MyMagic+ is a billion dollar guest “enhancement” planning program at Walt Disney World that will utilize RFID technology in wristbands and smartphone apps to assist guests in planning their vacations and increase engagement during their trips.
While MyMagic+ sounds great in theory, there are already numerous concerns about the program, which we will hit upon throughout the FAQ (and we’ve already discussed in the articles linked-to below). For now, here’s some basic information that is presently known thanks to information provided by Disney. It’s important to note that MyMagic+ has yet to be rolled out, and once it does roll out, Disney will certainly test and adjust–so some of the answers posted now may change.
As more information becomes available, we’ll revise and supplement this page.
1. What is MyMagic+?
Beyond the general description above, to the forward-facing public, MyMagic+ is a planning and enhancement tool consisting of the My Disney Experience smartphone app (which was released in July 2012 and we covered here), FASTPASS+ (which started testing in early 2012 and we covered here), and the MagicBand bracelet, all of which are proprietary Disney technology.
To Disney, MyMagic+ is a way to track guest behavior to maximize spending, manage labor more effectively, and assist with strategic planning. In theory, the system should also allow Disney to be more responsive to in-park traffic patterns as they shift, and deploy additional entertainment or increase (artificially underutilized) capacity at certain attractions with demand. In theory at least.
2. What is My Disney Experience?
My Disney Experience is the smartphone app for the iPhone, iPad, and Android that is now available for download. This app was released in mid-2012 with limited functionality. Guests can view wait times, make dining reservations, and utilize other functionality that was available with the previous Disney “My Mobile Magic” app. It is expected that advanced functionality for the app will be rolled out with MyMagic+, including the ability to book FASTPASS+ windows in-park, to tinker with MagicBand functionality, just to name a couple things.
3. What is FASTPASS+?
FASTPASS+ will, to some degree, replace or supplement paper FASTPASS tickets. FASTPASS+ will be obtained via the My Disney Experience app and will be stored on the MagicBand. Guests will be able to “redeem” their FASTPASS+ by swiping it against an RFID reader outside applicable attractions. When MyMagic+ launches to the general public, guests will be able to book 3 FASTPASS+ tickets in advance of their vacation (so, from home) at scheduled times. This could spell the end of the morning Toy Story Mania FASTPASS dash!
4. What is MagicBand?
The MagicBand is the little bracelet that guests will wear around their wrists that will track their behavior in the park. It will function as a park ticket, FASTPASS repository, PhotoPass, room charge card, and room key. It will also contain a code that identifies the guest’s profile in Disney’s system, which the guest (at their election) can complete with a variety of personal information to make elements of their visit more interactive (for example, characters might say, “happy birthday” to a guest on his or her birthday).
Optimistically, MagicBand will replace all of the papers you carry with you on a given day in the park and offer a more tailored experience throughout the parks. Pessimistically, Disney will use MagicBand as an “ankle tracking bracelet” of sorts that monitors just about everything guests do in parks for the purpose of maximizing guest spending.
5. When is MyMagic+ available to the general public?
Disney announced MyMagic+ on January 7, 2013, and has been testing the system with guests since mid-2012, so it seems that the system is just about ready to roll to the general public. We expect all Walt Disney World guests to be able to use the system in some capacity before the end of 2013. We expect it to be gradually phased in (first to certain on-site hotels, then to all on-site hotels, then to Annual Passholders, then to other demographics), as it undergoes test and adjust for a while. As of now, RFID tickets have been distributed to all new guests (and Annual Passholders), but MagicBands have yet to be rolled out for wide use.
Part of the testing and adjusting will undoubtedly be scaling the system from the few hundred to few thousand guests using it simultaneously during the testing period to the tens of thousands of guests who will use the system once it’s available to the general public.
6. How much does MyMagic+ cost?
MyMagic+ will be available for all guests at no additional visible charge. However, since this entire NextGen project that includes MyMagic+ has cost Disney an estimated $1.5 to $2 billion dollars, you can bet that Disney will be rolling the costs into existing charges. Sort of the same way Disney’s Magical Express and transportation are ostensibly free, but Disney builds these “freebies” into the cost of vacation packages. Disney is a for-profit business, so you can bet you’ll be paying for this one way or another.
But no, there is no surcharge specifically for MyMagic+.
The New York Times is reporting that additional bracelet-customization will be available for an additional cost. This comes as no surprise, and it’s likely that Disney will use add-on accessories like these to help offset the costs of the NextGen infrastructure. It’ll have to sell a lot of Tinkerbell bracelets to pay for the system completely!
