Disney officially announced that MaxPass and free FastPass are being retired and replaced by the paid Genie+ app feature and Lightning Lane line at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. This post covers everything you need to know about the new system, plus how it’ll be both similar and different to its Walt Disney World counterparts.
For starters, let’s address the “old” system at Disneyland and DCA, which was one of several things temporarily suspended when the parks reopened earlier this year. At Disneyland Resort, free FastPass was the legacy paper system, obtainable at kiosks near attractions throughout the two parks. Guests obtained a FastPass reminder paper, received a designated return time, and when that window opened, scanned their park tickets to enter the FastPass return line, and waited ~10 minutes before boarding the attraction.
MaxPass was a paid digital service allowing guests digital downloads of their PhotoPass images, and the ability to book their choice of FastPass return times via the Disneyland App. MaxPass cost $20 per day or $125 per year for Annual Passholders. The digital upcharge was a relatively recent addition, iterating on Walt Disney World’s free FastPass+ system but offering only same-day ride reservations rather than advance booking like at Walt Disney World.
Per Disneyland, Disney Genie is coming in Fall 2021 as a complimentary and convenient new digital service designed to customize your day in Disneyland and DCA. Disney Genie will offer better tools to make planning easier and provide guests with greater flexibility.
Built right into the Disneyland app, the Disney Genie service will maximize your park time, so you can have more fun. It includes a personalized itinerary feature that will quickly and seamlessly map out an entire day. From specific attractions, foodie experiences and entertainment, to general interests like Disney princesses, villains, Pixar, Star Wars, thrill rides and more. Just tell Disney Genie what you want to do and it will do the planning for you.
Here are a few more features of the Disney Genie feature in the Disneyland app:
Get Itinerary Updates from Morning to Night: Disney Genie will continue to update your itinerary throughout your day, so you can be more spontaneous and go with the flow.
Find Your Favorites at a Glance: Create your very own personal tip board to instantly see your favorites. It will display current AND forecasted future wait times, helping you predict when you might experience quicker entry to attractions.
Enjoy More Flexibility and Fun: Disney Genie brings existing planning features together in one place. Join a virtual queue at certain attractions, make dining and experience reservations, mobile order food at many locations, get help from a virtual assistant and more.
For even more convenience and flexibility, there are two other options for enjoying Disneyland and DCA, through the Lightning Lane queue, which is replacing the FastPass line:
Disney Genie+ service (available for purchase): For the price of $20 per ticket per day at Disneyland Resort, choose the next available time to arrive at a variety of attractions and experiences using the Lightning Lane entrance. You can make one selection at a time, throughout the day – from classics like Haunted Mansion to thrill rides like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and newer favorites like Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run (attractions subject to limited availability). This convenient option is the next evolution of the fan-favorite Disney MaxPass service from Disneyland Resort. Disney Genie+ will also include Disney parks-themed audio experiences and unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads from your day at Disneyland Resort.
Individual attraction selections (available for purchase): Schedule a time to arrive at up to two highly demanded attractions each day using the Lightning Lane entrance – like Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure (subject to limited availability; attractions not included with Disney Genie+). Pricing for this option will vary by date, attraction and park and will be announced closer to launch.
Lightning Lane selections will be made on the same day of your visit and can be used across multiple theme parks, great for those who love the Park Hopper option. Attractions continue to offer a traditional standby queue, or a virtual queue at certain attractions like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in Disneyland or Web Slingers: Spider-Man Adventure in DCA.
Above is a video that explains how the Disney Genie app feature, Genie+ and Lightning Lanes will all work.
Finally, Disneyland is also making some enhancements to the Disability Access Service (DAS) program, including new options to enroll in the program pre-arrival and for DAS participants to select attractions directly in the app. These options will be available in addition to the existing, in-person DAS program.
Now let’s turn to some thoughts on Genie+ and Lightning Lanes replacing MaxPass and FastPass queues at Disneyland Resort…
There’s far less commentary for Disneyland’s introduction of Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, and that’s in large part because the first half of this system feels very familiar. In fact, Genie+ is essentially a rebranded MaxPass with a modified presentation.
Pricing is the same, added benefits of Genie+ sound the same, and while it’s still early, the mechanics or “rules” of the Genie+ system sound very similar. On both coasts, Genie+ has a lot more in common with MaxPass than FastPass+, but there are further tweaks at Disneyland that suggest it’s a direct successor.
With that said, Genie+ is not entirely the same as what existed at Disneyland pre-closure.
Critically, the MaxPass system was complemented by legacy FastPass. Even after the introduction of MaxPass, free paper FastPass kiosks remained available as an alternative at Disneyland Resort, meaning guests were not confronted with the Sophie’s Choice of spending money for MaxPass or waiting in nothing but long standby lines.
In fact, that was a huge basis for us becoming proponents of MaxPass–it wasn’t upcharge or nothing. Free FastPass didn’t offer the same upsides, but with a bit of hustle, Disneyland guests who didn’t pay extra could still put in the “work” and beat the crowds. It wasn’t a totally level playing field–sort of like when the Dodgers play the Angels in Los Angeles.
Now, there will be no such free option, aside from just waiting in the standby line. That’s a distinction that absolutely cannot be overlooked, and puts guests who don’t pay the upcharge at a significant disadvantage–sort of like if the Dodgers played USC at Dodger Stadium.
