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1st beta test of MyMagic+ gets a somewhat mixed response from WDW Guests

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1st beta test of MyMagic+ gets a somewhat mixed response from WDW Guests

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So it's been a week now since the first big on-property beta test of MyMagic+ was held, where Guests staying at four different WDW resorts were given the opportunity to personalize their vacation experiences.

Of course, when these people elected to be part of the MyMagic+ beta test, I don't think that they realized that " ... personalizing their vacation experiences" meant that these folks were going to get to know the Cast Members who worked at the Front Desk at their particular WDW resort really, really well. But all too often, that was the case. Given that many of the WDW Guests who took part in last week's MyMagic+ beta test had to make repeated trips to the Front Desk or Guest Relations to deal with malfunctioning or mis-programmed MagicBands.

Photo by Nancy Stadler

To be fair here, The Walt Disney World Resort was very upfront about this being a beta test of MyMagic+, FastPass+ and MagicBands. And those who experiencing difficulties and wanted to opt out were immediately allowed to exit the test.

What was far more interesting (at least from Disney World executives' point of view, anyway) were the large number of Guests who -- after seeing other WDW visitors walking around the Resort, using their MagicBands to enter the theme parks or make purchases -- then immediately went to Guest Relations to ask about the beta test.

As one veteran Guest Relations staffer told me late last week:

Photo by Nancy Stadler

"Yes, we did see a number of Guests who were having some issues with their MagicBands. And we'd quickly direct them to a Cast Member who could then set them up with a new pin number or help straighten out whatever problems they were having with their dinner reservations.

But we must have had 10 times that amount of people coming into Guest Relations during the beta test who then wanted to know what the deal was with those MagicBands that they'd seen other Guests wearing. And when we explained that this was a beta test that had only been offered to a limited number of Guests, these people would then get all incensed and start complaining loudly about how their family wasn't being given the opportunity to be part in the MyMagic+ testing.

It was kind of a wild couple of days to be working at Guest Relations. I even had one guy try and bribe me so that he & his family could then be issued MagicBands right there on the spot."

Photo by Nancy Stadler

So as you can see, the first week of beta testing on MyMagic+ was kind of a mixed bag. With many of the Guests who had signed up to be part of this test experiencing various issues with their MagicBands while dozens upon dozens of other WDW visitors who were at the Resort at this same time then making it very clear that they wanted in ASAP when it came to the My Disney Experience program.

This is why -- in spite of the fact that there are clearly a number of software bugs which have yet to be cleared up -- The Walt Disney Company has already moved ahead with Phase Two of the MyMagic+ program. And that involves promotion.

To explain: For members of the online Disneyana community who have been following MyMagic+, My Disney Experience and MagicBands since news of this program first began to leak out in the Spring of 2012, no explanation of this program's perks & privileges is necessary. But as for the other 99.999% of would-be Walt Disney World visitors, MyMagic+ -- with its various online & mobile tools which will then allow Guests to reserve access to entertainment, Character Greetings and viewing areas for parades -- some education really is in order.

The folks on the Merchandise side of The Walt Disney
World Resort already obviously believe that Magic
Bands will eventually be a huge hit with Guests.
Otherwise would they have prepared such a
wide variety of styles of bands ... Photo by
Nancy Stadler

So who did Disney decide to make the spokesperson for its MyMagic+ program? Would you believe Edna Mode, that diminutive-yet-fierce super-hero costume designer from "The Incredibles ." Here's a transcript of the informational spot (which repurposes footage from that 2004 Pixar Animation Studios release) which The Walt Disney World Resort put together to try & explain MyMagic+. Which has Edna conversing with her robotic aid as she strides purposely through her austere home.

As Ms. Mode's automaton explains, MyMagic+ is ...

AUTOMATON: ... a way for you and your family to take your Walt Disney World vacation to a whole new level. Welcome to MyMagic+.

... and MagicSliders that can then be slid over the outside of these bands ...
Photo by Nancy Stadler

EDNA: The name was a dispute. I won.

AUTOMATON: MyMagic+ will make your Disney vacation much more personalized.

EDNA: That is the "My."

... in addition to MagicBits. Photo by Nancy Stadler

AUTOMATON: And provide myriad opportunities for maximum vacation enjoyment.

EDNA: That is the "Plus."

AUTOMATON: My. Magic. Plus.

And when you combine all of these MagicBands, MagicBits & MagicSliders ...
Photo by Nancy Stadler

EDNA: Yes. They understand. Moving on.

