MickeyBlog News for October 25th, 2021
We’ll talk about some other stuff this week, but let’s be honest. The story that matters is the arrival of Disney Genie.
Disney hasn’t introduced technology this important in nearly a decade. Let’s examine the first few days in the latest MickeyBlog News update.
It’s a New Day! Yes, It Is!
Disney Genie comes in three forms. First, you’ve likely heard about the paying aspect, but that’s not the primary usage of the product.
At its core, Disney Genie works as a VIP Tour Guide, at least in theory. So you have a Plaid in your pocket as you roam the parks.
Your Genie should tell you where to go and the smartest usage of your time.
The emphasis here is on “should,” because the reality has proven quite different.
For starters, Disney Genie REALLY wants you to eat. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been at the park for 10 minutes or 10 hours.
You’ll get food recommendations throughout the day. On the plus side, the new system shows all dining options, Quick Service and Table Service, on a single, convenient screen.
So, the Tips Board works well when you’re hungry. The problem stems from the fact that Disney Genie believes you have a tapeworm.
Other Disney Genie Notes
This virtual assistant also tries to save you from walking excessively. However, first-week users have noticed an unmistakable pattern.
When you’re in a themed land, Disney Genie will suggest attractions in your area, preferably ones with notoriously low wait times.
If you’re at Adventureland, Disney Genie will all but beg you to visit Swiss Family Treehouse.
At Frontierland, the same statement applies to Country Bear Jamboree and Tom Sawyer Island.
Also, the promised bar graphs for attractions haven’t materialized as expected.
Disney executives have hyped new functionality that would show the best times to return to various attractions.
Instead, you get an unmarked bar graph that reveals nothing of value. Clearly, Disney still has some kinks to work out with the software.
Still, Disney Genie has done most of what management predicted. Ergo, it’s a mostly successful first week.
I say that about Disney tech that doesn’t experience significant downtime.
The Paid Options – Disney Genie+
Of course, the divisive part of Disney Genie stems from its paid options. With Disney Genie+, park visitors can access Lightning Lanes.
We used to call these the FastPass+ lines, the shorter ones that allow you to ride attractions quicker.
Now, you must pay $15 per day, and guests are cranky that this total doesn’t include tax. So, it’s really $15.98 per person per day.
Remarkably, the system has worked somewhat seamlessly during its first few days.
When you schedule an attraction, you can enter the shorter line and be on and off the ride in a matter of minutes.
Most guests have reported that they can book new Lightning Lane reservations the moment they tap the MagicBand in line on the current one.
Others have indicated that they got locked out of the system for 15-20 minutes. So, there’s still some work to be done there.
Overall, I believe that Disney must describe the early days as a success, though. If anything, the only disappointment may be sales.
MickeyBlog’s Maria Salerno has tracked Disney Genie+ usage at some of the parks. Suffice to say that those lines appear mostly empty.
The Paid Options – Lightning Lane
We have another technology to discuss, and that’s Lightning Lane, not to be confused with…Lightning Lane. Yeah, I dunno what that’s about.
Anyway, Lightning Lane as a paid service allows guests to enter a short line queue at two attractions per park.
You’ll pay $7-$15 per person for the opportunity, though. Yes, Disney is now charging for ride access again like it did in 1955.
Realistically, Lightning Lane has had some ups and downs. For example, Disney resort guests may book reservations at 7 a.m., while everyone else must wait until they’re inside the park.
This option has proved a massive competitive advantage thus far. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance held back some inventory the first two days.
So, guests who arrived at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 9 a.m. could reserve Lightning Lane for early in the day.
However, Disney stopped doing that, which has had a massive impact.
Now, guests who arrive at 9 a.m. will be lucky to get a Lightning Lane reservation in the late afternoon.
Lightning Lane has sold out multiple times for the entire day, and the service only began on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, some rides like Space Mountain and Expedition Everest offer Lightning Lane. Their average wait times haven’t justified the expense, though.
The other sticking point with Lightning Lane thus far stems from the refund policy. You’re booking a 60-minute window to ride something.
Should you miss your window, you’re out the money and cannot skip the line anymore.
An early misconception stemmed from Rise of the Resistance crashing on its first day. Disney initially announced that it wouldn’t provide refunds.
Later, the company updated to state that refunds will occur automatically if Lightning Lane attractions suffer technical difficulties.
Overall, Lightning Lane’s launch has gone smoother than Disney Genie+’s thus far.
Other Disney News and Notes
During most weeks, the headline story would have been the announcement of the 2022 EPCOT International Festival of the Arts.
Yes, the event will return in less than three months, running from January 14th through February 21st.
Even better, the Disney on Broadway series will come back after a year away due to the pandemic.
As a reminder, Disney performers from its Broadway plays perform renditions of their favorite music at this event. It’s a big deal and often sells out.
This festival will also bring back chalk art, street performers, art-based photo ops, and all the creative Disney merchandise you can imagine.
In other theme park news, Zombie Captain America now shambles the streets of Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure.
This What If…? character will probably only stay through Halloween or the rest of 2021 at most. So, photograph him while you can!
Speaking of Disneyland Resort, the monorail is finally back in service after 18 months offline.
Also, Disneyland announced the showtimes for its annual Christmas Fantasy Parade.
You can enjoy the festivities at 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. PST from November 12th through January 9th!
Back in Central Florida, Orlando International Airport has introduced this new program:
Families & Single Riders, unite! Offering now: Reservation Lane powered by @Clear. You can reserve a time slot to go through security, just show up at that time, scan your reservation and go through an exclusive & shorter lane. pic.twitter.com/AxPT3Kk2aV
— Orlando International Airport (@MCO) October 21, 2021
Guests may schedule their security scans at the airport to save time and aggravation.
You don’t have to be a Clear member to utilize this service. However, many credit cards come with Clear as an ownership perk.
So, you may want to sign up anyway. It’ll help you avoid stress at airports around the world.
Finally, Disney Genie came with new DAS features as well. As a result, the experience has improved dramatically. You can read the full details here.