App Review: Disney Releases Official Disneyland App

by Lani Teshima, staff writer
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The new official Disneyland smartphone applications for Android and iOS devices launched earlier this week, offering much of the same functionality of Disney's retired Mobile Magic app, plus some nice new features. As before, you can browse park maps, see official wait times, find characters, and view dining options. The biggest change seems to be the ability to link your admission media to the app, allowing you to enter the park without pulling your ticket or annual pass from your wallet (you still need your physical ticket to obtain Fastpass).

This looks to be a step towards bringing a Disneyland version of My Disney Experience to the West Coast, but using your own mobile device instead of a MagicBand.


The opening splash screen for the Disneyland app for the iPhone.

We had some trouble finding the app in the Apple App Store, and we suspect it is a combination of the trademark symbol being part of its name, and because it is so new that it had very few reviews. To cut through the clutter, you can access them directly from here:

How does this official app fare? Let's take a look.

Pros Cons Bottom Line
Simple to navigate and visually appealing, this app has some truly helpful functions, like real-time wait times, character meet-and-greet locations, and ability to make dining reservations. Does not require you to be physically in the park to use. Some features are sorely missing, like the ability to make a Fastpass reservation, or even find out if a Fastpass is still available for a ride. Linking profiles is confusing, and not particularly useful. Premier Annual Passes don't work with this app. Disney has hit a grand slam with its official Disneyland app. Install this app if you plan to visit the Disneyland Resort. If you install no other Disneyland-related app, install this one.

Flagship Features

Although there are many features available in this app, there are a few standouts that are particularly helpful.

Real-time wait times

If you are in the park, this is the single best feature of the app. Although you can go to the information boards at both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks, this app lets you check approximate wait times on the fly, allowing you to adjust your ride strategy based on how long the waits are.


The Attractions menu option shows wait times on the Disneyland smartphone app.


Tapping on a wait time pop-up displays the name of the attraction, and its wait time.

Character meet-and-greets

A feature that is only available on the app, this feature can turn an average visit for a child into a magical day filled with personal encounters with Disney characters. Although the location of characters is presented as just another map feature in the app, I think this is another huge win with this app. The information is unavailable in the paper guide map, and the feature is perfect for the smartphone platform, especially with details on hours (of what time characters are available).


The Characters menu option shows Mickey icons where you can visit with characters throughout the resort.


Tapping on a Mickey icon displays the details of the character, as well as their location.


Some characters, like the Fairy Godmother, have specific times you can visit with them, and this is listed on their detail screen.

Purchase park tickets

Whether you buy your tickets months in advance or if you purchase as you catch the tram from the Mickey and Friends parking structure, you will never have to stand in line at the ticket booths in the Esplanade again.


The app lets you purchase park admission tickets right from your phone.

Link your ticket or annual pass to the app

The app lets you link your park ticket or annual pass to your account on the app, and lets you use your smartphone to enter the turnstiles into the park. So now, you can board your flight at the airport and enter Disneyland with just your phone.


After you link your annual pass or admission ticket to your profile, the barcode appears in the app and allows you to use it to enter the park.

Make dining reservations

Let the app take you to detailed information about a dining establishment, and make dining reservations directly from your smartphone without phoning a dining operator.

Find restrooms quickly

Next to real-time wait times, knowing where the nearest restroom is located is very convenient.


One of the most useful features of the app is the map of restrooms in the resort.

Basic Navigation

When you first fire up the app, it gives you the option to log in; conveniently, you use the same email address and password you use for your Disney.com login.

Profile screen

Once you log in, the initial screen shows your name. Tap Profile under your name to see your My Profile screen. Here, you can update your Disney.com account settings, contact information, and preferred credit card payment information.

From this Profile screen, you can link a pass (more on this below), purchase park tickets and annual passes, as well as look up park hours.


The app gives park hours for the next 40 days.

Main Menu Options

To get out of the Profile screen, swipe the page downward. This takes you to the main area of the app. Everything is oganized in a dozen categories, which you can access by tapping on the words at the top of the screen.

When you tap on a category, the labels on the resort map change to show you those associated items in the form of little pop-up bubbles. Most of these pop-ups include small icons to indicate what they are, but some, like the Attractions category, shows pop-ups with numbers that indicate wait time in minutes.

Tapping on a bubble displays a little dialog with the name of the attraction or venue, and its general location.

