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New Disney patent application reveals that FASTPASS-for-pay is not so far away

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New Disney patent application reveals that FASTPASS-for-pay is not so far away

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Do you want to be sure that you can score some FASTPASSES for your favorite Disney theme park attractions the next time you visit Anaheim or Orlando? Well, if that's really the case, then you'd best make reservations now for one of Disney's high end hotels.

Why For? Well, according to information that's buried down deep in a patent application that the Walt Disney Company filed on August 30th :

"Spending per guest at hotels can (be used to determine) different hierarchies (for) access to Fastpass. Thus, the more that is spent by a patron, the higher the priority (they will receive) for Fastpass."

Copyright 1999 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Different levels and hierarchies can (then) be applicable at different hotels. Thus, (guests who stay at Disney's) more luxurious hotels can have higher priorities (to the resort's virtual queuing system)."

This is just one of the FASTPASS-related bombshells that you'll discover as you read through United States Patent Application 20070203763. Which goes into great detail about an application to manage the " ... flow of persons and advertisement distribution via wireless media" that Mickey is looking to patent.

Among the ideas that the Imagineers are allegedly looking to field-test in a theme park near you very soon is a paperless, booked-24-hours-in-advance FASTPASS.

As described in Patent Application 2007020376, Disney resort guests -- after they've checked in to their respective hotels -- would be directed to turn on the digital televisions (DTVs) that they'll find in their rooms. For these interactive units will soon be directly tied into the resort's own master computer system. Which will then give these guests advance access to the FASTPASS system.

This DTV-based reservation system will allow Disney resort guests to book their FASTPASSES the night before and/or the day of their visit to the theme park. What's more, all of this virtual queuing-based information can then be downloaded directly onto that guests' cell phone.

And then ... Well, Mickey plans on use all this hi-tech stuff to take all of the drudgery (Or should I say independent thought?) out of your next visit to a Disney theme park?

How so? Well, how would you like it if your cell phone rang 15 minutes prior to the time that you were due to get in line for that FASTPASS attraction that you'd booked in advance? Just as a reminder that it was now time to start making your way over to the entrance of that ride or show.

Or -- better yet -- what if your cell phone were to suddenly start ringing as you were walking through the park? And -- as you answered that call -- you got a message that told you that the attraction that you'd booked FASTPASSES for later in the day had just broken down. And -- because of that -- Disney's main computer was now offering you the opportunity to put yourself in the virtual queue for  another attraction in that theme park. Wouldn't that be a cool new feature of Disney's FASTPASS system?

Best of all, when it finally comes time to actually get in that FASTPASS line, you won't need a really-for-real ticket any longer. You just show the cast member who'll be watching over the entrance of this attraction the virtual FASTPASS that you'll have on display on the screen of your cell phone and -- BAM ! -- you're in.

Mind you, not all of the changes that are proposed to Disney's FASTPASS system are going to be embraced with enthusiasm by the public. Particularly those day visitors to the parks, who are sure to be upset when they learn that ...

" ... those visitors staying in a (Disney) resort hotel planning a visit for the next day may be granted a higher priority than those patrons (who are just) visiting the park for the day."

Translation: Disney really is planning on cutting back on the number of FASTPASSES that they'll be distributing daily inside the parks. In the future, look for the Mouse to increasingly reserve this perk for those guests who are willing pay big bucks to stay in Disney's on-property and/or partner resorts.

Another possible aspect of this new application that's sure to be controversial will be Disney's ability (once a guest has used their cell phone to tap into the FASTPASS system) to then track this individual's movements around the resort through their handheld device. Quoting now from the patent application:

Other examples include the ability to have a patron's or user's cellular telephone or wireless device be tracked as that person moves around the facility, or defined area. For instance, this provides for locating guests or patrons and for the central facility computer to track the location of guests and patrons, and make recommendations as necessary to those persons. In an entertainment environment, when a particular attraction is non-functional for instance as a priority system or at all, the recommendations can suggest alternative attractions or activities to the patrons.

Which -- admittedly -- sounds like a fairly innocent application of this technology. Though I'd imagine that rabid right-to-privacy types will have a very different reaction once they learn that the Mouse may soon have technology that will then allow them to track tourists' movements around the Magic Kingdom through their cell phones.

Copyright 2001 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

So what do you folks think? Do these proposed changes to Disney's FASTPASS system upset you? Or are you downright eager to use your cell phone to gain admission to your favorite theme park attraction?

Your thoughts?

Special thanks to Len Testa of the "Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World" & "WDW Today" for giving me a "head's up" about this particular patent application

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  • <<<Though I'd imagine that rabid right-to-privacy types will have a very different reaction once they learn that the Mouse may soon have technology that will then allow them to track tourists' movements around the Magic Kingdom through their cell phones.>>>  

    I thought this was funny, because Disney tracks guests movements now thru their credit card activity.  People give a credit card at checkin to use for room charges on their key cards.......  this allows Disney to follow them as they move around the parks, every time they use that perk.  

