The Internet has been buzzing for months now with news (much of it originating here on MiceAge/MiceChat) concerning a new type of ride reservation (dubbed XPass) coming to Walt Disney World, which will allow folks to make ride reservations weeks or months before the actual vacation.
XPass won’t be available for everyone—it will possibly be an upcharge service (and/or come with the most expensive packages sold by Disney). We may see it for parades as well as rides, starting in 2012.
XPass is causing a stir online among park fans for a few different reasons:
- Stratification: the use of an upcharge system creates different strata of visitors. Those with more money get a better experience.
- Planning fatigue: vacations will be so pre-planned and regimented that all fun will be squeezed out of them.
- Greed fatigue: the Mouse is reaching into our wallets yet again
- FastPass dilution: the presence of XPass won’t add to overall capacity, so it’s either going to “steal” from the number of available FastPass tickets, or make standby lines even longer still. Or both.
Let’s take these one at a time. With stratification, we’re really talking about creating different “classes” of park-goers. There’s a first class who gets the best treatment, and other classes below. This irritated some because Walt always talked about making EVERY guest feel like a VIP. And it certainly feels like everyone’s an equal now. After all, everyone can get a FastPass, right?
Well, yes and no. It’s true that everyone can get a FastPass at present. But not every visitor (especially those first timers) KNOW that they can get a FastPass, so there’s already a de facto First Class and steerage class in the parks. I would also point out that every member of the public can buy the same tour guide access that celebrities get; you just have to have the money. So yes, there’s already a First Class system for those with money.
The more you think about it, the less surprising this is. Not everyone eats at Victoria & Albert’s, and not everyone buys $500 worth of souvenirs. The park visitors with gads of money do, though, even if you do not. The parks are not egalitarian in everything. The Disney Cruise Line *is*, on the other hand, an actual egalitarian experience (with the exception of restaurant Palo, though the upcharge is insignificant).
The rides at present are egalitarian, but they weren’t always. In Walt’s day, they cost money (or they cost a ticket), and the realities of inequality were on display then, too. A poor family couldn’t ride the Matterhorn all day, but a rich one could.
FastPass for the rest of us.
With the second point, planning fatigue, I fall squarely on the side of the protestors. A vacation planned to every last detail is not relaxing. Or at least it’s not my idea of relaxing. Yet if it turns out to be like FastPass, XPass will punish those who could use it but choose not to, so it’s in essence a “requirement”… thus forcing people who would rather not be planners into vacationing as if they were planners. That’s not ideal. Of course, if you ARE a planner-type, you’ll love XPass. It would be a relief (and yes, relaxing) to know that all the big rides are taken care of. It’s the same principle as restaurant reservations, which most once-a-year visitors prefer having.
On the issue of greed fatigue, on first blush I also side with the protestors. I have no problem with the Disney parks making a ton of money for the corporation, but why must it resort to new “tricks” (or even new lines of business) to get there? I’d rather they deliver a premium product for which they charge a premium price. In other words, spend money on building new attractions, and we the public will spend money to see them. If the attractions deliver, we respond by returning more and spending more. It’s a pretty simple formula.
The last point, FastPass dilution, will probably impact me the most as a local and frequent visitor. Under today’s system, my family can arrive at 1pm and still get a FastPass most of the time to just about any ride. We’re out of luck at Toy Story Mania, where the available tickets run out by midmorning, but otherwise we are always able to visit the one or two big attractions on our list for the day. As locals, we don’t try to see everything every day, but instead try only a few on each visit, frequently rotating our selections.
In a world with XPass, it’s possible (in fact, it’s likely) that fewer FastPass tickets will be issued per day to the rest of the visitors. Thus, my family might arrive at 1pm and find all FP tickets to everything already distributed for the day.
You can’t get a FastPass if it’s too late in the day!
This is one of those moments, however, when I’m going to come out in favor of something that is actively negative for my own interests. Despite the deleterious effects on my family’s use of FastPass, XPass is still possibly going to be a good thing for the parks, or at least for that most important visitor to WDW, the once a year guy. As I’ve previously argued, WDW needs those infrequent visitors to come and spend big—the locals and regulars certainly don’t. That’s the population that Disney needs to keep happy, and XPass will probably do just that.
When my family visits Six Flags over Georgia for a once-yearly visit, we pay dearly for the Qbot technology: a device that dangles from your belt, letting you make ride reservations on the fly and from a distance. We pay extra for the one that gets priority over even other Qbot users. The result is that move from ride to ride with no wait whatsoever. That’s important to us, because we have limited time and the parks are so big. Sure, we paid quite a bit more than the day-visitor from Atlanta, but to us it was worth it. Thus, the previous argument about greed needs a great big asterisk. Some services demand extra money (in part so that not EVERYONE is using it—the value is at least partly derived from its exclusivity), and are still worth it.
