Yesterday I posted an article regarding the new enhanced Disney Guest Experience program, better known to Disney Fans as the NextGen project, but formally called MyMagic+. Since the initial announcement yesterday morning there has been additional information released by Disney, and quite a bit of speculation voiced by Disney Fans.
The NextGen project was originally pitched back in 2010 as a way to revolutionize the guest experience. Between then and now, very little was leaked regarding what exactly the project was going to entail, only that the cost of the project was astronomical and Disney was taking their time to develop the program before the launch date. Fast-forward a few years and we start to see a sprinkling of pixie dust around the websites and parks; the announcement of PhotoPass+ and FastPass+, and the My Disney Experience app and website are only the first components of the launch. You can even consider the development of New Fantasyland & Disney’s Art of Animation Resort at Walt Disney World, Carsland, Buena Vista Street & the rest of the California Adventure refurb at Disneyland, and the Disney Dream & Disney Fantasy key pieces in the launch of the ultimate MyMagic+ program; after all, you need these key new attractions and locations to attract new visitors and keep the regulars from getting bored. The Disney Parks spent a few years feeling a bit stagnant, and then Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo, we have a year full of announcements and then a year full of premiers. Pixie Dust. But, how does all of this enhance the guest experience, and what will it mean to those of us who visit the parks fairly regularly? How much change will we see, and how quickly?
Disney has slowly been rolling out components to the program. The information about FastPass+ was announced this past summer, with the PhotoPass+ in mid-fall. The My Disney Experience ap was ready this summer as well, though it didn’t really do much at its initial launch but allow you to look at the parks maps. Now we are seeing even more with these programs, as well as new initialives.
The wristbands, or MagicBands as they are deemed, were explained today. It appears as though Disney is doing away with the Key to the World cards and going for the wristband approach.
The wristbands will have the following capabilities.
- The MagicBand will be your key card. No more having to keep up with a card that is often demagnatized (and usually when your resort room is about as far away as possible)
- The MagicBand will serve as your Park Ticket
- The MagicBand will hold your FastPass+ schedule
- The MagicBand will become your PhotoPass card
- The MagicBand will have charging capabilities
It seems like a slightly more convenient and enhanced version of the Key to the World card. I’m a bit torn on it, as I’m not sure I want to have to wear a bracelet on my wrist in the Florida humidity and have it in all of my pictures. But, on the flip side, I am far less likely to lose a wristband! I’ve taken large student groups to Disney and they always manage to lose keys and tickets… (No word yet on how this program will be implimented into the Disney YES and Disney Performing Arts programs).
MagicBands will be available to those staying at a Disney Resort, Annual Passholders, and guests who pre-purchase a PhotoPass package. Other guests will be able to purchase the MagicBand.
My biggest question about the program deals with the Disney PhotoPass program. Having recently visited Walt Disney World, and utlized the new PhotoPass+ program I’m left wondering why they created the PhotoPass+ card if the MagicBand will now serve as such? The PhotoPass+ card was on a lanyard and was punched with your dates of availability. The card itself identified you to photographers as having purchased the PhotoPass+. I’m curious to see how the two technologies are melded together.
Now the other side of the launch. Shortly after the announcement went out via email this morning news programs started reporting on Disney Parks and Cruise Line lay-offs. This reaction was fueled by Disney’s announcement of their fiscal year numbers. I’m not certain we can immediately say that the two are connected. However, one fan messaged me stating that her understanding was they they would be laying off cashier employees in merchandise locations since guests would now be able to utilize the “touch and pay” feature on either their MagicBand or new enhanced ticket. From a loss-prevention viewpoint this would seem like the opposite of a good decision, as eliminating cashiers and merchandising cast members would result in a higher theft rate, and then eliminate any cost saving measures. But I suppose that only time will tell! One thing is for certain though; if Disney chooses to lay-off Cast Members at it’s Parks and Resorts you will see a downturn in quality, and a less unique experience (which is ironic since the point of the program is to provide guests with a custom and unique experience in itself). But that’s just my two cents on the subject of lay-offs!
Before I give the Disney 5, as posted on their website Babble, I’ll provide you with my final thoughts.
The jury is out for me on the NextGen project. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by the enormity of the experience, and want to gather additional information and hear from those who have been privy to using bits of it already.
