Walt Disney World expands testing of MyMagic+

by Jeff Kober, contributing writer
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Disney started a new phase of testing of its My Magic + program June 20 through 26, inviting a group of preselected guests staying at Disney's Contemporary Resort and Disney's Animal Kingdom Resort to participate in a trial of the Fastpass+ system using MagicBand wristbands. Until now, the only exposure most Walt Disney World guests have had to My Magic+ has come in the Key to the World cards that are used not only for Disney resort room entry, but also for theme park admission and to pay for dining and retail purchases using the "tap to pay" terminals.

With this newest test, Disney now has regular park guests wearing and using the bands, and has even begun selling MagicBand accessories in resort shops. The debut of MagicBand wristbands among regular theme park guests, even on this limited scale, is a sign that all WDW visitors should become more familiar with what My Magic+ means for you once it's implemented across the board. The full extent of the program isn't known, so let's take a look at Fastpass+, the most visible part of the new system.


Fastpass+ might make Fastpass machines like these as obsolete as "E" tickets. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

First of all, what exactly is Fastpass+ ("Fastpass Plus"), and how does it differ from the Fastpass service Disney already offers? Like Fastpass, Fastpass+ gives you a specific time to ride selected attractions. The two main differences are:

  • You make these reservations while you're planning your trip, just like you would a restaurant reservation
  • You have access to rides, attractions, and experiences that aren't on the regular Fastpass system. Not only can you reserve a time to ride Space Mountain, you can also reserve a spot along the parade route for the Main Street Electrical Parade, and schedule your turn to experience Enchanted Tales with Belle.

When the program is opened to all visitors, you will make these Fastpass+ reservations before you ever leave home using the new My Disney Experience website, and modify them on the go using the My Disney Experience smartphone application. Unlike the traditional Fastpass, there are no paper tickets to use, which is where the MagicBand system comes in.


MagicBand accessories are on display at the Fantasia Shop at Disney's Contemporary Resort. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The MagicBand wristband is your own personal storage device, a combination room key, charge card, Fastpass tracker and more. Instead of presenting a Fastpass ticket to a cast member when it's your time to ride, you tap your MagicBand wristband on a special pilar installed at the Fastpass+ entrance.

While I didn't see many guests using MagicBand wristbands during this most recent test, what really caught my attention while in the parks was the number of attractions that now feature a Fastpass+ entrance. Here are the rides that currently offer Fastpass, and the attractions that now offer Fastpass+:

Magic Kingdom

Attractions currently offering Fastpass: Attractions & shows offering Fastpass+:
  • The Barnstormer – opened with Fastpass
  • Big Thunder Mountain
  • Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
  • Dumbo The Flying Elephant – opened as a Fastpass last year
  • Jungle Cruise
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Town Square Theater – Mickey Mouse
  • Town Square Theater – Minnie Mouse
  • Mickey's PhilarMagic
  • Peter Pan's Flight
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • Under the Sea – Journey of The Little Mermaid
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • Haunted Mansion
  • it's a small world
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – opening in 2014
  • Stitch's Great Escape
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • Main Street Electrical Parade
  • Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade

Epcot

Attractions currently offering Fastpass: Attractions & shows offering Fastpass+:
  • Living with the Land
  • Mission: SPACE
  • Maelstrom
  • Soarin'
  • Test Track
  • Captain EO
  • Journey Into Imagination with Figment
  • Spaceship Earth
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends
  • IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
  • Character Spot

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Attractions currently offering Fastpass: Attractions & shows offering Fastpass+:
  • Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
  • Star Tours
  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Toy Story Mania
  • The American Idol Experience
  • Disney Junior Live on Stage
  • The Great Movie Ride
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
  • Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show
  • Muppet Vision 3D
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Attractions currently offering Fastpass: Attractions & shows offering Fastpass+:
  • Dinosaur
  • Expedition Everest
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Primeval Whirl
  • Under the Sea – Journey of The Little Mermaid
  • Adventurers Outpost Meet 'n' Greet
  • Festival of the Lion King
  • Finding Nemo The Musical
  • It's Tough to be a Bug*

Didn't that attraction used to have Fastpass?

