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  1. #1

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    Disney annonces the NextGen of interactive offerings for their theme parks

    Ever wish that you could print out fast passes from your home computer, make reservations for certain rides, or avoid the long check in lines at the Disney hotels? Well soon you might be able to.

    The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that Disney is poised to spend 1 Billion dollars to create a new next gen interactive system for guests to their parks. The story is as follows:

    Future visitors to Walt Disney World will be able to reserve ride times from their home computers and bypass hotel check-in desks once they arrive at the resort, the head of the Walt Disney Co.'s global theme-park division said during an investors conference Thursday.

    Those advances are among of a series of technological initiatives Disney is developing in hopes of making visits to its increasingly crowded theme parks easier to plan and less intimidating to navigate, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs said at the conference in Anaheim, Calif.

    "In the coming years, we'll introduce a broad set of systems and tools that will help us create a more seamless and personalized experience and help guests get more out of their visit with us," Staggs said. The ultimate goal, he added, is "to welcome more and more people, while making their experience more satisfying, more personal and more immersive."

    Staggs' comments provided the first detailed glimpse at a secretive initiative dubbed "Next Generation Experience," or "NextGen," that Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has been working on for more than a year. The budget for the project is said to be around $1 billion — as much money as Disney spent to build its recently launched Disney Dream cruise ship.

    In his remarks Thursday, Staggs described a "version of Fast Pass for an entire Disney vacation." Future guests, he said, will be able to reserve specific ride times for popular attractions, secure seating for shows, make restaurant reservations and pre-book other experiences before they leave their homes on vacation.

    They will also be able to obtain their room keys in advance, eliminating the need to check into hotels and allowing them to proceed immediately to their rooms or a theme park once they arrive on Disney property.

    Other advances, he said, will include personalizing rides and character greetings for individual guests, adding more interactive queues to entertain people while they wait in line for attractions, and designing behind-the-scenes systems for operations workers to better monitor and steer crowd flow to ease congestion.

    Disney will also aim to cull more personal information from its guests, which Staggs said "will put better information into the hands of our cast, so they can deliver even better and more personalized service for our guests." Although Staggs did not specify what information Disney would seek, possibilities range from simple details such as names and birth dates to favorite characters and credit-card numbers. Access to such information would allow Disney to target more personalized sales offers to guests, even as they wander around its parks
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    Staggs didn't go into further details about how Disney intends to implement some of the plans, and the company would not elaborate on his comments. But there is widespread speculation among former Disney executives and bloggers who follow the company that some of the plans will use radio-frequency identification, or RFID, microchips that can be implanted into tickets or wristbands, loaded with personal information and used to interact with sensors installed in everything from hotel-room doors to ride animatronics.

    Disney has signed a confidentiality agreement with a California company that manufactures RFID wristbands, whose clients include other amusement operators such as Great Wolf Resorts.
    Staggs declined to say when Disney will launch many of the initiatives, though some elements — such as interactive queues — have been slowly rolling out in parks in recent months. Staggs said Disney has applied for "a number" of patents related to the work.

    "It will be some time before we roll out the bulk of these developments," he said. "But we're well into development."

    The decision to pump $1 billion or more into developing systems that help with vacation planning and crowd flow underscores one of the biggest challenges facing Disney's flagship theme-park resorts — particularly Disney World, which has four parks and roughly 25,000 hotel rooms.

    As those resorts have grown bigger over the years, they have also become more complex to navigate and more crowded, threatening to undermine Disney's historically high guest-satisfaction ratings and to deter repeat visits.

    "We know that our guests love creating great memories," Staggs said. "We also know they don't exactly relish waiting in line, checking in at the resort, worrying about missing their favorite attractions, or feeling uncertain about how to best navigate and access our properties."

    There are risks. Former company officials have questioned whether technological advances would boost attendance or guest-spending enough to justify the billion-dollar price tag — or whether advance-planning by some guests could spoil the experience for those who do not pre-plan and arrive at a park only to find the most popular attractions already booked.

