I’m very curious by nature, which plays along nicely with my Disney fascination. As such, I occasionally run across things that I find interesting and I think, “hey, Disney should take a look at this“. Today, I found just such an idea. Take a look and see if you agree:
With the rain that central Florida gets almost every day in the summer time, this would be an incredible idea to do in the parks, at the resorts, around pools, etc. etc.
They already do something similar in the parks, in almost a reverse kind of way with soap and water. Disney artists, masquerading as custodians can be found on occasion drawing characters on the sidewalks (see video below). So, why not do this in more of a permanent kind of way. It would be just another of those “hidden magic” items you find at Disney, only these would “magically” appear when it rains.
You can see more about Rainworks at: http://rain.works/
Disney’s Hollywood Studios started testing the use of a FastPass+ only line this week, where the standby line for Toy Story Midway Mania has been eliminated, at least for the time being. Guests were directed to kiosks or the MyDisney Experience app to schedule a ride time and not allowed to use the standby line.
Online discussions about this temporary change have led to some guests being very upset about the removal of the standby line, and being forced to schedule a time. Many have already complained about not being able to just go to the standby line and wait for whatever the standby wait time was, something I find a bit puzzling, considering waits for this attraction can be 90+ minutes on most days.
I’ve speculated in the past that Disney might try to roll something like this out on a broader basis where the majority of attractions, or at least the popular ones would work this way. Some insiders have said that this is just a test for the rumored addition of the third track for TSMM. Regardless, my thinking here assumes that they would go ahead with such a plan. With that in mind, and the uproar it’s caused, led me to an idea on how to potentially accommodate these guests in their desire to wait in the standby line, if they really were to roll out FP+ only lines on a wider scale.
The idea is pretty simple (at least in my head), and focuses around the whole concept of getting guests out of line to wait for their time. Sounds familiar, right? Wasn’t this one of the original promises of FastPass? Yes, it was at least part of the marketing campaign and still is part of the marketing for FP+.
It involves creating a virtual standby queue/line where guests in the park are given the option of choosing a FP+ (scheduled return time), or a virtual spot in line. I’m going to call it “Virtual Queue” or “VQ”, but it could be called “Virtual Pass” or “Standby+” or even “FastPass”.
Essentially, it would build into the FastPass+ system, the capability to allow a certain percentage of guests to use FP+ and others (smaller percentage) to use VQ. It sounded easy enough when I first thought about it, but when trying to figure out how to do it, I realized it was a bit more complicated. The fine details and calculations of how it would work will have to be figured out using numbers I don’t have. However, for the purpose of demonstration, I will use Toy Story Midway Mania, and its estimated 1000 riders per hour capacity. Rumor has it the actual number is somewhere between 900 and 1000.
Listed below are a couple of ways I could envision this working:
1) Fixed, alternating standby queue availability. Fastpass+ and Standby alternate, with FP+ receiving higher priority and more allocations.
9:00 – 9:10 – 160 FP
9:10 – 9:15 – 80 Standby
9:15 – 9:25 – 160 FP
9:25 – 9:30 – 80 Standby
9:30 – 9:40 – 160
9:40 – 9:45 – 80
9:45 – 9:55 – 160
9:55 – 10:00 – 80
This would equate to 960 guests per hour – 640 FP+, 320 Standby. The numbers don’t add up to 1000 intentionally, in order to allow some flexibility.
2) Variable, system assigned, next available time. Smart logic to vary the availability of FP+ and leave a buffer of open/unscheduled times for every time slot.
Each hour can be broken down into 4, 15 minute blocks, allowing for up to 240 guests per block. By default, the system would reserve 20% for standby in each 15 minute block. This number could be adjusted based on demand forecast by the day and/or hour.
FP+ times would be assigned in 15 minute blocks, where every 15 minutes instead of the system allowing 240 slots to be filled, it will only allow a percentage, based on the expected demand for the day. So, if it’s a busy day, it might reserve 40% for standby (96), leaving only 144 slots available for pre-scheduling.
The FP+ selection time process (MDE) would have to incorporate this functionality, and vary the times available in such a way as to allow for this kind of flexibility.
