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Genie Magic Lane

It all started at the semi-annual D23 Expo in 2019 when, during the Parks, Experiences, and Products presentation, then-Chairman of the division Bob Chapek announced Disney Genie – “a revolutionary new digital offering that will enhance the way guests plan for and experience a trip to Walt Disney World Resort. Disney Genie will make planning easier and more fun by providing guests customized itineraries geared to princesses, thrill seekers, foodies, families, and more. Guests will even be able to tell Disney Genie what they want to experience, and it will quickly evaluate millions of options to present them with an optimal day.”

Imagined by fans as a Disney-made tool to fix the Disney-made problems of MyMagic+ (with its emphasis on pre-planning, pre-booking, and pre-scheduling), Disney Genie sounded like a pretty innocuous itinerary-building app that would basically do some amount of vacation planning for you, and probably more vacation planning for you if you were willing to pay.

Disney Genie concept art. Image: Disney

No one could’ve known that the next year, every Disney Park on Earth would close due to COVID-19, and when the parks re-opened, it would be without many of the services and perks guests knew and loved (or loathed), including FastPass. So when details of Disney Genie re-emerged in 2021, the service was still a complimentary planning software… but given the option to seek out new revenue streams, the pre-announced brand had blossomed into a suite of new interconnected “services,” upcharges, and relabelings requiring a glossary to understand… 

The Genie Glossary

Let’s be sure we’ve got this straight.

DISNEY GENIE is the itinerary-building software that’s nested within the My Disney Experience app. Theoretically, it “learns” about you, considers your preferences, then builds an itinerary based on the attractions you say you enjoy. (In practice, it’s almost laughably bad at it, directing solo middle-aged men to Disney Junior Dance Party, leaving multi-hour stretches entirely unscheduled, seemingly making no special effort to get you on the rides you ask it to prioritize, and filling your schedule with recommendations to buy its "plussed" version...

DISNEY GENIE+ (that's, "plus") is a premium ticket add-on service. For a flat rate per day, it unlocks a handful of inconsequential features (like selfie filters and audio tours), and far and away the reason 100% of guests would pay for Disney Genie+: the ability to book rolling reservation return windows into priority boarding queues at select attractions from the My Disney Experience app. 

Image: Disney

Yes, Genie+ is, essentially “paid-for FastPass” – a discussion that’s been had many, many times. But more to the point of our untangling of Disney’s naming nightmare, is that Disney Genie (re-read that description above again), plussed? Would you look at Disney Genie and intuitively think, “if I plus the itinerary builder, I’ll get to skip lines”? And if you did, would you expect the lines that Genie gets you into to be called…

LIGHTNING LANES are the new designation for the priority boarding queues once used for returning FastPass guests. Forget any association with Lightning McQueen from Cars. This is just regular old lightning; the kind you… associate with Genies? Er…? Anyway, just about every ride that had a FastPass line merely swapped its signage to evolve into a Lightning Lane line… Genie+ allows you to book into most of them… but some require…

INDIVIDUAL LIGHTNING LANE is the "is-that-all-they-could-come-up-with" term for select, separately-booked access rides. It’s used like a modifier. “Rise of the Resistance is an Individual Lightning Lane attraction.” So, for example, Frozen Ever After has a Lightning Lane, but requires an Individual Lightning Lane reservation, and thus is an Individual Lightning Lane attraction.

Image: Disney

Imagine, if you will, trying to explain to a family from the Midwest who paid for Genie+ that the Lightning Lane reservations for Slinky Dog Dash sold out at 7:01 AM, and that Genie+ won’t work on Runaway Railway because its Lightning Lane is not included with Genie+ and requires an additional a la carte Individual Lightning Lane purchase, but that ship has sailed anyway since they’re staying off-site and Individual Lightning Lanes for Runaway Railway sold out during their on-site guest only purchase window before the park even opened. Now imagine explaining it to a family from Brazil, Germany, or Japan.

Make no mistake: some say that Disney’s new terms are intentionally opaque and purposefully convoluted; that the idea is to confound guests into just tapping “Check Out” as many times as needed in the app, making continuous microtransaction purchases throughout the day to make problems go away and get on must-see rides during a once-in-a-decade trip. After all, if Disney wanted to make things clearer, they obviously could’ve.

To prove it, let’s try…

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