“Hey, Disney!” is a new Alexa service by Amazon that’ll be used in hotel rooms at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort. This post covers details about the new voice-activated assistant, which promises to help guests order amenities, speak with Cast Members, get answers to common questions, plan park days, and more. (Updated April 15, 2022.)
Later this year, guests staying at Walt Disney World resorts will find a “Hey, Disney!” equipped Echo Show 5 in their rooms. The assistant can answer questions, like when Magic Kingdom opens, where to get a meal, or what time the fireworks happens. They can also use the “Hey, Disney!” assistant to make specific service requests, or use the assistant to play personalized messages from favorite characters.
While details about “Hey, Disney!” are vague, here are relevant portions of a technology press release from Josh D’Amaro, Chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products…
As we kick off the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort, we’re excited about the ways that technology will add to our celebration — and beyond. Today we announced a project with Amazon called “Hey, Disney!” With it, we’ve created our own custom assistant, using Disney stories, characters and more — all built on Amazon’s Alexa technology.
Whether you’re at home or in one of our Walt Disney World Resort hotel rooms, soon you’ll be able to use an Echo device to interact with your favorite Disney, Pixar or Star Wars characters.
“Hey, Disney!” will make your vacation easier, more meaningful and more fun … and it will entertain and delight you when you’re at home, too. It raises the bar for immersive storytelling with authentic character voices, unique audio environments inspired by our films and destinations, and more than a thousand magical interactions to discover — so you can expect a few surprises!
We’ll have more to share soon about “Hey, Disney!” and other ways that technology and innovation will continue to help us make magic and create the Disney Difference — setting ourselves apart in the world of dream vacations, renowned family entertainment, and innovative products and experiences around the world.
In addition to this press release, USA Today interviewed Dan Soto, Vice President of Technology and Digital for Disney Parks, Experiences and Products and Aaron Rubenson, Amazon’s vice president of Alexa Voice Service & Alexa Skills. That offers some additional insight into how “Hey Disney” will work and what it’ll offer to guests of Walt Disney World–and consumers at home.
“Hey, Disney!” was designed to enhance the Alexa experience with things like jokes, interactive trivia for families, personal greetings from characters, soundscapes, and more. It will include authentic character voices, original recordings, unique audio environments inspired by films and parks, plus over 1,000 interactions.
The experience as a whole will be guided by something called the “Disney Magical Companion.” Essentially, this companion will be a Disney re-skinned (perhaps re-recorded is the better term) version of Alexa.
It’s a custom voice that Disney itself developed to guide users through the “Hey, Disney!” experience. While the companion’s voice has not yet been revealed, Disney used a voice actor to create the sound.
Additionally, “Hey, Disney!” will available for customers to access on Amazon Echo devices in Walt Disney World hotel rooms. Since the original announcement, the company revealed that “Hey, Disney!” is also coming to Disneyland Resort.
“Hey, Disney!” is expected to roll out sometime in 2022, but no word on when the devices will be installed in resort rooms.
Following this announcement, we had the chance to see “Hey, Disney!” at a technology showcase during Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. The voice and visuals look and sound good, but what matters is how all of this actually works in practice. If you request fresh towels or more coffee, does it actually get delivered? Will the planning features actually be useful? Is more information offered than what’s already displayed on resort TV?
Those are all unknowns until “Hey, Disney!” actually launches and can be used in-room by real guests.
More recently, we had the chance to use the D3-O9 Logistics Droid aboard Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. This character interacts with you via an panel on the wall.
While the interface is different, D3-O9 seems a bit like the “Hey, Disney!” Alexa service on steroids. This logistics droid has the ability to brief guests on mission elements, details, and more. If “Hey, Disney!” is even remotely similar to this, it has a lot of potential–both as a practical assistant and a “storytelling” device that can add some personality to the in-room hotel experience.
Resorts will offer additional “Hey, Disney!” features through Alexa for Hospitality.
You’ll be able to ask “Hey, Disney!” things like park operating hours, where certain cuisines are served, and when the next bus departs from the resort to various parks. Additionally, “Hey, Disney!” will offer some functional services like order more blankets or towels to the room.
Disney is looking at ways to access things like itineraries and that other ways to integrate the Disney Genie service into “Hey, Disney!”
