Big changes coming to Disney World: MagicBands can help visits be more interactive, but raise privacy concerns

In the next few months Disney World will introduce MyMagic+ — an online vacation management system (with website and app) that will allow visitors to preselect some FastPasses before they leave home and reserve seating for parades, fireworks and meeting characters. The system also comes with a bracelet or MagicBand that will be your room key, park ticket, FastPass and credit card, if you choose.

Disney officials say it will make visits easier and more interactive.

The downsides for consumers: By pre-planning your visit so thoroughly, visitors are less likely to check out other tourist sites – exactly what Disney wants. There are also some privacy concerns about Disney tracking customers so closely with the wristbands.

From The New York Times:

“MagicBands can also be encoded with all sorts of personal details, allowing for more personalized interaction with Disney employees. Before, the employee playing Cinderella could say hello only in a general way. Now — if parents opt in — hidden sensors will read MagicBand data, providing information needed for a personalized greeting: “Hi, Angie,” the character might say without prompting. “I understand it’s your birthday.”

“The data will also be used to make waiting areas for rides (‘scene ones’ in Disney parlance) less of a drag. A new Magic Kingdom ride called Under the Sea, for instance, features a robotic version of Scuttle the sea gull from ‘The Little Mermaid’ that will be able to chitchat with MagicBand wearers. ”

“We want to take experiences that are more passive and make them as interactive as possible — moving from, ‘Cool, look at that talking bird,’ to ‘Wow, amazing, that bird is talking directly to me,’ ” said Bruce Vaughn, chief creative executive for Walt Disney Imagineering. “

(There is a lot more to this story and to this new system so please click the link and read the full story. I can only pull three paragraphs.)

Visitors will not be forced to use the system and people who do, can choose how much information to share.

I like the idea of getting my FastPasses ahead of time. I already book character breakfasts ahead of time. I did use a Disney Park app on our last visit to Disneyland to navigate line waits, and it was really helpful. I don’t think I would want to use the wristbands on my children or me.

So what do you think: Do you think the MyMagic+ app and website sound awesome and will help you get the most out of your trip or do you think it is too intrusive and ruins the nostalgia of visiting the park?

Would you use the online site and app? Would you use the wristbands? Are you worried about company’s tracking your purchases and experiences?

30 comments Add your comment


January 9th, 2013
7:15 am

We are not a “Disney” family so I don’t care one way or the other.

We took our boys to Disney once and while we enjoyed our day none of us, including the children, have any desire to return.


January 9th, 2013
7:30 am

No Disney for me either, unless I take grandkids and that will be at leat 10 years. Have a great day all!

A Simple Man

January 9th, 2013
7:32 am

I like the idea. We have been four times and plan on going back. As long as it’s voluntary and we can remove the wrist band when our trip is over then it’s no big deal. It’s not a permanent tracking device that is branded on a body.


January 9th, 2013
7:33 am

Disney technology has a way of moving out of the parks and into other industries. So you might be seeing this in some form even if you never set foot in a Disney park your entire life.


January 9th, 2013
7:44 am

As a WDW veteran, I’m not really overwhelmed by what this offers. By this point we’ve pretty much got the routines that work for us down cold & don’t really see a lot in these that would entice me. I can see it working better for novices, those with young children, those with cramped schedules, etc. but not so much with the “regulars”.

Voice of Reason

January 9th, 2013
8:04 am

If you have already preselected your fast passes and reserved your place at your entertainment venue of choice how exactly is this new method an invasion of privacy? They already know where you are going when you make the reservation.

This is Disney trying to control your entire vacation by making it so easy and convenient you won’t want to leave the Disney property.

We are actually planning a vacation to Disney this summer. We will not be utilizing this method because we will also be going to Universal Studios. There is ONLY so much, “It’s a Small World” I can stand.


January 9th, 2013
8:07 am

We’re going in May, and will probably use this. I’ll let you know how it is.
I disagree with Behind Enemey Lines-I would think that as a veteran, you would want something that would make your experience different than all the other times. My in-laws live in Florida and they go to Disney about every 4 months. They are Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members, and when I showed them this NYT article, they were interested.


