Walt Disney World is implementing one of their boldest technical advances and implementations at their theme parks this year and it’s not even anything that you can ride or watch. As our society has grown very dependent on our smart phones and tablets the last few years, Disney made the bold decision to build the ultimate application for their theme parks to satisfy the demands of the current theme park consumer.
MyMagic+ and Magic Bands
The core components of this next generation initiative includes the MyMagic+ application that is available on your mobile phone and the Magic Bands bracelet that you wear throughout your stay at the Walt Disney World resort (see video below). Connecting your bracelet with an rfid chip to the mobile application allows the visitor at Walt Disney World to plan out their entire trip prior to their visit on the Walt Disney World website. After guest arrive at the resort, they can then make changes and view their itinerary on the MyMagic+ application while they are visiting the theme parks.
On a recent trip to the Walt Disney World resort, we stayed at the Caribbean Beach Club Resort and setup an itinerary for each day for the parks that we were visiting. The Magic Bands arrived at our house prior to visiting the resort and we were able to use the Magic Band bracelets to open our hotel room as well as make purchases at the food court along with a pin that we had selected prior to our visit. It sounds like a small benefit, but it was a lot more convenient to use the band to open the hotel room door as well as purchase food without needing to fiddle for a hotel room key and getting out a credit card. The same bracelet and pin number can then be used throughout the Walt Disney World Resort including the theme parks.
The MyMagic+ application and Walt Disney World website are linked with an account that you create when you register on the website that allows you to book reservations at the restaurants around the resort. The most highly-coveted restaurants are booked several weeks or months in advanced so we recommend setting up your reservations prior to visiting Walt Disney World.
The biggest benefit of the MyMagic+ application and Magic Bands is the ability to schedule front-of-the-line reservations for the top rides, attractions, and entertainment for each park that you visit. The old Fastpass system was very inefficient and required you to run around the theme parks all day grabbing tickets for rides that you would need to come back later for to ride. You might spend a couple hours of your time just going from fastpass machine to fastpass machine. With FastPass+, you can setup the times for each park while you are back at the hotel for the night or while you are standing in a standby line for another ride. The current system allows you to book 3 front-of-the-line time slots each day for a single park. If you are staying at Disney World for 6 days or longer, you should be able to get an individual Fastpass+ for all of the best attractions at Disney World at least once that normally would have long standby wait times. If you are an annual pass holder, you will be able to get to the front of the lines of many of the most important rides you want to go on throughout the year.
Another benefit to come out of the big initiative is that there are a lot more characters that are available for meet and greets at Disney World with themed costumes and backdrops than there has ever been before. Part of the way that Disney has supported the cost of having additional characters in the park is by having professional photographers on hand to take photos of you with the Disney characters that you can then purchase at the end of the day or at the end of your vacation.
With the new Memory Maker package that Disney is selling, you can pay a one-time fee to own all of the digital versions of your photos that are taken of your family during your vacation that is linked to your MyMagic+ account. When you get home, you can view all of the pictures of your vacation for free and purchase all of the digital copies for a reasonable price with the Memory Maker Package.
Single Day Visits
Visitors visiting the parks for just a single day have access to the Fastpass+ system as well by visiting Fastpass+ kiosks located throughout the park to make their selections once they arrive at the park.
Addressing the Critics
Leading up to this big next-generation roll-out by Disney World has been a number of unofficial websites and forum members that have criticized the changes and the amount of money that Disney has reported to have spent on this initiative that has been rumored as over 1.5 Billion dollars. As the total amount of 1.5 billion dollars does seem to have a very high sticker-shock when you first hear it, Disney is a global media company that has that kind of money to spend on their product. Disney has made 1.5 Billion dollars on the Avengers movie alone.
Also, society has very quickly embraced making their smart phones and tablets a large part of their daily routine. Disney had to do something or else they would have been seen as being a company that is not keeping up with the times in this area that would be frowned upon more than overreaching that some people believe Disney has done. Disney decided to go big in this area and I was able to experience first-hand a better quality vacation experience than I have had in the past at Walt Disney World with a product that I was already familiar and comfortable with on my smart phone to go along with all of my other productivity applications.
There are also some critics that state that the money would have been better spent building more rides at Walt Disney World. However, Disney is very aggressively upgrading all of their theme parks with their rides and attractions to compete with Universal Studios with major upgrades to Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, Avatar at Animal Kingdom, a new Star Wars Land coming to Hollywood Studios, and upgraded restaurants at Epcot. Disney has also continued to build up the resort with additional hotels that will see the first Four Seasons hotel in Orlando open on Disney property in 2014. In recent years, Disney has catered more and more to their target audience of families and small children that has left the contributors on the unofficial websites not much to talk about or get excited about. My advice for them would be to stop viewing Disney World as their sanctuary and start going to church on Sundays instead. These guys will live much happier lives if they take this advice and will enjoy Disney World a lot more for what it is instead of what it isn’t nor should it be.
Lastly, I will say that when I received the Magic Band box in the mail, it was a little bit like Christmas morning with the packaging looking something straight out of the Apple store. There will be a lot more uses of this technology especially along the cruise lines at Port Canaveral like the Disney Magic and Fantasy Cruise Ships. Children on the cruise ships currently have to use the same technology as the magic bands to check-in and check-out of the kid zones there. All of this research and development will be applied to all of the Disney brands throughout the world but it had to start at Walt Disney World for their proof-of-concept so that they would get it right. At that time, the 1.5 Billion that Disney spent will begin to pay dividends as guests happily spend more and Disney makes back their investments and then some to continue building world class attractions.
Future Initiatives of Next Generation at Disney World
If you want to see where Disney will be taking this technology into the theme parks next, you can visit Test Track at Epcot that incorporates the Magic Bands before, during, and after your ride at the attraction where you can build a model car, see it displayed on the screens as you go through the attraction, and pose for pictures and find other uses for the car that you built in the post-show area (see video below). With each individual band identifying who you are in the park, Disney will continue to develop more customized experiences with their attractions during your stay.
Disney will also be able to forecast guest-flow to their parks and attractions to provide a much better experience for the thousands of guest that are visiting the resort on any given day.
Magic Bands Video Demonstration
Walt Disney World Map