As an added feature, and maybe in order to help alleviate some of the issues that might arise from such a system, the last hour of the day could be left open/unscheduled to allow for a traditional standby line. This way, anyone could ride regardless of whether they had used a FP+ for the day or gone thru the standby line. It would also give those that wanted to re-ride the opportunity to do so.
Here’s how it might look in action:
1. A guest approaches an attraction with FP+only line
2. The guest will scan their MagicBand as if entering for FP+. If they have a FastPass+, and it’s their time, they will proceed into the attraction. If they do not, then they will be directed to a kiosk close by or alternatively, if the guest has a smart phone, they will be able to use the MyMagic+ app.
3. At the kiosk (or on the smart phone), the guest will select the attraction, then they will be prompted for a Virtual Queue spot, or FastPass+.
4. If a Virtual Queue spot is chosen, they will be given a return time.
5. If FastPass+ is chosen, and the guest has not used all of their FP+ options, they will then be presented with the choice of several times to pick from for a return.
The guest can then go about their business in the park, until such time as their virtual queue spot/time comes around.
Optionally, the guest can be notified 15 min before their line entry time, and then be given a 15 minute window in which to use it.
Some operating rules might need to be established to avoid abuse, and keep it running smoothly,here’s a few I thought of:
1. Guests can only be in one virtual queue at a time.
2. Virtual queue is only available for use once a day per attraction for guests in the park.
3. Guests can “get in line” at the normal line entry, via kiosk or smartphone app, but only if they’re in the park.
4. Guests cannot hold a FastPass+ for the attraction for a later time, when attempting to get a VQ option.
5. If the guest holds a FastPass+ for the attraction for later, it can be exchanged for a VQ/Standby option. But, they are not allowed to hold both.
Optionally, offer guests the opportunity to trade their FP+ for Virtual Queue.
If all of this sounds complicated and confusing, you’re not alone. I can’t help but think FP+ and the features it has brought to WDW, have also made things a lot more complicated in planning a vacation. I like the ability to pre-plan and schedule the attractions I want to ride, but I have to admit that it does add more work to the process, and I can see how this might take away some of the fun for some. I guess the question has to be asked, “is this really worth it, just to avoid standing in a few long lines?”.
In response to a recent post on Screamscape regarding Epcot’s failure.
I believe Epcot’s “failure” began a long time ago, when the remaining execs at Disney launched the idea and began building the park. It was an idea that I think existed solely in the mind of its creator, Walt Disney, and nobody in the company had the vision or any idea of how to bring it to reality. So, they came up with this idea, that wasn’t bad really, and had some merit, but lacked a true leader who was charismatic enough to make it successful. Businesses and even some countries bought in to it, only because of the Disney name, which was known for several successful ventures prior. However, as they quickly found out, this wasn’t exactly an idea that Walt dreamed up, and it didn’t have the kind of creative vision and sustaining entertainment value that the public would embrace more than once. Without this, the park soon began to falter and they started tweaking the model to try and stem the flow of bad press, attract guests and hopefully have them return. But, once word got out that it was a dull and boring place with little entertainment value, crowds died down, businesses turned away as did the flow of money to sponsor attractions and pavilions due to little or no return for their contributions. Which is kind of where we are today. Without major investors willing to commit millions of dollars for essentially advertising, not too many are willing to jump in with Disney. The name is no longer known for success and more importantly, investing in a Disney park provides very little return for a company.
So, where did it all go wrong? In my opinion, it was the death of Walt that killed the idea of Epcot. In the absence of a charismatic visionary who could lead the company and sell its successes in such a way that businesses would eagerly buy into and even line up to be a part of, it became more of an expense for the companies that did buy in rather than an investment that yielded returns as well as recognition. Without investors to help fund the parks and attractions, Disney is left developing and funding them out of their own pockets, which means they have to find something suitable and entertaining enough to draw the public in order to produce a quick return on their investment. Good or bad, this means that many of the attractions are going to be based on pop-culture or current, proven entertainment media such as movies like Frozen or even Avatar, because, developing and building original attractions and stories is expensive and a risk that nobody wants to gamble millions of dollars on.
