Insiders are abuzz with the latest news circulating Disney’s higher-ups: MyMagic+ is on its way to Disneyland Resort in California. In case you’ve forgotten, MyMagic+ is the $1.5 billion technological upgrade imposed upon Walt Disney World in Florida over the last few years. The intricate and complex MyMagic+ system is headlined by the My Disney Experience smart phone app through which guests pre-book FastPass+ reservations months before visiting. Those FastPass+ rides (plus dining reservations, debit accounts, and hotel room keys) are then stored on MagicBands - rubber bracelets with radio-frequency emitting chips.
The prototype system is meant to equip Walt Disney World with 21st century technology for maximum vacation personalization. The problem is that poor word of mouth and the frustrating complexity of the system has put a bad taste in visitor’s mouths, and limits have enraged some of Disney's most enthusiastic park-goers. So, the system helps Disney to keep its guests on-property for longer stays where it’s easier to spend money, but hasn't made too many fans.
And now, insiders say that MyMagic+ is coming to Disneyland. But there are a few hurdles that Disney is going to have to face if they really intend to bring the ultra-rigid pre-planning-based program to the relaxed shores of the Pacific. We’ll look at six concepts that MyMagic+ relies on, then explain why things are different in Disneyland than they are in Walt Disney World. Make no mistake: we're sure that Disney DOES recognize these differences and that whatever comes to Disneyland will be very different than what's at Walt Disney World. It's still fun to think about the differences though.
1. Planning months in advance
Walt Disney World: Walt Disney World is an international destination. Families from around the globe save for a decade or more to afford a weeklong trip to the massive Florida resort, and plan accordingly. They pore over transportation, accommodations, and dining options. Even if they don’t micro-manage, these guests flying in from around the country and around the world do need some structure (even if not as much as MyMagic+ provides for). For those guests for whom Walt Disney World is once-in-a-lifetime, they probably already planned meals and hotels, so adding ride reservations via FastPass+ isn't too far a stretch, even if it bothers and leaves out local travelers.
Disneyland: Disneyland draws tourists from around the United States and overseas, but no where near as much as Walt Disney World. Disneyland existed for many decades as a single amusement park – not a giant resort complex like the Florida resort – and developed a very loyal following of locals. Only recently has DIsneyland begun to advertise outside the Southern California area in a serious way.
Today, a MASSIVE percentage of daily Disneyland visitors are locals who visited the park when they were kids, and live in the area. For them, it's a family tradition and the place you go on Sunday afternoons every week, not a getaway vacation. Many locals and Southern California residents have annual passes, and stop by at the park on a whim. The idea that they’d pre-plan their visit a day, a week, or a month in advance is preposterous. It's just a different dynamic. Disneyland trips are spur-of-the-moment. If you lived a couple minutes from Disneyland and visited once in a while on the way home from work, would you plan your FastPasses a month in advance? So while FastPass+ might still streamline the day, it would have to take a very different form. Most Disneyland visitors don't need 60, 30, even 7 days.
2. Big perks for official resort stays
Walt Disney World: With twenty-four massive resort hotels (ranging from “value” to “deluxe”), Walt Disney World has plenty of room for all the many, many guests who travel a long ways to reach the destination resort. Even if Disney’s cavalcade of hotels is convenient, it’s also pricey. Families might find it prudent to stay in one of the thousands of hotels just outside Disney’s property, getting the same beds and the same air conditioning for half the cost. To make sure that doesn’t happen, Disney incentivizes on-site stays in many ways. Just one is that only guests staying at official Resort hotels get to pre-book their FastPass+ selections months in advance. Otherwise, you get a 30-day head start so long as you’ve purchased tickets already.
Disneyland: The itty-bitty Disneyland Resort has three resort hotels (all three of which would probably be categorized as "moderate" or “deluxe” by Walt Disney World’s pricing standards). Only a teeny percentage of Disneyland visitors stay in them. With such a lean toward local visitors, Disneyland doesn't need two dozen hotels. Even if it had them, staying off-property is a lot easier since Disneyland is so small, with TONS of hotels along the park's perimeter. To give perks to guests staying in Disneyland’s Official Resort hotels would be nonsensical. It may literally equate to the 1% of visitors getting 60-day advanced bookings, with 99% held off until later.
Walt Disney World: Supposedly the heart, lungs, and lifeblood of MyMagic+, FastPass+, and every other “plus” out there, MagicBands are rubberized bracelets containing an RFID radio chip, about the size of a grain of rice. The unusual little bands contain park tickets, FastPass reservations, room keys, and debit accounts with no barcode scanning and no card fumbling required. Certainly easy and simple, the bands can stay on during the length of your stay since you need them for… well… just about everything.
Disneyland: With so many local visitors making sporadic and spur-of-the-moment trips, Disneyland visitors would be altogether unlikely to warm to the MagicBand. Imagine having to remember to wear your Mickey Mouse bracelet to work that day so you can stop by the park afterward for dinner. That’s sure to go over well at the business meeting, right? In other words, the MagicBands would still be quirky and fun in California, but they'd lose much of their convenience, and isn't that at least most of their purpose?