Clarification on the Recent Soarin Standby Return Test

It seems my trip to Epcot a few days ago caused quite a stir within the Disney fan community. Mind you, no one (and I mean literally no one) responded to the story on my website. However, thousands of people either shared the story on Facebook or various message boards and as a result, thousands of people have viewed the story even though no one has responded to me directly.   Good news! I can see what you’ve said on message boards about not only what you thought of the Soarin’ standby test, but also me, and I would like to address those comments now. Many of you are sorely misinformed and I figure: Who better to clarify some things than the guy who was actually there? So let’s get started, shall we?

Photo by Josh Young

Photo by Josh Young

#1 “I love that the answer to the magic band fiasco is PAPER FASTPASSES!!!!!!”   Easily the most common misconception is that the standby test was a reaction to Magicbands or FastPass+. Sorry, it’s not. Long before FastPass+ came around, the line for Soarin’ was often within the 90-minute to three-hour range (or more) on busy days. After talking to several sources behind-the-scenes, none of the standby tests had anything to do with FastPass+ in the slightest. If that were the case, then why wouldn’t they try and tweak the amount of FastPasses handed out during the test period to see how it would affect the line?   Rather, this is an attempt for guest satisfaction. Regardless of what you may think, no one works for Disney is trying to make the lives of guests more miserable. It was a test to see if they could make one of the most popular attractions on property have a less stressful waiting experience. Period. Sure, you can complain all you like that Disney “coulda shoulda woulda” built a third theater… but this is Operations trying to make life easier on guests who don’t want to be on their feet that long. Nothing more, nothing less.

Copyright 20th Century Fox

Copyright 20th Century Fox

#2 “Saw this on twitter: “At 5:30 p.m., guests were near riot level refusing to leave and the CM’s were threatening to all quit. Reopened standby – made return holders mad. Second day, orders came down to “stick to the plan” and the queue closed again around 5 p.m. At 6:40 p.m., CMs began walking off refusing to work.”   Trust me. This did not happen on the third day of the test when I was there.  Granted, I was not there all three days. So again, I did some digging. I asked friends of mine who worked in Guest Relations as well as Operations at Epcot to see if there were any near riots or any Cast Members who walked off the job. No one had heard of it on any of the three days.  On the other hand, people who actually work at the park probably aren’t as well versed as those on message boards and Twitter.   Indeed, there were some upset guests during the time where the line was cut off from guests without a standby return card or FastPass to even get in line for Soarin’ (a roughly 45-minute period from everything I have gathered). My understanding is the reason they did this, even though it was planned to reopen the standby line as normal around 7 p.m., was so they didn’t have a mob of people waiting by the entrance blocking traffic flow.   Do I personally agree with telling guests this? No. Do I think there needs to be a different procedure for this? Of course. Do I realize that this was a test and that only lasted three days and it only impacted a minimal amount of people? Yes. Guest Relations was on hand to help handle any guest situations that did occur and from what I understand, they did offer some sort of compensation, depending on the situation. From what several sources have told me, they were prepared to do so. No, I don’t know what form of compensation was given. Just like any situation, there are multiple factors at stake.

Copyright Marvel Comics

Copyright Marvel Comics

#3 “Lost me at ‘bought some merchandise.'”   Indeed, while waiting for my standby return time to roll around, I hopped over to Journey Into Imagination’s gift shop to pick up the first two issues of the new “Figment” comic book. They are not easy to find in comic book stores anymore, but as of a few days ago, that gift shop had a stock pile of them. I don’t feel as if I should apologize for financially supporting a comic book that revolves around a Disney theme park character. Maybe I should though?

Copyright Vortex Productions

Copyright Vortex Productions

#4 “….Also, and I had never even heard of that site before today. The article seems to be written by someone who is head over heels in love with Disney.”   Aww, shucks! Welcome to Theme Park University. I write stories on all sorts of themed entertainment, from bounce houses made of boobs, to exclusive interviews with theme park designers to intense haunted houses that put tampons in your mouth. Sure, I do love Disney. Head over heels? Hardly. Try reading yesterday’s article about the mouse’s raise still not being an affordable living wage for Walt Disney World employees and get back to me on that.

Copyright Universal Studios

Copyright Universal Studios

#5 “….But we don’t know who wrote the article. We, or at least I, don’t know their agenda.”   Indeed, I have been hired by secret agents at Disney’s top secret lair located far beyond the berm of Disney property. In this secret laboratory, they inject stories into my brain (think “Eternal Sunshine For The Spotless Mind”) so I can spread my tales of falsehoods across the galaxy. In return, they financially reward me ($10,000 bucks an article!) so after my treatments are done, I can eventually kick back on a beach in Tahiti, sipping a pina colada, and laugh about this whole thing.   Make sure to follow more of my antics by liking Theme Park University on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @TPUJosh!