That’s not to say that I’m displeased with what’s happening, I’m just a little let down. Because, like many, I liked the idea of Epcot, and specifically World Showcase, a place where you could get a small taste of a variety of real cultures from around the world. But, in the spirit of Walt’s famous words about Disneyland, I know that Epcot (as well as all the parks) will never be completed and will continue to grow and change, based on imagination and the pursuit of the all-mighty dollar.
Disney’s Frozen has proven to be a much bigger hit than they or many others ever imagined it would have been. Raking in more than $1.2 billion in 2013 at the worldwide box office, it’s popularity didn’t just stop there. In the parks, demand for Anna and Elsa has been huge, especially at Walt Disney World, where waits to see the sisters quickly exceeded 5 hours most days and stayed in this range throughout the day. The long waits have actually led Disney to change the way guests wait at the Magic Kingdom to see these two and try something very similar to the old Fastpass method, where everyone would get a paper ticket indicating a return time. Disney also added some summer festivities at Disney Hollywood Studios, called, Frozen Summer Fun Live with several events and activities featuring characters from the movies. Originally, this was supposed to end September 1, but it was recently announced (as many expected), that it would be extended thru September 28th. Many are speculating that it might go away for a little while but be brought back around Christmas time in some form or another.
And, if all that isn’t enough, there have been several rumors in the wild stating that Disney will soon shut down the Maelstrom attraction at the Norway pavilion in Epcot and re-theme/design it around the movie. Personally, I think the attraction is long overdue for an update or some kind of refresher. However, I’m not sure how I feel about a re-theme to this movie. Not that it couldn’t be done well and make for an enjoyable new attraction, but ideally, I think an update that was more representative of Norway and it’s traditions would be the best move. But, I’ll wait until this alleged re-do is completed before casting judgment.
Regardless of the rumors, and what some seem to think might happen, I’ve had my own thoughts I’d like to share. I started thinking about alternative ideas for adding Frozen themed attractions, after I heard the rumors regarding Maelstrom. Nothing from the movie really popped out at me right away other than maybe the sleigh ride scene with Kristoff and Anna, being pulled by Sven, the reindeer. Thinking about this a little more, it might just be in the realm of possibilities for what Imagineering is thinking of doing with the Maelstrom ride, considering the ride tracks and style of vehicle. And, even though I kind of like this idea, it wasn’t the first one that came to mind for me.
I was actually thinking of something a little more festive and formal that would re-create Elsa’s coronation ceremony. I’ve never been in the restaurant Akershus in Norway, because every time we’ve looked at the menu, it just didn’t sound very appealing. But, if the area is big enough, why not transform it into a royal hall to celebrate the coronation. They could make it a premium kind of experience with light snacks (especially chocolate), h’orderves and drinks served, and then Anna and Elsa would come out to greet everyone. Set it up for about 100-200 guests at a time, and repeat every hour throughout the day.
Disney is wise for trying to capitalize on the popularity of this movie, in fact, I think they would be foolish not to considering it’s made more money than Pixar’s Cars from 2006, and has been called the best Disney movie since The Lion King. Hopefully, they will find a way to give the movie a somewhat permanent park attraction that will be enjoyable for years to come.
UPDATE 8/27/14: Inside The Magic reported yesterday about a special event called “My Royal Coronation Character Breakfast” coming September 24th, 2014. This seems to be a one-time event put together by travel agencies, A Time to Treasure Travel, Family Fun Travels, Go See Mickey and Magic of Mickey Travel in co-ordination with Disney as they are providing/sending official Anna & Elsa characters to meet and greet at the event.