If you're looking through those on the new Fastpass+ list and thinking, "Hey wait—didn't that attraction used to be a Fastpass?," you're probably right. When Fastpass became all the rage in the early 2000's, management was labeling anything they could get away with as Fastpass attractions. Included were attractions like Haunted Mansion, It's Tough to be a Bug and even Honey I Shrunk the Audience before it was re-converted to Captain EO again.

Fastpass+ is being added to many attractions that previously discontinued regular Fastpass service, or never offered it. They are also adding Fastpass+ to shows and parades that have never been part of the Fastpass program.

How does Fastpass+ work for parades and fireworks?

Fastpass+ lets you reserve a spot in a designated viewing area for parades and fireworks, but doesn't save you a specific seat. You'll still need to arrive before the show starts, but you won't have to hold your spot on a curb for hours as you might without a Fastpass+

Since Fastpass+ is still in a test phase, everything about future implementation and how it will impact your next visit is all speculation at this point.

If your family was selected to particiate in this recent Fastpass+ test, I'd love to hear from you.

Comments

  1. By mckat

    For my trip in August, I will be redeeming an AP (I have a voucher), but my family has old fashion tickets. We can't all use the new turnstiles or participate in Fastpast +. Once you have magic bands, you can no longer get regular FP correct? I'd still like to update the whole families cards, but not if it means not being able to still get FP- we are park hopping and would like to be able to use FP in both parks. Has anyone been able to upgrade regular tickets to RFID?

  2. By carolinakid

    Will they continue to maintain the old fastpass system for those who don't have smartphones?

  3. By lnsemsf

    From my understanding of the system, you won't have to worry about the magic bands because the system is nowhere ready to go live on a massive scale and I doubt that will change in a month. When you get your AP it will have a magnetic stripe and an RFID so you can use either set of turn styles. You'll all need to use the old fashioned ones if you want to walk in together but after that everything else will be the same and you all just use the normal fast pass machines.

    As for people without smart phones and the new system, I believe there are eventually going to be kiosks around the parks that you can use to make and change your fast pass reservations. However it'll be months to years before everything is 100% ready to go, and maybe by then you'll move in to the 2010s and have a smart phone! :-)

  4. By mkelm44

    Just hate the idea of having to book your rides in advance... Half of the fun of Disney World is the ability to be spontaneous... I don't like the idea of basically wandering around the world with a spreadsheet that tells me I'm riding Space Mountain at 10:30, then Space Ranger Spin at 11:15, then have a break until I ride the Jungle Crusie at 1. It's just too stressful and will make it even harder to get on the popular rides...

  5. By davidgra

    Everything about this "enhanced" experience makes me sad. I'm sad that I'll have to add stress to my life about making sure I get my fastpass reservations done MONTHS before I travel, if I want to make sure I can get the fastpasses at all. I'm sad that I'll have to stress about when and where I spend every minute on EVERY DAY of my trip, in order to make sure I'm at the right place at the right time for my next fastpass. I'm sad because I think of all the first-time visitors who will have NO IDEA how to plan a trip when they don't know anything about the parks.

    I hope Disney is reading this. This system can only serve to add stress to peoples' lives. It takes away any sense of spontaneity -- unless you choose not to use it, in which case all you get to look forward to is longer wait times for attractions that didn't have longer waits before.

    I know there are people who like to plan every detail of a trip in advance, and it seems that those people are being rewarded, while the rest of us are being punished for not wanting to plan every footstep of our day six months in advance.

    I'll certainly try to keep an open mind, and I'll use the system once it's up and running -- although I hope it's not up and running by the time we visit in August -- but Disney is making it very hard to have anything other than negative thoughts about this whole system.

