Last week, the uproar on Disney fan pages hit an all-time high as Disney announced they are forever ending their complementary FastPass+/MaxPass systems and replacing them with the new, not totally complimentary Disney Genie service. Disney Genie was first announced back in 2019. Most people paying attention fully expected it to be a paid pass, so this shouldn’t have been a total surprise. If the fan pages are to be believed, Disney has become a money-hungry Uncle Scrooge, and Walt is turning over in his grave. Poor Walt, I’ve heard that so many times in the last few years that at this point he’s likely spinning fast enough to power the Magic Kingdom. I have to say, though, as much as I grumble about the new pay-for-previously-free-services thing Disney has been doing the last several years, I understand it, and I’m pretty sure Walt would be on board. Stick with me to the end, and I’ll explain why. It all comes down to price VS value.
First, let’s discuss how Disney Genie actually works. As a travel agency, we were given special trainings and info on Friday, and after the shock eased off and I was able to process all the information (there is a LOT) I wanted to share it with you. There are three parts to Disney Genie, and not all cost you money.
Part 1: Disney Genie
Disney Genie is the free Genie feature, and will be part of your My Disney Experience app, so you don’t have to download a separate app. This feature is really exciting and if it works as promised, will actually ADD magic to your day and help eliminate wasted time. Like the regular My Disney Experience app, you will be able to see ride times, show times, make dining reservations, do mobile ordering, and join virtual queues. New features include attractions status, forecasted future wait times, the ability to see real time table service restaurant wait lists and join them, to check in at your dining reservations, and most excitingly, to have your own personal virtual assistant. Within this intuitive learning app, you will be able to share your family’s personal preferences with your virtual assistant and the app will create easy park itineraries for you to follow. You will also be able to ask questions and get real answers. Your itinerary and plans can fluctuate throughout the day, if conditions within the park change and make different/better options available. This will help with crowds as it will help guests move through the parks in a more controlled way. No 2 families will have the same plans. The features will continually update in real time to help you plan your day more efficiently. Finally, a few more exciting features in the free Disney Genie are the enhancements to the Disney Disability Access Service (DAS) program. These enhancements will allow guests to enroll in the DAS program prior to arrival as well as select attractions in the app. Previously, guests had to go to Guest Services upon arrival into the park to get the DAS, and then go to each ride individually to get a time to return, taking up precious park time. These changes should make things much faster and easier for guests with disabilities.
Part 2: Disney Genie+
Genie+ is the first of the paid features. At Walt Disney World, the service will cost you $15 per ticket, per day, and at Disneyland, it will cost you $20 per ticket, per day. There will be over 40 rides available at Walt Disney World, and 15 at Disneyland available with Genie+. *Side note-remember how with FastPass+, there were 2 ride tiers based on popularity? Tier 1 was the most popular and Tier 2 was everything else that offered FP+. Yeah, that’s kind of how this will work. Genie+ will get you the tier 2 rides. The most popular rides will only be included with the final part of the service. Disney has not announced the exact ride lists yet, so I can’t clarify more than that. Also like with FP+, not all rides and attractions will be available. It’s a simple and mostly familiar process, really. For on-site Disney guests, you make your first selection at 7AM the morning of your park day. Off-site guests must wait until the scheduled park opening time to make theirs. Obviously, you must have a park ticket and reservation to make a ride selection. The FastPass+ lanes at the rides will now be called Lightning Lanes. At your selected time, you enter the Lightning Lane and skip the standby line. Once you ride that one, you can see the upcoming Lightning Lane times that are available and choose your next ride, in any park you choose (keeping in mind you can’t park hop until 2PM) on and on, one at a time throughout the day. At Walt Disney World, this part of the program also gets you park themed audio experiences as you walk around and stand in lines (think park history, Disney trivia, ride creation info from imagineers, etc) and special photo lenses to take your own magic shots. At Disneyland, guests get unlimited PhotoPass downloads each day. Memory Maker at Walt Disney World will still be a separately paid feature. Disney Genie+ can be added on to vacation packages for the length of your tickets, or you can purchase them one day at a time after you arrive. It can also be added to a length of ticket during purchase for stand alone ticket purchases, or again, one day at a time after arrival. If you are purchasing them one day during your trip, you can purchase it at midnight the night before. You can no longer make selections 60 days prior to your trip, and you can no longer make your original 3 choices at once. Frankly, Disney got tons of complaints from guests about having to plan so far in advance, and there not being much flexibility during their trip, so this is their alternative. For those not happy with the new program, this might come down to-forgive the pun-being careful what you wish for.
