This year’s Star Wars Weekends has been a testing ground of sorts for the use of FastPass+ at special events, and so far, things seem to be looking pretty good.
Based on the success (so far) of this new system, it’s safe to make some predictions about the future of FastPass+ at Star Wars Weekends, and perhaps speculate a little about the use of FastPass+ for other Walt Disney World events as well.
1. There’s still some use for paper FastPasses at special events
Never thought you’d see a legacy (paper) FastPass ever again? Think again! If you’ve camped out this year at Star Wars Weekends overnight (or in the wee hours in the morning) in order to get into an autograph session, then you’ve been the proud recipient of one retro FastPass. Though Disney phased out paper FastPasses for attractions, it looks like events that have people lining up still require a physical FastPass that Cast Members can hand out.
When you have events where small (but dedicated) groups of fans are willing to stake out spots in line for hours in advance, it’s hard to create a FastPass+ system to accommodate those who have been waiting in a fair way. Though a specialty kiosk could eventually take the place of paper FastPasses in this scenario, it doesn’t seem like My Disney Experience has the infrastructure to handle these single-serve events currently, and the paper FastPasses fill the gap well enough for the time being and probably will continue to do so for the forseeable future.
2. Special event reservations are going to become the norm
If you’ve ever been to Star Wars Weekends in the past, you know that waiting in line all day is pretty much the norm when it comes to attending shows like Behind the Force and Stars of the Saga. However, this year Disney has allowed users to make FastPass+ selections for featured shows, eliminating the need to devote an entire day to waiting in line. From my own experience, this new option has been a hit with guests, but more importantly, it encourages guests to attend multiple days in a row.
Like Toy Story Midway Mania and Fantasmic, shows at Star Wars Weekends are Tier 1 FastPasses, which means you can only select one per day. However, if you want to see Stars of the Saga and Behind the Force (which both feature rotating celebrity guests every weekend), you can make FastPass reservations for Saturday and Sunday. Add special “limited time” engagements like A Visit to the Maul and Warwick Davis’ My Short Story to the mix, and you’ve got guests who want to see all the shows spending some part of all three weekend days at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
With this new system, guests don’t have to wait in line, and Disney keeps guests flowing into the park. It’s hard to see a downside here, and based on my unscientific poll of people waiting both in FastPass and standby lines, guests seem to like having a guaranteed seat at shows, and don’t mind coming back multiple days to see each show.
3. Star Wars Weekends 2015 will likely feature more FastPass+ experiences
Testing out how guests respond to FastPass+ for shows has worked out pretty well this year, and I can’t imagine Disney not expanding potential FastPass+ options for next year. Guaranteed spots for the motorcade parade is an easy tier 1 option, and character meet and greets could make for a compelling mix of tier 1 and tier 2 options, especially as lines for characters like Darth Vader, Boba Fett and Chewbacca can stretch on for 70 minutes or more, while characters like Shaak Ti, Kit Fisto, Luke Skywalker and Darth Goofy have had had much shorter waits.
Though there have been plenty of complaints in recent months about the FastPass+ system, so far it looks to be implemented well at Star Wars Weekends, and its success here bodes well for more FastPass+ events later this year. Securing FastPasses for Eat to the Beat during Food and Wine Festival or Candlelight Processional during Christmas at EPCOT could certainly eliminate some of the frustration that surrounds these events, and would be a welcome addition for guests who don’t like standing in line.