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

in Disney, Disneyland Resort, Entertainment, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

fastpass

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!

43 Comments

  1. Chris Severson

    Very interesting new concept.

    The last sentence of the article makes it seem bad for me.

  2. This is a terrible idea. Advanced hotel check ins sound nice, but advanced ride reservations? What about the Annual Passholders and locals? Do I have to make a Ride Reservation while I’m driving there, to make sure I don’t wait forever to ride Tower of Terror?

    Allowing guests to buy fastpasses at Universal is already bad enough, but this is just awful.

  3. Tryg

    What happens when someone no-shows, does the ride sit empty for that time slot? Or would this be more like a Fast Pass where you return only to wait in a short line? Plus what happens if the day is not as crowded as assumed, wouldn’t that cause there be no one at the ride, and vice versa if the park was overly packed? Seems like to many variables to me.

  4. As a travel agent who does book resort stays, dining, and special stuff like Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique… I think this is a horrible idea!!

    As a Disney fan who loves going with the family…I think this is a horrible idea!!!

    1. Angela in Ohio

      Ridonculous

  5. Kyle

    I have heard both sides of the argument now. Those who say lines are a necessary evil in theme parks, or else the walkways, shows, restaurants, etc. would be to packed. On the other side seems to be this idea. I think they are both flawed. I think Disney should have more fast pass so those of us who know how to “play the game” can enjoy the park. But this reservation thing is taking it too far. Vacations are about relieving stress, now worrying about and second guessing your reservations all day in the park.

    1. Katie

      Why should only the people who know how to “play the game” be able to enjoy the park? The fast pass system works fine. Sometimes you can’t get one, then you have to wait in line, like most other people. Take the time to enjoy the company you are with and the magnificent theming of the queues. When FP is available, then use it. I think this proposal is a horrible idea. It’s already hard enough to get into restaurants at WDW as it is. Do I need to call 60 days in advance to get on an attraction now!?

  6. Blythe

    I think the best thing about online ride planning is that it will be years away… because if it becomes necessary, I won’t be visiting Disney anymore. Talk about losing spontanaeity and fun… if I had to figure out where I’d be and when, months in advance, with no option to incorporate weather, tired feet, doing what you feel like at the moment?? YUCK!!! :(

  7. Otto

    It´s a terrible idea to have to stay on a strickt timetable during your vacation. It´s NOT what vacation is about. On the other hand I love the improved lines like phoo and haunted.

  8. Jen

    Do not care for this idea at all. What about people who park hop, or do park days on a whim? I do a lot of planning, but the majority of people going do not.

  9. Instead of doing this Disney Parks should be looking at other forms of entertainment, new parks, more attractions, things like this to alleviate long line times. In my opinion they need to attempt to disperse crowds instead of forcing a scheduling system.

    1. Dennis

      I expect we are talking about something a little different than the worries expressed. We are probably talking about reserving a “special experience” on one or two rides during your entire vacation, not planning each individual ride. This would be something you do in combination with interactive queues and fastpass.

      1. Ricky Brigante

        Great point. That’s very possible considering the survey Disney sent out a few months ago surrounding a similar idea:

        http://www.insidethemagic.net/2010/08/surveys-show-disney-considering-vip-and-add-on-theme-park-ticket-options-for-walt-disney-world-and-disneyland/

  10. There are two types of people in the world: people who like to plan ahead, and people who like to wing it. Disney is making it better for one group and worse for the other. I hate the idea of having to plan out in advance when I’m going on what ride.

  11. Ross

    Since they started the dining reservations I can no longer eat at my fav resturants…..also since everyone is prepaying for meals…the quality has gone down alot…I can see this ruining the ride exp…for anyone who is spontaneous.

    1. Rebekka

      I can’t comment on the quality, as I’ve found Disney food quality great in some restaurants and pretty average in others, but you don’t pre-pay when you make an advance dining reservation (in most cases) – and you *can* still eat at your favourite restaurants, you might just need to book.

  12. Phil

    Sign me up.We are going in April. Let me test it please.

  13. etcp

    hate it, if it means that like dining reservations, standby becomes non-existent. I already hate the experience of having to schedule my park days around a meal (we rarely make more than 1 reservation per day). I think a better thing to do, is to have more interactive games to play in line. to create other distractions, like scavenger hunt of things that are only found in line, with small prize if you complete it. even games of ispy using cameras can make long lines interesting. I once made bingo cards for a family to play while in the parks.

  14. I think reserving from home or online by anyone might be too chaotic, but if this system was only available to guests staying at a Disney resort or season pass holders, it would be an extra perk for those loyal to Disney and willing to pay the extra cost for the magic. (Every time I go I hear from people who say “Well when I stayed at such and such hotel outside of Disney, I paid much less.” This will stop those comments.)