    Privacy advocates could also protest if they think Disney is collecting too much personal information about its guests.

    But Scott Smith, an instructor at the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management, said there are also several advantages to the projects Disney described. Issuing hotel-room keys in advance, for instance, will ensure Disney gets its guests into its parks more quickly.

    Smith likened it to similar advance-check-in options at some Las Vegas casino resorts where "the idea is that you go right to the craps table.

    "Disney is probably looking at the same type of philosophy," Scott said. "The sooner we check you in, the sooner you go into our parks and start spending money."

    Also, a new generation of technology-savvy travelers increasingly expects features such as customizable vacations and interactive attractions, he said.

    "Their audience is so much more sophisticated now," Smith said. "If you're not investing in this already, you're going to get left behind. And the last thing Disney wants is to be saddled with the reputation of being old school."
    For more on this story, please go to : Disney Next Generation Experience: Disney parks chief offers details about secretive Next Generation Experience project - OrlandoSentinel.com
    Last edited by Dustysage; 02-18-2011 at 11:08 AM.
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  2. #2

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    Re: Disney annonces the NextGen of interactive offerings for their theme parks

    I don't know if I like this. Doesn't this kind of destroy spontaneity? I know when I go to Disney World I don't plan what park I'm visiting every single day. I have a basic outline plan, but I like to mix it up a bit. This is all kind of weird.

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  3. #3

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    Re: Disney annonces the NextGen of interactive offerings for their theme parks

    I agree with your comments Pizzapants but the Walt Disney World experience is already so much like this for a visitor. I know when I sign up for the dining plan 6 months in advance that I will have to pick every place I want to eat for every meal and decide which parks I'm going to visit everyday six months in advance of my visit or I won't get into the restaurants I'd like to experience. Sound crazy? I've had two visits now that prove you cannot do it any other way and have the experiences you hope for. Yes I hate it, but I hate not doing what I want to when I've traveled 4,000 miles and spent $8,000.00 so that my spouse and I can have this experience every couple of years. Spontaneity is awesome and I love it. But it isn't a part of visiting WDW anymore. Sad but true.

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    Re: Disney annonces the NextGen of interactive offerings for their theme parks

    Quote Originally Posted by Pizzapants View Post
    I don't know if I like this. Doesn't this kind of destroy spontaneity? I know when I go to Disney World I don't plan what park I'm visiting every single day. I have a basic outline plan, but I like to mix it up a bit. This is all kind of weird.

    im against this. this is scary. i agree with you with this comments.

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    Re: Disney annonces the NextGen of interactive offerings for their theme parks

    I'm cautiously optimistic. It doesn't look like it'll kill spontaneity, and people who want to go when they want will be able to. But it will also reward people who plan their visits well in advance.

    Being from out of state and as someone who does need to put in a bit of planning, I kind of like the idea that I can more or less have an Indy Fastpass waiting for me when I walk in the park gates. I can see that, for the locals, this will have a much more negative impact, but for the out-of-towners, especially those visiting Orlando, this can only help make things better.
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  6. #6

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    Re: Disney annonces the NextGen of interactive offerings for their theme parks

    It doesn't detail it, but I don't think they will get rid of the in-park queues... just give those who want to the ability to skip the queue with a reserved ride time. This actually fixes one of the huge glaring problems with FastPass if they enforce the reserved time. Sorry, you missed your ride window, you'll have to stand in the queue. If they don't enforce it, then this is no different than FastPass now except you can get one from home.

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  7. #7

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    Re: Disney annonces the NextGen of interactive offerings for their theme parks

    I think it's kind of cool. It offers alot more leeway and the ability to not be so "stressed" when you're visiting the parks. And like others have said, this is not going to remove spontaneity. It's not like you'd be required to use this feature. It looks like it will just give another option to those that wish to use it, like me.

  8. #8

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    Re: Disney annonces the NextGen of interactive offerings for their theme parks

    Reserve rides from home. Seriously, just read that out loud. Reserve rides from home...

