Walt Disney World is once again tweaking the Genie+ attraction lineup, moving an Individual Lightning Lane selection from each park into the bucket for the paid FastPass+ replacement. This post takes a look at the changes, reasons why, and offers speculation for the future. (Updated April 14, 2022.)
Let’s start with the why of this. Basically, it’s a mix of heavy attendance and high use of the Genie+ system. As more thoroughly covered in Spring Sees Peak Season Wait Times at Walt Disney World, the last 3 months have been incredibly busy. March was the busiest month in the last 2 years, with February and April tied for #2. (Once the month is over, April 2022 will likely take the crown of busiest month.)
Suffice to say, the entirety of spring break season has been very similar to before Thanksgiving–the week that Genie+ Collapsed in Crowds. Before these rides were moved over to the Genie+ service, many readers complained of limited ride reservation availability. Since then, Walt Disney World has added a ‘warning’ that “on average, guests can enter 2 to 3 attractions or experiences per day using the Lightning Lane entrance if the first selection is made early in the day.” (Read more in Genie+ Really is Paid FastPass+ at Walt Disney World.)
In a nutshell, there have been many problems with Lightning Lanes and the paid FastPass service. Those first appeared during last year’s holiday season and since resurfaced this year during spring break season. These issues range from increased technical difficulties to limited ride reservation inventory with the whole system and technical infrastructure placed under greater usage.
From our perspective, the biggest “addressable” issue is that Genie+ Lightning Lane availability for many popular attractions was gone not long after park opening. Slinky Dog Dash was unavailable well before that, booking up for the entire day within minutes of 7 am.
There were virtually no worthwhile options by midday, meaning that even savvy users of Genie+ are likely only getting a couple of “good” selections per day. Novices or those visiting parks other than Magic Kingdom would likely be doing worse. Some readers reported only scoring 1-2 Lightning Lane selections via Genie+ for the entire day.
In an effort to remedy this, Walt Disney World reallocated one Individual Lightning Lane attraction per park to Genie+ during peak holiday travel dates last year–the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year’s. That actually relieved quite a bit of stress on the system–but it also “helped” that those peak season holiday dates ended up being less busy than the week of Thanksgiving.
Likely seeing the exact same scenario starting to play out, Walt Disney World is once again moving Individual Lightning Lane attractions to the Genie+ ride roster. This time, it’s for a much longer window.
Through August 7, 2022, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Hollywood Studios, Frozen Ever After at Epcot, and Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom will be included in the flat-rate Disney Genie+ service and will not be sold a la carte as Individual Lightning Lane purchase options.
April 14, 2022 Update: Upon reopening, Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain at Animal Kingdom will also join the Genie+ roster:
We’d recommend anyone visiting Walt Disney World during the busy spring break and summer seasons follow our Walt Disney World Itineraries. In addition to that, below are our Genie+ ride rankings for each park, along with quick addendums for where each of the aforementioned attractions slot into those priorities:
Let’s turn to commentary on the why of this, plus thoughts on the future. Some of you, let’s call you the optimists of the group, might see this as a sign that Individual Lightning Lanes are “failing” and that’s forcing Walt Disney World to drop an attraction from each park.
While that’s possible, we’re highly skeptical of that being the motivation for this. It’s true that Expedition Everest and Space Mountain have not sold particularly well for many dates, with near-immediate return times much of the time and lower standby waits, as well.
By contrast, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Frozen Ever After have been doing really strong numbers in the last few months, even on non-peak days. Both started out slowly for the first couple months after Genie+ debuted, but have had solid sales since. They would’ve both done well in the coming weeks when crowds are forecast to be higher.
Space Mountain likewise would’ve seen a bump in sales during spring break and summer. Ditto Expedition Everest once it reopens. It’s also difficult to say what good/bad sales look like for those under normal crowd levels, as ILL is pure profit. Even with near-immediate returns, those Individual Lightning Lanes might’ve been meeting expectations for Disney.
More likely, this change is being made to prevent Genie+ from being overwhelmed during periods of high demand, which is what it sounds like has been occurring during the Presidents’ Day/Princess Half Marathon crowd surge. When Genie+ is useless or guests feel they aren’t getting their money’s worth, there are long lines at Guest Relations, refunds are issued for Genie+ and guest satisfaction scores drop.
None of that is good for Walt Disney World, which is why this change is being made. I know many of us are overly cynical about Disney because of *gestures at all of the negative changes to the guest experience of the last 2 years* but there are not ulterior motives here. Quite simply, it’s to improve the guest experience.
Before we get carried away patting Walt Disney World on the back here, we should add the very important caveat that 3 of the 4 parks shouldn’t have Individual Lightning Lanes, period, because their eligible attraction capacity is too low to sustain the system.
Or, they should cap sales of Genie+ to make it more pleasant. Really, this is a matter of Disney (partially) “solving” a problem of its own creation. No applause necessary for that.
There are two ways of adding more attraction capacity at Walt Disney World, with the first being to build more attractions. Given that it’s taking them ~6 years to clone a launched motorbike roller coaster in a warehouse from Shanghai Disneyland, this doesn’t seem like a realistic short-term suggestion.
Another would be to add stage shows, character meet & greets, nighttime spectaculars, and parades. Some of those are low capacity and don’t help a ton. Another would be to add Lightning Lanes to things that don’t really need line-skipping. This happened during the FastPass+ era and “worked” pretty well (if success is measured by giving guests an option, not saving them time).
The final one is to remove Individual Lightning Lanes and roll those into the Genie+ service, which is what Walt Disney World is doing here. Prior to this change, that might’ve seemed like the least likely option, because money. However, the case could be made that including them with Genie+ would increase purchases of that system and/or guest satisfaction, and ultimately be a net positive for Disney’s bottom line.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Walt Disney World adopts the other approaches in the coming weeks and months. Will we see Festival of Fantasy Parade or Harmonious viewing at some point? More meet & greets added to the lineup? (On a tangentially related note, I’m downright shocked that Disney still hasn’t increased the price for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. It made sense over the holiday season as being “too soon,” but I’m surprised that change didn’t happen simultaneously with this news.)
Ultimately, this changes the equation for purchasing Genie+ when visiting Walt Disney World in the coming months. Previously, we’ve said that crowd levels in the 6/10 to 8/10 range were the sweet spot for buying Genie+, with it being unnecessary when numbers are lower and frustrating/less useful during peak season. This should expand that range in both directions, making Genie+ more useful in slightly lower and slightly higher crowds–but probably not on peak 10/10 days.
This does nothing to alter the “frustrating” part of that–unless Disney IT magically irons out a decade worth of problems in the coming months, intermittent tech problems will persist. However, assuming you don’t mind some My Disney Experience glitches and email codes, Genie+ is an absolute no brainer for Magic Kingdom. The same is true for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so long as you go in with a strong strategy and awareness that availability for headliners goes fast. Epcot is more of an open question, with my gut saying it’s probably going to be hard to score both Test Track and Frozen Ever After in the same day. The best-value approach there will be Park Hopping between DHS and Epcot.
We’ll continue to keep you posted with on-the-ground reports and developments about Genie+ at Walt Disney World. As noted at the top of the post, we’ll be in the parks at Walt Disney World this weekend and next week to do more testing. Things are really busy right now with Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser and the start of the 2022 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival, but we’ll do our best to get updates out ASAP.
What are your thoughts on Walt Disney World moving an Individual Lightning Lane attraction from each park to Genie+? Think it’s a sign of ILL failure, or a simple rebalancing of demand and capacity? Think it’ll turn into a permanent change anywhere? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? 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!