Local 6 Theme World: FastPass+ changes your Disney experience

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By Ken Pilcher - Producer
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January 22, 2014

FastPass+ Changes Your Disney Experience

There's a new souvenir coming soon to an eBay near you. Actually, some are already up for sale.
You see,  the way you visit Disney's Florida parks will change forever at 9 p.m. tonight. That's when the last paper FastPass tickets will spit out at Epcot. Thursday, Walt Disney World's second gate becomes the last of the four major parks to embrace FastPass+. The Studios switched over Tuesday.  

Already these little babies are popping up for auction:

FastPass+ will lead to big changes for you the next time you visit. More on that in a moment.   First, some context.
This isn't the first time a fundamental change at Disney has led to souvenirs.   From 1971-1981, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, like Disneyland before it, featured dirt-cheap admission. But to ride the rides, you had to buy ride tickets, or ticket books. They were labeled A-E depending on the sophistication of the ride. To this day, E-Ticket is theme park parlance for the biggest, baddest, most elaborate rides.

Those went out the window (as a commercial from '81 put it) in favor of the current passes that let you ride as much as you want for one "low" price.  Now those A-E tickets are collectibles.  Who knows? someday we may wax nostalgic about the Magic Bands and sell them on eBay.

So how is the FastPass+ rollout going?
Reports from the ground say, overall much smoother than many online fans feared. There are several reports of  frustrated guests complaining of hiccups with the new software system working with their particular tickets and Magic Bands, complete with long waits in three different lines to sort out the problems.
Still, this is an incredibly complicated undertaking on Disney's part, so tech woes are expected to some degree. It is not by accident that Disney picked one of the slowest times of the year to stress test the "MyMagic+" system by suddenly taking on 3 of the busiest theme parks in the world within a few days of each other.
There, are, however many things still being worked out, and many things being questioned.  When we first talked about MyMagic+ and FastPass+ more than a year ago on this blog, you may recall some were worried about their privacy under the system, which Disney brass quickly labeled "optional" in analyst briefings and public statements.
Those concerns led to a rather heated letter exchange between a Congressman and Disney CEO Bob Iger, who has bet big on MyMagic+ both in terms of money and reputation.
Disney repeatedly and emphatically denies any of your personal data will be sold, or used for improper purposes, and while there were some "glitches" I've heard about during early tests of the system, I have no reason to doubt Disney's word. That said, with the rollout entering its final stages, an interesting take popped up this week online about what Disney (and other companies) COULD do with the type of data that can be collected with the MagicBands and the plastic passes now issued with RFID chips inside. It's worth a read, though I am not at ALL saying Disney is trying to do anything nefarious here.
Another interesting take on how MyMagic+ and FastPass+ will change the guest experience popped up on travel website Frommers.com. That author's conclusions mirror a lot of what I hear from Disney-goers both casual and obsessed: This is going to take a lot more planning.  And some people see that as exciting and good, others as frustrating or wrong.
Disney, naturally, is pushing the positives and has kicked off a marketing campaign showing a dad and his perfect-looking children picking their FastPasses together from the couch before the trip.

Once the choices are locked in, dad, naturally, gets a big hug from the kids...

And a high-five from the wife:

The whole video is below,


But  that scenario won't play out for us locals right now. For now,  you can only book FastPasses in advance if you are staying at a Disney resort. At the start of your visit as a local, make a beeline to one of the FastPass+ Kiosks to make your selections all at once. You get 3 per day, and, for now at least, you can only use those passes in one park (so no FastPass+ for Space Mountain & Soarin' on the same day).

To help make this easier, Disney has put together a paper checklist to help you make your choices while you wait for your kiosk. The process works about the same as when it first rolled out last month at Animal Kingdom.

There is one big difference at both  Hollywood Studios and Epcot.  You have to make tough choices at these parks from different "tiers" of attractions. Your choices are below.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Experience Group 1 (select one experience from this group)

Toy Story Midway Mania!
Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage

Experience Group 2 (select two experiences from this group)

Voyage of the Little Mermaid
The American Idol Experience
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Star Tours - The Adventures Continue
The Great Movie Ride
Muppet*Vision 3D
Disney Junior - Live on Stage
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!
Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show


Experience Group 1 (select one experience from this group)

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
Character Spot
Test Track

Experience Group 2 (select two experiences from this group)

Captain EO
Journey into Imagination with Figment
Mission: SPACE
Spaceship Earth
The Seas with Nemo & Friends
Turtle Talk with Crush

Look for more soon on how FastPass+ and MyMagic+ change how people use the Disney parks, and the changes Disney makes to the system. Inevitably the imagineers will be tweaking things as the rollout continues, and I've recently been reassured again that Disney hasn't forgotten its passholders.

Tomorrow: New revelations are expected on Universal's Harry Potter: Diagon Alley. Look for coverage then.

Meanwhile, keep your emails, questions, tips and comments coming! I always appreciate the feedback.

You can always find all of my blog entries at www.clickorlando.com/themeparks

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