  6. By petesimac

    Well this certainly explains all the new fast pass queues I saw there this past week. I fear that we are leading up to a paid enhanced fast pass; the free fastpass will still be available, but the paying users will be able to claim the lion's share, leaving fewer available for the free users, and make the stand by lines even longer for the rides we aren't able to get fast passes for (due to timing, etc). If this prediction of mine comes true, Disney and I will part ways forever. There are already plenty of ways for the rich Disney-goers to enhance their trip, and more power to them; I have no problem with those who worked hard all their lives to be able to enjoy their well earned rewards. But to create a system where by the rich are granted the ability to buy their way onto rides while the less blessed have to wait because they can't afford to pay their way to the front is sickening and distinctly un-Walt-like. I hope I'm wrong, and I love the idea of being able to plan my days around fastpass reservations, but I fear the 1-percent are about to become more valued members of the Disney family.

    i know that other parks already offer paid fast passes, but they are not Disney. Disney is supposed to be different. Again, I have no problem with the Disney corp. making more money, but for them to allow something as cynical as class warfare come into play at the parks will be the beginning of the end of the Disney we know and love.

    Boy I hope I'm wrong.

  7. By jimthedj

    As an annual pass holder that is local to the WDW in Orlando, Fast pass+ will destroy my Disney experience. No more just deciding to go a day of or day before, all the prime times to go onto a ride will be filled. At least with regular fast pass you could get them the same day and wait in line for things. Fast pass+ they will be booked months in advance. Proof? Try to get dinner reservation the day before to any popular dinning attraction. Not going to happen. Rides will be the same way. Everything will be like the standby line in Soaring. A 2 hour wait.

    Fast pass+ is the enemy to every local annual pass holder. If this comes like i think it will, i will not be renewing my annual pass.

  8. By sunfun94

    I guess I'm confused as to why they wouldn't just move the current FP system to the bracelet and leave it be? Meaning, say, you scan your wrist at these "posts", it bings to let you know its there... the current return times are posted above your head (like they are now) and once you have scanned your bracelet then it is updated to your Disney App... you would only be allowed saaaay 2 FP's at a time... then at your return time you scan a post and voila! On the app and the desktop version it asks who is in your party, if they wanted to get real fancy, they could have the FP times upload to all the bracelets in your party saving a ton of time.... Then either way, your FP's are managed, no one has to plan their entire day out 9 months in advance, Disney goes green and saves money for giving up all the paper and the AP's have their spontaneity back..granted it wont help those w/o a smartphone but there are simple enough ways around that... (bring a pencil and notepad? )

    ETA - The app could then tell the user in a byline under the listed FP's what time they are eligible to go and get new ones... just sayin

  9. By Eno2101

    After reading some of the comments I thought I would post my views on the new system.

    1) Fastpass+ looks like it will be a chargeable system, an extra revenue stream over regular fast pass. For years now Universal have gained many $ charging for the fast pass system where with Disney it is free. Fast pass would continue alongside for day guests and those not wishing to upgrade. Fast pass could switch to wristband but this would add $$$ to Disney operating costs so I don't see it unless there is a hike in entrance fees to cover it

    2) I like the idea of booking rides in advance. I see this working exactly like dining so I would gladly forgo the mad dash at DHS opening for TSM fast pass tickets or any other treks around the parks just to get a ticket and return later to ride it, always been a big waste of time in my eyes.
    I would imagine you could book with concierge or at City Hall for example for last minute changes.

    3) no tickets to lose or get wet! Also no arguing with the poor cast member when people are 5 minutes early (I see this all the time & it always gets me why people do this)

    4) you are guaranteed a ride / spot for parade on the busiest days where normally you'd have no chance. Of course this does mean being prompt on the 180 day reservation slot!

    5) You have a cool keep sake for the scrap album where you never get to keep the FP tickets!

    Yes I like the idea in principle as I like the current key to the world. My only negative would be the white mark on your wrist from the tan line when you go back!

  10. By ThatCrazyRedhead

    I agree with mkelm44 and davidgra 100%!! And I'm a planner. I plan hotels and drving routes and meals months in advance of the actual trip, but I've never gone so far as to plan when exactly to ride which ride. Sure, we usually start our day with a cup of coffee and then head over to Pirates, but sometimes we'll start with Star Tours or California Adventure. I'd hate to have to get my FastPasses in advance of my trip. I also expect Disney to start charging to use them, and it makes me sad. I know they're in business to make money, but more costs only put a Disney World vacation even farther out of reach for us. :-(

    I think the idea of saving a spot in advance for a parade or fireworks sounds great in theory, but I see putting it into practice turning into a circus. How many Cast Members are going to have to stand guard over the reserved section, and for how long? That's only going to clog traffic for everyone. Anyway, I really don't think this new system is a good idea.