AUTOMATON: Beyond this door is an amazing new device that allows you to connect to all of the features of MyMagic+.  It's called a MagicBand.

EDNA: It's no mere accessory. Its power is substantial.

... you can then wind up with a very personalized MagicBand. Photo by Nancy Stadler

AUTOMATON: Quite substantial. The MagicBand allows you to tap into all of the magic of a Disney vacation.

EDNA: You must first tell them about ... Let's just say that you will need some quick instruction on all of its powers.

AUTOMATON: With the MagicBand on your wrist, you now become a high powered yet completely relaxed vacation super-hero. You will use your Band to enter the theme park ...

Photo by Nancy Stadler

EDNA: You will enter boldly.

AUTOMATON: You will access your FastPass attractions ...

EDNA: ... as if you owned the place.

Photo by Nancy Stadler

AUTOMATON: You will open the door to your room ...

EDNA: ... which you won't have to clean.

AUTOMATON: Make purchases ...

Photo by Nancy Stadler

EDNA: Cash is so passe.

AUTOMATON: Your new abilities extend beyond the MagicBand. With MyMagic+, you will gain the power to reserve your favorite things well in advance of your visit. Including attractions, fireworks and Disney character greetings. We call this feature FastPass+.

EDNA: The important thing is that this will allow you even more time to be spontaneous.

Photo by Nancy Stadler

AUTOMATON: The final point ... All of the magic actually begins here in a secret location known as ... your home. Here you will log in to My Disney Experience, the nerve center of MyMagic+. Allowing you to harness all of your new powers.

This concludes your briefing. Now simply log in to review all of your new options.

EDNA: Well done. Prepare to embrace your new powers.

Photo by Nancy Stadler

I have to admit that -- out of this whole promotional presentation (which will supposedly soon begin airing on the Walt Disney World website as well as the My Disney Experience webpage) -- the phrase that stuck out most to me was Edna's claim that using MyMagic+ will give WDW Guests " ... even more time to be spontaneous."

Which I get. I mean, if you're walking into the Magic Kingdom knowing that you already have ride times booked for four of that theme park's most popular rides & attractions AND you've already locked in a time to meet with your daughter's favorite Disney Princess AND you're guaranteed primo view spots for that afternoon's parade and that evening's fireworks display AND your family's breakfast & dinner character dining reservations were taken care months ago ... Well, that does then allow you to be pretty spontaneous with the rest of your day at the Magic Kingdom. Provided -- of course -- that you can still manage to be on time for all of your previously-booked attraction times, meal reservations, etc.

That's the part of MyMagic+ that kind of concerns me. That -- rather than going to Walt Disney World and then deciding when you get up in the morning which theme park you'd like to go to that day -- to make the most of My Disney Experience, you'd got to make a lot of decisions weeks & months before you actually get down to Orlando. Which -- to my way of thinking -- does take a good amount of the spontaneity out of your WDW vacation experience.

Photo by Nancy Stadler

But for those people who save up for years & years for their family's Walt Disney World vacation, whose trip down to Orlando really is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, is the lack of spontaneity which is now involved with their visit to the Magic Kingdom really going to matter in the face of four booked-in-advance FastPasses to that theme park's most popular attractions? Or a guaranteed primo viewing spot for that day's parade or that night's fireworks display?

That's why -- in spite of all of the constant carping about MyMagic+ that I read on the discussion boards of various Disneyana websites -- I wonder how members of the general public are going to react to the My Disney Experience program once it officially gets rolled out? Will the perks & privileges that one can take advantage of by booking ride times & character greetings weeks & months ahead of time on the MyMagic+ website really be enough to out-weigh the whole you-have-to-do-your-homework-before-you-can-then-go-out-and-play feel that currently pervades this program?

What are your thoughts on this? More to the point, are there any JHM readers out there who actually got to take part in last week's MyMagic+ beta test? If so, what sort of experiences did you & your family have while you were out test-driving the My Disney Experience program?

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  • Spontaneous means that you can make purchases without realizing how much you are spending!  And, of course, you have to start with the sliders and accessories for the bands themselves.!

  • It's a fair article, Jim, which discusses the positives and negatives with recent beta testing.  

    But I find the whole "lack of spontaneity" argument doesn't hold a lot of water.  How many guests have walked in to a popular restaurant in Epcot only to find that you need to get reservations months in advance?  Do people also feel that restaurants who take reservations decrease spontaneity?  Of course not, and does getting a FastPass decrease spontaneity?  Might as well get rid of the whole Fast Pass system as well.  