    That's the stupidest theme park idea I've ever heard, and I've read Kermitdefrogs Gemini series. What the heck are they thinking? Want to believe you've been transported to a real world of fairytales, ready to decide which adventure you are about to embark upon, be it seven dwarf minecars, swimming beneath the waves with mermaids or dining in an enchanted castle? Sorry, you didn't fill out the paperwork: check your schedule, bud, you have a Fastpass for Space Mountain that you booked six months ago that expires in half an hour so get off your butt and ride it. What's that? You feel queasy from the ice-cream you just enjoyed, you want to enjoy the scenery, perhaps meet a princess? Well tough luck getting on any E-tickets for the rest of the day then, they're all sold out. Use it or lose it. And you think you can meet a Princess? Newb, I hope you purchased a premium restaurant package. Perhaps spend some time and money in our fabulous shops, you wonderful little consumer you. ("Any way we can charge extra to them for the PRIVALEGE of buying things like D23 did?")

    This sounds like some suits wet dream - they're going to know exactly where the crowds are going to be every minute, nothing's left to chance. Scheduling and paperwork are being pushed to the forefront by people who don't have a clue about immersion, spontaneous fun and magic in any other definition than as a corporate buzzword. "They're just rides... surely it doesn't matter when they ride them?" I can hear the suits thinking. "Can't we just march them through ride by ride till they're all ticked off - quick and efficient! Maybe we could charge for that."

    Interactive queues and all are nice, but reserving your attraction, show and character meet ups is stripping the park of its spontaneity. And this is costing a billion dollars... money that should have been spent adding and fixing attractions. Have they lost sight of why people go to the parks? (Someone commented in the linked article that this seems to be squashing more people into parks that need more attractions already). I really think they're going in entirely the opposite direction to where they should with this. This seems like (or perhaps I hope) they'll try it out, find it doesn't work, and the results will just be one collosal waste of money.

    Quote Originally Posted by Brown Monkey View Post
    I think it's kind of cool. It offers alot more leeway and the ability to not be so "stressed" when you're visiting the parks. And like others have said, this is not going to remove spontaneity. It's not like you'd be required to use this feature. It looks like it will just give another option to those that wish to use it, like me.
    Brown Monkey, I respectfully disagree with literally every point you made there. I don't think it's kind of cool, it does not offer more leeway to not be so stressed out ("Lets go on It's a Small World!" the children shout with joy... "Don't be so stupid!" chastises the father, "our prebooked Fastpass for Splash opened up five minutes ago, now walk as fast as your legs will carry you"), yes this IS going to remove spontineity (you know how lines are artificially inflated by Fastpass, this is just expanding on that), and it WILL be a feature you HAVE to use, or you're gonna be screwed over. I don't 'have' to use Fastpass, but if I don't I won't get on half as many rides because that's the way the system works. I have to use it, or I voluntarily become one of those people that Fastpass exploits to let you skip the queue.

    I really hope all this stuff about it being a 'game changer' is marketing hyperbole, otherwise it looks like the theme park is changing into a game I don't want to play. It's no longer 'make believe', it's Microsoft Excel LIVE!
    Last edited by MouseketeerCole; 02-18-2011 at 11:51 AM.

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    Re: Disney annonces the NextGen of interactive offerings for their theme parks

    Quote Originally Posted by MouseketeerCole View Post
    This sounds like some suits wet dream - they're going to know exactly where the crowds are going to be every minute, nothing's left to chance. Scheduling and paperwork are being pushed to the forefront by people who don't have a clue about immersion, spontaneous fun and magic in any other definition than as a corporate buzzword.
    This is the kind of thinking that's to be expected when you put Disney's Chief Financial Officer and head of Strategic Planning in charge of Disney Parks.
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    Re: Disney annonces the NextGen of interactive offerings for their theme parks

    I don't think I like it. While the idea of not having to wait in line, especially for the more popular attractions, seems like a good idea, I think it might be difficult to plan that far ahead for something like that. Personally, I like to be a bit more "fly by the seat of my pants" when I'm there. :^)

    As far as bypassing the check-in process, I don't know. For me, checking in is all part of the Disney experience. It's the first opportunity to enjoy the wonderful customer service Disney is so well known for. Part of the Disney mystique, is that all of the cast members seem to take a personal interest in you. Having that experience replaced with a computer, in my opinion, would take something away.

