Being out of the loop on the Disney parks for some time, the first I knew of Magic Bands came when my future wife and I booked our trip to Walt Disney World for our honeymoon, and we needed to decide on what color ours needed to be(mine was green, to match the theme of our wedding, for those who care about such things). Getting the bands in the mail served as a fun milestone in the countdown to our trip, but I thought there were little more than a neat way to handle park admission and opening the door for our room at the resort.
Several days later, when I reluctantly removed my Magic Band as we headed off property for the next leg of our honeymoon, I saw them as so much more. I’ve kept it as a memento of our trip, but that’s not all. Our Magic Bands made the trip so much easier to manage, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what the Bands, and the other Disney features attached to them, have to offer.
Magic Bands, MyMagic+, My Disney Experience and Story Maker… Oh My!
To those who haven’t been to the parks in a while, or who aren’t gigantic Disney Parks nerds who keep up with the latest and greatest, there’s a lot of terminology that gets thrown around right now, and it’s all tied in with the Magic Bands. So it’s p
robably a good idea to take a step back and explain the whole system. It’s also worth pointing out that, while components of this system exist at Disneyland as well, Walt Disney World is right now the only park utilizing all of these components, with Magic Bands being the most notable Disney World exclusive(for now).
The Magic Bands are a component of a major park roll out called MyMagic+. Probably the easiest explanation is that MyMagic+ is a powerful new way to help you plan and make the most of your Disney vacation. The Magic Bands fall under this umbrella, as does FastPass+, My Disney Experience, PhotoPass and the latest addition, Story Maker.
If you’ve ever taken a trip to Walt Disney World and poured over multiple guide books, made spreadsheets and tried to create a touring plan to make sure you saw the maximum amount of attractions and shows, then MyMagic+ will be right up your alley, but even a Disney neophyte or those who want to live spontaneously will get a lot out of the whole system. And that all starts with the FastPass+.
FastPass+ is an update to Disney’s original FastPass system, where you’d stop by the various attractions and get a paper slip telling you when to return, thus avoiding the long standby lines for the most popular attractions. FastPass+ takes it a step further, allowing you to pick your times well in advance(30 days ahead unless you’re staying in a Disney resort, which lets you pick your times 60 days in advance). It’s not the only pass you can get in the parks, however, as PhotoPass is another special feature that ties in both photos taken by Disney photographers when you meet characters in the park or at popular locations through Disney property, as well as a few photos from the attractions as well.
This all ties together through both the Magic Bands as well as My Disney Experience, an app for your mobile device that links together your FastPass+ selections, dining reservations and even the PhotoPass pictures. My Disney Experience will also give you information on where to find characters, upcoming events like parades and shows, offers approximate wait times for attractions and even uses the GPS features on your phone to help you find your way through the parks. You can also link your account to both your own traveling party as well as friends who are in the park at the same time, making it easier to share FastPass+ and dining reservations.
And Magic Bands are more than just your park ticket. You can open the door to your resort, PhotoPass photographers can scan it to link all your photos, and you can even link your band to your Disney resort account or credit card, letting you pay for everything in the park with one tap of the Magic Band.
While it might all sound a bit overwhelming, I was impressed at how easily all the features integrated together. We were able to view pictures from PhotoPass in minutes and even share them via MMS as well as through our Facebook accounts, which let us share some special memories almost instantly with our family back home. Even more impressive, we were able to change both a FastPass+ and a dining reservation selection for Hollywood Studios while in the Magic Kingdom, so it’s easy to change your plans on the fly.
And that’s another underrated element of My Disney Experience. We heard horror stories about needing to be up at midnight at the sixty day mark to secure the various slots we wanted. At first, this was true, as we couldn’t get a FastPass to meet Anna and Elsa, and we had to wedge our Seven Dwarves Mine Train FastPass at a weird time. However, people will often change their plans before the trip, and My Disney Experience made it easy to keep checking if slots opened. As a result, we were able to meet Anna and Elsa as well as secure a better time for Mine Train, and even got a seat at Be Our Guest only a few weeks before we arrived.
While this is all very interesting, Disney has now started to integrate a new feature into the system, and it might be the most exciting and ambitious yet. Story Maker.
A Whole New Story
After it opened following its most recent refurbishment, park attendees noticed new flat screen monitors at the end of It’s A Small World, in the final scene where guests are given a farewell in multiple languages. Their presence wasn’t a mystery for long, as they soon started to give personalized farewell messages to the guests in each boat. It was the first integration of the latest component of MyMagic+, Story Maker.
While Disney has been vague with the specifics to this point, there are plenty of rumors floating around about what Story Maker entails and how it will change the experience for park guests. For example, Mickey Mouse has been greeting fans throughout the park, but startled some guests when he broke his usual silence and started talking to guests who visited him in Town Square as part of his magic show. One of the most persistent rumors about Story Maker is that the cast members who work with Mickey will be able to learn the names of your family members and maybe even your home town, and will then pass that information on to Mickey so he can greet your personally. The idea could almost certainly be applied to other meet and greets in the park as well.
Another rumored tie in involves one of the most popular attractions in Hollywood Studios, Toy Story Midway Mania. The attraction is interactive, letting you and a partner compete against two other riders in your vehicle, while also keeping track of your individual scores. There’s been speculation that those scores might eventually link to your Magic Band and My Disney Experience account to keep records, and see how you match up to your friends.
And that’s just the start. While there are no concrete details yet, many people suspect Pandora in Animal Kingdom and the Star Wars and Toy Story lands in Hollywood Studios will integrate this technology even further, though at this point it’s largely speculation.