    *If*, maybe a big if, but if the MagicBands let you change FastPasses on the fly, then they will make things more spontaneous as you can custom your FastPasses to your needs.  Let's say you start in the Magic Kingdom and get a FP for Splash four hours later, but decide to go to Epcot for the rest of the day for some odd reason, I am guessing that MagicBand will let you make reservations at a kiosk, and change FastPass from Splash to Soarin' . . .  maybe you can do this on the monorail over to Epcot.

    With the old paper Fast Passes, you couldn't change them once you got some.  I'm thinking with a paperless system, you'll be able to change FPs much easier.  

    As far as booking a special meet and greet with Cinderella . . . if such a thing is offered, guests will probably be able to arrange such an experience without using MagicBands.  The MagicBands are just a tool, IMHO, and can be used in service of spontaneity.  

    The attacks on MagicBands are, in my opinion, the overly vocal minority of diehard fans who believes that Disney spent $1 billion on NextGen tech in WDW.  Wrong, the $1 billion is for the global rollout, and these are just estimates, might be $750 million for all Disney Parks.  Remember that MagicBands replace room keys, and save money in terms of paper tickets, paper fast passes and should drastically reduce wait time to get into the parks.  So from an infrastructure standpoint, this tech will save money and make the whole process more streamlined.

    I'm all for new attractions/lands at WDW, but the history of WDW, Epcot, kinda encourages innovation such as the MagicBands.  Its like the old video conference reservation kiosk at Epcot, only this time, the tech is more practical.  

    I can't remember if there were debates about loss of spontaneity with FastPass, but I think most guests love Fast Pass, its a neat little thing to get a reservation, especially if you get to skip a good part of the queues.  The pain with FastPass is keeping straight the FastPass cards, the park entrance tickets, the room keys . . . way cool if all this stuff could be put on a cell phone, and great if you can book this stuff without waiting in line for Fast Pass, yes, NextGen will allow for a virtual FastPass queue.  Some folks can reserve FPs way ahead of time, and some will probably be able to make reservations the same day.

    I think the real thing bugging annual passholders is that they are freaked out that they will get a yearly limit of FastPasses for certain rides, or that the "masses" will now be able to take full advantage of FastPass.  I don't think that will happen, but for the once in a lifetime visitor, it will sure help to get a FastPass for Space Mountain weeks in advance.

  • I figure it's exactly like you say Jim, it'll be useful for the average joe whose Disney vacation is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. But for experienced Disney masters, i.e. the kind of people who read this site, the perks just don't seem hefty enough to make it worthwhile.

  • In terms of "once in a lifetime" guests to WDW . . . who exactly are these folks who plan on visiting WDW just once, and yet somehow know to get FastPasses ahead of time for rides they've never been on?  Somebody would have to assume that Disneyland regulars plan a once in a lifetime trip to WDW and go online to decide what to get FastPass for.  Seriously, folks who have never been to WDW will be kinda clueless with regards to what attractions they want to book, though they might understand that booking parade seating is a good idea.

    If you've never been to WDW, might as well spend some time gawking at Splash's queue . . .

    I think the folks who go every 3-7 years to WDW know what they want and will reserve certain stuff ahead of time.  

    I think the regulars who go every year, month or week are concerned that FastPasses might be booked before they go to the park.  Maybe Disney will require annual passholders to use MagicBand for FastPass, and maybe they'll go online to try to book Space, but the newbies and those actually staying on property will be given priority, and maybe Disney will take into account the fact that the annual passholder just went on Space with FastPass last week three times.  

    Not saying this is going to happen, but there must be some reason why diehard fans are paranoid with regards to magic bands.

  • My friends and I saw that video at D23 Expo. The biggest question we came away with was whether or not Disney hired Brad Bird to to Edna's voice. :) Anywho...

    So. will MyMagic+ encourage spontaneity or be the death of it? I'm inclined to believe it'll be a little bit of both.

    I've seen how ADRs booked months in advance finding a place to eat at dinnertime next to impossible at WDW, and I've seen the frustration of many Guests who get shut out of those reservations or get to stand in a two hour line while folks with FastPass just breeze right in; those folks are going to be the same ones who don't realize all they can do with MyMagic+ and will look bewildered as lots of people around them take  advantage of it'. They're gong to have to be more spontaneous, because they're going to discover they won't be able to get much done while they're visiting.

