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Will Mickey and Minnie Photo-Op say ‘No’ to Late Guests?

As you may have heard Mickey and Minnie are moving to a new meet and greet location in Town Square at the recently renamed, but not yet open, Town Square Theater. We posted recently about how this will be the first character meet and greet to feature a Fastpass option. There is still quite a bit of construction going on around the area, but rumors of exactly how the Fastpass system will work are beginning to circulate.

A big rumor and some thoughts below the jump:

Today @WDWNT posted this interesting tidbit on their Twitter account.

Disney CMs have confirmed that MK Town Square Theater FASTPASS to meet characters will be strictly enforced, so no late returns!

An interesting idea, but it raises some interesting questions that Disney’s world famous guest service will have to deal with.

First, will the Mickey and Minnie Meet and Greet Fastpass be part of the larger network of Magic Kingdom attraction fast pass machines. Disneyland has been known to take one or two attractions off the larger network and work it so that you can only hold one FP for that attraction at a time. You can get another one in two hours or whenever your return time happens, but it doesn’t prevent you from getting a FP at another attraction. I’m guessing they could do this at WDW too. This is a great solution for a FP queue that’s either off the beaten path, like the Meet and Greet will be, or un-needed after a certain point in the day, when most of the park has had a chance to ride it if they want to.

Secondly, there are some legitimate reasons to miss your assigned FP return time. For example: what if your return time is during the 3 o’clock parade. That only runs once per day, forcing guests to choose between their photo with Mickey and perhaps their only chance to see some rare characters. (Note: Disney does offer fewer FP per attraction during parade time for that reason.) What if you’re at your hotel and the Monorail breaks down or the bus doesn’t show? Could Disney’s position be ‘Tough Luck’ even when it’s Disney’s fault you’re delayed? Having to decide which excuse is legitimate or not puts the poor cast member at the head of the queue in a bit of an ethical dilemma, ‘recover’ the guest like they’ve been trained to do (hopefully), or turn them away and risk getting a complaint in their personnel file. (I can see the lines forming at Guest Relations, conveniently located right across Town Square, already.) Rather than deal with this dilemma, Disney chooses not to ask and just allows everyone with a late time in at normal Fastpass queues.

Another reason Disney does not strictly enforce the return time on the regular attraction Fastpass is that this allows for groups of guests who arrive at different times of the day to ride together after the latest FP becomes valid. Yesterday, for example, I knew I had a group of four friends who would be arriving later in the day, so I took my two tickets and went back to Big Thunder Mountain RailRoad three times in the morning until I had six Fastpasses we could use as a group. To me, having a group photo with Mickey and Minnie to commemorate my vacation is much more important than riding a roller coaster together. Is this another exception to the ‘no late returns’ rule? Or is Disney saying ‘no group photos’ and cutting off that tremendous memory making moment (in a year when they’re shouting out about memories being the thing).

As a general rule Disney does not like to say no to guests. They fear that word will cause bad feelings that prevent return visits and the sort of word of mouth marketing that is invaluable to the Disney brand. The percentage of late returns so far has not dramatically affected the flow of the stand-by line far enough to force Disney to cross the line and say no to guests. A good thing in my book. So why is it suddenly okay tell guests no when they’re about to meet the world’s most famous animated couple?

I repeat my previous assertion. That if Disney wants to manage wait time for meet and greets the easiest thing to do is add more characters. No matter the extra labor costs, it’s a much lower price to pay than risk the badwill that comes from preventing guests from taking their picture with the mouse that started it all. At a time when the vacation budget of the average American family is smaller than ever, it is not the time to start telling guests no.

(Above: your author with the Main Cheese himself. Taken yesterday (crowd level 10 of 10) at the Hall of Presidents with no wait, proving that Disney can keep lines low if they want to.)

21 thoughts on “Will Mickey and Minnie Photo-Op say ‘No’ to Late Guests?”

  1. The percentage of late returns so far has not dramatically affected the flow of the stand-by line far enough to force Disney to cross the line and say no to guests.

    We’re not saying no yet, but have you seen the lines at Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan? The guests screaming at us (and sometimes pelting us with soda bottles, yes that’s happened) from the stand-by line sure wish we were telling the late guests no.

    Perhaps the solution would be to offer a slightly longer window of time to come back. Instead of one hour, maybe give guests two hours. It’s one thing to be delayed by the parade or a broken monorail; it’s quite another for a guest to hve a 10am FP and not come back until 4pm.

