As crowds thin out in the fall “off” season Walt Disney World has decided to run another FastPass+ test at a popular attraction known for commanding high wait times: Toy Story Midway Mania at Disney's Hollywood Studios. However, unlike tests that Disney has run at Soarin’ and the Princess Fairytale Hall (which allowed guests to visit the attraction for “return tickets” - essentially, legacy FastPasses) this test is a little different.
This time around, Disney is requiring users to make FastPass+ reservations either via the My Disney Experience app or with the FastPass+ kiosks. If you can’t make a FastPass reservation, then you can’t ride. This latest test has proved to be quite unpopular with guests, and raises some important questions, not only about the future of FastPass+, but also the ongoing guest experience at Disney parks around the world.
1. How valuable is your time in line?
When Disney first announced the Magic Band and FastPass+ project, the consensus was that Disney wanted to get guests out of lines, and into merchandise and dining locations. It seemed like a decent enough plan, and most guests didn’t mind having the option to see some of their favorite attractions faster, even if the ultimate goal was to get a little bit more of their hard-earned cash.
However, with this mandatory FastPass+ test, Disney isn’t just asking you to spend less time in line, they are demanding it. Which begs the question, how far are they willing to go to get guests into these shops and dining locations? By making FastPass+ mandatory, Disney is asserting that your time in line is enough of a threat to their bottom line that they want to get rid of it altogether. If Disney is willing to employ a vastly unpopular program like mandatory FastPass+, there must be a sizable estimate of lost revenue that Disney is hoping to recapture by eliminating line time. We’ll probably never know what that number is, but considering the extreme lengths Disney seems to be going to, it must be a truly astronomical figure.
2. How much control should Disney have over your vacation?
When you enter Disney property, you agree to several things. You agree to be photographed. You agree that Disney can track your movements through your Magic Bands. You even agree that Disney can eject you from the park if you engage in disorderly or offensive behavior.
Though most of these seem fairly reasonable, would you consent to Disney deciding what attractions you experience? Or when? By requiring FastPass+ at Toy Story Midway Mania, Disney is essentially holding the guest experience hostage and telling guests that the only way they can experience this attraction is on Disney’s own terms. If you prefer leisurely strolling through Disney’s Hollywood Studios and then deciding what attractions to experience on the fly, Disney is essentially telling you that you are not welcome to ride the most popular attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Though this “test” may be starting small, who knows how much control Disney will end up trying to exert in an effort to stamp out what it considers to be “undesirable” guest behavior.
3. Should special accommodations be made for children?
Though there are plenty of adults that love Disney World (present company included!) there is something truly amazing about being a kid at Walt Disney World. Those of us who were lucky enough to visit the parks as kids have fond memories of visiting favorite attractions, exploring the parks, and seeing familiar characters. However, what if the next generation of children can’t experience Disney World this way?
Currently, Toy Story Midway Mania is the only family-friendly ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and is a favorite among young toddlers and preschoolers. As you may already know, the under-5 crowd is very visually driven, and often decide they want to experience an attraction moments after seeing it. Can you imagine saying no to a two year old, who wants to ride Toy Story Midway Mania with a parent or family member, but doesn’t have a FastPass+? This very idea is against everything that Disney World is supposed to represent. Serving children is supposed to be a big part of what makes Disney World “The Happiest Place on Earth”, but if Disney can’t even get a toddler on a ride in a park that already under-serves this demographic, its fair to say that they are failing in their mission.