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Hello, and welcome to the week's Theme Park News: Holiday Edition! While winter festivities often begin very early at theme parks, we're finally in the seasonal swing of things when the parks feel extra festive once and for all. So, it's fitting that Disneyland gave us one heck of a present earlier this week: the debut of Disney Genie+! Yes, the new system will change the way you visit Disneyland Resort going forward, but we're here to catch you up to speed. From snowfall in Whoville to s'more ways to skip the lines, here's what you may have missed this past week:
THE GENIE HAS ENTERED THE BUILDING
Yes yes yes, Disneyland Resort officially announced its Disney Genie service will arrive at its California theme parks on Wednesday, Dec. 6. It's a quick turnaround — 48 hours between announcement and the service, which will now be in use during guests' holiday vacations — but here goes nothing!
The suite of products, ranging from free to paid, are all intended to make it easier to move through the parks, allowing guests to customize their experience with the ability to pay a little more to board what they want, when they want. Previously, Disneyland used Fastpass, a skip-the-line service offered complimentary with all guest tickets, alongside Maxpass, a paid, digital version of the product that digitized the booking process, but both have been retired in favor of this tiered system.
To remind anyone whose brain isn't swimming in a never-ending soup of these new offerings:
- Disney Genie is the free planning tool inside the Disneyland smartphone app.
- Disney Genie+ is the Maxpass-like offering that provides expedited entry to select attractions at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks for a fee.
- Individual Attraction Selections (or “A la carte” Lighting Lane purchases) are the parks' most popular rides, which charge a single-time fee for expedited entry.
All three debuted at Walt Disney World earlier this fall. Disney Genie+ costs $20 per person, per day and includes Photopass photos from around the park and onboard attractions, while pricing for “a la carte” Lightning Lane attractions vary, ranging between $7 and $20 per person, per day.
Disneyland's website outlines all the attractions included in both tiers, but rides like Incredicoaster, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Haunted Mansion will use Disney Genie+. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Radiator Spring Racers and WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure will be the three utilizing Individual Attraction Selection at launch. (For those in-demand rides, guests can continue to wait in standby lines — Virtual Queues are not currently in use — or splurge to skip the line.)
A few more handy details:
- Individual Attraction Selections are limited to two per person, per day.
- Both Genie+ and Individual Attraction Selections can only be booked once the guest has entered the park. (Genie+ can be pre-purchased with new admission, or purchased day-of once inside.)
- Rides offering Disney Genie+ are separate from those utilizing a la carte Lighting Lane — you can pay for one, none or both.
- Don't get tripped up: Lighting Lane is the name of the queue you'll enter for all expedited entries, regardless of what kind they are
Questions? A case of the pre-Christmastime panics? Don't fret. We'll have more on strategy in the coming weeks, but leave a comment or reply @CarlyeWisel on Instagram and Twitter and I'll do my best to get you sorted!
HOLIDAYS AT UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD
‘Tis the season here in California, and not just because the weather dipped below 70 degrees. I visited Universal Studios Hollywood over the weekend to take in their seasonal festivities, and it provided an unexpectedly nice reminder of how lucky we are to ring in the most wonderful time of the year this year.
Though all California theme parks were non-operational last winter (save for the occasional short-run food festival), the cinematic theme park's return to form was particularly noteworthy. Universal Studios Hollywood is, after all, the only theme park that currently requires masks both indoors and outdoors, per Los Angeles County mandates, along with proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or negative test on busier days.
Inside, it was business as usual, but while theme park regulars are often delighted and freaked out to see the citizens of Whoville's turned-up noses each year, it felt significant to see them... covered up. Guests and staff wore face coverings, which itself has become immensely normal, but character actors so regularly identified by the part of their face covered by a mask were a reminder that, oh right, theme park Christmas is not a given — and that it's nice how much we're now able to do in these spaces, given how little we could do this time last year.
Because of those closures, the New York City-inspired area surrounding Universal's newest ride, The Secret Life of Pets: Off The Leash!, also displayed holiday decor for the first time with a photo op of presents with a pop-out Max, the film's star, alongside a welcoming array of wreaths and lights beneath a "Happy Merry Everything" sign dotted with images of popular characters, like Gidget, rendered as gingerbread.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter held their standard yet beloved celebration complete with holiday items, the glorious return of hot Butterbeer and even a bit of decor within Hogwarts Castle, extending the spirit of the season even further into the park's attractions and Harry Potter's fabled school. Come nightfall, the icon is draped in a festive display for The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle light show, while the delightfully wonky 65-foot-tall tree over in Whoville hosts multiple lighting ceremonies — with snowfall! — each night.
Find these activities — meet-and-greets with The Grinch's dog Max, donations made to benefit homeless youth with every postcard sent at the Whoville Post Office — and more through Jan. 9.
IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR (IN PARIS)
I spent Thanksgiving overseas in France — an ideal time to travel internationally, frankly — and took a day to swing by Disneyland Paris for their Christmas festivities, which were excellent. (P.S.: while American parks have widely adopted the more generic "holiday" nomenclature for their still-extremely-Christmas offerings, this one is full-tilt Xmas, both in name and spirit.) Though I myself don't celebrate, I found the decor to be nothing short of spectacular; the set-up of this park's castle at the end of a Mickey garland-adorned Main Street, U.S.A. is magical.
There are seasonal treats and entertainment and special meet-and-greets, but forget all that because there is a parade you absolutely must know about if you have even a passing interest in theme parks.
Yes, the coolest Christmas parade I've seen Disney do is outside our country's borders but must be seen to be believed. Paris' all-new Mickey's Dazzling Christmas Parade puts a cast of mainstays (Goofy, Daisy, Donald) alongside rarer characters (Three Little Pigs, Clarice ) on brand-new floats that wow by day and illuminate the park at night. Better yet? In this part of town, parades don't just mosey down towards Main Street, no no. They stop twice — once in front of the castle, once towards the train station entrance — and the characters put on a show, literally. We're talking choreography, we're witnessing performances, this thing low-key turns into a party on wheels and then keeps on truckin'. I was lucky enough to be there at the same time as a colleague, Denise from Mousesteps, who tipped me on the theatre-in-the-round aspect, for which I will forever be indebted, because how good is this!?
I know stateside Disney fans are all in on Toy Soldiers as the pinaccle of the seasonal parade, but trust me: just give this one a glance and you'll never go back.
LINKS! LINKS! LINKS!
- Get ready to party at Disneyland in 2022! Yes, Disneyland After Dark events for Sweethearts Nite, Villains Nite and Star Wars Nite have just been announced. (PS: If you plan to attend, be sure to move quickly when tickets go on sale. They often sell out fast!)
- COVID-19 levels in Orange County, where Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort are located, have risen from Moderate to Substantial tier levels.
- This behind-the-scenes special about The Making of Jurassic World Velocicoaster is a must-watch.
- DON'T SAY IT'S SO!!!!!
- Sorry, WHAT flavor ice cream did Disney almost make?!
SYFY WIRE and Universal Studios are properties of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.