Tap on this dialog to see a screen with information at a glance, including how late the venue is open, and a short description.

Menu category Pop-up icon Information offered
Attractions Wait times (or a star symbol if no wait queue) Height restrictions, appropriate age groups, Fastpass service, ride description, thrill type (if appropriate), and accessibility information.
Characters Mickey icons Times that a character is available at the location
Dining Fork and knife Dining reservations if taken, hours, price range, annual passholder discounts, dining style, type of cuisine
Restrooms Figures of a man and woman Nothing of note
Photopass Camera lens with mouse ears Nothing of note
Entertainment Magician's hat Showtimes, appropriate age groups, entertainment type, accessibility information
Events & Tours Stars Type, appropriate age groups, prices, accessibility information.
Guest Services Varies Nothing of note. This is one category that is weak. There are so many services offered, and the icons are not all easy to identify in map view. If you know what type of service you seek, flip to the list view and find your category.
Hotels Building Tap to call to book. There is no obvious menu option for phoning the general operator.
Recreation Beach ball Nothing of note, however, as with Guest Services, this category is better to navigate in list view.
Shops Shopping bag The map view is also overwhelming, since there are so many shops.
Spa Leaf The only spa listed is in the Grand Californian Hotel. No prices or details listed.

Weaknesses

Although none of these are dealbreakers, we found a few issues with the app.

Linking Admission Media

There are two things you can do in this app with park tickets and annual passes: One that adds a ticket for yourself, and another that adds other people in your linked system.

From your Profile screen, you can add your own admission media to your profile. This supposedly lets you use the barcode you display on your app, as your ticket in through the turnstiles. This saves you the 10 seconds you need to take your ticket or annual pass out of your wallet.

There are a couple of caveats here that tamper my enthusiasm for this feature.

First, this is currently unsupported for the Premier Annual Pass. A note at the bottom of the Tickets & Passes screen mentions this, but it feels like yet another case of "why is the most expensive Disney annual pass treated so shabbily?" When you try to scan a Premier AP, you see this unhelpful, incomprehensible error message:

No Validation Failure Reason Given Try again later.

Second, you cannot use your linked admission media to get Fastpass tickets. Even if you can enter the park with just your smartphone, it turns out you still need your physical ticket or annual pass to obtain a Fastpass.

The other feature of this app is the ability to associate multiple tickets and annual passes to your profile. At first glance, this seems particularly handy for parents. After all, if you don't have to worry about carrying little Junior's park ticket, you can just stand at the turnstile and let all your children through.

Unfortunately, the app doesn't quite work that way.

If you have two parents and one parent adds their children's admission media into their app, the other parent cannot add it to theirs; it says the children's admission media/APs are already associated with another account.

You cannot pull up these linked admission medias for admission.

Finally, linked admission media do not appear in the Tickets & Passes screen; they are only visible under the My Profile screen. This means you must still bring your children's admission media with you to the park.

MousePlanet staff member Adrienne Krock reports:

I have to scroll down to see [their listing]. I can't click on the boys' names. And even though I see it here, I don't see their passes under tickets & passes & it won't let me add it.

I added the boys to my account via the profile page. After that it won’t let Kevin link the boys to his at all.

When I went to the tickets and passes page, it won’t let me add the boys’ and tells me that they’re already linked to another account.


You can link multiple annual passes or tickets to your profile.

Fastpass Limitations

Fastpass ability is almost nonexistent for this app. Although we could easily see that this app did not offer the ability to make Fastpass reservations, we were surprised to find that it also lacks some information we expected to find.

  • The app does not show the need for and/or availability of Fastpass tickets for Fantasmic and/or World of Color, nor does it display which show they are issuing tickets for. Does not show the need for and/or availability of Fastpass tickets for the Frozen Sing Along in DCA or storytelling in Fantasy Faire inside Disneyland (or which show they are issuing tickets for).
  • The app mentions whether a ride uses the Fastpass system, but does not say when the return times are for anyone who picks up a Fastpass ticket at that moment.
  • The app provides no information on whether all Fastpass tickets for an attraction or show have been distributed for the day (as often happens with Radiator Springs Racers). Knowing this information would save people a lot of walking.

An additional note: Although the information is printed on the park guide maps, the app does not indicate whether an attraction uses single-rider lines.