An interesting bit of news that came out of Disney in the last week regarding two new “Ultimate” tours. The first, aimed at families with young kids, called “The Ultimate Day for Young Families – a VIP Tour Experience”. The second, designed to appeal to “thrill seekers” called, “The Ultimate Day of Thrills – a VIP Tour Experience”. Read more about it here:
The really interesting part of this for me is, these new tours offer an experience very similar to an idea I had in 2009, when rumors of something that was being developed, called “Disney’s Night Kingdom”. My idea was very similar in that it would give guests access to all 4 parks, but exclusive and after the normal hours. This new experience/tour they’re offering takes place during regular hours, and is limited to specific attractions at just 3 of the parks, oddly leaving Epcot out of the fun. I’m not suggesting that Disney stole my idea, but I do find it interesting that they’re offering something like this. Now, if I can just come up with the $299 they’re asking for this, I’ll be glad to give it a go.
Now, I don’t want to sound like That Guy who screams that he was ripped off by a big corporation, but after going back and reading my thoughts, maybe they did at least use some of my ideas, here’s a few excerpts…
Supposedly, Disney has been looking at new ways to generate more revenue, and reach the more affluent clientele who have a lot more disposable income and think nothing of dropping $10-50K for a lavish, and exclusive vacation. Obviously, the new Four Seasons and Waldorf Astoria hotels will help address some of this by giving these more affluent guests luxury accommodations. According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, March 28th, written by Scott Powers, there may be another level of accommodations the affluent will be able to stay in if the plan to allow private homes on-property moves forward.
Rumours have been floating around that Disney wanted to create something on a similar caliber that would give guests with deeper pockets looking for an exclusive experience on Disney Property.
So then, the question comes up, with these more affluent guests coming to Walt Disney World, what then can Disney offer them that would meet their expectations and draw some of the cash out of their deeper pockets to give them the kind of experience they would expect and cherish?
So, how can Disney offer this kind of exclusive VIP experience to the affluent 1 percent visiting without upsetting the other 99 percent?
Why not offer something akin to an all access, to ALL PARKS hard ticket event? Let’s call it “The Ultra Keys to the Kingdom tour” or maybe, “Disney’s Night Kingdom”. Call it whatever, but make every park, or most every park open to only those guests willing to pay the extra bucks, allowing them to ride the most popular rides, and throwing in a few extras here and there like their own personal guide to take them wherever they wanted to go, and within limits, ride whatever they want, as many times as they want.
Coincidence? Probably, but click the link below to see my full concept from 2009, if you’re interested.
The 2013 attendance estimates were recently released by TEA/AECOM at: http://www.teaconnect.org/pdf/TEAAECOM2013.pdf
Below are the top 12 U.S. Parks:
|1||Magic Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, FL||+6.0%||18,588,000|
|2||Disneyland, Anaheim, CA||+1.5%||16,202,000|
|3||EPCOT, Lake Buena Vista, FL||+1.5%||11,229,000|
|4||Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, FL||+2.0%||10,198,000|
|5||Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Lake Buena Vista, FL||+2.0%||10,110,000|
|6||Disney’s California Adventure, Anaheim, CA||+9.5%||8,514,000|
|7||Islands of Adventure, Orlando, FL||+2.0%||8,141,000|
|8||Universal Studios Orlando, Orlando, FL||+14.0%||7,062,000|
|9||Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal City, CA||+4.0%||6,148,000|
|10||Seaworld Florida, Orlando, FL||-5.0%||5,090,000|
|11||Seaworld California, San Diego, CA||-3.0%||4,311,000|
|12||Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Tampa, FL||-6.0%||4,087,000|
Disney parks topped out the top 6 this year, with California Adventure edging Universal’s Islands of Adventures, followed by the other two Universal parks in Florida and California respectively. Overall, Universal and Disney both had a good year, with the most significant gains at parks where new attractions have opened in the last year. Meanwhile, it was a rough year for Seaworld and Busch parks, with attendance slipping for all of the bottom 3 in the list.
Taking a deeper look at the last 4 years since the downturn in 2009, Universal Orlando has averaged an attendance growth rate over 10%, while Disney parks in the same market and time frame have managed just 1.35% average growth. In this 4 year period, Disney has grown just over 2.6 million in attendance, while Universal has almost doubled that with over 5 million. Mind you, Universal isn’t even close to unseating the WDW parks in the top 5, but they are making some significant gains in attendance with the attractions they’ve added in the last few years, leaving no doubt that they are serious about those parks. And, they should be, the Orlando market has grown steadily over the last 4 years at an average of 2.5%.