January 9th, 2013
8:07 am

I’ve been to Disney World and Disney Land, and honestly don’t care if I ever go back.

I went to Disney Land in CA as a child, two or three times, as we vacationed in CA just about every summer. I took my kids to Disney World when the youngest was 5. No thank you. The kids enjoyed it, have fond memories, but don’t really care if they go back either. It incredibly expensive, and I would rather go on a cruise. But not a Disney cruise…they don’t serve alcohol….LOL.


January 9th, 2013
8:15 am

@Mayhem – We went on a Disney cruise several years ago. Lots of fun, very nice, and believe me – they did serve alcohol!


January 9th, 2013
8:28 am

I, for one, welcome our new Disney bracelet robot overlords.


January 9th, 2013
8:45 am

Thanks SJ….they must have changed their policies. We looked at them about 10 years ago….


January 9th, 2013
9:03 am

I don’t quite understand the fascination with Disney. We know folks who go on vacation there every single year. I like variety and I don’t like lines or crowds so that’s not a ‘vacation’ to me.

I have heard great things about the Disney Cruise though it is expensive. @Mayhem, they most certainly serve alcohol… cruise lines make tons of money that way even if they are supposed to be kid-oriented.

If I did go, I probably would use the wristbands as it sounds like they could be helpful… if you’re using the app and have location services turned on, technically they can track you that way anyway. My theory is this: they’re not tracking you b/c they want to snatch you up or invade your brain, they’re tracking you so they can market directly to you AND get you to spend more money. No conspiracy going on; just good ol’ economics.


January 9th, 2013
9:10 am

I’m an Annual Passholder. I’m there frequently and I want to love this but I want to know how this affects passholders not staying on property or just dropping in for a day. I know how to work the system IN the park to have an efficient day with minimal waits. The idea that all of the FP could be gone much like dining reservations (way ahead of time) really stinks. That said, I will reserve judgement until I see it in practice. Our first big disney trip of the year is coming up in a few weeks.


January 9th, 2013
9:46 am

We go pretty frequestly. 5 times in the last 5 years in fact.

I think I may have actually particpated in the the adaption of this thing. They had me take a fairly long survey last year that asked about some of the features you have in the blog.

I’d have no problem setting up a Fast Pass ahead of time. If plans change, I just wouldn’t use the FP. What’s the big deal?


January 9th, 2013
9:47 am

TWG everything I read said you can only have one fast pass at a time. Has Disney changed that to be more like Front of the Line at Universal?

The kids will love Universal when you have a chance to take them :)


January 9th, 2013
10:22 am

I’m with Techmom. I like to go to different places on vacation, not the same place over and over again. Except for the beach. I could go to St. Simons or PCB any time. Love those two places. BUT, for a nice relaxing vacation, I prefer going someplace new. I do love an adventure.

My sister in law goes to Disney at least twice a year.


January 9th, 2013
10:30 am

We don’t go to Disney on “vacation” but do go, on average, about once a year. It isn’t at all unusual for us to drive down on a Thursday night and then drive back Sunday. And, for these trips, we usually stay on property since Disney is the purpose of our visit. We are also planning a trip in a couple of months to Universal and will, more than likely, stay somewhere close to CityWalk.
As far as the Disney wristbands, I don’t really have an issue with it and, if it ends up making our vist better that’s cool but, if not, so be it and we won’t use them again.
What we are planning to try on our next Disney trip is the full VIP tour with the Disney host – From what we have read, this appears to be a decent experience; albeit a bit pricey.


January 9th, 2013
10:38 am

@Mayhem, we don’t go to Disney for “vacation”, either — we like the adventure of traveling and seeing different places. We are going in June of this year to Germany for two weeks – Have never been and really looking forward to that. And, like you, we also love going to the beach! We go to Pensacola Beach every year for our anniversary and we also make it to Jamaica, on average, about every other year.


