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Why Disney Fans Don’t Get Disney’s MyMagic Plus

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.

FastPass Plus

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?

Copyright Walt Disney World

Copyright Walt Disney World

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.

Photo by Adam Silva

Photo by Adam Silva

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.

Magic 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.

Epcot Dreamfinder

A handsome guy, a dragon and the Dreamfinder
Photo by Josh Young

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.

Photo Courtesy Mousesteps.com

Photo Courtesy Mousesteps.com

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?

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  1. RogerColton
    Posted March 31, 2014 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Spot on in the point that Disney fans make a very small segment of the “guests” at any Disney theme park.

    A chance meeting with Tony Baxter (totally away from Disney and theme parks) brought forth the comment that “the same 250 people show up for events”.

    I think it worth pointing out that Disney does value the fan base in totally different ways that they do the Annual Passholders and the rest of the guests at all of the theme parks.

    But truth be told, that mythical family of 4.3 visiting one of the parks on the “vacation of a lifetime” is indeed more likely to spend more per person during their limited visit than the average fan or AP. If the suits are trying to find out how to squeeze more cash out of that sacred cow, that makes higher suits and stock holders happy. Nothing wrong there.

    But that philosophy and business method seems short sighted. Yes, you can show a short term profit, but what about the long term. For example, DCA 1.0 was not the right way to insure guests stayed extra days or spent extra during those days. Radiator Springs and Buena Vista Street helped change things somewhat, but are acknowledged as only the next steps.

    I am somewhat reminded of another business that was not concerned about losing customers because it had others waiting to replace them. It’s called “churn” and refers to having 3 more customers waiting in the wings for every 1 they lose. You may have heard of it. AOL or America On Line. Today it still exists but is a mere shadow of what it once was.

    I don’t see Disney as losing customers the way AOL did. But I do see the kind of things that made a Disney theme park special floating away. The kind of attractions only Disney parks could do are now being done just as well or better by the competition. And anyone who doesn’t think Harry Potter will take customers away from Disney is just being blinded by hubris. The day is coming and Disney seems unprepared for it.

    I agree the experiment isn’t over. But you can only go so far before someone steps up and notices the Emperor has no clothes.

  2. fan51
    Posted March 31, 2014 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    I don’t agree with you that Disney doesn’t know whether it is a success and especially if they can profit from it. No company mindlessly does these things without determining the goals. The truth is many of these initiatives overlap many technologies that are already out there. The Disney cruises have the integrated itineraries of one price fits all with food, entertainment and rooms. Couple Fastpass with hotel room keys. Then smartphones and RFID technology. Whether you agree with the approach, the whole thing is disruptive to the status quo. Even worse, it is actually disruptive to people who liked the original Fastpass. Frankly, I think this is terrific as a user who found the old system tiring.

    WDW is a resort that clearly improved its infrastructure faster than its ride count. DVC, dining, shopping are all priorities over attractions. I would like the ride count to improve or FP+ will implode on its own weight.

    What we don’t see are the strategies employed. That’s why its amazing the distractions. You can knock it, but I see its benefits and I’m sure others will see it too, but Micechatters didn’t. If you visit longer like stretched out beyond 5 days, you get 15 fastpasses. You are forced to not binge on 10 fastpasses on one day. Enjoy a longer trip as what you’re already expected to do as the whole reason it was done in the first place to encourage dining and shopping between rides. Take it slower and spend more.

  3. fan51
    Posted April 1, 2014 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    I must also add there are blind spots with My Disney Experience where you make the room, dining, and Fastpass reservations. You must call the Disney help line to reserve Magic Express and order the Dining Plan. You can’t do this online. If you order tickets and MyMagic+ online at the same website, you must wait for the them to arrive via USPS (10 day wait). There is no automatic linkage to your account. If you made early dining reservations, you’re probably used your credit card to reserve. You can’t later link it to your dining plan. You must wait for your trip to do the dining plan switch. It would be nice for them to offer a payment plan so I can buy everything upfront and begin reservations 180 days in advance.

  4. KJB
    Posted April 1, 2014 at 3:37 am | Permalink

    Even if fans make up a small percentage of visitors, those first timers will be a lot less likely to return if they are spending their vacation standing in line, nor will they share a positive experience with friends and other possible visitors. Most people don’t think waiting in long lines as how they want to spend vacation. I personally don’t equate Disney with other “theme parks” that have poor service, horrible food and huge lines. I do expect more from Disney and I have always been happy with them, even if I did have to wait in an occasional 25-30 min line. But we are not talking 30 or even 40 min – we are talking 70 – 140+ minutes for many rides. At least with the old fp system first timers could figure out and join in on getting fp if they just paid attention. But if they don’t set up an account and arrange their fp+ online, their day will be very frustrating – I know because I could hear them talking. They have to stand in a 45+ line at a kiosk just to get any fp and by that time, the good ones were gone. I just got back from a trip (granted it was during spring break) – but I have been during spring break before and even Christmas when busier but this time with the new fp+ – it was crazy!! I thought I’d like the pre-arrange system and was excited to try it out but I really did not like it at all. The purposes it was supposedly created, “to make things more flexible and shorten lines” created just the opposite. If you didn’t schedule the fp+ a several days out, the good fp+ rides were full. This also means no flexibility while in the park for changing like they said there would be because there are no available times except for something you would never get a fp for in the first place. The only option is to go extremely early and extremely late, but you will never get on certain rides unless waiting at least an hour. The worst rule that is not mentioned is that you HAVE to choose all 3 FP’s in the beginning and if you need to cancel one because you cannot make it, you either have to change the experience or time which sounds great but there is never anything available by that time. The only other options is to cancel all of them or just lose one. And with the tiered system – you basically only get 1 decent fp+. Most cast members I talked to didn’t care for the system either although not all would admit it. The worst rule is not being able to park hop. If the only available fp times are spread apart in time – you have to just wait around for the next ride – which could be fun but most other attraction lines are now way too long and but it’s not worth park hopping and missing the fp. Honestly, it was ridiculous.

  5. ChrisOrion
    Posted April 1, 2014 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Good article, but I think you need to look at the Magic Bands from the other side. Sure they promote it as making the guest experience better, which it can. But the real reason behind these bands is data collection and research. Using these bands, Disney can gather info and predict consumer behavior. How many hours pass between park entry and their first dining purchase. What do people buy immediately before a parade. Who’s buying milk? Families with kids under 10 years old? or 5 years old?

    When people get to their room in the evening… do they leave for a beer or just slumber for the night. Maybe we can add info in the room for late night bars.

    What percentage of people come off space mountain and actually buy in the gift shop and what do they spend? Can we move around displays to entice more purchases.

    Payment at Pecos Bills seems slower than it should be… let’s send in another cashier to move guests along.

    Do we have 18 Brazilian tour groups taking up the morning Space Mountain fast passes? Let’s make sure we have a bilingual cast members selling cold water, souvenirs and giving guest information.

    If nearly every person has a magic band, the info is priceless.

  6. Posted April 7, 2014 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    “Handsome”? Really?

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