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December 18. 2013
Beginning of the End for Disney's FastPass
Well -- the world didn't end. Today at least. Disney's controversial $1.2 Billion+ NextGen Project: "MyMagic+" entered a major new test phase today: the end of paper FastPass tickets at Animal Kingdom (for now, at least).
I've been piecing together information on all aspects of MM+ and what it means for Disney's future -- and the enjoyment of theme park guests, but I've been holding off on weighing in with my opinion until I learn a bit more informed fact, instead of internet rumors.
What IS true is that the rollout of MM+ has taken far more time and money than Disney planned on, and the jury is still out on how it will ultimately make money.
For those not in the know, the heart of MM+ are new tickets and MagicBands that have microchips in them that broadcast radio frequencies. (For you concerned about privacy, it is not sending out your personal info, it's a unique ID number that represents you in Disney's Database+)
One of the big benefits being touted is the replacement for FastPass: FastPass+.
The upside: many guests will be able to reserve their ride times in advance -- currently up to 60 days.
The downside: you get 3 per day, and at only one park. No grabbing a Space Mountain & Soarin' reserved time even though Epcot is just two monorail rides away from the Magic Kingdom.
The OTHER downside is supposed to be temporary: Only people staying at Disney-owned resorts can reserve their FastPass+ in advance and can change them on the fly with a smartphone app with a name only a corporation could love: "My Disney Experience."
The REST of the masses (including us locals and annual passholders) must go to special kiosks sprinkled throughout the park.
That had many Disney watchers predicting doom when the test went live at Animal Kingdom today. Well, it didn't turn out that bad. Most people reported just a few minutes wait to get their FastPass+.
Now before declaring this a success, there are a couple of big caveats. Despite Christmas closing in on us, this is still a pretty uncrowded time of year with maximum waits of just 20-40 minutes for the major attractions.
Disney also deployed a fleet of people to help guide people through the process. They also did something really smart, in my opinion. If you're a Disney veteran it may surprise you to learn that MANY people still don't understand the current FastPass, which is pretty simple: put your ticket in a machine -- get a time to come back and ride with minimal wait. When you use that FastPass you can get another.
Now imagine people confused by THAT system asked to navigate an app or a kiosk with multiple choice questions and swiping a rubber band or card at a Mickey Head.
After months of testing the system with employees and resort guests, Disney created a pamphlet that explains the choices then lets you pre-pick your choices. You can then hand that to a Disney employee if you aren't good with computers.
So -- congrats to Disney for what seems to be a successful first day of its biggest test yet of the FastPass+ System. Currently the test is only expected to last a few days, but if it keeps going well -- you may never get a paper FastPass again at Animal Kingdom. The Christmas and New Year's stretch would be a much bigger stress test, so don't expect the test to spread until 2014.
If you want to read more about how this test is unfolding from people actually in the park -- or join in a conversation, click this link and sign up. Longtime readers know I am quite fond of that website: WDWMagic.com. Its discussion forum is lively, and its webmaster, Steve, is one of the most reliable sources for Disney information, and often has new developments before anyone else.
We'll have more on MyMagic+ here in Theme World very soon.
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