Vol. 12

“NextGen: RFID Wristbands, Enhanced PhotoPass & FastPass and New Guest Experiences!”

By Michael DiMare

There's a new technology about to make its debut at Disney Parks and Resorts. No, it's not the new trackless levitating monorail or the on-ride dining experience. What it will be is a major upgrade to your "key to the World", as it is known today. Now keep in mind that all of this is "speculation" and "rumor", but here's what a cute fuzzy rodent has told me about some of the latest "Next Gen" projects.


Today we use our "Key to the World" as our hotel room key, credit card, park ticket, Disney Dining Plan card, and general resort ID. Utilizing it as our park ticket also gives us access to Disney's (yes, still free) FastPass system. So what can Disney do to dramatically change you "key to the World" you ask? (Go ahead, ask.) You will soon be wearing you key, not on a cool DizFanatic lanyard, but as a fashionable wristband. Ooooh! (say in LGM voice).


Did someone just say "Big deal, a wristband"? I know other establishments have RFID wristbands like Great Wolf Lodge, who use it as room key access, and account charging. But Disney will be utilizing the technology for all of the "Key to the World" features, plus ties it into your online vacation planning system and this will be added into a major "Plussed up" version of PhotoPass! There are also some plans for "personalized experiences"? that would utilize your RFID.


Now I know the collector in you is dying to know: "Can I collect all three?" and is there "On free of every box of Mickey Magix cereal?" Well yeh, kind of. The current plan (which is subject to change) will offer a basic wristband, you choose your color, with the built in RFID. Oh, for those who don't know, RFID or Radio Frequency Identification, is a technology that allows a unique code to be wirelessly be transmitted under close range. Similar to the tap style credit card and retail store security tags. Ok, but can I have a customized wristband with Buzz Lightyear or Tinker Bell or even my name on this futuristic magical fashion accessory? Yes! For an additional charge, you can customize and select from dozens of designs. A Collector's dream!


Now all this gets me excited! So here's how it works (not the tech part, but the user part):

  • Need to get into your awesome Pirates of the Caribbean themed hotel room? Just hold your wristband up to the door.
  •  At Magic Kingdom gates at 5:30AM for an 8:00 opening? Just hold your wristband to the turnstile (at 8:00 am).
  • Mmm, time to buy a yummy cinnamon bun at the Main Street Bakery. Just hold up your wristband to the paystation to pay!
  • Oh, hurry, FastPass to meet Mickey Mouse (or Tinkerbell in my case <3 ). Just hold up your wristband to the FastPass kiosk.
  • Next? Get that classic photo on Main Street with the castle in the background, and even daddy can get into this photo thanks to PhotoPass. Just hold up your wristband for the photographer to scan. (No more digging in your pocket for that card)
  • Love EPCOT's Kim Possible interactive spy game? Try some new adventures like a Magic Kingdom Pirate Adventure, an Imagineer's hidden secrets adventure or even "a romantic adventure"? Use your wristband to keep the adventure going.
  • Can't wait to show your jealous friends at home that awesome ride video of you on Big Thunder Mountain? Just hold up your wristband to be sure that it is added to your 'Enhanced' PhotoPass account.


What? Wait a minute! Back up there cowboy! On-Ride Videos of me? You betcha! We'll get to that in a moment. "Enhanced PhotoPass": One of my favorite "Value added features" will be receiving some major new enhancements. I always purchase a PhotoPass CD when I am at Disney for a family vacation. The ability to get some amazing family or romantic couple photos with some of Disney's most iconic backdrops, or that photo of me smooching Tinkerbell which my wife refuses to take, there's no better invention since PhotoPass. Yes, I still take over a thousand shots with my own camera, but still... And for the record, it IS better than sliced bread!


If you're not totally familiar with what you can get after Disney's PhotoPass Photographer snaps your big glossy smile, check out http://DisneyPhotoPass.com for all the official details. But basically as of the time of my writing, you can purchase photo cd's, various print sizes, animated slide shows, printed items such as mugs and mouse pads, bound photo books, etc. You can even add photos that you have taken with your own camera.


The enhancements you ask? Well, the "rumored" upcoming upgrades to PhotoPass go like this: Disney is installing on-ride cameras, on select attractions, to capture photos and videos you as you scream "like a little girlie man" when you race out of control on your favorite thrill ride. Awesome!! How about the ability to purchase a 3-D 'cut-out' statue of your family with Mickey Mouse? Another nice option will be a video of you family?s photos, with video clips of you on some rides and maybe even you little Princess interacting with Cinderella for the very first time. Imagine a digital "pop up book" where you can watch the pages of your vacation unfold on your computer TV.