MagicBands are finally rolling out in full at Walt Disney World. After a long testing process that started back in spring of this year, it looks like WDW and their guests will be getting these as an early Christmas present! If you’re not familiar with these, be sure to check out Disney’s page for the scoop. Basically, these are the result of the not-so secret project that Disney has been working on for the last few years under the broad project name “Next Generation Experience”. They’re RFID enabled bands designed to fit on your wrist and contain your park tickets, fastpass reservations, photopass id, and purchasing capabilities.
Update: 11/18/13 – The Orlando Sentinel has reported that the project is behind schedule and being delayed for several months to resolve some of the issues found in testing. Not a lot of detail was provided on how the delay will effect guests. More information and the full article can be found here.
My family and I experienced the “magic” of using these recently, on our 19th trip to WDW in October. We arrived on Thursday, October 17th and checked in at POP century without any issues or real delay. Oddly, when we checked in, they also gave us the Key to the World cards, and told us they were to be used just in case the MagicBands failed. Fortunately, we didn’t need them, as the trip went without issue the entire time we were there. We were able to enter our rooms, make purchases, pay for meals, enter the parks and use them for fastpass reservations we had made online before arrival as well as photopass pictures. Overall, the experience of using the MagicBands was pleasant and uneventful, which made for a great vacation, but I can’t say they added anything spectacular to the trip.
Anecdotally, I found myself frequently looking at my band to see what time it was, in spite of the fact that I haven’t worn a watch in almost 7 years. It’s kind of ironic too, considering that I decided to stop wearing watches on a previous vacation to WDW and feeling like I was somewhat slave to the time and just wanted to enjoy myself and NOT worry about the time.
Now that I have my general review and comments out of the way, I would like to point out some observations, and suggestions of how I think Disney could improve MagicBands.
We didn’t have any specific issues with making purchases using the bands, but something peculiar we found was in the authentication requirements. When making a purchase for less than $50, they require the guest to enter a PIN that was previously set, which makes sense. However, I found the over $50 requirement a little puzzling. As before, a PIN is required, but there is also a requirement to sign for the purchase. I understand the potential security risk here, and I think it’s a good idea to have a second step, but I think the signature requirement just feels a bit out-dated if not maybe pointless. Perhaps they’ve implemented it this way to verify authenticity if a purchase is questioned or maybe fraudulently made. Or, maybe it’s a hold over from the old way. Regardless, it just seems a bit more cumbersome especially in comparison to the way it used to work with the Key to the World (KTTW) cards or a credit card (one step), and I think there might be a better way.
Purchasing Improvement Suggestion: Instead of requiring a signature on purchases over $50, use a different PIN, or ask for the guest’s room number to be entered for verification.
Usage Tip: The scanner (pictured above) is actually removable. It sits on a magnetic stand and can be picked up by either the CM or the guest to be positioned better with the MB which might help reduce the awkward wrist twist that’s usually needed.
During our short trip, we witnessed on several occasions, long lines at the entrance of the FastPass return queue. Several times these lines extended out into the normal flow of traffic in the area, creating a bit of congestion. The backups occurred on most all of what would be considered “E-ticket” or popular attractions like Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road, etc. For the most part, the lines all moved pretty steadily, not fast, but at least steady. I attribute this issue mostly, but not entirely, to the newness of the Magicbands and guests adjusting to using them. I have no way to confirm, but, it also seems like may be a lot more people utilizing FP than before which could be adding to the longer lines.
I noticed that there are some scanners that you have to press the flat part of the band (with Mickey on it), directly up against the scanner, but others are a little different, and you just have to pass the band right in front, either that, or some may just be faster than others. Of course, this could also be a network communications issue where the network or servers were busy and it took longer.
On a related note, we had a CM at the FP entry point of the queue at Kilimanjaro Safaris, tell us that only one member of our group needed to swipe our band for entry. No other FP queue CMs did this during our time.
Here’s a general list of things that seem to slow people down at FastPass return, some observed on my own, others were comments from a discussion thread on WDWMagic:
- Incorrect placement of the band on the receiver (Mickey Head). This could be adults who can’t seem to get it to align properly, or kids who can’t reach the receiver and need assistance.
