MyMagic+ and MagicBand to reach beyond Walt Disney World to other parks, new details shared at All Things Digital show

in Disney, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

At the 11th D: All Things Digital conference in California today, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Tom Staggs revealed new details surrounding the upcoming MyMagic+ and MagicBand programs, slated to be rolled out at Walt Disney World later this year. With all the talk about wearable computing, like Google Glass, this digital conference was an opportunity for Disney to show off their own wearable devices, soon to be around the wrists of thousands of theme park guests.

The plan, according to Staggs, is ultimately to offer a “variation” of the new systems at Disney theme parks worldwide, beginning with the four Florida parks first, but ultimately potentially reaching to Disneyland in California, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and even the currently under construction Shanghai. In Orlando, the system will rely heavily on technology, including mobile devices and the upcoming RFID-enabled MagicBand wristbands, but may not require such heavy use of digital devices in parks worldwide that such devices aren’t as ubiquitous.

Disney is still remaining tight lipped on the specifics of when the MyMagic+ system will officially debut and which features it will contain at launch, but Staggs today did discuss a few details that will utilize the new system:

  • Disney’s park characters, including talking Mickey Mouse, will be able to know visitors names in advance of meeting them, even setting up specific meet-and-greet times for personalized encounters.
  • Restaurants, beginning with Be Our Guest in New Fantasyland, will allow advance ordering of food, ready upon arrival.
  • Guests will be able to design an It’s a Small World doll online at home, which will appear in the ride, popping up from behind decorations, while passing by, appearing along with a special message if guests are celebrating an occasion, like a birthday.
  • Ride times, fireworks and parade seating, and other attractions will be able to be reserved from home in advance using the My Disney Experience online system.
  • MagicBands will integrate with FastPass and PhotoPass systems.
  • Staggs hinted that the upcoming Disney Infinity console video game will interact with the MagicBand, though he noted he isn’t ready to make any official announcements.
  • Staggs emphasized the overall goal is not to convert all attractions to digital experiences, noting Disney’s parks are a 360-5 experience, meaning 360-degrees around guests using all five senses. He also said It’s a Small World as a digital ride would not be appealing, but attractions like that can be enhanced digitally.

With regards to privacy concerns, Staggs did say Disney will place readers throughout the park to gauge traffic patterns as guests flow through areas, but specific guests will not be “tracked.” There is no GPS in the MagicBand devices, but it does use short range RFID and long range Bluetooth technologies. But guests can set up how much personal information will be shared with the park. It’s completely an opt-in system, though those who opt in to all information sharing will receive the most benefit, allowing Disney to further customize the park going experience.

There is a great potential for future devices to utilize the backbone of this new system but move beyond the relatively simple MagicBand into new form factors, perhaps a more complex device with a screen, as one example.

MagicBands and MyMagic+ will begin appearing at Walt Disney World within the next few months. Watch the full Q&A with Tom Staggs from the D: All Things Digital conference in the video below, including an appearance from Edna Mode, “The Incredibles” costume designer:

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