But that’s not all. In addition to the free FastPass option being retired at Disneyland, an a la carte Lightning Lane option will be introduced for headliner attractions, which will not be eligible for Genie+. This means guests who want to efficiently experience every attraction at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will be paying more than $20 per day–the cost will be higher, either in money or time.
This isn’t a huge deal as it’ll only apply to a handful of attractions, but typically those were among the best options for MaxPass. In other words, the a la carte “carve out” does diminish the value of Genie+ as compared to MaxPass. Not by a significant amount, but not by a negligible amount, either. Most of this will be possible to mitigate with rope dropping the a la carte attractions or hitting them at the end of the night.
Then there’s all of the Fantasyland dark rides, and it’s fairly unlikely that these will ever be added to Genie+ or Lightning Lane. These quaint attractions were all built half a century ago, when Disneyland operated very differently.
There’s barely enough physical space to accommodate the current lines, and it seems highly unlikely that these could be retrofit in such a way to add another line for FastPass returns. (Fortunately, you can knock out all of them pretty quickly with a solid Disneyland Rope Drop Strategy.)
As discussed elsewhere, we were “late adopters” of MaxPass and, ironically enough, became even more vocal advocates for its purchase shortly before Disneyland closed.
When MaxPass first became available, we opted against adding it on to our Annual Passes (much to the consternation of our friends, all of whom had it). While we knew we could get more done with MaxPass, the upcharge rubbed us the wrong way and we felt fine with how much we were accomplishing via paper FastPasses.
After upgrading to Premier Annual Passes, we used MaxPass a ton more, and it was a revelation. The ability to minimize walking, book MaxPasses during midday hotel breaks or while eating lunch, or simply using the refresh method to score MaxPasses that are unavailable via the kiosks were all huge advantages.
We also far prefer early mornings and late nights at Disneyland. Using MaxPass allowed us to do rope drop and then head to Laguna Beach or Los Angeles to relax for the day–booking more FastPasses while there–before returning at night with our stockpile ready to go.
Most of this sentiment will translate to the new Genie+. Nevertheless, these modifications with Genie+ and Lightning Lanes do change the equation.
For a party of four spending three days in the parks, that amounts to a total cost of $240 if choosing Genie+ over waiting in the standby lines. While that cost is not insignificant, it is absolutely worth the premium. That likely amounts to an additional 5+ attractions per day even over the most efficient itinerary done only via standby lines. (Plus whatever value you ascribe to the PhotoPass downloads.)
For us, the a la carte Lightning Lane is a totally different story. Even though a bundle like Genie+ ends up having a per attraction cost, it’s theoretically unlimited. Moreover, it’s part of a larger package that effectively conceals how much you’re paying for each.
Personally, my max for any individual attractions is $0. While I’m definitely unrepresentative of all guests, consider how many Annual Passholders, DVC Members, and other repeat visitors there are at Disneyland. Some regulars probably have a higher threshold than I do, but how many are going to pay for individual rides? Our guess is a very low, single digit percentage.
The upside to that lower adoption rate for a la carte Lightning Lane is it means standby lanes will move faster and wait times will generally be lower for the headliners that use it. This is not to say the lines will be short–even on a “slow” day, Radiator Springs Racers can have hour-plus posted wait times–just that the standby line won’t be nearly as bad as was the case with FastPass and MaxPass.
We’ll figure out the best strategy for minimizing our wait times in those a la carte Lightning Lane attractions, and do them then. That’ll almost certainly involve doing them right at park opening or shortly before closing time.
Ultimately, there’s a lot less to say about Genie+ and Lightning Lane when it comes to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. That’s because, as compared to Walt Disney World, this is not nearly as seismic of a shift. Genie+ sounds very similar to MaxPass, a system we highly recommended to tourists and came to love.
With that said, this is an unequivocal downgrade. Not having any free option aside from standby lines taints our previously high opinion of the offering, even if it is basically the same thing but with a new name. Moreover, it’s not totally the same thing–the a la carte Lightning Lanes dilute the value of Genie+ as compared to MaxPass. That’s not a huge deal to us as we’re now visiting as tourists who feel pretty confident we can work around that limitation with early mornings and late nights in the parks.
When it comes to the California v. Florida comparison, there are also the practical realities of visiting each. This is something we touched upon in our commentary to the Walt Disney World Genie+ post, but it bears reiterating. Average trip duration and total cost is typically significantly lower when visiting Disneyland. In Anaheim, you can easily book an off-site hotel that’s a 10 minute walk from the parks (closer than Paradise Pier Hotel or Disneyland Hotel!) and costs $150 per night, and put the money you saved over staying on-site towards Genie+ and/or a la carte Lightning Lanes.
This isn’t to say Genie+ is worth the $20 per day per person price point. It’s more to illustrate that visiting Disneyland as a tourist on a budget who doesn’t want to make significant sacrifices is easier than it is at Walt Disney World. That was true before Genie+ and remains the case after. While there will undoubtedly be Disneyland fans upset about this change, the backlash isn’t going to be nearly as negative since the circumstances between the two coasts are so vastly different.
Thoughts on Genie+ and Lightning Lanes replacing FastPass and MaxPass? Will you use Genie+ now that the digital ride reservation service is $20 per day and won’t include a couple of headlines in each park? Think you’ll end up purchasing a la carte Lightning Lane access? Even with the added cost, do you prefer this to FastPass or would you rather have the free service? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? 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!