7. How will MyMagic+ enhance my park experience?
MyMagic+ will allow for greater advance planning and less racing around collecting FastPasses when in the park. While the details aren’t completely known, the level of interactively and the seamless systems integration are what is being touted right now. Examples include characters at meet & greets saying hello to you by name and knowing a few of your personal details to humanize the experience. Similarly, advanced Audio-Animatronics in queues may interact with you. It’s also possible that queue games and experiences may be able to store your “achievements.”
These are just a few examples of what is possible with MyMagic+. Much remains unknown (some feel it might increase FASTPASS capacity), and is dependent upon how Disney is able to utilize the system going forward.
8. How will MyMagic+ detract from my park experience?
While the advance planning might be a plus for some, it’s likely to be a negative for many others. A portion of all FASTPASSES will be allocated towards day-guests not using FASTPASS+, but there’s no question that there will be fewer FASTPASSES for day-guests, which will make some tough-to-acquire FASTPASSES now even more difficult to acquire.
Elements of spontaneity will also be gone, and there are sure to be logistical problems when dining, transportation, or a variety of other scheduling problems cause issues with MyMagic+.
Beyond these concerns, there are great concerns by many over privacy information that Disney will collect as part of this initiative. Disney’s goal with MyMagic+ is a more enjoyable and intimate theme park experience, but its other main goal is to increase guest spending. I think many guests already feel as if they are spending too much at Walt Disney World.
9. Will you be able to opt out of MyMagic+?
If these privacy concerns don’t sit well with you, fear not, as MyMagic+ is an opt-in program that will not require participation. However, the number of perks afforded only to those who use MyMagic+ will be such that most guests will feel compelled to participate. It may become very difficult to get a Toy Story Mania FASTPASS without participating, as you won’t be able to use FASTPASS+ without opting into MyMagic+.
10. What about Annual Passholders?
Once the program rolls out to all guests, Annual Passholders will be able to register to receive their own MyMagic+ accounts and MagicBands. Annual Passholders (who have opted to make the switch at Epcot’s Odyssey pavilion) currently have plastic RFID enabled tickets.
11. What about guests without smartphones?
While a smartphone is necessary to use the My Disney Experience app, it is not necessary to use MyMagic+. Guests can pre-book their FASTPASS+ experiences from home or on kiosks set-up within the parks.
The user experience likely won’t be quite the same for those who can’t make adjustments on the fly with the My Disney Experience app, but a smartphone is still not required to partake.
12. What if I miss a FASTPASS+ window?
Disney is pretty efficient given its size, but it has a number of inefficiencies and variables beyond guest’s control. If transportation, dining, etc., outside of the guest’s control causes a guest to miss their FASTPASS+ window, Cast Members will have limited discretionary authority over accommodating the guests–just as they do now. It remains to be seen to what extent and in what circumstances Disney allows Cast Members to exercise this discretion.
13. What if I book through a travel agent or have already booked by 2013 trip?
Any guests who visit once MyMagic+ is fully rolled out to the general public will be able to participate in the program, regardless of when or how they booked their trip. You will either receive an email once the system goes live or will be given information upon arrival. Even off-site guests will be able to participate, although they won’t receive a Magic Band.
We’ve already said a lot about the whole NextGen thing, and while I do have some concerns about the privacy aspect, my concerns are more from the perspective of how other guests will react to it. I already heavily use Google products, so Google knows just about everything I do, too. I’m not exactly wild about the direction society is going with privacy, and I think corporations are diminishing our expectations of privacy, but this is far from the most (or even close to it) egregious example of that.
My greater concern lies with how much Disney has spent on this whole NextGen initiative, and how that money could have been used on actual substance or necessary maintenance in the parks. I enjoy video games, but I don’t go to Walt Disney World to experience them, and it seems the whole direction of the Disney enterprise has been to cater more to the video game and iPhone-addicted generation. I hope quality dark rides and themed environments continue to be a huge focus for Disney (and if Cars Land is any indication, they are), because this billion dollar investment represents nothing that I personally couldn’t do without. Now, if Disney quickly sees a huge return on investment, great. But I’d still rather see capital expenditures made on attractions and transportation infrastructure, rather than Disney Vacation Club resorts and NextGen. Not to say DVC and NextGen don’t have their place, but right now they seem like the primary focus of Disney in the theme parks realm (at least at Walt Disney World).
As for the actual functionality of MyMagic+? I suspect it will work well…in 2014. I suspect it will take all of 2013 to get all of the kinks ironed out. This is a huge undertaking that is bound to have a lot of hiccups. It seems cool enough, I just hope it doesn’t come at the detriment of the kind of experiences and the kind of leisurely park touring I enjoy.
Now that we have a good amount of concrete information about MyMagic+ and the NextGen project, what are your thoughts? Do you see this as the evolution of the theme park experience, a profiteering and data-mining folly that is bound to fail, or is your opinion somewhere in between? Share your thoughts in the comments!