Poor search

There is a search field in the top navigation bar, but entering words you know are in the app yields odd results. For example, if you enter bathroom (perhaps because you didn't know to scroll far enough to get to the main Restroom category), the search result says there are only two in the entire park (one at ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney, and the second one in Plaza Inn restaurant). Using the word restroom is even worse; the single result you get is for Princess Dot Puddle Park (a true head-scratcher).

It's obvious that they are not using an internal index or controlled vocabulary/glossary, so don't expect to get an accurate result by using the search functionality.

iOS 9 unsupported

Although iOS 9 was announced just this summer and is not yet available for general use, it is widely available for testing purposes by anyone. The Disneyland app, however, does not work yet with iOS 9.

Bottom Line

This is a game-changer for the Disneyland smartphone app landscape. With a lightweight footprint, this app is fast, quick, and uncluttered. It is visually appealing, easy to navigate, and simple to understand. It is not bogged down with unnecessary information, adds extra functionality unavailable elsewhere, and offers functionality for making reservations and purchasing park admission. Simply amazing.

App at a Glance

iOS version

  • App name: Disneyland
  • Developed by: Disney Electronic Content, Inc.
  • Platforms: iOS 7.0 or later (but not 9.0), compatible with iPhone iPad, and iPod Touch.
  • Cost: Free
  • Version reviewed: 1.0 Build: 20150732
  • Size: 63.5 MB
  • Available from the Apple iTunes App Store
  • Pros: Easy to navigate, real-time data with ability to purchase tickets and make dining reservations.
  • Cons: Requires an Internet connection for wait times, some features not yet fully developed.
  • Lani's rating: 4.9 out of 5. Misses by a hair for underdeveloped features.

Android version

  • App name: Disneyland
  • Developed by: Disney Electronic Content, Inc.
  • Platforms: Android version 4.0.3 and up
  • Cost: Free
  • Current version: 1.0(v1.0.0+build.22)
  • Size: 18 MB
  • Available from the Google Play Store

[Special thanks go to staff members Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix and Adrienne Krock for additional app testing.]


Bonus – Dining Walk-Through

This walk-through helps show you how to navigate the Disneyland app to make a dining reservation.

1. From the main menu, select Dining.


The Dining map in the Disneyland app.

2. Tap on an icon to bring up the pop-up summary for the restaurant.


Tapping on a fork and knife pop-up displays the name of the establishment in the Disneyland app.

3. Tap on the pop-up summary. You see the information page for the restaurant, with hours, price ranges, and additional information.


Tapping on the name of the establishment takes you to its detail page in the Disneyland app.

4. Scroll down to see more information about the restaurant, including dining experience type, and type of cuisine.


The detail page is long for some dining establishments in the Disneyland app.

5. Tap Annual Passholder Discounts to expand the list of available discounts.


Some information is hidden in the detail page. Tap on them to expand, for example, with discount information.

6. On the top of the information page, tap Find a Table. The app warns you that you are about to leave the app to go online (using a browser such as Safari). The Find a Table web page appears.


Tapping the Find a Table label on the detail page takes you out of the app and over to the Disneyland website to make a reservation online.

7. The Find a Table web page provides details on dining hours, as well as access to a great amount of detail. There are links to TripAdvisor reviews, as well as the ability to view the menu.


Once you are taken to the Disneyland website for the dining establishment, there is far more information, including links to TripAdvisor reviews. Although not obvious, you can click on View Menu and look at their menu online. The website seems to load slower than pages on the app.

The menu is not easy to spot. Near the bottom of the page, tap View Menu, even though the words do not appear as a link. That link was not obvious to Katie on MousePad, who wrote:

I just downloaded the app and it looks very clean and functional. One thing it doesn't have which would be handy are menus if you dig into the restaurant locations. It is nice that they list operating hours.

8. Tap the green Find a Table button; the Make a Reservation page appears. On this page, choose your preferred date, time, and party size, then tap Find a Table. If there are any seatings available, you see the results on the page.


You can find an opening make a dining reservation right on your phone.

9. Select your time of choice. If you have already entered a valid credit card for your app profile, the system will use that credit card to secure your reservation.

I found that it was possible to make same-day reservations this way, so this is a good way to find a place to eat in the parks when you haven't made reservations too far in advance (assuming they still have seats available).