- Slow response from receiver/system. Sometimes after reading your band the light will circle on the receiver (white) two or three times before turning green, indicating you’re FP time is within the window and you’re clear to proceed.
- Un-informed/trained guests who don’t understand how to use them. Some guests seem to think that just because they have a band, it means they automatically get to use the Fastpass entrance to the ride.
- Guests not wearing their bands on their wrist, or who don’t have them readily accessible for scanning.
- Family or group whose times don’t all align with each other, but they try to all enter together.
- Wrong times, or times that maybe shifted from what they were originally?
None of these issues are show-stoppers really, they just slow things down unnecessarily. Some of them are easily corrected by additional training and education for both CMs and guests, and some of these are just the newness of the bands and will ease over time. However, there are still a couple of areas here where I think they could improve.
One other comment I heard was that the paper Fastpass, while wasteful and problematic in itself sometimes, seemed like it was faster for both the guests and Cast members. A CM could quickly look at a bunch of FPs and see their times were all together or at least close enough and let them go in. But, with the electronic version, there is no visual, until each person swipes their bands, which takes a few seconds more. And, since the times are now being checked by a computer, it’s likely a bit more strict with early or late arrivers, although, this should be easily adjusted. Again, some of this is just the newness, and most of these issues will be worked out, but I have to wonder too if this might be a case where the old way could have a slight advantage.
Improvement Ideas for MagicBand and Fastpass efficiency:
1) As you can see in the picture above, the scanner/reader is at the the top of a 4 foot tall (estimated) pole that is usually themed to the area or attraction. Enhance the readers and expand the scanning zone. Instead of having a small scanning circle that is set at a fixed height, change the readers and use a vertical scanning sensor that runs from 18″ to the top of the pole. So, no matter the guest’s height or how/where the guest holds their band, the sensor should be able to read it. Obviously, these should also be added at the front gates of the parks as well.
2) Replace the Mickey/circle head with a screen or digital display that would show the guest’s names, party size and FP return time in a way that is visible to both them and the CM. Optionally, add an audio cue, either a voice or different sound that would identify the situation.
I think these changes, would greatly improve the situation as well as make it easier for both the CMs and guests in understanding and hopefully resolving some of the aforementioned problems that can happen.
I’ve heard there are kiosks around the parks where guests can swipe their bands and make or change FP times, but either I wasn’t looking for them, or they’re MIA in the parks. Regardless, it seems there should be more of these scattered around and perhaps more visible.
Just look at my pictures above. I’m not necessarily saying one is better than the other, but… one of them might be easier for some people, like me.
General Improvement Suggestion: One thing that seemed pretty obvious in all of our usage of the bands, whether at purchasing, gate entrances, Fastpass or room entry was the very strict requirement of having to physically touch the Mickey head on the band to receiver. I don’t know if it’s possible using the system they have, but the radio signals could be turned up in power to allow for quicker/easier scanning. I don’t know if it’s possible using the system they have implemented, but the radio signals could be turned up in power to allow for quicker/easier scanning. We use a system like this where I work, and it’s proximity based which doesn’t require physically touching. The reader and device can detect each others’ signal just by passing within close proximity, which is usually about an inch. If this were possible, it would make the system a bit more user-friendly and possibly even quicker.
If I can offer an honest critical review, I would say that overall, the MagicBand “experience” seems almost negligible. For the average guest staying on-property, the added benefit would seem almost insignificant, except for the added ability to pre-select or reserve fastpass times, which for some is huge. Admittedly this is a nice feature that is easy to use and comes in handy at times, but for me at least, it’s not a game changer. Aside from this new “feature”, I don’t really see a huge value for the guest, and it’s certainly not enough when comparing WDW to their competition.
I fully understand this is version 1, and there are going to be problems and adjustments that need to be made. By writing this, I’m hoping that someone at Disney will see it and consider some of my suggestions for improvement when the time comes. Perhaps you’ve used it and had your own ideas on how they can improve, if so, please add them.