Disney’s Next-Gen Problem

TSMM Fast pass machines ready and waiting

When you head off to Walt Disney World the next time, will you remember to bring your iPhone? Don’t have one or don’t want to bring it with you? Don’t worry. You’re not alone, in fact smart phone adoption is still just above 50%. That’s turning out to be a problem for xPass one of Walt Disney World’s billion dollar technology programs collectively known as Next-Gen.

As Disney CEO Bog Iger has outlined it, xPass, the future of the theme park vacation lies in the ability to book your next Fastpass, Dining Reservation, Parade Viewing Location, or other comodifiable part of your vacation from your internet enabled device either instantly while in the park or at home before you arrive (and then manage it on your device while on vacation). It’s a terrific idea, the problem is there isn’t near enough adoption of these devices to make the technology work.

There also appear to be small scale failures even now. As you may recall, as of March 7th, Disney World shifted over to more strict enforcement of the Fastpass Return time. With the change, you now have to walk all the way across the park to get your Fastpass only to take a chance that the return time will conflict with a dinner reservation, your kids nap, or the afternoon parade. Not a pleasant experience when the park is crowded and the sun hot.

Thankfully, Disney has released a piece of technology that will save you that walk. Disney Park’s Mobile Magic not only gives you the park map, attraction, entertainment, and dining listings, but you can also get current wait times, including standby wait, fastpass availability, and fastpass return times. With Mobile Magic you can decide which Fastpass to get next the moment your window opens.

The only problem is that technology isn’t perfect. This weekend marked the third time I’ve checked Mobile Magic for Fastpass availability only to have multiple attractions not show up. Since I was on Main Street I moseyed over to the information board. Sure enough, both attractions were up and operating just fine with all systems go on Fastpass as well. But somehow, the system that connects Fastpass and the FLIK cards that measure wait time to Mobile Magic wasn’t functioning.

That’s not that big of a problem for Mobile Magic, which is a free service, albeit one made more valuable by the change to Fastpass return time enforcement. But when Disney starts to charge for xPass and other Next-Gen technologies, these sorts of technology failures will be alot hard to shake off.

I’m very much looking forward to all that Next-Gen can bring to the parks. xPass is just the tip of the iceberg. Really. Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom only hints at the sort of overlay that Next-Gen will make possible. Want a hint? Keep an eye on Google and the sort of technology coming out of its research labs.

Still, Disney will have to overcome many basic problems like technology adoption, system failures, and training all while people are on vacation trying to relax. That may be one mountain even Disney isn’t able to summit.

Previously: Changes coming to Disney World’s Fastpass, How Fastpass Strategies Might Change.

24 thoughts on “Disney’s Next-Gen Problem”

  1. Smart phone adoption among the typical Disney guest is probably closer to 80%. Which is what Disney factors.

  2. Remember to bring your iPhone? I’d say virtually every iPhone user would say YES!! There will certainly be growing pains as integration of systems are increased, and these bugs will be a definite problem if not worked out before xPass is a paid product. That being said, the smartphone adoption rate really shouldn’t be a major problem. Disney has to plan for the customer of tomorrow while pleasing those of today, and smartphone adoption is only going up. Additionally, xPass seems to be something that can easily be skipped for those guests wanting a more relaxed impromptu vacation. Disney could also easily add xPass terminals throughout the parks to allow guests without smartphones the ability to manage their various reservations while in the park.

  3. Yeah, there is Mobile Magic, but unfortunately for those that don’t have Verizon, they can’t use the program.

      1. I have Verizon, I have the Mobile Magic on my iPhone. Tried to use it in DL on the 29th, the 3G is so slow, I just turned it off. Disney needs FREE WiFi in the parks that runs at speed, not the slowness of Splash Mountain before the drop.

  4. While I am (sorta) excited about the whole Next Gen thing and all, not everyone has or needs a Smartphone. I for one, do not want to be tied to a phone or any type of technology all day – I’M ON VACATION!!!! I am there to sped time with my family and take a break from our every day routine, NOT running around the park , dragging my family behind me – like a crazy person – just so we can get to Spalsh Mountain in our allowed window! Although I love the planning of our trip to WDW, there is no way I can plan that far in advance, or even that day, what we wil ride/see and when – I’m doing good to get ADR’s booked. It is challenging enough traveling with a Special Needs child – I guess next I’ll need to figure out a way to schedule his needs and meltdowns before we arrive too!

  5. I want a *vacation*, just a simple, good old fashioned visit to WDW… a few days, just a few precious days without smartphones, meticulous planning and ticking clocks everywhere… A long time ago, there were hardly any public clocks to be seen in the parks, and there was a reason for that…

  6. Hey John, I have a little tip for you and your readers. When you go to the Tip Board, they’re able to pull up the times for the Fastpasses, thus saving you a trip across the park. Usually, those times don’t change by the time you get to the actual attraction, and if it does, it’s only like…5 minutes. So use that to your advantage when wanting to see how it’ll work with your reservations or other plans.


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  8. I suppose Disney is happily partnered with Apple right now given the board members, but with iPhones just under 25% of the smartphone market, and Verizon also under 33% market share (some of which falls into the iPhone number) it seems like Mobile Magic isn’t even able to reach the majority of the smartphone users, much less the typical park patron.

    1. Mobile Magic is available for Android as well. While there are still a few features that are exclusive to Verizon, they are basically just games and other similar diversions. All the park information features (wait times, Fastpass returns, show times, etc.) are now available regardless of carrier.

  9. First off, I’m all for enforcing the time windows because in the end the result will be shorter lines and a fairer system. Second, Nexgen will be free. Charging for it is a rumor that has been corrected by Disney several times, saying it is all free like Fastpass. Third, Nextgen won’t happen for years, which by then smartphone use will be much higher. As of now, there is usually at least on smart phone per family, which is all it takes. Fourth, I’m pretty sure having a good time at Disney will not depend on using Nextgen, it’s just an option to save time when you are there. At this point though, we are all speculating. No one knows what to really expect.

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  14. Very dissapointed this app is only available in the US itunes store. If you don’t have a US account, you can’t even download it. Guess they don’t expect the rest of the world to use it IF they decide to spend their vacation time at WDW.

  15. Hm, I didn’t realize it was with iphones. My fiance has one, but we’re Canadian and therefore have to leave our phone off on trips to Disney because of the roaming charges. So… only Americans are able to use this next-gen stuff? That’s pretty disappointing…. we can’t really afford to up our phone coverage to the US

  16. Ah, and I just tried to get the mobile magic app, and can’t because I’m Canadian.

    Yet another thing I can’t do because I’m Canadian, even though I go to disney world twice a year! I also can’t buy disney gift cards (they won’t ship them to Canada), buy things from the disney store (because the shipping ends up costing twice the price of anything I’m buying, and there are no shipping deals for Canadians), and my magical express tags have yet to ever reach my house before a vacation.

  17. As Angela said, problem with roaming – I’m from the UK and just got back from a trip to WDW. I would have loved to have been one of the many (and I do mean many) people I saw checking wait times etc but it’s just too expensive.

  18. Ummm, how about the busy weeks when you can’t make phone calls, let alone access the internet on the cell phone? What happens when all 80,000 people in the park can’t see their reservations because the signals are all jammed.

    It’s nearly impossible to use your phone in the park during peak times. I can’t imagine when everyone is forced to use their phone.

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