I was happy with Qbot, even despite its extra cost. XPass should hopefully provide something similar for the infrequent WDW visitor. Since that’s the population that Disney needs to keep happy, I think it’s a good thing. I personally may lose out short-term by not having as much convenience with FastPass, but long term I win by Disney feeling like its target population is happy and wants to come back, provided there is reason for them to do so. That should encourage Disney to build more rides… meaning that long-term, I win after all.
The proof, as always, will be in the pudding. It matters a great deal just HOW this new thing is put into operation. Does it eat up a lot of the FastPass tickets, or only a few? Will a full half of the parade route be cordoned off for XPass, or only a small corner? But I’m not automatically dismissive of the idea, and in fact I think it could be a good thing for the target population.
One More Disney Day
On December 31st, Disney parks will announce something called “One More Disney Day.” The name may sound like a repeat of the “Give a Day, Get a Disney Day” promotion of 2010 (free admission for doing volunteering work), but New Year’s Eve strikes me as a strange time to announce anything at all, let alone a new initiative meant to last all year. The buzz on the street indicates it may have something to do with Leap Day, February 29. It’s “one more day” than usual, and the rumor is, one or more Disney parks may be open for 24 hours (possibly as much as 30 hours) to really celebrate every last second of that extra day.
If so, it’s a marketing gimmick, sure, but these kinds of things are extremely effective. They were done with some frequency by the first Disneyland President, Jack Lindquist, and were quite popular. Certainly the more rabid of the theme park fans among us will go, just to say we did it (and to watch the sunrise over those famous attractions). Since there’s no confirmation, no one knows yet which parks are involved. Most folks guess Disneyland and maybe the Magic Kingdom. If this does come to pass, I look forward to comparing the event with the 60 hour parties that greeted Captain EO and Star Tours at Disneyland in the late 80s (I attended the latter but not the former). We shall soon see!
2011 in Context… and in Print
It’s my last column of 2011, so it’s only natural to look backwards at the events of the year. Thus, I give you this timeline:
- Jan. 9 – Walt Disney World Marathon
- Jan. 13 –Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management (MK) closes
- Jan. 15 – Wild Africa Trek (DAK) debuts at Kilimanjaro Safari
- Jan. 15 – PIXAR Block Party Bash (DHS) closes
- Jan. 16 – PIXAR Pals Countdown to Fun (DHS) opens
- Jan. 18 – Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (MK) announced, and plans shelved for some elements of New Fantasyland: Pixie Hollow (to meet Tink and her friends), Cinderella Chateau (to dance with her), and Sleeping Beauty Forest Cottage (to celebrate her birthday)
- Jan. 19 – “Let the Memories Begin” promotion starts
- Jan. 19 – The Magic, The Memories, and You! (MK) begins
- Jan. 20 – Demolition of clubs at Pleasure Island (DtD) begins
- Jan. 29 – Playhouse Disney (DHS) closes for renovation
- Jan. 30 – Interactive exhibits at Imagination pavilion (Ep) reopen with “Create Your Own Figment” computer stations
- Jan. 31 – Splash Mountain (MK) reopens with lap bar restraints
- Jan. 31 – Chilean miners honored as Grand Marshals in special parade
- Feb. 4 – “What’s Your Problem” Velcro exhibit at Innoventions (Ep) closes
- Feb. 5 – Dragon Legend Acrobats in China pavilion (Ep) closes
- Feb. 6 – El Pirata y el Perico (MK) renamed to Tortuga Tavern
- Feb. 7 – Superbowl MVP Aaron Rogers visits the Magic Kingdom
- Feb. 11 – Mickey’s Toontown Fair (MK) closes
- Feb. 11-13 – Main Street in Motion test-driving cars in Epcot parking lot
- Feb. 12 – Pixie Hollow (Ep) opens
- Feb. 23 – Bill Nye the Science Guy makes promotional appearance at Epcot
- Feb. 27 – Disney Princess Half Marathon
- Mar. 2 – Flower and Garden Festival (Ep) begins
- Mar. 3 – Milk House (EWWOS) is renamed to HP Field House
- Mar. 4 – Playhouse Disney (DHS) reopens as Disney Junior
- Mar. 4 – Temporary ending at Haunted Mansion (MK) debuts
- Mar. 4-6 – ESPN Weekend (DHS) in its final year
- Mar. 5 – Expedition Everest (DAK) Five-Year anniversary party
- Mar. 13 – Worker Russell Roscoe is struck during testing of Primeval Whirl (DAK) and dies the next day
- Mar. 14 – Haunted Mansion (MK) opens new interactive queue