  11. By towels

    Just to provide an alternate point of view to some of the angst I'm seeing.
    First off, I doubt Walt would object to people having to pay more for access to the more popular rides. After all, that's where the E ticket came from. If you wanted to ride all of the best rides, you had to spend more money to get more E or D tickets. Now the rate at which the park prices have gone up is a separate and very valid issue, but supply and demand seems to remain on Disney's side. Buying access was in place from 1955.
    As far as having Cast Members standing guard for reserved sections, this doesn't seem very different from what they do for accessible sections, or dining/dessert packages. That process is already in place and I don't see this adding anything further complicated than a RFID reader next to the cast member manning the rope.
    Ultimately I could see FP+ as actually being more fair than the current system where everyone does a mad dash to the most popular attractions like TSM or Soarin', snapping up all the fastpasses. Prefer to sleep in? Mobility issues? Not looking to participate in a rope drop mini-marathon? Too bad.
    Now with FP+ more people will have access to these can't miss attractions without having to lace up their track shoes and show up at the gate 2 hours before opening.
    Finally, from the predictions I've seen, people will be limited in how many FP+ they can do in advance (I've seen some guesses of 3 per day) and that these advance FP will just be deducted from the regular FP pool. I don't see how that will have any effect on the spontaneous visitors that can currently show up and have to choose between walking right in to EO or waiting standby for an hour and a half to ride Test Track. Of course until it's really rolled out (and revised to whatever Disney management wants) it's all speculation, but it sure doesn't seem like the sky is falling to me.

  12. By baylakebeliever

    Yes, I agree with you Towels, this was my understanding of the Fastpass+ system as well. It would let you pre select 2 FP's, one show and one parade or night time viewing for that day. After that you would use the older system It was not to preplan ALL your rides or shows. Disney already has a set up like this anyways depending on how you book your trip. Our 1st trip in 2004 we had a plan that included Illuminations, the AK afternoon parade and Wishes viewing area as part of the package. On our 2010 trip the 5 of us received a special FP that had 3 uses on each one for any ride at any time as long as they were still distributing regular FP for that day and allowed us an immediate return time just to go to listen to a DVC member presentation. Then when we bought more points they gave us an additional 5 of these passes. So on the next day we went into MK with 30 FP in our hands!

    Call me foolish but I think Disney is really trying to spread out the crowds and stop all the mad dashes at rope drop. I truly think it is sad to see adults push and trample over each other at rope drop just to get a TSM FP. Also there is so much to do outside of the parks. We were at a graduation party last night and when my kids were asked about their WDW trip, all my 2 youngest could talk about was the day we went horseback riding! Go figure! Lastly, we won't really know how all this will play out till the system is up and running. As for one who loves WDW I will keep my hopes up that it will make it enjoyable and fun for everyone!

  13. By CariBelle

    I just customized our MagicBands, the option popped up when I logged in to My Disney Experience today. It also says I have access to FP+ but it doesn't seem to be loading correctly.

  14. By mckat

    Wow. Thanks Caribelle- this is the first hard evidence I've seen that FP+ is going live. We will be there in about a month and I'm wondering if it will be up. Please let us know if it starts working for you. I went to MDE site and got a popup window with information on FP+. It says unless you are participating in a test, it isn't active now- but it has more info links. Note, I don't have a RFID card (my family has the old tickets for our upcoming trip) and I have an AP voucher- so I don't know if the site is taking into account if you have RFID entrance media already or not.

  15. By sunfun94

    Quote Originally Posted by CariBelle View Post
    I just customized our MagicBands, the option popped up when I logged in to My Disney Experience today. It also says I have access to FP+ but it doesn't seem to be loading correctly.

    Thats awesome... did you get picked to test? We are heading out in Oct and it hasn't gone live for us quite yet ...

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