Disney Genie+ 2024

Every year, millions of people return home from a trip to Disneyland or Walt Disney World with autographs, photos, and stories to share. Across social media, to inquiring family, and to curious coworkers, they recount stories of their vacations... the good, the bad, and – increasingly – the ugly. After all, for the last four years or so, a single statement has served as the undercurrent for every returning vacationeer: it's gotten really, really expensive

For those of us who spend time caring about the parks, it's no surprise. In the last half-decade, Disney has found itself in a place it didn't expect: falling behind. Even a few years under the thumb of previous CEO Bob Chapek saw Disney's corporate structure reorganized around streaming (a business that approximately no one has figured out how to make sustainably profitable) and monetization of Disney IP, shuffling creatives to the back of the line. 

It's fallen on Disney's highly successful theme parks to make up the difference. As a result, we are living in an era of slashed perks and new upcharges; when Disney Parks find new ways to wring nickels and dimes from guests. But of all the shrunken portions, inflated prices, and newly instituted fees, few are as universally reviled as...

A Phenomenal, Cosmic Problem

Image: Disney

Introduced in October 2021 (coinciding with Disney World's disastrous 50th Anniversary), Genie+ is a "service" that pretty transparently offers families an experience equivalent to the formerly-free FastPass+, but at a per-person-per-day rate. Basically, Genie+ fuses elements of:

  • the original, paper FastPass (one-a-time ride bookings, rolling hour-long return windows, and tier-free selections);
  • the later, digital FastPass+ (app-based selections, a widely-expanded pool of offerings, first dibs to on-site hotel guests), and;
  • a few ingredients of its own (vast oversold queues of redeeming guests, de facto mandatory 7AM first bookings, near-daily ride "sell-outs", excluding each park's biggest E-Ticket which instead requires an a la carte one-off upcharge)
Image: Disney

... And to say it's hated is an understatement. It turns out that guests really don't like having to pay $20 - $35 per person per day to recreate the formerly-standard experience of getting a few line-skips a day. And they really, really don't like that if you don't buy Genie+, you get an objectively worse experience than you used to – trapped all day long in swampy, stagnant, Standby queues while 9 paying Genie+ guests are admitted for every 1 visitor who dared not pay for the new surcharge service.

To drop editorial standards for a moment, Genie+ sucks. Forget costing extra. It requires someone in your party to wake up before 7AM every day of the vacation or else begin your day by immediately missing out on each park's top tier Genie+ ride. Then, to make the most of the system means spending all day booking and modifying and redeeming phone-based reservations while standing in "Lightning Lanes" that flood through the park. It feels bad for those who buy it and those who don't. It's a rare, universally-acknowledged, very-bad-thing. And even Disney knows it...

Resummoning Genie+

Image: Disney

In May 2023, Disney announced via the Disney Parks Blog a host of tweaks meant to improve guest services after its long decline post-COVID. Eliminating the frustrating park reservations for most guests, returning to Disney Dining Plan, recommitting to extended hours for hotel guests... But for fans, the most intriguing potential was:

Simplifying the Disney Genie+ experience: We have heard from guests that they would like ways to plan with Disney Genie+ service and individual Lightning Lane selections before the day of their park visit, and we want you to know we are working on ways guests may do this for visits in 2024. [...] While we are not yet able to share specific details, we look forward to sharing more information at a later date. 

Well, we're partway through 2024 and haven't gotten any updates yet on what that really means... So in the meantime, here's what we think that'll mean...

1. Removing the 7AM Lightning Lane wakeup call

Image: Disney

One of the "necessary evils" of booking virtual ride reservations is that those reservations have to open at a certain time. At Disneyland, you become eligible to book your first Genie+ return time once you've scanned in at the gate. (Frustrating in its own right, as it means that before you even step onto Main Street, you've got to have your nose buried in your phone.) 

But Disney World's system is worse, throwing open the doors to Lightning Lane booking at 7:00:00 sharp. And people are serious about it. It's not uncommon for each park's highest-demand ride to be "sold out" of Genie+ slots within minutes or even seconds. So unless someone is awake, logged in, and ready to refresh immediately when the 7 o'clock hour starts, you might find that your Genie+ purchase won't help you get on the ride you wanted most, leaving you stuck in those slow-moving Standby lines.

Almost certainly, the persistent 6:55 AM alarms have been a frequent note in Disney's evaluation, and removing the wakeup call will be a must-have in any "Genie 2.0." But remember, if virtual queues are going to open, they have to open at a certain time. So the question is "when?" And we've got the likely answer...


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