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Hello, and welcome to a slightly delayed Theme Park News. Let's get right into it because it was an eventful week seeing as...
...THE GENIE+ IS OUT OF THE BOTTLE!
Disney’s new suite of helpful planning services debuted at Walt Disney World earlier this week and, well, we’re going to attempt to explain it to you.
Before we get in too deep, know this: Disney Genie’s free and paid services are much more intuitive within the My Disney Experience app, where park goers will toy around with their plans in real-time across Disney World’s four parks. Me at home, hunched over a laptop, trying to parrot details of return times while a rerun of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia plays in the background? It’s just going to make everything sound more murky than intended, so keep that in mind.
FastPass+ had loads of institutional knowledge surrounding it, so while everyone actively figures out the ins and outs of this new Disney system, if you’re confused by what we’re about to throw at you, don’t panic. Each day brings more knowledge about Disney Genie and Genie+, so there will soon be plenty more available.
To refresh your memory:
- Disney Genie is the complimentary planning service offered at Disney World (now) and Disneyland Resort (in the near future.)
- Disney Genie+ is the new “skip the line” service providing return times to select experiences for expedited entry. Essentially, it’s a FastPass replacement with a price tag, costing $15 per person, per day at Walt Disney World and $20 per person, per day at Disneyland.
- “Individual attraction selections” are popular rides with a la carte pricing that operate separately of both Genie and Genie+. For these eight attractions, you will still enter through a “Lightning Lane”, which is used for both Genie+ and individual selections, but these in-demand rides are not offered on Genie+ . Each is individually priced and guests are limited to purchasing two per person, per day.
Overwhelming? Yeah, I know. Lemme do my best Schoolhouse Rock and throw it to the tune of the one and only Billy Joel:
Whew! For a more detailed primer, catch up on how you’ll visit Disney Parks going forward in our Disney Genie MegaColumn, as well as last week’s drop for details on how we anticipate it’ll work going forward. (Curious when Disney Genie will arrive on the West Coast? Pricing and attractions have been revealed for its suite of products at Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, but no introductory date has yet been announced.)
And with that, let’s get into it.
A WHOLE NEW (WALT DISNEY) WORLD
Disney Genie, Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane — the speedy entrances on select attractions — launched earlier this week at Walt Disney World, and while I personally am not on site, plenty of intrepid reporters have been dutifully covering every aspect of the new in-app offering, most of whom we’ve linked out to below. (They all worked their tushes off this week so, duh, we recommend following them as well.)
We’re not going to make any snap judgments too early because it’s clear Disney Genie is still ramping up. There were a handful of tech issues this week ranging from standard (placeholder text) to wildly strange (missing buttons?!?) but one could argue switching the functionality of the world’s most popular theme park resort over to a new system is likely to incur some hiccups. (They’ve already been updating it since launch, a good sign it’ll continue to happen until the major kinks are ironed out.)
From early coverage, it appears that Disney Genie+ can help you conquer Disney World, as can its free counterpart, so long as you know what you’re doing.So strategy is key. The more you pay for, the more you can get done, but the more you know about how to use Disney Genie, the more you can use it to your advantage. So this ain’t the last time we’ll be talking about Disney Genie+, especially when some people crammed in 20 attractions in a single day using the system, so buckle up for a whole new way of life.
Until we go full hog on helping you navigate around these parks, let’s discuss the top emerging tips you need to know:
- Not all parks are created equal when it comes to Disney Genie+. As we predicted, Disney Genie+ thrives with park hopping, allowing guests to pick and choose the most in-demand attractions, but isn’t as useful for single-park tickets at locations with fewer attractions.
- Some folks also noticed that while it was highly beneficial for some attractions, select ones offering “a la carte” expedited entry don’t exactly need them. Expedition Everest emerged as a front-runner for that philosophy, at one point offering $7 skip-the-line access despite there being only a 10-minute wait.
- Some of Disney Genie’s recommendations are pretty interesting. Tom and Sarah Bricker of Disney Tourist Blog split up Disney Genie and Disney Genie+ itineraries and still managed to get plenty done, even if the complimentary software kept recommending a ride on the carousel. Touring Plans, who operate their own algorithmically-designed app for getting more out of your theme park day, put their product toe-to-toe against Disney’s and found that it emphasized attractions that already are the least in-demand, like Country Bear Jamboree and Tom Sawyer Island, while one person on their team was recommended back-to-back parade-style cavalcades in the hot sun. It definitely has worthwhile features including the tip board and its dining options, which make it so much easier to find a reservation than ever before, but I’m curious to see how Disney Genie recommends guests move throughout the park on a busier crowded day when more guests might be splurging for Genie+.