  15. Jrew

    I see more of an upside to this ride-scheduling system for the majority of visitors whom, IMO, are non-locals and non-annual pass holders. I lived in San Diego for 25 years, and am now living in Europe for the past 4. When I lived in So Cal, I visited Disneyland and could care less about lines because I had So Cal discounts and worked in Los Angeles for a couple years. Now living in Europe, I visit California maybe once a year or two with my family, and we can only afford so much on Disney parks trips. The ride scheduling would allow my kids to enjoy the rides to their hearts’ content. I, for sure, didn’t plan to spend tons of hard earned money on flights, tickets, hotels, meals, and souvenirs just to wait in 30m – 2h lines. Time is money, and the longer we have to wait around, the less value we get in our visits. I have no problems with day planning and it affecting my trips’ “spontaneity,” but sometimes, when you have 3-day tickets, it’s nice to have 1-2 days planned completely to get necessary things done, and the rest of the days to be spontaneous. So as a non-local, non US resident, this is a system I would support fully.

    1. Nan

      I agree!!! This idea is great for those who like to plan out their day…

    2. Rebekka

      I agree too! I have to fly 14 hours to get to Disneyland, so it’s not like I get to do it as often as a local. I LOVE the idea of essentially pre-ordering fast passes and not having to queue or zig-zag the park to get the next fast pass and then go back again to ride.

  16. Lindsey

    As of now..the idea of reserving ride times seems like a terrible idea. But, we also have to look at what the Fastpass has become. You now need to be at the parks early in the morning in order to take advantage of the Fastpass or they are all gone. Not everyone wants to make an early morning trip to a theme park when everyone else has the same idea. Also, the Fastpass is totally optional. Not everyone grabs a Fastpass, and, many people still have no problems waiting in a normal line. Spontaneity goes out the window even with a Fastpass. Many people get stuck on another ride, in a restaurant, at a character meet and greet or just plain want to sit down for a while, and to have to make a mad dash back to the ride so you don’t miss your time is absurd. There are some people who live by the Fastpass and others just want to take it slow and easy and get there when they get there. With the new ride reservations (if it ever comes to pass), it should be an optional idea as well. There are lots of people who plan and schedule their vacations to the second and this might work for them. For all the others, just keep Disney Parks the way it is…a magical place where we can enjoy the sites and rides at our own leisure!

  17. DouginSC

    I personally don’t like the idea of the “ride reservation” thing. For me part of the whole Disney experience is not being able to do it all in one trip. Part of the experience is not being able to go on or do such and such and not being able to do whatever you want whenever you want. I like a little spontaneity on our vacation. If we’re not able to do something on one trip then oh well, we’ll have to get to it on the next one. Keeps us going back to Disney over and over again.

  18. Disney is soooooo frigging amazing! I heard in florida, there is a Disney town – like an actual town. Can you friggin bvelieve it? The theme park is one thing. But to actually have a town is just OTT.

    1. Tonya~n~KY

      This is a terrible idea!!!
      Why does Disney want to make it soooo hard for a family to enjoy themselves. I already have to know which park I’m going to 6 months in advance, so I can make ADR’s.
      Now I have to know which ride I’m riding too, and at what time. I have a son with ASD, and two tween daughters that can never make their minds up. I never know when he’ll have a meltdown, or one of the kids will decide spur of the moment that they want to ride Haunted Mansion again, instead of Space Mountain. What do I do, tell them, “But Honey we reserved Space Mountain last month, if we don’t go right now we can’t go at all”.
      This is stupid. We love Disney World, but with all the changes, including enforcing the 1 hour FP window in March, (I mean really if you want to be strict, at least give us more than an hour to get across the park with a screaming child), they have really sucked the fun out of taking your time and enjoying the magic Disney really stands for. It seems Disney is literally trying to make it impossible for families to just go with the flow and have fun. Especially families with small children, who don’t understand why we can’t go see Pooh right now, because we have to run across the park for our reserved Fast Pass time. If I have to plan exactly what time I’m eating, and riding, what’s next bathroom breaks to cut down on lines in the restrooms. PLEASE! PLEASE! As a desperate parent I am begging Disney to keep things the way they are, don’t try to fix what’s not broken. FP has always been a Godsend, now seems like it may just be another planning headache.
      If Disney start’s being more of a headache than a vacation, and want’s us to plan every second, maybe my hectic family would be better suited going to Universal from now on. (Okay, rant over, sorry so long! lol!)