Presumably, the device will also offer the core Alexa functionality found in the Echo Show 5, meaning you can hear the news, ask for sports scores, play music, and more.
Customers can now order the new Mickey Mouse inspired OtterBox Den Series stand for Echo Show 5, available for pre-order today for $24.99 by clicking here.
As privacy concerns are likely, Disney and Amazon have preemptively addressed those by indicating that resort customers will have to opt in, not opt out, to use “Hey, Disney!” Echo microphones in hotel rooms can also be manually turned off.
The in-room experience at Walt Disney World is designed with privacy in mind and so no audio is stored by default. Visitors will not log in with their own Amazon accounts to use the experience–meaning no personal information is transmitted or known when interacting with “Hey, Disney!”
In case you’re curious, Alexa for Hospitality is aimed at simplifying tasks for hotel occupants: playing music, getting the weather forecast, calling the front desk, ordering room service, controlling in-room temperature or lighting, and checking out.
Amazon pitches Alexa for Hospitality to the industry as “voice immersive experiences to help your property increase revenues, reduce costs, and improve guest satisfaction.” Alexa for Hospitality is already utilized by several hotel chains; as with most hospitality innovations, that’s particularly the case in Las Vegas. (Here’s an interesting Wynn Las Vegas case study about Alexa for Hospitality.)
In terms of commentary, my main reaction to this “Hey, Disney!” news is skepticism.
Setting aside privacy concerns, I have full faith in Amazon’s ability to deliver on its promises with Alexa for Hospitality. Opinions vary on Amazon, but I don’t think anyone would claim the company isn’t incredibly savvy and capable when it comes to efficiency and solutions.
In the right circumstances, Alexa for Hospitality is probably is a great service that provides consumers with increased convenience and comfort while in-room. Given ongoing labor shortages, there’s probably tremendous value–for consumers and hotel chains alike–in technology like this.
We’ve stayed at Las Vegas and other convention-centric hotels that leverage technology, automate aspects of the stay, and improve the overall experience. It is worth noting that many of these rooms were built or remodeled with smart technology in mind, and thus can leverage it to its fullest potential.
My skepticism is aimed at Disney. I have considerable doubts that Walt Disney World will take advantage of these opportunities to add value for visitors, at least from the perspective of improving efficiency, convenience, and stay quality.
We stay at a lot of Walt Disney World hotels, and just calling the front desk–which is actually an off-site call center–to request towels, blankets, or literally anything tends to be a frustrating experience. It’s tedious, time-consuming, and the likelihood of “success” (as measured by getting what you requested) is 50/50.
Beyond that, most of Walt Disney World’s recent technology initiatives that would tie into this–like bus wait times in My Disney Experience–no longer work reliably. If the core product interfacing with “Hey, Disney!” doesn’t work, the service on top of it won’t, either.
I don’t doubt that “Hey, Disney!” will be able to state park hours or perform the simplest of tasks–basically anything that the in-room television can do when turned on. However, if that’s all it can do, it sort of begs the question of what “Hey, Disney!” will actually offer.
Ultimately, I think “Hey, Disney!” will be a worthwhile service when it comes to trivia and interacting with (what I assume will be) a Mickey Mouse voice. Families and kids will probably enjoy it. Basically, I think “Hey, Disney!” will be a solid addition when judged only from the perspective of “a fun thing for kids.”
My doubts revolve entirely around the utility and convenience it’ll offer in-room at Walt Disney World resorts. I don’t have much faith in how Disney operates services at its hotel, and I don’t think that’s something that can be fixed with a new user interface. (I don’t have a ton of privacy concerns–I’ll take what Amazon and Disney said at face value–but I’m sure others will.)
I’d love to be wrong about this. Walt Disney World has made some tremendous strides with technology in the last couple of years, with some innovations that have truly improved the experience for customers and efficiency for the company. So I’m not totally ruling out the possibility that this will be another win. Rather, given Disney’s track record with hotels and technology, I think “skepticism” is the more pragmatic default position here.
What do you think of the “Hey, Disney!” Alexa assistant? Excited for this to come to Walt Disney World or would you prefer to not have an Amazon device in your hotel room? Think this will be helpful and improve the resort experience, or are you likewise skeptical? Interested in how Walt Disney World will implement the new system? Agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!