology progresses, so does the size of our tool box."