January 9th, 2013
10:51 am

@ Me stay on property at Universal…you get the Front of the Line with the stay, extended hours….good perks. Portifino is the least expensive of the 3 and still very nice. All 3 hotels on site are managed by Lowes.

Not sure ages of the kids (mine were “tweens” and have been twice)but their favorites to dine were Hard Rock Cafe, Margaritaville, and Finnegans.


January 9th, 2013
10:51 am

Anyone have any word on Atlantis?

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

January 9th, 2013
10:59 am

The NYT article says you will able to reserve three FastPasses ahead of time but it doesn’t say if that’s concurrently or you have to spread them out. Now the catch to that is just like the lines at Disney if everyone reserves the same FP ahead of time it’s not going to help — you’re in a virtual line to get a FP.

The NYT article agrees with you guys that the side-effect of this new system is to lock you into Disney for your visit and increase what you spend. So much easier to spend $5 on something if you don’t actually have to pull out cash or credit card but just swipe your arm band. That seems almost free — until you get the bill.

We have our methods when we go to Disney World.. I don’t want to have to figure something new out. Disneyland was kind of exciting and kind of hard for that reason — it was totally new to us. So we had to figure out our “Plan”. (I had been one time like 20 years ago.)


January 9th, 2013
11:10 am

We did a trip to Atlantis about 10 years ago. It’s not particularly geared toward young children. The water slides are great but you have to hike quite a way to them. It’s pretty expensive. Not sure how it is now, but back then even with all the restaurants on site, you either had to eat very early or very late to get in. A hamburger was $16. It’s pretty cool though, well worth it if you can afford it. It was a one-time trip for us.


January 9th, 2013
11:28 am

We toured the Atlantis as an expedition on our cruise to the Bahamas. Very nice place and extremely expensive. Very lavishly decorated and quite beautiful. The place is stunning.


January 9th, 2013
11:34 am

@FCM — Thank you for the “on site” tip! We have not yet performed any research for Universal so glad to know this! And, as @Scooby states, Atlantis isn’t really geared toward younger kids and it IS expensive. That was our one and only trip to the Bahamas also.


January 9th, 2013
1:42 pm

@ ME I stated the wrong one….ROYAL PACIFIC is the least expensive (but it is where we stayed and was very nice)….PORTFINIO is the most expensive. I did a Harry Potter deal…3 days of tickets, breakfast at the 3 Broomsticks. Again, FOL (which was $129/person at Christmas for those not staying on site) was included with our stay. Early hours (which is about the only way to get on Forbidden Journey) and the transport (we did the boat mostly) was fantastic.

There is a VERY nice package offered on their site right now if you arrive before 6/16/13. I also bought the Unofficial Guide to Universal by by Seth Kubersky and Kelly Monaghan. It was what convinced me to stay on property. Fabulous book, with some great tips to make the most of the vacation….so much so that my kids said they liked “our” trip better than the one they took with their Dad…

Thank you everyone for Atlantis information…it may be out of price range. But it looked like the “tween” set would enjoy it when I saw it on TV

[...] Big changes coming to Disney World: MagicBands can help visits be more …Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)In the next few months Disney World will introduce MyMagic+ — an online vacation management system (with website and app) that will allow visitors to preselect some FastPasses before they leave home and reserve seating for parades, fireworks and … [...]

[...] on parking, where you should go and best times to avoid big crowds. … The rest is here: Big changes coming to Disney World: MagicBands can help visits be … ← Disney World: Let the Countdown Begin! | Teachable [...]


January 9th, 2013
6:07 pm

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January 9th, 2013
7:17 pm

Disney is one of the most highly monitored environments in the world — cameras EVERYWHERE, digital tracking of purchases, undercover staff, security, etc. You are already being monitored within an inch of your life. Having a wristband that allows a character to say, “Hi, Amy!” isn’t a stretch, in my mind.


January 11th, 2013
12:12 am

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