    As for the changes to Fast pass, it makes some sense, look at Universal's system.  My family books expensive rooms at Universal hotels, to get that front of the line benefit!  

  • Woah, when I saw the title, I thought Jim meant that guests will have to BUY Fastpasses!

  • I would need to know more about how they can track you using your cell phone. I know that function exists but thought only my cell phone company could actually track you.

    If Disney can do it without your knowledge or permission, who is to say they would stop at the front gate of the attraction? Would they monitor you to see if you went to the hated Universal Parks? Would you be punished with less FastPasses for this non-Disney behavior? Using this system, that would certainly be possible!

    Of course all this sounds a little too complicated for wide scale implementation. I thought a vacation was to get away from cell phones, PDA's, and laptops. Now I have alarms going off telling me I'm late for my meeting - oh I mean an attraction that is supposed to be an escape from reality. Thanks but no thanks!

  • Actually, Jim "is" talking about FastPass-for-pay. I remember when you could take your family to a sporting event and it would be less than $100 for a family of four. Now you have to be a corporation to afford good seats. Its not too far away, that as the population of the world grows, that Disney will be able to limit prefered access to only those that can afford the high cost of the on property hotels.

  • Well, I don't know nothing 'bout this new fangled technology. When I was forced to get a cellphone, I asked for the fewest options and the least bells and whistles. Still ended up with a phone that's a combination camera, timer, calculator, music box, flashlight, and microwave oven. The first thing that occurred to non-technological me was - why not cut and paste your dream fast passes on your computer, then either take a picture of them or upload them to your camera - poof - fast passes all day. I'm sure these kids today could figure out how to make 'em look real good.

    Otherwise - more stuff for folks staying on-site? Excellent. It might make me reserve an on-site room again. Currently, you can get a larger room with breakfast included for less money by staying offsite - both in Anaheim and Orlando.  Fast passes aren't the incentive that will get me to switch back to on-site, but they probably will for many. I was always confused when staying at the Grand California in Anaheim or the Concierge level of Animal Kingdom Lodge how few actual perks there were. At $500 a night or more, a few fastpasses, a photo with Mickey, the ability to get dinner reservations when you want don't seem out of line to me. Obviously, the rooms are selling just fine without the perks so why bother? The last few times I stayed at Disney hotels the attitude was "you should consider yourself lucky to be accepted at our hotel, and be willing to pay for that priviledge." That just doesn't say enjoyable vacation to me.

  • i think its an excellent idea.  If people are willing to pay extra for Disney rooms then it is logical they get the extra perks.

  • As others have pointed out, Disney can't use cell phones to track guest movement.  (1) Only the cell provider has this info and (2) the info is extremely limited.  Basically, you can tell what "cell" a phone is in.  A cell could be something as large as the Magic Kingdom or Epcot.  So basically, even if Disney could get this info, all they would know is when a guest arrived and left, basically, which I assume would be worthless.  However, if they used a newly developed handheld devise (that Disney owned and offered to guests) well then, yes, it could be arranged to track guest movements.  But really, if these guests are going from fast pass attraction to fast pass attraction to lunch (already tracked via a food plan) to a fast pass attraction, then Disney already knows where they are going.

  • Just another example of how LOW the big corporation can stoop to market its products and try to coerse you into feeling somehow "guilty" if you aren't on board with the entire Disney brand.... all of the time.

    I have never heard of such a stupid idea.

    Who are they fooling here?   You give them your phone number so they can call you 15 minutes before you need to get in line and do what?  Oh yeah ... endure listening the entire 15 minutes to advertisments for everything else they want to sell you. Racking up your minutes ... distracting you from quality time with the PEOPLE you are with .... assuming that you simply MUST have to be a Jack Sparrow, Finding Nemo, or High School Musical finatic to even be in the place to begin with ....

    How dare you even set foot in our "land" without paying $400 a night or owning every DVD sequel.

    I simply can't understand the Disney as a "way of life" concept ...

    I just want good rides and shows ... and some that take you somewhere OTHER than into the movies and TV shows in a shameless attempt to sell you a DVD on your way out.

    Now they want to mess with our fair access to these products?

    Crazy .... just crazy.

  • My first thought was - what about us poor visitors from overseas? First of all, sometimes our cell phones don't even work in the US so would be have to pay to have a phone that works? Also, when cell phones do work, the cost of using them abroad can be really high so again, not only do I have to pay more to stay in a Disney hotel but now I have to swallow the cost of the calls too??

    It's a shame if Disney do go down this route because I've always admired the fact that fastpasses were free while other theme park companies happily charge for theirs. I thought it was an example of great customer service but it turns out to be another revenue source... sad.

