Disney’s MyMagic+ program recently reached a milestone as Walt Disney World has now begun offering the advance ride and show booking abilities of FastPass+ to all guests, whether staying on property or not.
Disney Parks chairman Tom Staggs provided an update on the system:
“This week marks an exciting milestone for us in that we are now providing guests who might only be visiting for the day with the ability to fully engage in MyMagic+ before their visit. Guests can register on My Disney Experience online, reserve access to some of their favorite experiences with FastPass+ and also purchase MagicBands on-site, if they choose.
FastPass+ has been a crucial part of our testing, and we knew it would be popular, which is why from the beginning we more than doubled the experiences people could reserve in advance. We enabled FastPass+ access for a number of attractions and included other guest favorites like fireworks, parades and character meet-and-greets for the first time.
As expected, most of our guests think that securing times to ride our attractions is one of the best ways to maximize the fun of a Walt Disney World Resort vacation. We’ve heard from a number of guests that they would like the opportunity to add additional FastPass+ entitlements during their visit, in addition to the three they can plan in advance. So, we’re working on providing them with the ability to add and enjoy additional entitlements on the day of their visit. Once they’ve used the three they’ve booked, we’ll enable them to select another at kiosks in the parks. And once they’ve used the fourth, they can select another, and so on. We also heard that other guests liked the fact that with the FastPass+ service they could use FASTPASS when they park hopped. So we’re working on a service enhancement to add that feature to FastPass+ as well.”
So, the system is no longer exclusive to just hotel guests or annual pass holders. Day guests can now register at MyDisneyExperience.com and are now given access to reserve FastPass+ selections in advance of arriving.
The Disney MyMagic+ program is the most ambitious and expensive infrastructure system that the Walt Disney Company has ever implemented. If you’re a Disney Stockholder you’re going to have a “Love/Hate” relationship with it. At a reported cost of over $1.5 Billion this is an investment that needs to work because the impact on the bottom line will be significant. An investment of this nature will always see expenses continue to mount as the infrastructure associated with this state of the art system will need to continually be refreshed. If it fails, heads will roll but if it turns out to be a success, the company will have the ability to make an enormous amount of extra revenue…more on that later.
So, what if you’re not a Disney stockholder, annual pass holder or hotel guest? Just recently we thought we’d try out the new system as a day guest and see how it works.
The first thing you have to do is purchase you FastPass+ ticket (We have a link to the side of this blog). Then you visit the web site www.StartYourDisneyExperience.com. Note, you are currently allowed, as a day guest, to plan your day at a Disney theme park some 30 days ahead. To proceed with the planning you first have to create a “My Disney Experience” account and we found that process nothing short of frustrating as we had to enter the same information three or four times before it finally took my details. Once that step was achieved, and we’d poured myself a strong drink to celebrate, it was then time to move onto the “Get Started” button. In theory, you follow the so called “easy steps” but again, this proved a source of frustration as it takes some getting used to. Along the way, you have to link a purchased ticket to each member of your travel party to be able to make Disney FastPass+ selections but we found it something of a cumbersome step to say the least.
Eventually we worked it out, but then found ourselves being annoyed with the way the FastPass+ tried to route our journey around the theme park. Our planned visit was to Epcot and our first step was to plan a dining experience at Chef Paul’s in the French Pavilion. Next, it was time to plan our FastPass+ rides and we wanted to do Soarin’, Journey Into Imagination with Figment and Maelstrom at the Norway Pavilion. As we played with the online system, it came up with three options but none of them were really a sensible way of routing our journey around the park. Instead of a smooth circular flow, the FastPass+ system wanted us to zig zag across the park and basically failed to recognize our dining time as it planned the Maelstrom visit slap bang in the middle of our meal. Frankly, we weren’t impressed.
In theory, the system is supposed to help you enjoy your day even more at the parks and like all new things it deserves to be given a chance. The idea being that by planning your visit you will get more from the day…but, and it’s a big but, if you’re like me on vacation, you don’t want to plan a darned thing. Some folks just want to chill and relax and do things as they come… a go with the flow approach.
This system doesn’t recognize that and those with Fastpass+ will spend a large part of the day looking at their watches trying to ensure they don’t miss their time slot. In theory, you can do everything on your phone or tablet with the app that you have preloaded. You’re supposed to be able to change FastPass+ appointments but the problem with that is that you can experience inconsistent wi-fi connections and with the constant GPS use, your battery on your device is sure to drain more quickly than normal. And then you’re stumped.
The good thing about the new system is that it does allow you to reserve three FastPass+ times per day rather than the old system that only allowed one. The bad news is that if you are planning to park hop, the system won’t let you book FastPass+ at multiple parks per day. This means that ultimately, if you do plan to park hop, you’ll find yourself waiting in line even more than you used to. It used to be that you could virtually walk onto rides like Journey Into the Imagination but now 15min + lines are not unexpected.
Also, day guests don’t automatically receive MagicBands like hotel guests and annual passholders do. MagicBands are not really necessary to use the system anyway as all tickets have the built-in technology required to register. MagicBands are, of course, available for purchase in the parks for those who wish to own one and come in a variety of colors.
Make no mistake about this, FastPass+ is here to stay as Disney has invested too much money and time in it for it not to succeed. Sure, there are some issues with it at present but I expect them to be ironed out in due course. In theory, this will provide a better Disney experience for families but let’s be completely honest here, this system is as much about Disney collecting even more information on their guests likes and dislikes as it is about the guest experience. As I alluded to earlier, all this information will now enable Disney to earn even more money by being able to market to them in new ways in the hope of selling even more products in the future. The new system will allow Disney into your family in a way that’s never been done before and it’s absolutely a marketers dream to be able to collect so much information about you and your family members.
FastPass+ and MyMagic+ are products of the times we live in. More than ever, in our opinion, Disney executives seem consumed with guest spending per day. At the core of MyMagic+ is the motivation to increase guest spending through incentives to stay on Disney property. As an example, in the past, guests have previously seen these type of incentives manifest themselves through high demand reservations at restaurants. Currently, day guests struggle to make a dinner reservation at Be Our Guest restaurant 180 days in advance because resort guests can book up to 189 days in advance. By granting earlier access and better reservations to resort guests, Disney is simply rewarding guests who pay more per day.
Further, by allowing guests to select three FastPass+ rides per day and controlling when they can use them, Disney, in an obscured way, is effectively controlling the guest and preventing them from leaving the theme park. Of course, it’s possible to argue that no-one is preventing anyone from doing anything but the fact remains that when you’ve paid a lot of money for your FastPass+ ticket, you’re more inclined to ensure you use every aspect of it.
There’s good and bad in everything and MyMagic+ and FastPass+ are no different. It will be interesting to see how all this plays out when The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opens and if, as expected, off site day guests are penalized because Disney doesn’t see them as quite a valued customer as others.