- Mar. 17 – Magic of Disney Animation (DHS) opens display for Winnie the Pooh and Cars 2
- Apr. 1 – Town Square Exhibition Hall reopens as Town Square Theater (MK)
- Apr. 1 – Curtain Call Collectibles (MK) opens
- Apr. 2 – International Gateway tram shelter (Ep) demolished
- Apr. 3 – Little Miss Matched and Mickey’s Groove (DtD) close on the West Side
- Apr. 3 – Pooh Corner, and Mickey’s Mart & Summer Sands (DtD) close in the Marketplace
- Apr. 3 – New hitchhiking ghosts finale at Haunted Mansion (MK) reopens
- Apr. 3 – Yong Geng Shangidan merchandise shop (Ep) reopens as House of Good Fortune
- Apr. 3 – Race Around the World CARS game (Ep) opens
- Apr. 19 – LEGO store (DtD) reopens
- Apr. 20 – Little Miss Matched (DtD) reopens in new location at the Marketplace
- Apr. 20 – Marketplace Fun Finds (DtD) opens in Marketplace
- Apr. 29 – Royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton celebrated with limited public party at Walt Disney World Wedding Pavilion
- Apr. 30 – Sounds Dangerous (DHS) closes
- Apr. 30 – Beatles cover band British Invasion (Ep) final show
- Apr. 30 – Lotso (from Toy Story 3) meet and greet (DHS) closes
- May 7 – Expedition Everest 5K Challenge (DAK)
- May 7 – The final Grad Nite is held at the Magic Kingdom
- May 12-15 - D23’s Destination D expo (Contemporary) and scavenger hunt
- May 13-15 – PIXAR’s 25th Anniversary Weekend (Ep)
- May 13-15 – Car Masters Weekend (DtD)
- May 15 – Flower and Garden Festival (Ep) ends
- May 16 – AMC Dine-In Theater (DtD) opens
- May 20 - Star Tours (DHS) reopens as Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
- May 20 – Blackbeard projection replaces Davy Jones projection in Pirates of the Caribbean (MK)
- May 20 – Winnie the Pooh meet and greet (DHS) opens
- May 26 – “Simon” game at Imagination (Ep) opens in post-show
- May 29 - Phineas and Ferb meet and greet (DHS) opens
- June 7 – Victoria & Albert’s (Grand Floridian) wins AAA Five-Diamond award
- June 9 – DJ Dino-Mite (DAK) opens in Dinoland U.S.A.
- June 12 – Don’t Waste It in Innoventions (Ep) closes
- June 12 – Ticket prices raised throughout WDW
- June 14 – Typhoon Lagoon is part of global attempt to set a record for World’s Largest Swimming Lesson
- June 17 – Art of Animation resort begins accepting reservations
- June 24 – Revised Cars meet and greet (DHS) reopens
That’s an awful lot going on, just in half a year! I didn’t post the entire timeline because I want to preserve some value for those who bought the WDW Earbook 2011 (available at Amazon). In it you not only get the whole timeline, you get over 600 pictures of all the stuff that happened in the year: closures, additions, events, enhancements, and so on.
Lots to Do in Line… at Disneyland
Speaking of books, I received another complimentary one in the mail for review. Meredith Lyn Pierce’s new book “Lots to Do in Line” covers those famous queues in the Anaheim parks and tries to find interesting things for kids to do or find there. At its heart, the book is a scavenger hunt for kids, giving them something to do in the lines at both Disneyland and DCA. The book is probably more valuable if you’re waiting in the standby line, but some of the questions refer to the FastPass line anyway.
Most of the information is NOT trivia, or even a focus on Disney Details. Rather, it’s a diversion for kids on stuff that the grown Disney historian probably won’t care much about. But it might be just what kids of a certain young age want or need. Here’s a sample from page 83, in the chapter on Buzz Lightyear:
8. What can be found in Sector 7?
a. A square planet
b. A planet with rings around it
c. Batteries floating in space
d. Robotic space crabs
9. Who is peeking at you through the window in the door?
a. Buzz Lightyear
b. Emperor Zurg
c. A three-eyed green guy
d. Mickey Mouse
10. Locate the number 020464. Where can it be found?
a. It’s the part number for the batteries preferred at Space Command
b. On the coordinates for sector C
c. On Buzz Lightyear’s badge
d. On the score-keeping screen for a Little Green Man.
Answers are given after each section. In theory, the questions are all worth points, and there are ‘scavenger hunt’ opportunities as well (find as many as you can from this big list). Since you aren’t really playing against anyone, the game depends on the parents to make it fun.
It retails for $12.95, has 267 pages (no pictures), and comes in the tall/thin format you know from the Hidden Mickey books. It’s available at Amazon and nearby bricks and mortar bookstores starting in January.