- FastPass+: I have friends who tried out FastPass+ and hated it, but see reports that others love being able to plan their days so far in advance. My feelings on FastPass+ are mixed. I like having a level playing field, and I feel that giving guests the ability to pre-schedule their usage of the FastPasses at the Parks can provide an unfair advantage to those who don’t have the same kind of access to computers or time to spend planning such a detailed agenda. Plus, of the people I know who used the program almost all of them said they used only 1 or 2 of their scheduled FastPasses, which means more FastPasses going to waste. But, I’m also a planner and I’m eager to give it a whirl when the opportunity presents itself.
- PhotoPass+: If Disney Travel and Disney PhotoPass can learn to communicate with one another this could be a great thing. However, my experience has been that there is no communication between the two parties, leaving the guest and the travel agent to deal with the issues alone. When I was there in November, we had a serious issue with our PhotoPass+ lanyards not being at the resort when we checked in. Since you can purchase the package ahead of time with a minimum of 14 days notice through Disney PhotoPass, but can have it added to your vacation package with only 3 days notice through Disney Travel there seemed to be vast confusion among desk cast members, and PhotoPass kiosk cast members. If the communication issues are sorted out I will happily put my endorsement on PhotoPass+, even though I’m curious why they launched the lanyards only to phase them out to become part of the bracelet…
- My Disney Experience App & Website: When I used this for my trip it was basically just a map with attraction information. They had yet to launch the ability to make dining reservations, notes, etc. within the app, so it just took up space on my phone. However, since then it has been fleshed out a bit more. I have clients who just used it this past week and I’m curious to hear their thoughts. The problem I foresee as a Travel Agent comes with making dining reservations for my clients. In the past I have been able to make reservations for them using my personal log-in information but their information for the actual reservation. Now I will need to be able to essentially share their My Disney Experience account with them in order to make the reservations. So, only time will tell on this one.
- MagicBands: Like I stated above, I’m not crazy about having to wear a bracelet. I can’t stand those rubber ones that are so popular these days, they make my wrist itch. So, a lot of it will depend on how they are constructed. I’m certainly not a fan of how they look in the pictures that were released today though! But, I do like the idea of having all of my information together in one place, and not having to worry about keeping up with my Key to the World card, FastPasses, PhotoPass card, etc. I’m willing to give it a try!
What are your thoughts? What has your wristband experience been like at other resorts? Do you like the idea of having all of your various cards rolled into one device? Leave a comment below or send me an email!
Now that you’ve heard my take on the new Magic+ or NextGen project, here is the information Disney wants you know straight from the mouse’s mouth!
Disney’s MyMagic+: 5 Things You Need to Know
Quiet mutterings about the Walt Disney Company’s “Next Generation Experience,” known among mouse-eared circles as the “NextGen” project, have been going on since 2010, when word on the street had it that more than $1 billion – roughly the cost of building twoDisney Cruise Line ships – had been committed to… something. Something very hush hush, but obviously cool and magical.
Further whisperings pointed to a major technology initiative aimed at radically transforming the way guests enjoy access to the parks while in the parks, leading enthusiasts to believe that radio-frequency identification – like that used in wireless devices – would be used in wristbands.
And they were right.
Called a “more immersive, more seamless and more personal experience for each and every guest who spends time with us,” by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman, Tom Staggs, MyMagic+ technology will be rolled out in phases over the next several months.
What you need to know:
- MyMagic+ is all about letting guests better customize their vacation at Walt Disney World.
- MagicBands, as the wristbands are officially called, will be your room key, theme park ticket, PhotoPass card, and optional payment account. They will also provide FastPass+ access. Don’t lose it.
- Guests staying on-property at Walt Disney World Resort hotels and Annual Passholders, plus guests who purchase a photography package will get a MagicBand.
- Guests who stay at off property at non-Disney hotels will get a ticket with touch features that will provide park entry, allow for redeeming FastPass+, and touch to pay. Purchasing a MagicBand and participation in the “My Disney Experience” is optional for these guests.
- A smartphone app called “My Disney Experience,” is the major component of MyMagic+. Accessing it will let guests make plans – think dining reservations, booking experiences, choosing FastPasses, getting the latest Walt Disney World Resort news – before and during their stay. That means you can be spontaneous or plan ahead.
“We know that some people like to plan every aspect of their Disney vacation in advance while others like to plan very little, letting their day unfold spontaneously. No matter where guests fall in that spectrum, ‘My Disney Experience’ gives them the flexibility to plan as much or as little as they’d like to create the exact Disney experience they want,” Staggs says.
Stay tuned for more details as they become available.
Photo credit: Disney Parks Blog