Now this is how I see it; if I can put down that darn video camera and my wife put down the still camera, then we can be part of that amazing interaction as a family instead of watching from behind a lens. As a dad, that is definitely worth some extra dough to me.


So I mentioned "experiences". Let's put our magic imagination caps on and picture some things that may enhance your level of ' Disney Magic'.


Lots of us enjoy heading to our favorite Disney park for a special occasion; say an anniversary, birthday, wedding, super bowl win, etc. Picture this; you and your family are getting competitive on Toy Story Mania when a 3D party explodes on the screen announcing "Happy Birthday Nicky" to your 13 year old. How about Cinderella already knowing your little princess's name before she walks up to her; "Good morning Gianna, It's wonderful to see you again." And what if Cinderella presented her with a surprise locket that daddy designed on the internet prior to arrival? Oh, and because of PhotoPass, you don't have to worry about getting your tears on your camera lens, you can instead, enjoy the experience in real life. Not through a viewfinder!


Have you ever played the Kim Possible game in EPCOT? Well picture an extremely enhanced version with even more interaction. How about a Pirates themed adventure in Magic Kingdom? (wink wink) Or maybe even a hidden secrets type of game designed by imagineers?


Part of this "system" of enhancements may include an on line "portal" where you can further plan your Disney experiences before you arrive. We have already seen the progress that's been made with the on line advanced dining reservation (ADR) system. Imagine having the ability to acquire xPasses (enhanced FastPasses) for your favorite attractions or character meets from the comfort of your office desk; during lunch break of course ;) Be sure that the Disney magic machine is aware of any special occasions your party is celebrating. And how about going for extra few bucks and creating your own personalized wristband? Imagine if you saw a screen inside It's a Small World with paper doll versions of your family dancing to the world's most "recognized" tunes? Aw, how cute. SO add them to your PhotoPass goodies if you like. And you may have seen the enhancements recently made to the ride cues like the Haunted Mansion and the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in Magic kingdom as well as some cue games such as on Space Mountain and Soarin?. Expect to see more of these things with personalized enhancements thanks to RFID.


So when will we see the new wristbands, experiences and PhotoPass Enhancements? Well some parts are supposedly in the testing stage and Disney is currently doing some heavy market research to see just how much guests will pay for the extras. My guess is that it will be rolled out in stages, beginning real soon. We may even hear some more about these "rumors" at the 2nd D-23 Expo, which is just a week away. I'm sure that we'll be seeing parts or all of these "rumors" come to fruition in the near future.


While I understand that there are varying opinions about FastPass, PhotoPass, ADR's and my unhealthy love affair with Tinkerbell, I am personally excited about these new options. And yes, options. Just like the systems in place now, you can choose to utilize them, or just ignore one or all of them. It's all about options, something for everyone.


Be sure to check out the DizFanatic "Ears On Ears" podcast for an in depth discussion on all of this and more.




Click photos for a larger image

*Update May 9, 2012

Wide spread RFID FastPass test installation at Magic Kingdom began last week!  Participants were selected at random, some at the airport. Much of the concept art from last August seems to be turning into a reality.

(Plus some photos of the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game which began in February 2012) And take a look at the “Opening Soon” Art of Animation Resort guest room door - RFID Locks! (No more traditional swipe card)

*Update October 9, 2012


Just last week Disney has submitted a filing with the FCC for operation of an RFID wristband known as the “Magic Band”. This is exciting news for the optimists of this device hoping for an easier way of managing room keys, charge cards, PhotoPass cards and FastPass cards. For the non believers, I’m sure Disney will still give options.  You can take a look at the entire Disney FCC filing (with the exception of the confidential photos submitted), but I warn you; If you’re not a tech geek, it may bore you.  While of coarse this hasn’t been officially announced yet, it certainly looks like they are serious about those nifty little wearable devices.  Stay tuned…


 *Update January 7, 2013

After following this story since mid 2011, Disney announced today their new guest program called “MyMagic+” which incorporates the RFID “MagicBand” Wristbands that we uncovered way back when. As a refresher, this is an electronic wristband that will serve as your room key, room charge card, park ticket, PhotoPass card and FastPass tickets.  It will also activate special guest interactions with rides & attractions in the parks! It will be linked to your MyMagic+ account where you can manage your Disney vacation from home or even your smart phone.  The wristbands will be available this spring!





