This ain't your Dad's Walt Disney Company anymore.
Sure, every so often, you'll see the Company fund the
construction of some massive immersive environment like Cars
Land at Disney
Park or that AVATAR-inspired
"land" which finally officially broke ground at Disney's Animal
Kingdom last month. But increasingly these days, Disney is deliberately
bypassing these bigger-than-life projects so that it can deliver to its fans
magic that they can then hold in their hands.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
I mean, think about it. As those commercials for Walt Disney
World which have been airing constantly in prime time have repeatedly told us,
that Resort is currently testing its My Magic+ program. Which will not only
allow WDW Guests to make FastPass+ selections in advance but -- with a flick
of their MagicBand -- gain entry to a Disney theme parks, unlock the door to
their Disney Resort hotel room as well as make payments at on-property shops
And let's not forget about the Disney Animated app, which
was named the Apple iPad App of the Year for 2013. This acclaimed application
basically allowed film history buffs to hold the entire history of Walt Disney
Animation Studios in the palm of your house. Just drag a single finger across
that tablet and you then have the opportunity to begin a deep dive on any of
the 53 full-length animated features which WDAS has produced over the past 76
And now comes word of Disney Movies Anywhere, a new digital
movie service and app.
Which will then allow consumers to watch their digital
collection of Disney, Pixar and Marvel movies on their iPhone, iPad, iPad Touch
and other web experience. This simple, streamlined way to manage & enjoy
Disney-produced digital content goes live today with the digital launch of the
Company's latest animated smash, Disney "Frozen."
So who's responsible for this increasingly hi-tech take on
how Disney distributes its content to consumers / makes visiting its Central
Florida Resort seem that much more magical? Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger.
Who -- unlike the man who proceeded him as the Big Cheese at the Mouse House,
Michael Eisner (who always took a "Let's hang back and see which device
emerges as the dominant technology before Disney then embraces that
device" attitude when it came to technology) -- prides himself on being an
Mind you, there are challenges -- not to mention extreme
financial peril -- involved with being an early adopter. Just look at the
rumored $2.5 billion that The Walt Disney Company has reportedly spent to date
on the roll-out of My Disney Experience+ / MagicBands / FastPass+ at the Walt
Disney World Resort. Not to mention the additional millions AT&T has to
spend to make possible for WDW visitors to use 3G and 4G LTE technologies inside
that Resort's four theme parks.
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Installing all of those outdoor Distributed Antenna Systems
(oDAS) and indoor DAS (iDAS) can't have been inexpensive. But given that Iger believes
that -- in the years ahead -- both the Disneyland & the Walt Disney World
Resort will see a significant surge in the number of Guests who will be
bringing their iPhones, Droids and tablets into the theme parks and then expect
to be able to use these devices to make purchases & dinner reservations
(not to mention instantaneously posting images of all of the fun that they're
having in the Disney Parks on Facebook, Tumblr & Instagram) ... Well, it
was crucial that Disney find a way to bolster the Company's network coverage at
its Parks & Resorts.
And just so you know, even though Iger still anticipates
that he'll be stepping down as Disney's Chairman & CEO in June of 2016,
he's still determined that the Company will continue to continue down this
innovative pathway. Which is why -- earlier this month -- The Walt Disney
Company announced its Disney Accelerator program.
This mentorship / seed-money-stage investment program will allow Disney to work
with 10 startup companies which are developing innovative ideas in the consumer
media and entertainment fields. And in exchange for the Mouse's seed money
& mentorship, The Walt Disney Company will reportedly then have the exclusive rights
to use these emerging technologies that it helped developed for a yet-to-be-defined
set period of time.
So long story short here, folks: MagicBands, the Disney
Animated app and Disney Movies Anywhere are just the start of a whole new wave
of Disney hi-tech which is headed your way soon. And all of this hi-tech
"magic" will be things that you can hold right in the palm of your
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Mind you, not everyone at Disney is happy about this new
hi-tech initiative. The Imagineers in particular are concerned about
Millennials, that generation of consumers born between 1980 & 2000 who now
walk around the Disney theme parks with their faces down in their iPhones &
Droids. Engaging those folks, getting them to stop texting and/or updating
their Facebook page for long enough to look up & notice that brand-new
multi-million dollar "Scene One" that has just been added to an
attraction like The Haunted Mansion has proven to be a real challenge. Which is
why the wizards at WDI are now actively looking for ways to get Disneyland
& Walt Disney World visitors to use their iPhones & Droids to discover
additional hi-tech fun that could then be folded into classic Disney theme park
attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and it's a
But that's a story for another time. What do you think of Disney's
on-going hi-tech initiative? Do you like the idea that -- as of today -- you'll
be able to watch your favorite Disney. Pixar and Marvel films wherever you go
on your iPhones, iPads and iPad Touches?
I sincerely do appreciate Disney's investment in cutting edge technologies (I think the Disney Animated app is legitimately fantastic), but I'm slightly disappointed that it seems to be coming in lieu of consistent investment in new WDW theme park attractions. From 2012 through (presumably) 2018, all the Florida parks will have received will be New Fantasyland and Avatarland in Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, respectively, with Epcot and Hollywood Studios getting nothing new of note in terms of rides. Future World in Epcot is really beginning to stagnate, and the Studios park remains as thematically confused and scattershot as ever.
As I'm someone who visits WDW in the relative off-season of January (and who also rents a condo off-property), I don't see how My Magic+ will - in any way - improve my experiences inside the theme parks. At that time of year, I've never needed to use FastPass to ensure that I get to experience all the key attractions in the parks, and the other supposed benefits of the program won't apply to a guest who stays off-property. So it's disappointing (for me, personally) to see the company invest billions ($1 billion? $2 billion? Nobody seems to know for certain...) in something that will, in no way, improve my visit, or make it more exciting.
I'd love to see the company apply its high-tech interests to revitalizing Future World, for example; I have no doubt they could really "WOW!" us if they put their minds to it... and if they wanted to spend the money needed to do so.
It's always good for a company like Disney to keep up with technology. Especially when you look around at Disneyland and see that nearly everyone has some kind of high-tech device in their hands. (Though unfortunately, sometimes I've seen guests that are glued to these devices even while on a dark ride. but I digress.)
Say Jim, I've heard some (possibly exaggerated) rumors that the My Magic plus system has gone over budget and behind schedule. Have you heard anything about this?
If it's only on Apple devices, then it's not really "anywhere", is it.
Sadly, the Mouse still hasn't caught up with the Internet era. Nobody wants to subscribe to a dozen media services which only work on certain devices. Until they learn this lesson, the pirates will win (the bad kind, not the cool Johnny Depp kind).
Waste of money. Give us new attractions!