 

Comments

  1. By DisneyGator

    This app is perfect for us. First and foremost, we want an app that tells us the accurate wait times at attractions. MouseWaits was OK, but it wasn't really reliable. This is accurate down to the minute. Second, my wife can use it to find restrooms when one of the kids suddenly needs a potty break. Third, I'm GLAD GLAD GLAD you can't make a FP reservation from the app. That would mean we now FP+ with a whole new set of rules and reservations to make months in advance. That would kill the relaxed vibe of DL. Let's hope it never comes and we keep the Legacy FP forever.

  2. By Pammer

    Thanks for a great overview! I look forward to trying it out on my new visit.

  3. By bumblebeeonarose

    Quote Originally Posted by DisneyGator View Post
    Third, I'm GLAD GLAD GLAD you can't make a FP reservation from the app. That would mean we now FP+ with a whole new set of rules and reservations to make months in advance. That would kill the relaxed vibe of DL. Let's hope it never comes and we keep the Legacy FP forever.

    They could make FP+ work on a day by day basis at DL. So instead of walking to the ride/show to make your FP reservation, once you've entered the park you could use your phone to add the FP to your account. It would save people walking all around the park to secure their FP spot without making it a plan months ahead issue. Of course they would need to fix the linking of accounts so that more than one phone can be used. I really hope they at least make the shows FP+, so people can choose the exact time they want to see Fantasmic or WOC instead of just getting whatever FP is handed to them. I'm pretty sure this new APP will be seeing updates in the future as the park moves towards some kind of new FP system.

  4. By corona

    Who knows what "central plaza" refers to?
    If Disney means "the hub", why not use the term people know?

    As for Bert and Mary specifically, the only meet 'n greet they have in that area is at Refreshment Corner (which "everyone" calls Coke Corner)
    People hoping to find them in the "central plaza" will have to 1) figure out what that means and probably 2) waste time looking for then at the hub

    I don't see that using this app is better than (or perhaps even equal to) inquiring at the information stand by the wait times board.

  5. By Lani

    Quote Originally Posted by corona View Post
    Who knows what "central plaza" refers to?
    If Disney means "the hub", why not use the term people know?
    "Central Plaza" is the official name of the hub, actually. "The hub" is an unofficial nickname. If you look at the printed park guide map, for example, it is not labeled as "The Hub." "Hub" is more a physical description (as in "hub and spokes") but I can see Disney wanting to be consistent by using only official names for locations.

    Quote Originally Posted by corona View Post
    As for Bert and Mary specifically, the only meet 'n greet they have in that area is at Refreshment Corner (which "everyone" calls Coke Corner)
    People hoping to find them in the "central plaza" will have to 1) figure out what that means and probably 2) waste time looking for then at the hub
    I did notice that the location identifiers aren't always helpful. I saw that there were some examples like "Disney California Adventure" as a location. That wasn't really helpful because it was too general.

    You're right about Coke Corner vs. Refreshment Corner. Most people refer to it as Coke Corner (I do!), but the official name is Refreshment Corner.

    As for having trouble finding the locations, I think they made the right decision to stick with official place names in the park, rather than nicknames. The unofficial nicknames are used by regular park visitors (such as annual passholders), not by an infrequent or first-time visitor. They will likely refer to the printed park guide map in conjunction with the app, and it's very important that the place names match between paper and app, or it would create real confusion.

    Quote Originally Posted by corona View Post
    I don't see that using this app is better than (or perhaps even equal to) inquiring at the information stand by the wait times board.

    I may be wrong, but I think the app shows wait times for a lot more attractions than are listed on the board. On top of that, I can also easily look up real-time wait times for the other park, which you can't do at the wait times board.

    Even though the wait times board at Disneyland is pretty centrally located, it's still a bit of a walk. Let's say I just finished snacking at Bengal BBQ in Adventureland, and I want to decide if I want to walk down to the stand-by queue at Splash Mountain, *OR* go to Tomorrowland for whatever rides aren't too long to wait for.

    If I had to go to the wait times board, I'd have to walk BACK in the wrong direction. It's not terribly far, but between walking out and back, it's an extra 10 minutes I don't need to waste if I can just look at the app on my phone.

    I suspect that becomes particularly noticeable when I'm in DCA. There's a LOT of walking involved there. What if I just got off of Screamin' and I wanted to know what wait times were like? Do I really want to walk the quarter mile from the ride to the wait times board by Carthay Circle?

  6. By olegc

    If i'm in Critter Country - or near Small World, i REALLY don't want to walk down to the wait board in Central Plaza to see what the wait time is for another attraction. If I have it in my hand I can decide to go towards Frontierland via BTM Trail, or to Tomorrowland (if I am at IASW).

