In a recent investor conference, Disney Parks chairman Tom Staggs discussed various technological systems presently being developed by the Walt Disney Company for use in its Parks & Resorts Division. Rumblings concerning this project have existed for over a year in various Disney online communities, with the common parlance referring to this as Disney’s NextGen project (although Staggs himself did not specifically use the term). Staggs indicated that Disney is creating a way for guests to bypass long lines by reserving times for attractions and character interactions, seats for shows, and advance dining reservations, booking many of these experiences before leaving home. Following Staggs’ conference call, Thomas Smith announced on the Disney Parks Blog that the Mickey Mouse Meet & Greet set to open this Spring in the Main Street Exposition Hall at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World will incorporate some of the technology Staggs discussed.
In addition to these changes directly concerning wait time management, Disney indicated that the technology would be utilized to create more personalized guest experiences, including personalizing rides and character greetings for individual guests. What form, exactly, this project will take is unclear, as Staggs was vague on specifics. However, if longstanding speculation is accurate, the project will be heavily reliant upon RFID wristbands, and will serve the double purpose of improving the guest experience and Disney’s bottom line as it more accurately tracks guest spending habits. Staggs himself stated that the main goal of the initiative is to allow guests to personalize their entire trip to Walt Disney World.
The announcement of this project is no shock to us here at TouringPlans.com. We have seen these changes in technology relating to wait times and queue experiences firsthand over the last several years. From Disney’s FASTPASS and more interactivity in queues, such as Soarin’ and Space Mountain, to our own evolution from printout touring plans to the Lines mobile wait time app for smart phones. Simply put, utilizing technology has become critical to minimizing the amount of time you wait in line while at Disney.
As Disney guests have made clear in the feedback we have received from them, no one is particularly keen on waiting in long lines. We’re excited to follow this substantial and resort-wide undertaking to see how and when Disney brings the NextGen project to fruition. If recent projects to make lines more entertaining and the purported “queueless queues” coming with the Dumbo attraction in the Fantasyland expansion are any indication, Disney is fast-tracking efforts to make its lines more entertaining while also reducing wait times. It appears Disney is beginning to prioritize what we here at TouringPlans.com have been doing for years: helping Disney guests minimize the amount of time they wait in line. While there will always be wait times and crowds at the Disney theme parks will always be a problem, we view long wait times as a common enemy, and applaud any effort Disney makes to reduce these waits.
What are your thoughts on the announcements? Are you excited at the prospect of ride reservations, skeptical about the idea, or do you have a wait-and-see outlook?