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Is Disneyland's New Crowd Control System Going to Wreck the Park?

Pro: Disney will be able to better control and tailor guest experiences.

Galaxy's Edge concept art

Image: Disney

More than anything else, Galaxy’s Edge has been marketed as a highly-interactive experience. According to ongoing reports, Audio-Animatronic characters will respond to guests within various Batuu shops, droids will actively engage with their owners, attractions will allegedly adapt to guest skill level, and wandering characters will give guests the ability to cultivate their own backstory and reputation within the land.

With a time-based reservation system in place, Disney won’t just be granted full control over crowd levels; they’ll be able to customize guest experiences in a more comfortable and effective way, too. For example, rather than competing with guests for elbow room in the merchandise stalls and walkways, cast members will have the space and freedom to interact with visitors in a more leisurely way. Shops won’t be over-full, custom droids won’t be instantly trampled by the masses, and any in-queue entertainment will be able to be carried out with minimal interference.

We’re slightly exaggerating to make a point here, which is this: With all the hard work and meticulous detail woven into Galaxy’s Edge, it makes sense that Disney would want to control how guests experience the park. And it’s difficult to make a park feel immersive when guests are given unfettered access from the get-go.

Con: Disneyland and Disney California Adventure may see a significant increase in crowd levels.

Pixar Pier

Image: Patrick Pelletier, Flickr (license)

When Galaxy’s Edge was first announced, the prevailing sentiment among theme park fans (in both pro-Star Wars and anti-Star Wars camps) was a positive one. Eager Star Wars fans would voluntarily subject themselves to Batuu’s über-crowded walkways, multi-hour queues, and jam-packed retail opportunities while less-fanatical fans waited for the initial hype to die down. Those who didn’t care for Star Wars at all, meanwhile, would get the benefit of reduced crowds elsewhere in the Disneyland resort.

That no longer seems to be the case. From recent reports, Disney is doing everything they can to reduce wait times and crowding inside Galaxy’s Edge. Those who aren’t allowed inside the alien outpost will be pushed out to other areas of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure—leading to longer times for popular rides, scarce availability at sit-down restaurants, and full parking lots at Downtown Disney, with no obvious endpoint in sight.

What does that mean for those planning to vacation in Anaheim this year? Make sure you get your restaurant reservations and hotel bookings taken care of as early as possible, and formulate a plan to get through the day as painlessly as possible.

Should Disney use the reservation system for future park expansions?

FASTPASS for Haunted Mansion

Image: HarshLight, Flickr (license)

We’ve yet to see the kind of effect the new reservation system will have on crowds and guest experiences at Disneyland and Walt Disney World this year, but it’s not too absurd to assume that Disney will play around with this strategy in the future—even if things don’t go smoothly during the rollout.

While there may not be many Disney-owned franchises that rival Star Wars in scope and cultural impact (read: fan frenzy), the system could help Disney mitigate long wait times and stagger the overwhelming masses that typically follow the premiere of a new attraction or theme park area.

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What do you think of Disney’s reservation-based access to Galaxy’s Edge? Is it a prudent way to manage crowds or an overreaction to the anticipated popularity of the new land? More importantly, will the logistics of securing a reservation play a deciding factor in planning your next trip to the Disney Parks this summer?

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