Here’s the release that we received from Disney this morning:

Taking the Disney Guest Experience to the Next Level

As always we are excited to share information with you. We’d like you to be among the first to hear from Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, on how we plan to enhance the Guest experience. Our efforts are driven by a fundamental desire to exceed our Guests’ expectations.


 At Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, we continually push the boundaries of creativity and innovation to deliver the best possible experience for our Guests. We’re always looking for ways to take what we do and do it even better. Over the past few years, we’ve devoted considerable time and resources to create a more immersive, more seamless and more personal experience for each and every Guest who spends time with us. I know there’s been significant speculation about these efforts among our fans, so we’re pleased to give you a glimpse into the work we are doing to take the entire Disney Guest experience to the next level.
Some of these initiatives are more apparent and can already be seen by our Guests – like our interactive queues at Walt Disney World® Resort and the Enchanted Art on our cruise ships – while others are more behind-the-scenes and are focused on “how” visitors plan, access and enjoy their experiences with us. Over the next several months, we’ll be rolling out a collection of tools at the Walt Disney World Resort called MyMagic+ that will give Guests more opportunities to customize and personalize their entire visit.
Like most people who visit Walt Disney World Resort, my family and I have our “must-do” attractions, and as the father of three boys, those attractions often end with the word “mountain.” Now, rather than dashing as a group, or even splitting up to gather FastPasses, imagine booking guaranteed ride times for your favorite shows and attractions even before setting foot in the park. With MyMagic+, Guests will be able to do that and more, enabling them to spend more time together and creating an experience that’s better for everyone.
A major component of MyMagic+ is the new My Disney Experience website and mobile app, which gives Guests planning their trip the latest information on all Walt Disney World Resort has to offer. We know that some people like to plan every aspect of their Disney vacation in advance while others like to plan very little, letting their day unfold spontaneously. No matter where Guests fall in that spectrum, My Disney Experience gives them the flexibility to plan as much or as little as they’d like to create the exact Disney experience they want. They can book dining and other experiences and reserve times for their favorite attractions, shows and more through an enhanced FastPass system, FastPass+. Once they arrive, they can use their smart phones to spontaneously change their plans in the moment, exploring our parks at their own pace and getting the most out of their visit.
Linking the entire MyMagic+ experience together is an innovative piece of technology we developed called the MagicBand. Worn on the wrist, it will serve as a Guest’s room key, theme park ticket, access to FastPass+ selections, PhotoPass card and optional payment account all rolled into one. We’ve began testing certain aspects of MyMagic+ in Florida last month and the early reactions we’ve gotten have been fantastic.
This collection of tools is another step forward in the ongoing evolution of our Guest experience, giving us even more ways to help friends and family create the unforgettable Disney memories that they want most. We’ll be testing, adjusting and adding features to MyMagic+ and My Disney Experience over time and will continue to make improvements based on our Guests’ feedback. We look forward to sharing more with you in the months ahead!

We expect to here more about the interactive games discussed earlier, real soon.

Stay tuned to for more information!







PARK ADMISSION                                      FASTPASS RETURN                                  INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCES


*Update January 15, 2013

Today, Disney announced that the Wilderness Explorers adventure organization is coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, with a planned opening this spring. Soon, guests can become Wilderness Explorers and experience the entire park using their field guides, completing challenges and earning badges as they go. With more than 30 badges available, Wilderness Explorers is fun for the whole family and helps guests experience Disney’s Animal Kingdom and its themes in a new and exciting way




*Update January 23, 2013

Disney announced today that a new interactive quest called “A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas” will debut in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom Park this spring. Yet annother planned adventure game tied to the nextgen “Magic Band” that we originally discussed back in August of 2011.


“In A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas, guests will use a pirate map and magic talisman to help them complete five different pirate raids throughout Adventureland. The goal is to help locate different Treasures of the Seven Seas and fight off pirate enemies like the Royal Navy and Captain Barbossa, among others. If guests help Captain Jack succeed in all the missions, they’ll be welcomed as part of his new crew. If not, they’ll face the wrath of the cruel sea – alone.”  No “official” word on whether the adventure can con tinue at home as originally planned.

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