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  1. Jsquared13
    Posted August 3, 2014 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Just wanted to be the first one to comment directly via the site!

  2. fan51
    Posted August 3, 2014 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I thought your article was right on. Nothing to comment.

  3. Dan Heaton
    Posted August 3, 2014 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    For the most part, I agree with your points. However, I’m not entirely convinced that Disney’s primary concern is guest satisfaction. This is probably the case with front-line cast members, and I’m sure they’re doing their best to make this work.

    That said, from everything I’ve read (including your post), this test wasn’t handled well. The idea of removing the Standby line completely is a real concern to many fans, including me. I’ve had a feeling they designed FP+ with the hope they might be able to set up some attractions as reservations-only. This test with Soarin’ fit with that narrative for me. It may be completely false and untrue, but it’s my impression at least.

    I also do think this has been a move that is connected to the issues with FP+. Why test it now this far into the process? I’m also not someone who thinks there’s no merit to the FP+ system. There is a way that it could work out well, but the way this transfer has been run has been all over the map in my opinion. I really hope it works out and even could see a way this test could lead to something great. Even so, I have some concerns that haven’t been alleviated so far. I love the parks and hope that it all works out to keep the parks great!

    • Josh Young
      Posted August 3, 2014 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

      If the test wasn’t based on guest satisfaction. What was the motive?

      • Dan Heaton
        Posted August 5, 2014 at 10:01 am | Permalink

        I was speaking more about FP+ and the overall changes in general. I don’t see how these changes truly benefit the guest and lead to a better trip given all the limitations.

        In terms of the test itself, Disney has made things so complicated that it’s going to hinder guest satisfaction. Getting to Soarin’ and finding out there’s no option to even wait in line (regardless of what the line would have been) is not going to make guests happier. The lack of communication at the front of the pavilion and even across the parks also shows that the test wasn’t handled primarily with the guest in mind. They were treating it like an experiment from a numbers perspective to see what would work out.

        • Josh Young
          Posted August 6, 2014 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

          In terms of the test being complicated… I never felt it was… like I said, I literally found no one becoming frustrated at the process of getting the return time card. Those that were told they couldn’t enter without one (or a FastPass) for about 45 minutes? Sure.

          Dan, to be blunt, you are the only person who seems to know something no one else does. If you have inside sources telling you that they are trying to make certain attractions reservations only, I will 100% report that. However, if this is your guess because you personally think this is the case? It has no merit. However, if you’re hunch is right… I’ll eat my shoes. You heard right… I’ll actually slice of my own shoe and eat it on video.. for your entertainment pleasure (I may add ketchup, I am not an animal)… if Disney goes to a 100% reservation only system for any of their major attractions. That’s how strongly I feel that they aren’t moving to a reservations only system.

          • Dan Heaton
            Posted August 6, 2014 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

            A few years ago, I would have totally agreed with you. From a logical perspective, it doesn’t make sense for them to go to a reservations-only system. I don’t want it to happen. On the other hand, do we really have trust in Disney management at this point? I don’t feel that presenting the possibility should immediately be shut down as having “no merit.”

            Is everything you report on the site based totally on fact? Aren’t you taking your observations and the information you have and drawing conclusions? Isn’t this site designed to lead to discussions about Disney and how theme parks are functioning? I’m a big fan of your site, so please don’t take this as a criticism for how it functions. I’m asking the questions because I feel like questioning what Disney is really trying to do is valuable and interesting. I may totally be wrong, but I don’t see a problem introducing the possibility.

            In terms of the test, I’m going by Seth Kubersky’s post on Touring Plans, a site that typically is positive about Disney, that described the confusion around it. He’s also typically very fair when it comes to reporting on Disney, so I value his opinion. I’m guessing that it worked out well for some and not for others.

        • fan51
          Posted August 7, 2014 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

          How is not having a standby line not an improvement of guest satisfaction? Please have an objective response.

          Not waiting in line is helpful for families with kids who have small bladders.

          This debate is just weird. I just can’t understand the opposing opinion.

  4. Brad Bishop
    Posted August 7, 2014 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Weirdly, I thought I had commented on the original article..

    Just went back and looked.. I commented on the “original-original” article.

    Regarding comments, in general, on the internet, and yes, I realize this is ironic as this is a comment on the internet, they’re usually flippant, ill-informed, snarky, etc. Little thought goes into them and they’re usually, not always, painful to read. I normally skip them.

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