  19. Howie

    We already regret having dining reservations because of the power they wield over our day. To have to make ride/show reservations also, would almost ruin the fun entirely.

  20. Matt

    This sounds excellent! I live in UK and can only visit once every 2-3 years and when I’m in Disney I want to maximise my time enjoying the attractions so I am all for this!

  21. Bee

    Where do I sign up for this? I will be your beta-tester!

  22. Bear

    I don’t love this idea in these early stages. Florida weather is volatile and it makes planning your days in advance a huge waste of time.

    I suspect that it won’t affect my trips too much, as booking advanced dinner reservations 6 months in advance is unheard of in my family. We go in May, book dinners/breakfasts the night before – while we are actually IN Disney World. Given that we have no trouble, I’d expect that it would be similar for the xpass. I hope it costs very little.

  23. Bear

    And I really hope that there is a significant discount for annual passholders :p

  24. Think Different

    Take a minute and think about the possibilities a ride reservation system could bring about. I know there are many skeptics, but I think the power of this system will improve the experience of all guests (planners and the wing its). By creating this system, Disney will be able to offer more guests the opportunity to ride the attractions they want to experience. By “pre-scheduling,” Disney has the opportunity to take all of the data and run it through a model and optimize the reservations, versus the chance that occurs today with guests deciding on a whim where they would like to go next. It’s like traffic. If everyone gets to the park around the same time and runs to the 2-3 most popular rides, the lines get long. What everyone is assuming with this new system is that Disney will ask you what time you want to ride. I doubt it. I think they’ll ask you what day, and then 2-3 weeks out, after their optimizer has created the best schedule getting everyone on the most rides in the fastest time possible, they will send you the itinerary. The wing its should also experience shorter wait times in the stand-by lines as a result. I think this system will reduce wait times and allow guests to go on more rides. This is a fantastic innovation.

  25. Wait Time 90 min

    I’m sure a ride reservation system will have it’s limitations but so does standing in line for many hours. I’ve experienced all of the following at Disney; 2 hr lines, leaving line because of (bathroom, hunger, rain, tired and heat). Also, those amazing Florida thunderstorms that force the attraction closure and those pesky mechanical breakdowns. You can’t eliminate storms and breakdowns, but you can eliminate wasting patrons time that result when they occur. I personally don’t find standing in lines enjoyable. Standing in line is just a crude reservation system which can be eliminated with the application of a few creative ideas. So are you really being spontaneous when you yell to a friend lets ride space mountain now. Haha! You first have to stand in line for 1 to 2 hrs, so much for spontaneity.

    As a last word, Disney would make so much more money from me if I had time to shop vs. standing in line.

  26. sheri

    sounds to me that there will be too much planning needed. Already u have to book so much so far ahead. And with children being unpredictable its hard to stick to a schedule. I would like to see disney offer a “no ride pass”, for the grandparents and pregnant moms and any one else that want to enjoy the park with their family, but won’t take advantage of the rides. I also think rather than have some parks EMH for resort guests different days, have them all offer everyday.

  27. Jennifer, mom of two kids (who visited WDW in 8/2012)

    I was initially very against this, but am now perhaps not as against it as I first was. My main fear is that I don’t want them to eliminate the current egalitarian FastPass system for everyone once this goes into place for a few select guests (who can afford the moderate or deluxe on-site Disney resorts). We just made our first visit to Disney World last month, and part of my motivation for going in 2012 (besides my kids being a pretty ideal age to go, & having already booked a plane fare to go visit my parents) was that I had read that this NexGen system was coming soon & I very much wanted to get this one visit in (in case it ends up being our only visit) before it was put into place (& the current FastPass system was possibly eliminated). We stayed at a Disney Value resort & got the free Quick Service dining plan included — and when I read about the regimentation involved in booking sit-down restaurants 6 months in advance with the REGULAR (non quick-service) dining plan it made me very glad that we were staying in a value resort & hence “only” qualified the quick service dining plan instead of the regular dining plan. Normally I’m someone who loves to plan, and dislikes the anxiety involved with uncertainty — but the other commenters have hit some of the reasons that this is not a good thing: things like how tired you are, and what the weather is like, etc… introduce too much variability into the NexGen system. It WOULD be nice to not have to rush to the parks at opening time to get a FastPass for rides that quickly run out of them, but there’s got to be a better solution. Anyway, that’s my two cents.

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  29. Algiers Who Dat

    Disney is missing the obvious here… Have fast pass stations where you can get a fast pass for any ride. This will prevent me from having to go all over the park just to get fast pass, then to come back when its time for the ride. Let me stop at any fast pass station.. click a touch screen for the ride that I want and let me get that fast pass.

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