The Future of Story Maker and MyMagic+
But… this is a column called the Monday Morning Imagineer, right? Sounds like speculation is right up my alley, so why don’t we indulge in a little? Here’s just a few thoughts I’ve had about what the future might hold for Story Maker and the increased integration of MyMagic+ in the parks, and what I’d like to see in the future.
- More Attraction Memories – At the Monsters Inc Laugh Floor, you can show up in humorous captions or be “That Guy”. On Star Tours, you can be the Rebel spy hunted by Darth Vader. As interactive features become more and more important on Disney attractions, they will become a bigger part of the memories we all take home. Imagine if you got an image of your child as the Rebel spy or a capture of your moment in the Laugh Floor show? With cameras already in place, tying them into the MyMagic+ infrastructure shouldn’t be too difficult.
- Customizable Experiences – One of the attractions we’ve heard about for the Star Wars Land involves a battle between the Resistance and The First Order. There are frequent visits from Storm Troopers and other characters from the Star Wars franchise, with more to come down the line. Imagine if you had the option of choosing a side between the First Order and the Resistance, and it affected how those characters would interact with you? It might not be for everyone, but for Star Wars fans it would probably be a thrill to have small moments like that. While options for this would be limited in Walt Disney World due to the Universal contract, a similar idea could play out with Marvel characters. Could you also list a favorite character and get a special greeting if you met them in one of the parks?
- Increased Connectivity Via My Disney Experience – Right now, My Disney Experience lets you find a guest by name to link their accounts. But what if you met someone in the park and wanted to keep in touch? Imagine if you could use the Magic Bands to add friends on a social media like hub. That expansion to the Disney accounts might be more than the company would want to be involved with, but you could probably have a similar effect by linking social media accounts. This would be optional, of course, since not everyone would want to share their information. There are even small touches that might be fun. What if, for example, you could see how many states and countries were represented in the people you shared rides with? Or if the app suggested attractions based on ones you’ve ridden multiple times?
- Celebrations Integration – I can tell you from experience, there’s nothing quite like a cast member or character sharing their joy over your celebration. But what if attractions like It’s A Small World acknowledged it? This is pretty simple, but as interactive elements grow more and more prevalent, this could become a bigger part of the experience. Imagine Yoda or Elsa personally congratulating you on your marriage or anniversary in the middle of an attraction? It might make for some really special moments.
- Utilizing the RF Tracking Feature – While this might invoke a fear of Big Brother for some, there are some really great potential applications this could allow. The most obvious, of course, is helping parents find lost children, or helping separated groups to find one another. But there are some less serious applications as well. Imagine if you had an annual pass and several friends on My Disney Experience, and the app alerted you that they were in the park? You could send a request and if the other person accepted, it would give your location and allow you to meet up. There would need to be some safeguards in place so it wasn’t abused, but it could be a really fun additional feature.
- Keeping a History of Your Visits – If MyMagic+ eventually kept track of your entire Disney history, there’s the potential for some really fun interactive elements in the future. It could be something as simple as a “Welcome back” line from a character, but there’s plenty of potential here. I know I keep going to Star Tours, but what if a tiny bit was added for returning Rebel spies? Story elements in Pandora and the Star Wars and Toy Story lands could be linked in as well. At the most extreme, what if an interactive game like Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom was created that kept track of your history, like an in park role playing game of sorts? (This might even be an idea to revisit for a future MMI, as there could be more to it, and there just so happens to be a Disney related property that would fit this perfectly….)
- Achievements and Trophies – This is probably my favorite idea, because it wouldn’t be difficult to implement but would be a really fun addition for die hard Disney fans, especially younger ones who have grown up in the current video game generation. There would be obvious ones, like riding every attraction in each land. But you could create more specific ones as well, like going on attractions during special overlays or events or even as specific as riding Big Thunder Mountain during the fireworks show. You could take this as far as you wanted, even extending it to the resorts and dining locations, and tie it in with My Disney Experience and social media platforms. Who wouldn’t want to get 100% on their favorite attraction? It would add a really fun new element to vacations and a really great way for Disney fans to interact. The only question left is what to call them. Mickeys? Mouse Ears?
I don’t know how realistic or worthwhile any of these ideas would be to implement, but the fact that we can talk about these things as Disney fans is a pretty good indication of just how much potential MyMagic+ and Story Maker are bringing into the park. With so many new experiences coming to the Disney Parks in the coming years, it’s going to be exciting to see what the real Imagineers have in store for us.
In the meantime, I’ll go on dreaming.
A Daily Dose of Disney
Like most Disney fans, I like to find ways to feel closer to the parks when I’m half a country away from them. Each week, I’ll highlight little ways you can bring a little Disney magic into your lives.
Magical Kingdom’s Recipes from Walt Disney World – As someone who fell in love with the dining at Walt Disney World, this web site is a fantastic way to bring a little bit of that magic home. This compilation of actual recipes from Walt Disney World, including some retired favorites, is a must for any Disney fan. I’ve already made a few dishes thanks to the site, with the Asian Deli Sandwich from the Kona Cafe and the infamous Cobb Salad from the Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios being a few favorites.
What’s to Come:
Normally I wouldn’t tease the Wednesday post here, but this week you’ll get a double dose of Disney as I post the prelude to our Disneymoon last September, giving you a bit of the story on how my wife and I met, and how it ties in with my family history, including of course Walt Disney World.
And in my next Monday Morning Imagineer, join me as we travel to possibly my favorite park in Walt Disney World, Epcot, and into the much neglected Innoventions buildings. They’re being geared more toward character meet and greets, but I think there’s a way to revitalize them that harkens back to some of Walt’s original ideas for Epcot. What is it, and which popular Disney film does it tie in with? Find out next week!