Walt Disney World has officially announced the launch date for paid Genie+ and Lightning Lane line-skipping access, which is coming to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. We cover all of the new details & release date, the official answers to common questions, commentary on crowds & wait times, comparisons to MaxPass, Premier Access, and more.
As a reminder for any Walt Disney World fans who have been in a coma the last couple of months, free FastPass+ is gone, and will soon be replaced by paid Genie+ and Lightning Lane line-skipping access. This system has four key components. First is the free Disney Genie service in the My Disney Experience app that’s basically a personalized itinerary feature to efficiently map out a day.
Second, the paid Disney Genie+ service you can purchase in the My Disney Experience app for $15 per day. This provides priority access to approximately 40 attractions across all four parks. Third, individual attraction selections (or Magic Carpet Access) that can be bought at variable price points based upon demand. This will be offered at two of the most popular attractions in each park. Both are accessible via Lightning Lanes, which are the new name for FastPass+ entrances. These are the physical queues in the park through which Genie+ or individual attraction selection purchases can bypass standby lines. Got all of that?
If not, you’re hardly alone. Walt Disney World’s original announcement had confusing branding and incomplete information. Beyond that, this essentially reinvented the wheel, using MaxPass from Disneyland as the foundation (a system with which many Walt Disney World fans are understandably inexperienced) and further complicated that. We’ve tried to help with our breakdown of Lightning Lanes v. Genie+ at Walt Disney World, as well as a series of theoretical itineraries (one for Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and DHS thus far).
Then there’s our regularly-updated Lightning Lane and Genie+ at Walt Disney World FAQ(this is already in the process of being updated with today’s new info!). Unsurprisingly, a lot of you have had questions, and we’ve tried to answer most of the common ones there. Hopefully those posts have helped to some degree, but there’s still a lot of confusion.
It hasn’t helped that Walt Disney World announced the Genie system back on August 18. Since then, Disney has released no new information. Nothing during the entirety of September, or even at the start of the World’s Most Magical Celebration for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. During the multi-day media event for that, there was a technology & innovations preview but it only addressed the free Genie itinerary feature, MagicBand+, and “Hey, Disney!”
However, even that offered nothing about Genie+ or Lightning Lanes. There had been nothing at all–until new details dropped this afternoon (October 8, 2021). Let’s start with the latest info from Walt Disney World…
The launch date is October 19, 2021 for the Genie system at Walt Disney World, which will include the free system plus the paid Genie+ feature, Lightning Lanes, etc.
Disneyland’s version will launch at a later date, to be determined. (Everything that follows concerns Walt Disney World, but likely loosely applies to Disneyland. Expect some minor changes to the specifics for the DLR version, though.)
Disney Genie+ service will be available for $15 per guest per day. Guests will be able to purchase Genie+ as an add-on to a ticket or vacation package for the duration of visit before their trips, via Disneyworld.com or Authorized Disney Vacation Planners.
Genie+ also be available for single-day use for existing ticket holders or Annual Passholders. Purchases in 1-day increments will be possible via the Disney Genie service in the My Disney Experience app.
Two attractions per park will offer Lightning Lane entry as an “Ã¡ la carte” individual attraction select (or Magic Carpet Access) purchase. This option will be available for all guests–with or without Disney Genie+ service–and lets you choose a time to arrive at up to 2 attractions each day (booked one at a time).
Pricing and availability will vary by date, attraction and park. At launch, these prices will start at $7 per person. (Edit: We’ve seen others quote a price range, but Walt Disney World has not put the upper limit in writing. Until and unless they do, I’m reluctant to share that–it could end up being higher!)
With that said, Walt Disney World has offered sample pricing: “the Lightning Lane entrance to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure will be $9 per person on October 19 and $11 per person on October 23. As another example, on both those dates, Lightning Lane entrance to Expedition Everest — Legend of the Forbidden Mountain will be $7 per person, while Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will be $15 per person.”
Throughout the year, prices may be lower on some days and higher on other days. This option may be purchased at up to 2 different attractions each day. Check the My Disney Experience app on the day of your visit for current prices and attraction availability.