    My thought is that if Disney has a billion dollars to spare, and is worried about crowds, invest the money in another park for people to enjoy.

  11. #11

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    Re: Disney annonces the NextGen of interactive offerings for their theme parks

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Wiggins View Post
    This is the kind of thinking that's to be expected when you put Disney's Chief Financial Officer and head of Strategic Planning in charge of Disney Parks.
    Mhm. This is show business!
    Last edited by MouseketeerCole; 02-18-2011 at 12:11 PM.

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    Re: Disney annonces the NextGen of interactive offerings for their theme parks

    It's hard enough getting to all your pre booked dinner reservations over a 7-10 day period, I can't imagine trying to do the same thing with shows and attractions.

    Besides, I love to wake up and say let's just go here and than we can pop over here and than run back over there... That's what make WDW so much fun!

    This system is mostly over kill for me, I can see useing the check in and dinning reservations and maybe a fastpass or two, but I'm sure there are people that will use this scheduling system all the time.


    I also feel sorry for all the WDW CM's that are going to see there hours cut or flat out eliminated once the system is fully operational.
    That's the bottom line to this system anyway, saving money.

  13. #13

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    Re: Disney annonces the NextGen of interactive offerings for their theme parks

    Why haven't we discussed the BILLION dollar price tag yet? That's the cost of another DCA expansion... on reserving rides from home?

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    Re: Disney annonces the NextGen of interactive offerings for their theme parks

    There is much more to this project for Disney than just allowing guests to reserve their spot in line. The near field technologies/RFID used in this project would allow Disney to know where every guest is at all times, what they are buying, how long they are spending in line, etc. PLUS, Disney will better be able to collect data on everything they ever wanted to know about you and use that data to better target you for marketing and interactions in the park. Eventually, the rides will know who you are. And some of those attractions may interact with you in some way or even "Remember" things about you on repeat visits. Your Disney keyring or ID card or necklace would be your pass into the park, your payment card, and the identification device used to track you.

    Regardless of how much info you give Disney when you sign up, they'll be able to collect and learn even more from you once you start using the system. What sorts of things do you buy, What is your average spend, do you visit the characters, do you buy ice cream, how many times do you visit, how many people do you travel around with, what is the gender of the people you are traveling around the park with, do you visit the park with the same people each time, do you buy the same products over and over or try new things, do you buy cheap things or expensive things, do you buy things on sale, do you collect certain things, etc. Over time, Disney will be able to collect enough information to make recommendations to you at restaurants, send you emails and text messages about new items in the park you might like, offer you discounts and promotions based upon your spending habits, and in general personalize your Disney experience. It is marketing, guest satisfaction and operational efficiencies all wrapped up in one expensive program.

    Is it worth a billion dollars . . . from a corporate point of view, it most certainly is.

    The problem Disney is going to run into is privacy concerns. Facebook has repeatedly been punished by users for much more minor attempts to collect data. This could be a real double edge sword for Disney and they need to be VERY careful.

    I think they need to keep moving forward on this project. The benefits to the consumer and the park are tremendous. However, they'd better start focusing on the positives and come up with plans for dealing with the negatives because this one is a potential time-bomb if not handled correctly.
    Last edited by Dustysage; 02-18-2011 at 04:45 PM.
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  15. #15

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    Re: Disney annonces the NextGen of interactive offerings for their theme parks

    I'm not going to be so quick to judge a project with so few details released. We don't know what kinds of limitations they'll impose on the "reserve from home" aspect of the system and how it will actually affect the experience at the parks. I think we need to wait and see before we get too upset.
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