    (Above: your author with the Main Cheese himself. Taken yesterday (crowd level 10 of 10) at the Hall of Presidents with no wait, proving that Disney can keep lines low if they want to.)

    The only eason the line for Mickey at the Hall of Presidents is not very long, even on crowded days, is because it is not advertised that MIckey is there. On the guest pamphlets, he’s only listed as being in Tomorrowland. That’s not the same as saying we can keep the attraction lines short if we wanted to.

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  5. Don’t worry about the Fast Pass operation. That process will be made to work for the guest. Worry about where the guests will leave their strollers. Not a lot of room on the sidewalk in front of TST and no other area has been identified. I can see a total sea of strollers and no room to walk expecially during parades when the sidewalk in front of TST is prime parade viewing space.

  6. People in the standby line should have NO IDEA if FP users are late or not unless the guest or the CM is making it known to them, which should not happen.

    If the guests had returned during their window, they still would have ridden before the guests in the standby line, and the guests in the standby line would still be riding at the exact same time they otherwise would have. In fact, everyone that got to ride BEFORE the late FP users arrived got to ride _earlier_ because they were late.

    Guests in the standby line who get upset at FP users are typically guests who don’t understand FP at all, and believe it is some sort of “privilege of the rich” like at every other park.

    I don’t know how many people I’ve talked to about Fastpass who first say, “But I don’t want to pay for it…”

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  11. I’m sure there was a point to this article. Well, I’m not completely sure. Completely speculative for no good reason.

    1. I prefer to think of it as Op-Ed, which is by its nature speculative, but I see your point. We don’t know what Disney is actually doing until they do it. However, by then it is too late for the fans to have their input. So here I am with this Op-Ed hoping to forestall a guest service disaster.

  12. “That if Disney wants to manage wait time for meet and greets the easiest thing to do is add more characters.”

    Well that won’t work either if everyone really just wants to see Mickey. No real substitute for that. But I do wonder if maybe they could do it where there are multiple Mickeys inside the Town Square Theater (carefully hidden/separated from each other) and they could then move more guests through at a quicker pace.

  13. I have no problem with your gathering 6 FP over the course of a single day to have a large group ride BTMRR at one time later. To me, one of the hidden benefits of FP is that CMs don’t always check the timestamp and enforce the hour-long window return time.

    That said, one problem I have seen on more than one occastion are the locals (or other extremely frequent guests) who save up FP for days/weeks/months and wander the parks with a Ziploc baggie full of out-of-date FastPasses that allow them to ride with ease whenever they feel like it.

    If the CMs don’t want to enforce a time-window, the should be able to enforce an expiration date. (this may require a slight redesign on the FP ticket stock to make seeing the expiration date a bit easier to identify)

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  16. I went on the Keys to the Kingdom Tour and in the Toontown set up there were multiple rooms for the most popular characters. Right now they are still running multiples like Hall of Pres and near Space Mtn. So I think it’s pretty safe to say that the delay in opening the new meet and greet is setting up a multiple room experience. They did have problems if people left the line to use the restroom and wanted to rejoin their party. I wonder if they will somehow be organizing this new meet area to work around that and potentially it feeds into the FP issue. For FP though since you walk in right by it I wonder if they worry that a huge proportion of people would walk into the park in the am and grab FPs and then all want to use them when they exit making the return lines crazy long at the end of the day. If you walk in at 9 and get a FP return at 11 do you really want to leave the back of the park and walk all the way back to the front for the meet? The waits before were rarely more than 60 mins anyway so it seems like certain times waiting would be better than FP if you have to criss cross the park and waste time away from rides.

    1. That’s a good point about the fact that the walk-by factor could be high. However, I stick with my point that line length management would be better managed by adding or removing characters to speed up the queue as needed.

  17. CMs ARE supposed to enforce the expiration date (that is, you can only use the FP on the date printed). A couple of years ago they changed the printing to put it right under the times to make it easier for the CM to make sure. However, I think that BOTH CMs at both ends of the FP queue need to check the times/dates. I’ve heard of people showing a valid FP at one end, and then swapping it for an old one in the line to give to the collector.

    The one hour window is currently not enforced by policy. I understand there are very rare circumstances that the attraction manager can choose to enforce it, but the most common reason people may be refused seems to be with a relatively green CM.

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