Disney and technology have quite the sorted past. Imagineers throw their heart and soul into innovation, often times knocking it out of the park (Sorry not Sorry.) Audio Animatronics have remained a marvel 60 years later, and in recent years, trackless ride systems have given new rides a WOW factor. Rise of the Resistance, Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast (Tokyo Disneyland,) and Flight of Passage blew us away, to name just a few.
I'd trust any Imagineer with my life, so why am I so suspicious of any digital innovations Disney is pushing out? Where is the disconnect between park patents and app development?
We are all slaves to the My Disney Experience app (referred to affectionately as MDE.) Loosely recapped, you can use it to keep track of your fastpasses, including making new ones and changing current selections while in park, keep track of room charges, manage dining plans, get ride wait times, check bus schedules, and even open your hotel room with it. But its not *quite* perfect, often failing to load right when you need it most, or is that just me?
When Disney announced MagicMobile back in March, I was skeptical to say the least. I can't say I'd be hyping it up to clients just yet, but the quiet success over the past week has made me reevaluate its place in my welcome packet. What exactly is this new feature and how does it effect clients?
First things first, its not a stand alone app. The MagicMobile feature exists within MDE and then can be exported to the 'Wallet' app on your smartphone. The guest creates a personalized card from the MDE app, with some pretty cute variants. Please note: you can only make the card and preview this system when you have an active ticket- so woe is me and my unplanned 2021 trip. Check out this clip for a screen recording of the process.
Once your card is made, simply add to wallet and use as you would a magicband to enter the parks! The back of the iphone is what needs to touch the checkpoint and the phone doesn't even have to be unlocked. You can also add this to your Apple watch which is pretty cool, like a **fancy** magicband. You can also use the feature for the contactless payments as you would a band.
Seeing the feature in action was actually nice! I mean, I've had times where the 'unlock door' feature has worked great and times where it worked not so great so I mean no promises. But since the launch, not many complaints have been heard. Which is surprising because I've been sitting on this post for a while....
I'm a fan of Super Enthused on YouTube and I enjoyed her pretty seamless entrance into the park in the beginning of this vid. (Team Nate though... they say they're just best friends but...we'll see)
Now here's the thing. What's going to happen to magicbands? Is Disney dropping this cute and functional accessory? Short answer; no. Long answer; Disney is out to make money right? Right. Magicbands are a huge moneymaker for the company, especially with special additions and limited designs, like the World Showcase ones we've seen. Some of those only have 1000 in circulation- so if you see it and need it make sure you grab it.
This makes it not super surprising that Disney discontinued complimentary Magicbands for resort guests in 2021. When bands were launched in 2013 they were novel and honestly a little bit of a risk. I can hear the echo of dads and toddlers everywhere who 'don't want to wear this thing.' But since then the bands have become quintessential to the WDW experience. There's been a few Etsy style shops that featured Magicband decals and accessories and the mouse fully realized the customizable market in the past few years with decorated versions for sale in shops and at a discount when you book your resort stay.
For most guests though, why pay when you get one for free? Plus, the gadgets cost a few dollars each to make and supply, so Disney ultimately made the switch to charging for the basic colors. The downside to this is you're putting guests in a position where they can either rely on tech or pay $5 for a band, and some people just aren't about that. Your job as a TA is to make sure your clients are well informed about their choices, and I don't recommend going without a band. They are reliable and an easy and useful souvenir. Great for contactless payments and entering your resort room while carrying lots of bags.
But if you have someone who really doesn't want to shell out the money for a band please make sure they get a Key to the World Card at check in, which is honestly a Disney phrase I didn't think I'd ever say again. (Remember back in the pre band days when they had your name on them like a cruise ship key?) New styles were introduced for this exact scenario. Technology is great but you always want to have a back up.
Overall, MagicMobile is a great addition to the WDW team, making it easy to rush into the parks and utilizing tech we all pretty much own. It lends itself to simplicity for annual passholders and minimalist dads everywhere. But am I ready to trust it without a backup plan? No. Am I ready to give up my millennial pink or lavender magicbands? Also no. But I've got my eye on you MDE.