Along with that date and pricing, Walt Disney World provided a lot of new details about the system during a tech demo of the upcoming My Disney Experience app features. Per Disney, the goal of the Genie system is to match guests’ desires with best available capacity. The system will recommend experiences aligned with guest interests, optimized at the best times with the lowest waits.
Genie will be a lot like a navigation app on a phone, taking into account dynamic traffic patterns. (Just don’t pull a Michael Scott and drive your stroller into World Showcase Lagoon!) Genie adjusts for operational changes, including unexpected operational downtime or wait times that extend longer than what was previously forecast.
Per Walt Disney World, Genie is not a static itinerary–it’s dynamic. In addition to automatically adjusting for on the ground changes, Genie can also be modified by guests to account for changes in their priorities or desires–like wanting to eat earlier.
Guests will tell Genie their must dos and interests, which Walt Disney World will compare with its consumer insights experience ratings, checking the availability of experiences, and whether guests have existing plans.
This will all occur behind the scenes, on the backend at Walt Disney World, so your phone won’t constantly be re-optimizing.
The result is that the Genie system should not pose a considerable drain on phone batteries, beyond the normal My Disney Experience app.
Genie will be able to optimize for Park Hopper plans, existing plans, identified priorities, minimizing walking distances, and more.
The free Genie feature will also offer transparency, offering guests the ability to see why certain recommendations were made to them–with rationales ranging from it being a good time wait-wise to the venue offering air conditioning.
Genie will evaluate hundreds of thousands of combinations of a potential day at Walt Disney World. The algorithm will score each iteration against priorities that make a great day for that particular guests, and then will present that to the guest.
Guests will be able to select must-do attractions, plus general interests and other parameters (like height requirements). From there, the Genie feature will provide a full day of flexible recommendations for their day in the park.
Another component of the Genie system is the Tip Board, which is similar to the in-park tip boards but with more personalized information based on ride reservations and recommendations you’ve made or received.
There will also be dining tip board, which offers Walk-Up Waitlist options for table service restaurants and Mobile Order time slots for counter service restaurants.
On the backend, the Genie’s algorithm will attempt to achieve all competing goals, making a series of compromises, and meeting all goals–assigning a score to the various permutations of a given itinerary.
Beyond just the attractions and other checklist itinerary items, Genie takes into account idle time, average distance walked, and other considerations. It also factors in recommendations made to other guests, so it’s not sending everyone to the same place at the same time.
Then there are the paid components of the upcoming My Disney Experience app feature: Genie+ and individual a la carte Lightning Lane experiences. The former will be a bundle (as described above and in other relevant posts about Genie+ at Walt Disney World), and the latter will be available at 2 attractions per park.
Here’s the official list of individual a la carte Lightning Lane attractions:
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
Frozen Ever After
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Avatar Flight of Passage
Genie+ attractions will be more or less the same as prior FastPass+ options, minus the above. In case you’re new to Walt Disney World or need a refresher, here’s the official Genie+ list of attractions:
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
“it’s a small world”
Mad Tea Party
Magic Carpets of Aladdin
Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor
Peter Pan’s Flight
Pirates of the Caribbean
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid
Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival
Journey into Imagination with Figment
Soarin’ Around the World
The Seas with Nemo & Friends
Turtle Talk with Crush
Alien Swirling Saucers
Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage
Disney Jr. Play & Dance
Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
Slinky Dog Dash
Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Toy Story Mania
A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King
It’s Tough to Be a Bug
Kali River Rapids
Na’vi River Journey
The Animation Experience at Conservation Station
Feathered Friends in Flight
Per Walt Disney World, Genie+ will provide guests the ability to book new ride reservations before using a prior one if the next available ride time is far into the future. Meaning that guests won’t be locked out of making new Genie+ selections if it’s the morning and the next available ride time isn’t until later in the afternoon.
To answer one very common reader question, Walt Disney World has officially confirmed that Genie+ will allow guests to make their next selection 120 minutes (2 hours) in the future even if they have not yet redeemed the first Genie+ selection. This is just like the former legacy or paper FastPass system–and how we’ve said this will work since the original announcement. Nevertheless, it’s nice to have official confirmation.
That’s it in terms of new details and information. Now, let’s offer some commentary on the Genie system’s upcoming launch at Walt Disney World.