Part 3: Individual Attraction Selections
Ok, so this is a super lame name, although I don’t suppose Genie++ is a great alternative. This is a separate purchase from Genie+, and will be priced on a ride by ride basis, for up to two highly demanded (or Tier 1) rides per day. On-site Walt Disney World guests can purchase these beginning at 7AM the morning of. Off-site guests can purchase at park opening time the morning of. Disneyland guests can purchase the day of, once they are inside the theme park. Pricing and ride list for this option will vary by date, attraction, and park, and will be announced closer to the launch of the program. This feature is separate from Disney Genie+ and can be purchased even if you decide not to purchase Disney Genie+. It will be available as an in-app purchase the day you wish to use it.
So, to recap, the new Disney Genie will add fun, helpful new features to your My Disney Experience account and will not cost you anything. Disney+ and Individual Attraction Selections will cost you, but are both totally optional. Stand by lines and virtual lines will still be offered at all attractions that currently offer them. You can use any or all of the features, independent of each other, you do NOT have to buy Genie+ to use Individual Attraction Selections. You can also select how many or how few days you want to purchase them. Disney has not announced pricing for Individual Attraction Selections, which rides and attractions will be included on which level, or the date that Disney Genie will actually be rolled out.
If you’re still here, thank you for hanging with me. Clear as mud, right? Don’t worry, that’s why you have your Vacation Wizard to help you figure it all out. Now, back to my comment about price VS value. Let’s get a little perspective. First, Disney has been adding prices to their previously free offerings for years now, and there is always a huge fuss. If we look at the things Walt Disney World, specifically, has added prices to, you will see that they are literally the last to do so. They are simply bringing their fees up to industry standards. Almost all other major resorts charge for things like resort parking and airport shuttles, and ALL major theme parks charge for their line skipping options. This is true even within Disney’s own family of resorts and parks. Frankly, the Disneyland fans have been paying for all of this stuff for several years, so they’re all shaking their heads at the Walt Disney World crowd’s reaction. Consider this too-the other theme park across town offers them starting at $60, but are frequently MORE than the daily ticket price. Per person, per day. Yes, you have the option to stay at a deluxe resort there and get the pass for free, but you’re still paying a premium to get it. Disney’s program is only $15. I’ll be the first to admit, I expected it to be much more.
Finally, I have seen so many people saying that Disney is upping the prices and taking away all the magic. Let’s really look at that, though. Are they really? Let’s look at all the magic Disney has added (and is still actively adding) going back, say, 10 years...
4 massive, completely new lands across 3 different parks and a complete reimagining and refurbishment of Future World in Epcot. Think about that for a minute…that’s all a huge undertaking
15+ new rides and attractions. All of them good, some of them GREAT.
Multiple new restaurants, both in parks and in resorts.
A new on-site transportation option.
Several new resorts, including one that will be a completely unprecedented fully immersive experience.
Numerous new nighttime and firework shows for each park.
Special festivals, parades, and holiday celebrations each year.
Really, the list could go on and on. Look at it closely and think about all the things it represents…it’s an extensive, expensive list. Then think about all the cast members, maintenance and janitorial workers, and food service staff it takes to run everything and make your vacation run smoothly. Disney never stops coming up with ways to make your visit magical. Walt himself said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination in the world.” I am so thankful that there are imagineers keeping his dream and the magic alive today for Disneyland AND Disney World. Therein lies the reason I said it all comes down to price VS value. If you’re like me, you realize that just because something’s cheap doesn’t mean you should buy it, and just because something is expensive doesn’t mean you should avoid it. It’s all about the VALUE you get from what you are spending your money on. So, for me and my family, we will continue to go to Walt Disney World even with the price increases, because the magic is still worth it to us. I truly hope it is for you too. <3
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