    The folks who are the uberplanners will be somewhat relieved and somewhat frustrated - relieved because Disney's taken some of the planning burden off of them by setting things up in advance, but annoyed that more people will be doing the same thing, These folks aren't all that spontaneous at the World anyway, so MyMagic+ isn't gong to change them all that much anyway.

    The folks in the middle, who research a little or get friends' recommendations, but don't have their vacations fully planned out in advance? They'll probably like this - Disney's taken a bit of the hassle out of getting some of the big name rides and important meals planned for and done, and with the Fastpass+ reservations they'll  be offered for attractions that don't really  require Fastpass, they may catch an attraction or two they hadn't planned on visiting. Disney's hope if that these folks will have a little more time on their hands, and they might decide to be a little more spontaneous by getting on some other minor attraction, taking in some entertainment,  or doing a little more shopping (preferably the latter).    

    Now for why a lot of fans are ticked: Some of them are uber-planners who feel Disney's taking their super-special method for maximizing their enjoyment of the Disney parks and giving it to the unworthy, making them less special and slowing them down. Some are kinda creeped out by at least the potential that Disney could track your every move and try to use it to their advantage. (But let's face it folks - given Disney's frequent stumbles with things related to IT, do you really think they're going to get their act together enough to effectively track what you do every time you visit?)  Finally, I think a lot of fans are ticked because they see $2 billion being squandered by Disney on something that really isn't going to enhance the park experience much for them for a questionable enhancement of the Company's bottom line. they figure that if Mickey's got that much money burning a hole in the pockets of his red shorts, he should be spending it on cool new attractions or doing a better job at keeping up the place.  And maybe they've got a point...

  • If it costs a family $4,000 for a seven-night, six-day visit to Walt Disney World, and they visit each park for 13 hours, then they are spending roughly $50 an hour for their park experience.  It's like a taxi with the meter running.  Who would want to spend that time in lines they could avoid or standing around indecisively trying to make spontaneous decisions?  At that rate of spending, spontaneity is decidedly overrated.

    It seems to me the trick would be to try to bunch all the scheduled events close together somewhere in the middle of the day--during the times the park is most crowded.  Then you can have a larger window before and after for your spontaneous choices.

  • There´s a promotional video made for the 5th anniversary of Tokyo Disney Sea, in which a Japanese couple visit TDS for the first time. The guy almost ruins their vacation, because he has planned everything in advance. Then he realizes that all his careful planning is about to ruin everything, that they do not have any fun during their meticulously planned day - and so he throws away the masterplan he´s made  - and they both lived happily ever after... Maybe Disney should watch theirn own videosmore carefully...

  • I was talking to a friend at work about WDW. We got to talking about the regular Fast Passes and he mentioned that he didn't like them.  He didn't like the fact that you had to walk all the way to a ride, get a Fast Pass, and then wait for an hour, or two or more, and then walk all the way back to the ride again to ride it.  

    I was a bit baffled by the logic, but it made me look at how other people, "regular people" might tour the parks.  They see a ride, want to ride it and move on to the next thing.  They feel a Fast Pass for a ride three hours from now is like an anchor, pulling them back to a part of the park they were already in.  

    So, I told him about the proposed changes with Fast Pass +.  He loved it!  Thought it was great idea and would guarantee that he could go on certain attractions at certain times and not have to "back track across the park" all day.  His reaction was the polar oposite of most of the fan boys I have heard complaining since Disney started rolling this out.  

    I have been selected to test the program out in September.  I don't know if I will yet or not.  But it sure is tempting.  To know that I would have Fast Passes secured for Toy Story Mania before I leave me house and not have to be at the Studios at rope drop....it sounds priceless.

  • As opposed to "haves  vs. have-nots", this will become a case of "know vs. know-nots". Those in the know will have their visit improved while those who didn't know of MyMagic+ will find their visits WORSENED.

    The only way for this system to be equitable would be for EVERYONE entering the park to have it. Everyone would have to make advanced reservations in order to get a meal/ Everyone would have to choose FastPasses in advance for their preferred attractions.

    However, given this equitable situation, I believe the whole MyMagic+ system would come to a crashing halt. The only way it can work successfully is by SOMEONE ELSE getting the shaft. There will be a FEW who take advantage of the system to their benefit, but the majority will suffer the results of having their visits ruined because their ability to enjoy the parks have been severely limited due to MM+.