- The key to strategy appears to overlap with Genie+’s biggest pain point: the “120-minute rule”, as per All Ears, which doesn’t let guests book a new attraction for two full hours if they don’t board it within that window. In other words, if you book a Genie+ attraction first thing in the morning and the first available is 3 p.m., you won’t be able to book another Genie+ “skip-the-line” pass until 2 hours, or 120 minutes, after that park opens. In All Ears’ case, their 4 p.m. return time for Slinky Dog Dash — booked at 7 a.m. — meant they couldn’t book another until much later in the day. Could it be better to book certain rides earlier so you can bank more Lightning Lane entries? It’s possible — stay tuned for more.
- The most popular rides have proven to be well worth the coin, particularly with Rise of the Resistance. Now, with a standby line and Lightning Lane individual attraction selection option, if you want to wait, you can — and Disney Genie’s free functionality will forecast the best time to ride. But, if you prefer to fly a magic carpet past the stand-by line, you can do that too. At $15 per person, it’s a justifiable and worthwhile splurge that’s proven in high demand, with expedited entries already selling out. Procedures for the ride were different on its first two days but, as reported by Blog Mickey, the advantage for Disney hotel guests correctly adjusted in their favor by the week’s end.
- And, if you’re still confused? Just plan to wake up early. According to Brooke McDonald, Disney’s new Early Theme Park Entry for hotel guests is just as beneficial for “individual selection attractions”, otherwise known as big-ticket rides like Rise of the Resistance. The early morning perk, which previously was only at one park per day, now lets hotel guests inside 30 minutes early to every park, every day. With eligible guests spread across more places, there’s a significant advantage to head to the most in-demand ride at whichever park you choose first thing in the AM, since it’ll be easier to make it through the queue more quickly.
- The unexpected must-have from all of this, though, are the AR Filters. From Magic Kingdom’s iconic castle cake to putting yourself inside Ratatouille, they’re executed extremely well and made even more special by their limited-time-only status. Guests who purchase Disney Genie+ can use these at home after their trips for 45 days; certain restrictions apply. Sadly, unlike the rest of Disney Genie+’s features, these won’t be coming to Disneyland. While the West Coast’s version costs $5 more per day, it instead includes PhotoPass attraction photos and images taken from in-park photographers.
It’s a lot to take in, but just know that there is plenty more where this came from. The service will evolve over time — and the availability of Genie+ return times will likely shift as the service becomes more widely used — so we’ll keep on keeping you posted.
IS THAT ZOMBIE CAP!?
Yes, before the whole theme park community was wrapped up in all things Genie, Disney California Adventure slipped a new fearful sight into its sold-out Oogie Boogie Bash event: the one and only Zombie Captain America.
The character, who most recently made his appearance in the fifth episode of Marvel’s What If...? on Disney+, has also appeared in Marvel Comics but never before within a Disney theme park.
A big deal for that reason, it also marks a shift for Disney’s Oogie Boogie Bash, which itself has shifted its tone from its predecessor, the overtly family-friendly Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland Park.
That ticketed event, of course, was California’s iteration of Magic Kingdom’s beloved Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party — and following its hop to California Adventure a couple years back, this fearful sight marks a shift in both the tone of the event and the audience’s interest in more legitimate scares.
For an event that moved away from Mickey Mouse’s cute costumes to highlight villains like Snow White, and yes, the bag of bugs himself Oogie Boogie along themed treat trails, Zombie Captain America isn’t too far of a departure. Leaning a little into the frights has been beneficial for Disneyland Resort thus far, and considering their large local contingency of fans who delight in seeing something new, the reaction to Zombie Cap has been significant.
What’s even more surprising is that it seems to purely be done for fan enjoyment, as the Halloween event has been sold out for weeks and no further tickets have been put on sale. Consider it an extremely cool move by Disney that bodes well for the future of Avengers Campus. It is a move that makes good on the Campus' promise to be ever-evolving and include the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe as it progresses through its many phases. Here’s hoping we get more of this kinda stuff in the future!
LINKS! LINKS! LINKS!
- Walt Disney World Swan Reserve announced details of their new all-day Mediterranean restaurant, Amare.
- Start crossing those fingers and toes, because one lucky winner is going to win a Walt Disney World vacation for themselves — and 49 of their closest family and friends.
- Magic Key reservations for Disneyland passholders are filling up quickly for the rest of 2021, so be sure to check availibility and book if you are one!
- Every little Epcot opening makes things feel just a bit more normal.
- Time to celebrate, because Living with the Land will indeed get a festive holiday overlay.
- I don't really report on rumors, but there are plenty good ones in this week's Theme Park Stop drop.