    For me - I have had to log in each time my phone is restarted. I wish the app would store my ID (or at least offer the option).

    Note - I never got a warning that I was leaving the app for Disneyland's dining page (Android) to book a table at Cafe Orleans. And - this is trifling - but when I click find a table I should be taken to the Cafe Orleans info on the dining page, not simply to the list of dining options.

  7. By currence

    If you have two parents and one parent adds their children's admission media into their app, the other parent cannot add it to theirs; it says the children's admission media/aps are already associated with another account.you cannot pull up these linked admission medias for admission.
    finally, linked admission media do not appear in the tickets & passes screen; they are only visible under the my profile screen. This means you must still bring your children's admission media with you to the park.



    I don't know if I just have legacy issues and that they will "fix" the access to my account shortly, but for the time being I do get the barcode to scan for my daughter's annual pass. I had previously added/linked her pass and my husband's in my online account, and her pass was waiting for me when I logged on. It may also be a factor that I have a premier pass so I do not have my own barcode that would bump her pass.

    For the time being, it seems that I should be able to get my daughter into the park using just my phone. And, of course, my husband could as well if I trust him enough to give him the log-in information for my account.

    My son's pass is currently expired, this does now make me wonder whether it would have provided me access to his barcode as well, or if they are limiting the barcode to one per account and I am seeing my daughters only because mine will not load.

    This does show the expiration date of all of the passes - which is great since that information is hard to find on the mobile version of their main website.

  8. By Lani

    Quote Originally Posted by olegc View Post
    For me - I have had to log in each time my phone is restarted. I wish the app would store my ID (or at least offer the option).

    Note - I never got a warning that I was leaving the app for Disneyland's dining page (Android) to book a table at Cafe Orleans. And - this is trifling - but when I click find a table I should be taken to the Cafe Orleans info on the dining page, not simply to the list of dining options.
    It sounds like there are a few differences between the iOS and Android versions. So far, the app remembers me when I reopen it, or restart it. I haven't tried to test it after restarting my phone, though.

    I got a warning that I was leaving to go to Safari when I switched to the dining web page. Again, this may be a difference in platforms.

    Quote Originally Posted by currence View Post
    It may also be a factor that I have a premier pass so I do not have my own barcode that would bump her pass.

    Oh, I didn't even think of that as a possibility!

    I agree, seeing the expiration date is very helpful! I'd be curious how the display might change on the app when the AP does actually expire.

  9. By loophole69

    I have a premium pass that was already linked on the web site and it showed up on the app as soon as I logged in.

  10. By adriennek

    Quote Originally Posted by currence View Post
    It may also be a factor that I have a premier pass so I do not have my own barcode that would bump her pass.

    I think that's why you see her pass, because it doesn't show yours.

    So there are two places from which to link a pass - from the Profile page and from the Tickets & Passes page. My eldest finally found his pass and I tried linking it from the Tickets and Passes page - I still cannot see his pass. The most I can do is see his expiration date, same as I can with his brothers.

    I agree with you, Currence, I'm glad that I can easily see the expiration dates now. I hadn't encountered this as an issue until this summer as we were all expiring on different dates and it was the first time I dealt with not having expiration dates printed on our passes. I wish I could link my husband's pass, too, so I could see HIS expiration date.

  11. By currence

    Quote Originally Posted by adriennek View Post
    I wish I could link my husband's pass, too, so I could see HIS expiration date.

    There is or was a way to do this on their website. At some point, I linked my husbands pass to mine and his expiration date also shows up as one of my affiliations.

    CAVEAT: I just looked and he never bothered to accept my invitation to create his own account so I am listed as the manager of his account. This is probably why I have access to his information and not the other people in my family and friends list. So the work-around would be to have all of the passes on one account, but then you only get one barcode to scan.

  12. By Maus

    With the Oct. 26 update to the app FastPass times are now included which is a welcome addition.

    You noted that menus were included in the app, but only for table service restaurants after going to the website to reserve a table. I would love a bit more information for quick service locations than "American" or "buffet style."

  13. By GusMan

    Used the app a couple weeks ago. Thought it worked pretty well and gave out some rather accurate wait time info.
    Here is just my observation, though... using it in the afternoon was much more difficult than in the morning. Either the system got overloaded with people using it or the data service in the area was just way overwhelmed, increasing response time to a crawl.

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