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Disney announces “NextGen” theme park technology to include ride reservations from home, advance hotel check-in

Disney announces “NextGen” theme park technology to include ride reservations from home, advance hotel check-in

Disney’s award-winning, revolutionary FastPass system may become a thing of the past in the coming years as the theme park pioneers work on their newest methods to eliminating lines.

One of the biggest (likely the biggest) complaints guests have in attending a theme park is having to wait in line. You wait in line for hotel check-in, to ride attractions, see shows, eat, and even to use the restroom. And with the addition of FastPass as a way to reserve a time later in the day for a ride, guests even sometimes have to wait in line to get a pass.

Disney is well aware of the negatives associated with waiting and for several years has been creating new technologies to help ease, or potentially eliminate, the need for queues. In an investors conference today in Anaheim, Calif., Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs said Disney’s ongoing “Next Generation Experience,” or “NextGen,” project will include ways of checking in for a Disney hotel stay at home, with delivery of room keys prior to arrival.

But in an even bigger development, Staggs said:

“…we are currently developing an innovative system that will, in essence, create a version of FASTPASS for their entire Disney vacations. Now we define the guest experience as beginning from the time a potential guest sits down at a computer or picks up a phone to make a reservation. Our new tools will help them better understand all that we have to offer and better plan their time with us. They’ll be able to create a personalized itinerary that gives them the exact Disney vacation they want.

Guests will be able to reserve times for their favorite attractions and character interactions… secure seats at our shows and spectaculars… make dining reservations… and pre-book many other favorite guest experiences – all before even leaving their house.”

In essence, this new ride reservation system would allow guests to book times to ride various attractions in advance of even being in the park, much in the same way dining reservations are made. The same would be possible for seeing theme park shows and even meeting characters.

And once on rides, the “NextGen” project will create experiences based on guests’ personal information, allowing a new level of interaction with attractions.

Staggs did admit that all of this technology will still “be some time” before any of it reaches the parks. Right now, smaller steps are being made to improve waiting in line, such as adding interactive elements and games like those now found in the Magic Kingdom at Space Mountain, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and soon at The Haunted Mansion.

According to Staggs, reactions have been positive with regards to the Pooh queue experience:

“We are rethinking the queue lines at many of our attractions, and are enhancing them in ways that make them part of the show, essentially creating a new “Scene One” for the attractions, if you will. For example, the Winnie the Pooh attraction in Florida we just opened has a new hands-on area where our younger guests can explore and play in the Hundred Acre Wood. It’s been so successful that we’ve heard kids asking their parents NOT to use FASTPASS in order to enjoy the new first scene that much longer. You know we are doing something right if kids are asking to wait in line.”

But do guests really want to reserve rides and shows from home? Doesn’t the average tourist already have enough planning to worry about, with hotel, plane, rental car, and dining reservations? Do guests at a Disney theme park want to eliminate all spontaneity from a trip?

Moreover, what will happen to the traditional “standby” line for those who don’t make these reservations (or have any kind of FastPass)? Will those lines continue to get longer as a result of ride time bookings, essentially forcing all guests to make the reservations out of fear of spending hours in line?

Disney is almost definitely considering all these scenarios and reactions to ride reservations and with the system still years away from showing up in the parks (if ever), there is plenty of time to get it right. But the worry remains… Perhaps instead of overhearing excited theme park visitors exclaiming “Let’s ride Space Mountain!”, it will turn to “What’s next on our schedule?” – and that’s no fun.

What are your thoughts on reserving ride times at home for Disney attractions? Is it helpful for trip planning or does it just add more stress? Comment below!


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