  • WOW!  We are SLOWLY returning to Walt's old model... the purchase of tickets for ride access.  Yeah, this is an ultra hi-tech way of getting there.  And you don't ACTUALLY pay for ride access (you just pay to stay at expensive resorts and get fast passes).  But the net result is the same.  You pay a fee to enter and pay more to ride more.  This model kept lines manageable, controlled crowds, and provided a funding/rationale for attraction developement at Disneyland for almost thirty years.  I have ZERO problem with this idea... I only hope that they don't price little ol' schoolteacher Disney-fan ME out of the market!!!!!!!!!! :-)

  • It's not a surprise.  The Walt Disney Company is a business after all, and giving your higher end customers a few extra perks is just smart business.  I will say that WDW having the ability to track my movements is incredibly disturbing.  Hopefully the company will see what a PR nightmare this is destined to become and abandon those plans before they even get off the ground.

  • I think you guys are all off base here. Jim's not talking about using YOUR cell phone (I don't think). He's talking about Disney ISSUING you a cell phone that would do all this stuff. I mean think about it ... how the hell would they get a virtual Fastpass on YOUR cell phone? Yeah, they could possibly email you a picture of one I guess, but what if your phone has no email??

    No, this is some kind of limited functionality, Disney issued cell phone that they'd use.

    And, IMO, it's dumb anyway. I'm not interested in all this crap (and I'm a technology guy!!!). When I'm on vacation I want to leave all that *** behind and just relax. That's why I hated Pal Mickey ... the stupid thing never SHUT UP!!

  • This is news to me.  As an annual passholder, I'm very disappointed.  I might stay at a Disney hotel once or twice a year for special occassions, but I usually just go for the day otherwise.  I know that Disney probably doesn't care as much about the annual passholders, but don't take this away from us.  When I go to WDW, usually the first thing I do is grab a Fastpass somewhere.  Now I'll have to wait in line for 60 minutes + to ride Splash Mountain, then another 60 minutes + to ride Big Thunder Mountain?  (I'm jaded since it's been summer for a while!)  Part of me can understand (thought I don't agree with it) "punishing" the guests staying off-property by offering more Fastpasses to those staying at Disney hotels, but to take the Fastpasses away from the annual passholders would suck.  

    Also, my cell phone is 4 years old- I can't even download ringtones or backgrounds or anything.  I'll be getting a new one by the end of the year, but what about those guests who are not up-to-date with fancy cell phones?  Do they just not get their Fastpasses?  Or could they go to the desk at the hotel and get paper ones?  

    This whole thing makes me upset at Disney.  I don't go to Universal- can anyone tell me how it is a) buying their equivalent to Fastpasses, and b) how it is not buying their equivalent to Fastpasses?

  • >>As for the changes to Fast pass, it makes some sense, look at Universal's system.<<

    That is in my opinion a poor analogy.  Universal's system is horrendous.  You can't get a pass for most rides period unless you arrive early in the day, or buy them in the gift shops.  It's one of the top three reasons I'm no longer a Universal AP holder, and is undoubtedly a major contributor to their abysmal performance in the Orlando tourism market.

  • >>i think its an excellent idea.<<

    I disagree.

    >> If people are willing to pay extra for Disney rooms then it is logical they get the extra perks.<<

    Yes, let them get extra perks, but let Disney provide those perks, not me.  As an AP holder (or a day visitor to the parks) I'm paying for the same park admission ticket as anyone else.  That means I'm paying for the same access to FPs as everyone else.  That means that by giving deluxe resort guests preferential access to FPs, Disney is not providing extra perks to those resort guests -- I am!

    It's not spelled out either way in the patent application, but I think it's safe to assume that any revenue generated by this perk will end up going to Disney, rather than to the people who are providing the perk by paying the same admission price for a lesser guest experience.

    I suppose many deluxe resort guests understandably believe that they are entitled to better treatment by Disney, based on all the money they're spending, and I can't disagree with that.  What I strenuously disagree with, however, is the notion that the rest of us should subsidize that treatment.  And whether you agree or not, when we show up at MK for the afternoon only to find that FPs for not only the Disney Mountains, but also Buzz Lightyear, Pooh, and even Stitch are gone by noon, having been given to resort guests the day before, that is exactly how it will be perceived.  Universal has learned the hard way that they can't force such subsidization, and that given the choice, those who are made to feel like second-class guests will vote with their feet.

    Now I have some faith (or at least hope) that Disney won't do anything to actively harm any of their guests, despite the evidence to the contrary that this patent filing strongly represents.  But I can say with certainty that if the Disney experience becomes anything like the Universal experience, the year in which that happens will be my last as an AP holder.  Assuming I am not alone in my sentiments (and I can't imagine that I am), the rest of you will not only have priority FP access, but also very short standby lines as attendance declines.

    Just keep in mind that Disney is a business, and as such they are not only naturally driven but legally required to try to make as much money as they can for shareholders.  If in fact they are poised to take action designed to drive AP holders, day visitors, and off-site vacationers (and our dollars) out of the parks, they must be planning on making up that revenue somewhere.  They don't seem to have any problem filling rooms, so they are presumably not counting on increased deluxe resort *volume* to do this -- which leaves just one unconstrained variable...

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