Much of the talk among Disney fans online in 2012 was about Disney’s “NextGen” initiative to make the park-going experience more personal and interactive. While Disney tried a few small tests last year, nothing was officially announced until yesterday.
Disney’s new parkgoing experience, called MyMagic+, will change the way you plan your Disney World vacation, enter the parks, and even pay for your turkey legs.

So just what is MyMagic+? And what does it mean for your Walt Disney World plans? Read on to find out.

MyMagic+ is a system that allows Disney World guests to plan out and personalize their Walt Disney World vacation. Everything in MyMagic+ aims to remove any sort of friction on your day at the park. Speed through the turnstiles or instantly pay for your meal by tapping your RFID enabled MagicBand. Avoid running for FastPasses on the day of by reserving your attraction or show experiences ahead of time using Disney’s website or the My Disney Experience app on your smartphone or tablet. Have your little girl’s favorite princess call her by name and tell her Happy Birthday. Here are some specifics on what MyMagic+ includes and how it works:

  • MyMagic+ does not cost anything extra. All Walt Disney World guests can participate in MyMagic+.
  • MyMagic+ introduces a new fashion accessory with the MagicBand: a wristband guests can use to enter their hotel rooms, enter the parks, pay at the shops, and enter FastPass+ lines all through magic, er… technology. WDW Resort guests and Annual Passholders will receive a MagicBand. Other day guests have the option to buy a MagicBand, but they can still participate in MyMagic+ using RFID enabled tickets.
  • Since this is Disney, you will be able to buy premium MagicBands. The upgrades seem like they will be purely cosmetic.
  • FastPass+. Disney has decided that running around the park for little tickets is so passe. Using Disney’s My Disney Expierence app or website, guests will be able to schedule up to three FastPass+ experiences per day before even heading into the park. Just show up for when your reservation is, scan your MagicBand or ticket, and get on the ride. Simple as that. Reservations for FastPass+ can be made weeks ahead of time and changed the day off the park visit. FastPass+ will be available for a wider selection of rides (such as rides that never had FastPass previously like Spaceship Earth or Haunted Mansion), and the system also allows reservations for shows, parades, and fireworks.
  • Much of this hinges on Disney’s My Disney Experience website and app. Guests will be able to use these tools to make FastPass+ reservations, dining reservations, add personal details for more customized interactions in the park (optional), and more. The My Disney Experience app is free and available in the iOS app store.
  • Security: Purchases of $50 and over will require you to enter a PIN. If you lose your wristband or RFID ticket, you can deactivate it using the My Disney Experience app or by asking a cast member. Disney also says that no personal identifiable information is kept on your MagicBand.

Sounds magical, right? However, MyMagic+ does come with its fair share of concerns. Many don’t want to feel like they’ve planned their vacation to the point of having no wiggle room for spontaneity. Guests cannot use FastPass+ in conjunction with regular FastPass, so guests who had a system perfected for getting the most out of FastPass won’t be able to take advantage of that. Also, attraction reservations only work in one park per day, which kind of defeats some of the appeal of park hopping. And what if your daughter thinks that Belle already knowing her name and date of birth is a little creepy?

MyMagic+ will not be without its problems when it first rolls out this year. Some guests will love it. Some guests will hate it. Some guests will yearn for the days of printed FastPass tickets. Personally, I think it could be cool to walk into the park, buy a Dole Whip, and waltz into the FastPass+ lane of Haunted Mansion without having to take anything out of my pocket. It could also be neat to plan out part of my day with my iPhone. I say this as someone who genuinely gets a little thrill out of paying using my iPhone at Starbucks, so take all of this with a grain of salt.

What do you think of MyMagic+? Will you use it for your next Walt Disney World vacation? Let me know on Twitter or Facebook, or email me at [email protected].

(Source: Disney, New York Times. Image Copyright Disney)