A recent article by Tim Grassey on Micechat.com went to great lengths calling Disney’s new My Magic Plus initiative a failure. In his column that, “The Disney suits aren’t going to like,” he cites multiple reasons why the executives who spent over $1 billion dollars on this initiative are out of touch with reality and that ultimately, it was a mistake. Not only am I calling Tim’s column bogus, but I am also here to tell you: No one knows if My Magic Plus is a success or a failure, not even Disney.
For those of you Disney fans who have been living in a hole over the past two years, My Magic Plus has been a Disney initiative program several years in the making with literally hundreds of Cast Members from all lines of business providing input. At the heart is a wristband with an RFID chip embedded inside that can be used for an assortment of things, including: a hotel room key, a charge card that can be used throughout Walt Disney World, a PhotoPass and your ticket into the parks. The most controversial part is your new way to redeem Disney’s new FastPass system known as FastPass Plus.
According to Tim’s article, “Disney has long adhered to the John Lasseter philosophy that, “Quality is the best business plan….’ With MyMagic+ and Fastpass+, Disney is taking a different approach.” Maybe I am the one out of touch here, but how is making a Disney World vacation more hassle-free not considered adding to the overall quality and value?
Every fan site that seems to poo-poo on My Magic+ seems to say the same thing over and over: Why did Disney spend over $1 billion dollars on this technology when that same money could have been spent on new rides? In Tim’s post, as well as many others, the assumption is that upper management is out of touch with what Disney fans want, which is newer, bigger E-tickets and refurbishments on some of the old favorites.
The logic is flawed from the start in assuming that “Disney fans” make up the majority of people who go to Disney theme parks. According to attendance reports provided by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), in 2012, roughly 17.5 million people visited the Magic Kingdom in Florida. So that’s 17.5 million Disney fans, right? Not even close.
Just because you buy a ticket to a theme park anywhere, doesn’t mean you are automatically a “fan.” Disney fans, myself included, like any “nerdy” groups, are hyper sensitive about what they truly love. They devote time to reading books, buying fan club memberships to groups like D23, read blogs like mine (thanks!), buy a lot of merchandise and sometimes tattoo themselves to show the world just how devoted they are.
However, just because you buy a ticket to the Magic Kingdom, the latest album from Lady Gaga or even the newest creation from Campbell’s Soup, that does not mean that you are a huge fan of any of those things. Even though fans like myself (and probably Tim Grassey) do an awful of reading and analyzing about the things we love, don’t fool yourself, we are in the minority.
Time for a little math. According to MiceAge’s website, they have 36,000 likes on their Facebook Page. Theme Park Review has nearly 63,000 likes. So for the sake of argument, we will round up and say that they have 100K theme park/Disney 100,000 fans between them. Yes, I know there are overlapping fans who may like both pages, but I am also giving the benefit of the doubt. According to the TEA report that is cited in Tim’s article in 2012, attendance figures were as follows: 17,536,000 visited the Magic Kingdom, 11,063,000 visited Epcot, 9,912,000 went to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and 9,998,000 went to Animal Kingdom.
If you take just the Magic Kingdom’s attendance number and divide it by 365, that’s roughly 48,000 in the park each day on average. Being generous, that’s saying that Disney Theme Park “fans” can account for two average days in the MK for the entire year. Want to fight me on the numbers and say that there are more theme park fans than the one who like two of the top Disney/Theme Park sites out there? Let’s say you are correct and 10 times that amount exists who truly eat this stuff up. They may not come every year, but perhaps they are D23 members or like merchandising events or maybe even are stockholders. That would mean there are 1 million Disney “fans” out there… and assuming every single one of them visited only one park in a year, which still leaves 16 million people who visited the Magic Kingdom who aren’t amongst us.
Including Theme Park University, there are literally hundreds of fan sites out there who devote some, if not all of their content exclusively to Disney. Do not kid yourself; if you are reading this, you are in the minority of people who visit Walt Disney World. No matter what you, I, or any of us in the “Disney fan” community think of My Magic Plus… even if we all hate it, it doesn’t mean it’s a failure.
Want proof that Disney fans make up a small percentage of the total Disney theme park population? Next time you are waiting in line for your favorite Disney attraction, take a brief survey of anyone over the age of 18 that is directly in front of you or behind you. Ask them if they know the Disney significance of any of the following people: Tony Baxter, Roy Disney, Dick Nunis or even Dreamfinder.
So maybe they don’t know Disney trivia and they are newbies to this thing. Try asking them how to get to another attraction across the park. Or what is the least crowded place to view the parade from. How about the best time to visit more popular rides like Peter Pan’s Flight? If you don’t happen to be in a park anytime soon, feel free to give the same questions to your relatives at the next family reunion. The answers will surprise you.
Before you get your tissues out, upset that you don’t matter to Disney… calm down. You do. Without a doubt, Disney fans are vocal and company executives are no doubt monitoring many of the posts about My Magic Plus online. However, they are also doing guest surveys and reading guest letters – giving both positive and negative feedback, which provides far more weight than anyone online like me, Tim Grassey or anyone else could possibly give.
To say that My Magic Plus is difficult to comprehend the scope of the entire project is an understatement. There are a lot of moving parts and they all have their various reasons for being put into place. However, as nearly 100% of the Disney online fan community suggests, the motivations are not entirely to squeeze more money out and increase per cap numbers – though that is part of it. We will discuss that more in a future article.
The project hasn’t completely rolled out yet and there will be changes in the coming weeks and months ahead. There will be tweaks to existing features like FastPass Plus, in addition to new features that haven’t been formally announced yet. When you read these articles, just keep in mind, these changes aren’t being implemented for Disney fans, but rather for the masses. Your thoughts?