    Did Disney actually work out what the balance point would be where the MM+ system became so pervasive that it would be useless and at what point it wouldn't negatively impact those not using it

    Did Disney actually work out at what point it wouldn't negatively impact those not using it and work out what the balance point would be where the MM+ system became so pervasive that it would be useless? It seems that there is a sweet point where the system would be successful. But just as with Annual Passes, there has to be a limit.

  • Guests already make dinner reservations, and have to physically go to a ride's location to get FastPass, and spend hours sitting on a towel so that they can get a prime viewing spot of a parade.  It makes it easier on the guest if you don't have to go to the park to get a FastPass, or sit on a towel for hours for a parade.  We already make reservations for Ariel's at DCA, 100% for the character meet and greet and not the food, so makes sense to bundle all of these separate tasks into a unified electronic reservation system.  Waiting to buy stuff at a shop can be a pain, I can't help but think this wireless tech will make buying stuff so much quicker and thus easier.

    Anyway, there's tons of spontaneity at the parks, you decide what land to go to, what rides to ride.  At some point you have to make a decision where to eat, if you're spontaneous, there are some moderately good counter service/buffet options around WDW.  

    The $2 billion figure, (sometimes "insiders" say it is $3 billion) is 100% made-up by some very disgruntled super fans who think that Disney has become this evil corporation.  The estimate (Disney doesn't release the info), is around $900 million for this NextGen tech at ALL Disney parks worldwide, obviously you can't, in the span of a year or two even, spend anywhere close to $1 billion on RFID technology.  RFID is relatively cheap, the readers are cheap, and computer costs have gone down while processing power continues to go up, so no way is the tech at WDW anywhere near $1 billion, might be closer to $75 million, with perhaps $25 million more in upgrades/tweaks and refinement costs.  Disney farmed out a lot of the tech to a San Francisco firm, from what I gather, so it's not like this tech has never been used before, (it has in hospitals).  Disney doesn't have to develop a whole new technology.  The technology already exists, it is just how it is applied, which means software programers more than anything.

    The hardcore Disney haters, really super fans who have seen everything a billion times in the park,  (and laughably think that it is feasible/logistically possible for DHS to get a Carsland), were also saying that MagicBands was an evil plot by Disney just to gather info on guests.  Nope, makes buying stuff easier and the whole vacation easier, these guys are wrong again.

    As Jim's article shows, MagicBands might well become a fascination in themselves, with families interested in trying out the new tech.

  • I'm genuinely curious here: What's infeasible or logistically impossible about a Carsland at DHS?

  • I just got back from WDW, and saw some of the testers on the MyMagic+, and I must say that I'm intrigued. I only used the slick RFID chip in the room card that allowed me to charge with a PIN, and also found some restaurant reservations using My Disney Experience app. Now, keep in mind that I visit WDW at least once a year, and this trip was booked 4 days before we flew down to Orlando. Based on what I was seeing, it still looks like there are ways to get items booked even at the "last minute". Granted, character meals were not accessible, but dining at both Epcot & Hollywood Studios could be found in the morning for later in the day. We also have our favorite attractions (ToT, Big Thunder, etc) that if we could have booked a time a day or two in advance would of allowed us to work the crowds even more effectively than we did. There is the capability to book FastPasses the day of at the kiosks located in the parks.

    So, as an experience visitor, who knows how to use FastPass and knows what to expect from crowded summer parks, this whole system looks like there could be benefits for any WDW visitor, and not just the "once in a lifetime" guest.

  • Wait until all those guests hitting City Hall wanting to know what the fuss is realize it's just another way for Disney to get more money from them...then let's see how many of them opt in!

  • Well, for me, I'm a WDW Passholder who is planning his very first trip to Disneyland, and I couldn't sleep last night because my brain decided it was a good time to figure out what I'm going to ride first in the park. We don't leave until sometimes next YEAR.

    I think many people will be A-OK with the idea of planning some things ahead. It's not your ENTIRE trip, just a few of the things throughout the day.

  • Jim,

    You know my thoughts on this. I really think the biggest headache here is the advanced booking. It is wholly unnecessary. The best of both worlds would be to limit advanced bookings to one per guest per day for DVC, Resort Guests and Annual Passholders. Day of Fastpass distribution would remain under the current rules, but if they want to allow guests access to book via their smart phone that's a plus.

    This is going to be a harder sell to the public than Mars Needs Moms, John Carter and The Lone Ranger. Without changes, I don't see any way this can succeed in it's current format.


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