On Jan. 7, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts officially released information on MyMagic+ and its components FastPass+ and MagicBand. Based on NextGen technology, MyMagic+ is the company’s newest initiative utilizing technology to enhance guest experiences in the theme parks.
According to the Disney Parks Blog, MyMagic+ will be first unveiled in stages at Walt Disney World Resort (WDW), beginning with guests staying at official WDW hotels, those who purchase a PhotoPass package and Annual Passholders.
MyMagic+ is a Disney vacation planning and management system that is one of the outcomes of the company’s investment in NextGen technology. In part, MyMagic+ will uses radio frequency identification (RFID) to help guests customize their trips as well as helps Disney to both track guests’ behavior and personalize guests’ vacation experiences.
MyMagic+ uses My Disney Experience, FastPass+ and MagicBand
MyMagic+ consists of three components that Disney guests will use to help plan their trips and which work together: My Disney Experience, an online planning tool; MagicBand bracelets, which contain guest information and use RFID technology; and Disney FastPass+, which will enable guests to select theme park attractions and entertainment prior to leaving home or while in the parks.
My Disney Experience offers a website and mobile app (available for iPhone, iPad and Android), and was released in July 2012. If offers park hours, wait times, information on hotels and attractions and other elements related to trip planning and park touring.
Guests who use My Disney Experience can access the site or app from home as well as at WDW via smart phones and other portable devices. To enable guest to access My Disney Experience while at the resort, WDW has made free Wi-Fi available throughout the theme parks, Downtown Disney and hotels for guests who want to change their plans “on the go” with their smartphones and other portable devices.
Disney FastPass+ works with My Disney Experience allow guests to select a limited number of attractions and experiences when planning from home or while in the parks. Options will include additional experiences than those offered under the current FASTPASS system. In its press statement, Disney notes the following about FastPass+ service:
- For the first time, guests will be able to reserve firework and parade viewing areas, shows, Disney Character Greetings and more, in addition to their favorite attractions.
- For guests who don’t know where to start, Disney will recommend FastPicks – a set of three FastPass+ selections that serve as a starting point – and give guests the option to customize their selections.
- Disney FastPass+ service is included with theme park admission.
MagicBand, a rubber bracelet, will collect pertinent trip information for and about guests on one device. The MagicBand operates as a room key, admission ticket, PhotoPass card, and charge card for food and merchandise. It also stores information provided through My Disney Experience, such as guests’ FastPass+ selections.
MyMagic+ will also enable Disney to personalize their theme park experience, as suggested in Monday's New York Times article by Brooks Barnes. For those who are comfortable with providing more personal information, MagicBand might be used to help a Disney character wish someone a happy birthday or anniversary, enable elements in Disney’s queues to more specifically interact with guests, or have Cast Members address individuals by name.
“Over the past few years, we’ve continued to build on our legacy of innovation to take the entire Disney Guest experience to a new level. Our goal is to deliver a more immersive, more seamless and more personal experience to each and every Guest who spends time with us,” said Tom Staggs, chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, in a press statement that characterizes MyMagic+ as “an evolution of the Disney guest experience.”
How might MyMagic+ change a Disney vacation?
In its statement, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts noted MyMagic+ is still in development, with a detailed timeline for roll-out yet to be announced and new features to be introduced over time and based on feedback from guests and Cast Members.
That said, the Disney Parks Blog announcement and the New York Times article, as well as responses to MyMagic+, suggests some of the potential benefits and concerns for the program from a user standpoint.
MyMagic+ works by collecting data on guest behavior, both in terms of collective behavior and individual guest information. Barnes' article notes Disney is aware of privacy and security concerns.
How will MyMagic+ address concerns for guests’ privacy and the security of guest information? Disney will allow guests to opt-out of providing information by not participating in the program, while those who do use it can restrict some of the information they share. Staggs told the New York Times, “The bands themselves will contain no personal identifiable information.”
The MagicBand will also require guest to use a PIN for purchases of $50 or more, and can be deactivated if stolen or lost.
Still, guests who use MyMagic+ should expect that Disney will collect, and use, data provided via My Disney Experience, FastPass+ and MagicBand. (Here it should be noted that data tracking of consumers is not unusual across various industries, including the theme and amusement park industry.)
How might MyMagic+ provide different Disney guess with access to the program? Will all Disney guests have access to MyMagic+? How might access to MyMagic+ differ among guests who visit Disney in various ways? (e.g. Someone who stays on-site at a WDW hotel vs. an off-site guest or a day visitor; someone who purchases length-of-stay passes vs. Annual Passholders).
Disney has stated it will roll out the program in stages, starting with WDW on-site guests. Guests who purchase PhotoPass and Annual Passholders will also be able to participate in the early implementation of MyMagic+ according to Staggs’ comments the Disney Parks Blog announcement.
Other guests will also be able to use MyMagic+, if not all its features. Alternately, the full experience might be available for those guests willing to pay for it. In responding to a question on the Disney Parks Blog announcement, Staggs said:
“Guests staying at Walt Disney World Resort hotels, and Annual Passholders will receive a band, as well as those guests who purchase a photography package. Guests who stay at non-Disney hotels will receive a ticket with features of touch to enter the park, touch to redeem FastPass+ and touch to pay. These guests can participate in My Disney Experience and purchase a MagicBand if they wish.”
The response suggests Disney will look at ways not only to profit from MyMagic by tracking guest behavior and adjusting WDW operations accordingly, but may also attempt to profit from its components. In his article, Barnes also notes that Disney intends “to introduce collectible sets of MagicBand accessories and charms.”
How might MyMagic+ change the Disney theme park experience? MyMagic+ and its collection and use of data might help enhance the theme park experience, to “plus the Magic.” Previously mentioned possibilities include enabling personalized experiences at attractions, with Disney characters or between guests and Cast Members.
MyMagic+ may also make the overall, collective WDW experience more pleasant. For example, the initiative aims to help, even encourage, guests to do more trip planning, which in turn helps Disney allocate resources; whether MyMagic+ will allow for spontaneity or “in the moment” changes, as Disney suggests it will, has yet to be determined.
Still, the initiative seems to promise several ways in which the theme park experience will be enhanced for all guests. Those who wear the MagicBand, or use the touch cards, will hopefully find a quicker, smoother entry to the theme parks or in counter-service lines.
A similar change may occur with the implementation of FastPass+. Even guests who don’t use FastPass+ may find WDW is able to better predict wait times, for instance, or that an attraction's FastPass queue moves more quickly.
“MyMagic+ is designed to make the Walt Disney World experience better for everyone,” Staggs commented on the Disney Parks Blog.