What Have We Learned from Disney Genie So Far?
Six weeks ago, Disney Genie debuted at Walt Disney World.
Since then, fans and critics alike have studied all angles of the new system and its byproducts.
What have we learned from Disney Genie so far? Quite a bit, actually…
The System Benefits Some More Than Others
Even though Disney designed its virtual assistant (AI) for everyone, diehard Disney fans were never the target audience.
Those of you whose friends hit you up for advice and pro tips don’t need an AI at the parks.
You already know enough about Disney theme park visits that you can maximize each trip. You’re an expert.
Then, there are those of you who rarely visit Walt Disney World or maybe haven’t ever been before. You’re in research mode right now.
You’re learning everything you can about what to expect at the parks. Disney Genie targets you. Its primary purpose is to level the playing field.
Disney wants every guest to show up at the park feeling confident that they’ll enjoy a great day.
The AI will suggest itineraries that make first-time guests believe they’re grizzled veterans.
In reality, that’s something of a misguided notion. Thus far, the AI comes with noticeable flaws that limit its utility.
Still, having Disney Genie will enhance your visit, which is the whole point for less frequent guests.
Meanwhile, many of the frequent Disney guests have already abandoned Disney Genie for the most part. It was a curiosity that proved a bit disappointing.
Now, Disney can and will update the software to improve its suggestions over time. Still, for right now, it’s not a useful product for longtime park guests.
People Hate Paying for Lightning Lane
I realize that this is like saying that people hate paying for gasoline or bottled water or, well, anything else.
Consumers possess expectations about what something should cost. Any time the price increases, they get salty.
During the 2020 pandemic, price increases became a sudden, inevitable part of life. Supply chain issues and staffing problems raised prices everywhere.
So, we were already hypersensitive to this subject. But then, Disney threw a Molotov cocktail into the conversation by killing the old FastPass system.
Many of us wondered why FastPasses didn’t return when the theme parks reopened. At the time, Disney defended its actions cleverly.
The company noted that lines were so short at the time that FastPass wasn’t necessary.
Over time, we all started to suspect that there was more to the conversation, something Disney wasn’t saying.
Sure enough, the company eventually announced the start of the Disney Genie era.
Alongside the virtual assistant, Lightning Lane and Disney Genie+ became a part of the conversation.
Disney Genie+ costs $15 plus tax per person per day. For that price, guests get to book up to eight additional Disney attractions.
In each instance, they can enter the shorter line. On many days, a Lightning Lane like this requires a sub-ten minute wait.
Still, for a family of four, a five-day visit with Disney Genie+ costs an additional $319.60.
Then, we have the standalone version, Lightning Lane. With this system, you enter the shorter line for a set fee of $7-$15 plus tax.
Guests can do two of those per day. If they do, that same family will spend an estimated $220 on Lightning Lane alone.
So, something that was free until March of 20202 now costs substantially more.
Understandably, some people hate it and probably always will.
The Paid Options Have Pros and Cons
I recently discussed whether Disney expects guests to use their phones too much. That’s a hot button issue for many people.
The advent of Disney Genie has caused even more debate here. To maximize the paid portions of the services, guests must be on their phones frequently.
Notably, the free service, the AI, doesn’t require that sort of frequent checking. Instead, you can build an itinerary and follow it.
In doing so, you have more time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.
With Disney Genie+, you gain other advantages.
At EPCOT and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you can feasibly do everything you want at the parks in less than four hours.
That leads to a secondary benefit. You can book reservations at another park, presuming that you’ve purchased the Park Hopper option.
So, you can spread the wealth and enjoy terrific experiences at two different parks this way!
Of course, Disney Genie, on its own, will schedule a multi-park itinerary as well. That’s huuuuuge for infrequent visitors. It’ll help you out SO much.
Then, with Lightning Lane, you can guarantee yourself a ride on Walt Disney World’s most popular attractions.
There have been many times over the years where I would have happily paid for the privilege of riding a new E-ticket attraction. So, that’s a great addition.
On the cons side, Lightning Lane isn’t refundable in most instances. So, it tends to tie up your day. Once you pay for it, you certainly don’t want to miss it.
Meanwhile, Disney Genie+ requires a lot of effort to maximize its value. You must check for new options frequently to book the rides you want.
You’ll get plenty of benefits from this effort, but it’s a more hectic park experience.
Availability Is an Issue
Here’s a surprise topic of conversation. Despite all the cons and the price increases, guests have utilized the paid versions of these products.
Disney’s CEO recently stated that one-third of all Walt Disney World visitors have purchased Disney Genie+. That’s a very strong number.
More impressively, during holidays and other crowded park dates, Lightning Lane reservations have booked quickly.
Disney will sell Disney Genie+ all day, as it never sells out in the system. However, the single-ride version of Lightning Lane has a maximum capacity.
Park officials learned this the hard way during one of the first dates for the three services.
Guests purchased so many Lightning Lane reservations for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance that the park had to close the standby queue.
Disney NEVER wants that to happen again. So, it has paid close attention to Lightning Lane sales to avoid an imbalance between it and the standby queue.
Meanwhile, some Disney Genie+ attractions are more popular than others. As a result, rides like Slinky Dog Dash and Na’vi River Journey can and do book their daily allotments.
In fact, on holidays, these reservations can sell out within an hour of the park’s opening.
So, on top of everything else, even if you pay, you must act quickly to secure the best reservations.
That’s the part of the conversation that has surprised me the most.
Despite all the criticisms, demand for Disney Genie’s paid services has exceeded supply at times.
While some people are griping about the changes, others have embraced the new system and warmed to its quirks.
Feature Image: Disney