A disproportionate amount of Walt Disney World’s announcement focuses on the free Genie system, likely in an effort to overshadow the backlash against the paid Genie+ and Lightning Lane components of the release. I don’t blame them for trying to regain control of the narrative, but there’s no–and excuse me here–putting the genie back in the bottle on that one.
The free Genie system is a promising concept and one with potential, but that’s all the praise I’m willing to grant it. Disney IT doesn’t exactly have a stellar track record, and the company has whiffed on past technology initiatives that were far less ambitious than this. I’m not going to condemn something before I have the chance to use it myself–perhaps Genie will be great–but I have no reason to give the benefit of the doubt here.
I’m highly skeptical that the feature will deliver on its many promises in light of past precedent, and further question whether (if it does work) it’ll be designed primarily to benefit guests or Disney’s allocation of resources. Accordingly, with regard to anything pertaining to the free Genie system, my perspective is firmly “wait and see.”
Even that is probably overly charitable given how frequently Stitch eats my page, the drop day disasters, virtual queue woes, and My Disney Experience crashes (among many other things) over the last decade or so. But who knows, maybe Genie will work his magic and buck those trends.
In past commentary about Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, we’ve pointed to the new Premier Access at Disneyland Paris. This could provide a sneak peek at utilization rates, potential pricing, and how the a la carte individual attraction selections (Magic Carpet Access) could impact standby wait times. We’ve done this as many readers have feared the worst with Magic Carpet Access and the allocation to that.
On that front, it’s worth pointing out that Disneyland Paris dropped the price of Premier Access earlier this week. Previously, pricing for Premier Access ranged from €8 to €15 (~$10 to $18) depending on the attraction and day of visit. The new pricing is €5 to €12. While Disneyland Paris hasn’t provided a rationale for the change, one could surmise that it’s due to low demand. (By all accounts, it’s not a particularly popular offering.)
Walt Disney World is a different beast entirely, but we nevertheless do not expect Magic Carpet Access to be a huge hit with all–or even many/most–time slots selling out. Its utilization rate should be relatively low, which means the standby line or virtual queue will still move fairly quickly, and account for the vast majority of hourly ride capacity, on those 2 attractions per park.
Since the original announcement, it’s been our position that the 7 am on-site “priority” Magic Carpet Access booking window for on-site guests (instead of park opening time for off-site visitors) is likely illusory. Nothing today changes that perspective. Some high-profile headliners might sell out some slots on the busiest days of the year, but as we’ve seen with standby wait times (or lack thereof) for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in the last couple weeks, the worst case scenarios and predictions likely will not play out.
In fact, most of our commentary from the initial Genie+ and Lightning Lane announcement remains intact. Although Walt Disney World has provided some new information, there are still going to be a lot of unanswered questions, concerns, fears, complaints, and so forth.
Unfortunately, there are unknowns about Genie+ and Lightning Lanes that will not be addressed until the new system drops. Even then, there will likely be some fluidity as tweaks are made over the course of the coming months. That’s simply the reality of it—not everything will be known or knowable until rollout–or beyond.
For better or worse, that’s the nature of the beast. We’ve received a lot of reader complaints that the overarching Genie system is convoluted and confusing, and there’s definitely some truth to that. However, Walt Disney World vacation planning is already those things, most of you are just so experienced and have so much firsthand knowledge from your past experiences that it has become second nature.
For first-timers, Walt Disney World vacations are a morass of convoluted policies, things to know, and nonstop sources of confusion. Walt Disney World is far and away the most complicated travel destination that we’ve ever visited, anywhere around the globe. The salient point there is that if you’ve mastered what Walt Disney World has thrown at you in the past, the same will be true here too in the future. It’s very different to “learn by doing” rather than reading a bunch of abstract and incomplete explanations.
None of this is to diminish the anger about paid FastPass, which remains entirely valid. Walt Disney World is charging money for something that used to be free, which is unfortunate and upsetting. There’s no getting around that. However, we’d recommend separating your anger over the cost from your apprehensions about the unknowns.
