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Arts & Culture

FastPass+ speeds up Disney magic; Universal’s interactive wands

Live Active Cultures

Photo: PHOTO BY SETH KUBERSKY, License: N/A

PHOTO BY SETH KUBERSKY


Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom just debuted the most popular meet-and-greet in the park’s history, when guests waited four or more hours to spend a few seconds with the stars of Frozen. And as this article is hitting newsstands, Mickey will unveil the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train family roller coaster, cornerstone of the long-in-development New Fantasyland expansion, to invited media (present company excluded; there’s room at the press preview for mommy bloggers and fan websites, but apparently not Orlando Weekly).

But if you turn on the TV, you won’t find either of those attractions trumpeted in commercials. Instead, lately Disney has been broadcasting national advertisements for their MyMagic+ program – featuring MagicBand tracking wristbands and FastPass+ ride reservations – which was recently rolled out for all off-site visitors, who have finally joined hotel guests and annual passholders (as I detailed in my March 26 column) in a brave new world of pre-scheduled, computer-monitored fun. Unfortunately, the ad now running makes Disney guests look like oblivious idiots who can’t unlock a door or buy a cup of coffee in the real world, but it does demonstrate the dramatic difference between how Disney and their Universal competitors are leveraging technology to make “magic.”

Since I last covered Disney’s billion-plus-dollar IT experiment, I’ve received my personalized MagicBand (which proved surprisingly comfortable and convenient, for an Orwellian shackle), and experienced the luxury of FastPass+ reserved viewing sections for fireworks and parades, allowing me to finally enjoy those shows without feeling like a sweat-soaked sardine. Also, a recent upgrade to the system also overcame my two biggest beefs: You may now reserve additional FastPasses after using your initial three and hop to a second theme park to retrieve additional FastPasses there.

Most recently, FastPass+ helped me make some magic for my 5-year-old niece in Pennsylvania. I reserved an appointment to meet the psychotically popular Anna and Elsa in their new Fantasyland digs a month in advance, and despite the 210-minute standby queue, I was in and out of Arendelle with autographs in hand in under 10 minutes. This story isn’t entirely happy-ever-after, though. Three days before my visit, my reservation mysteriously vanished from my online account (a fact I only discovered because the same thing happened on Easter Sunday to Inside the Magic blogger Ricky Brigante), and it required a phone call to Disney technical support to resolve.

The disappearance was blamed on a buggy iOS app, and I was advised to use the MyDisneyExperience website instead – an opinion reinforced by the survey takers inside the park interviewing guests about their issues with the app. And I couldn’t help but feel my expedited encounter came at the expense of hundreds of miserable-looking children stuck in the sluggish standby line, whose only crime was being born to parents who didn’t book a FastPass+ 30 days earlier.

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