We think a lot of (totally valid and understandable) outrage and disdain for paid FastPass is spilling over into assumptions about how Genie+ will (or won’t) work. This is also understandable to a degree given past precedent. You all have experience with Walt Disney World’s implementation of technology, and booking FastPass+ has been a miserable experience for many fans, us included.
However, assuming that more guests will use the paid Genie+ than free FastPass+ just doesn’t pass the smell test. Free things are easier to “sell” because there’s no barrier to entry in terms of cost. Accordingly, utilization will be significantly lower than FastPass+ and much more akin to MaxPass.
Beyond all else, just consider that Walt Disney World has a vested financial interest in making Genie+ successful and reasonably well-regarded among guests. Word of mouth travels fast, and people won’t buy Genie+ if it’s truly an unmitigated disaster.
My prediction is that Genie+ use and “favorability” will increase over time. The initial response has been overwhelmingly negative, just as it was at Disneyland when MaxPass was announced.
In addition to being upset by something previously being free now costing money, many will lament the loss of pre-planning their FastPass+ selections and having the peace of mind in knowing they have certain popular attractions “locked-in” prior to their trips.
Nevertheless, we’d expect many FastPass+ power users to come around on Genie+ over time. The original FastPass was controversial when it came out two decades ago, before becoming beloved. FastPass+ was likewise a reviled replacement among fans who had mastered the paper FastPass system. Same happened with the launch of MaxPass at Disneyland–and we were among those who hated that in principle, but eventually became hooked on it.
The lazy commentary here would be that “Disney fans are resistant to change.” While true in many ways, there’s (again) the critical distinction that something free is being lost and replaced by a paid-only option. In the “evolution” of the line-skipping system, this is the very first time Disney has done that, so the circumstances here are very different.
Speaking of different circumstances, one that we did not anticipate was current crowds. Back when Genie was announced, our expectation was that it would debut after the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary during a busy time of year that will provide a good “stress test” to the system, with higher crowd levels that should show just how much or little demand exists for Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, typical costs for a la carte line skipping, and how much time the options will save.
It’s still only the second week of October, but the anticipated attendance–at least as reflected in wait times–has not materialized. To the contrary, wait times are slightly below average right now, which is actually a bit shocking (note: this should be distinguished from crowds, as there’s a divergence between the two presently). There’s a lot more to discuss on that topic, but most of it is beyond the scope of this already overly-long post. The main point is that the Genie system may launch at a time when crowds are fairly average.
There are a bunch of longer-term implications for Genie on crowds and vacation bookings, most of which are also beyond the scope of this post or too early to address. We’ve been discussing Walt Disney World’s Disappearing On-Site Advantagefor years now. Several changes this year and next–such as the end of Disney’s Magical Express, Extra Magic Hours transforming, no free MagicBands, and the lack of a FastPass priority booking window–will push more guests off-site. That’s a pretty safe assumption even pre-launch of Genie.
Personally, if it came down to splurging on a Disney hotel or staying off-site and using the money saved on lodging for things like Genie+, nicer dining, special events, etc., that’s what I’d do. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify the prices Walt Disney World is charging for its resorts. Then again, Disney could quickly “correct” this by rolling out Free Dining or other deals if occupancy numbers slip in 2022. So perhaps that topic too is premature.
Ultimately, that still leaves a ton of unknowns about Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. Even over a month after its original announcement, this remains a work-in-progress story…and that’ll probably continue to be true even after the Genie system launches on October 19, 2021. This is definitely something that’ll evolve over time and be an ongoing learning experience at least into early 2022.
Beyond that, I’ve previously aired my grievances about Genie+ and Lightning Lanes are entirely paid, replacing something that was entirely free. I’ve also lamented Walt Disney World’s recent nickel and diming proclivities, and the way this offers a “solution” to a problem that Disney has deliberately created. So I won’t rehash all of that here. Nor will I reiterate the upside potential that I think Genie+ or Lightning Lanes will offer, and how it’s probably not going to present the cataclysmic or have as negative of consequences for those who don’t buy the “paid FastPasses” as many fans anticipate.
What do you think of Genie+ and Lightning Lanes? If you’re visiting on or after October 19, 2021 will you be buying Genie+ or individual Lightning Lane access? Do you prefer fast-moving standby lines only, or the FastPass and standby combo? 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!