Beginning today, Easter Sunday, Walt Disney World guests no longer have to wait hours upon hours to meet the popular characters Anna and Elsa from Disney’s hit film “Frozen” – if they plan ahead.
The duo has moved from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom in Princess Fairytale Hall, paired up with another princess. At Epcot, lines stretched far beyond the Norway pavilion boundaries, with guests waiting upwards of 4 hours to meet Anna and Elsa. Now at the Magic Kingdom, Disney is offering the option to book FastPass+ reservations to skip the wait entirely, though there are most definitely still some bugs to work out of the system, which is still in testing. (More on that below.)
From the moment the park opened today, it was clear that the “Frozen” stars will be the Magic Kingdom’s most popular attraction for the foreseeable future, likely drawing even more attention than the nearby Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, nearly ready to open. A 3-hour wait formed nearly instantaneously when the park opened, adding another hour to that time by 1pm. But those who booked a FastPass+ reservation when they became available 60 days ago (30 days ago for annual passholders), could be admitted to see Anna and Elsa with little to no wait.
Video: “Frozen” Anna and Elsa move to Princess Fairytale Hall at the Magic Kingdom
Princess Fairytale Hall has two sides, currently featuring Cinderella and Rapunzel in one plus Anna and Elsa together and a final “visiting Princess” in the last spot. Guests can wait in line for one side or the other, not both. Likewise, FastPass+ reservations must be made separately for each side.
Today it was clear who the popular princesses were, with Cinderella and Rapunzel only having a 15 minute wait while the posted wait time early in the morning for Anna and Elsa was 3 hours. Those who didn’t make FastPass+ reservations when they became available on MyDisneyExperience.com 1-2 months ago or at an in-park kiosk first thing in the morning (with extremely limited availability) had to wait in the standby line.
But regardless of how guests got in, everyone was delighted to meet Anna and Elsa inside. There is no “Frozen” backdrop, as Anna and Elsa are simply visiting this royal meeting area, part of the Cinderella Castle courtyard. But the pair seems happy to be there for now, until Disney can build something more permanent back in Epcot’s Norway.
However, FastPass+ is a new system and there are definitely still glitches to be worked out, as I discovered today.
I did make a FastPass+ reservation online to meet Anna and Elsa, just after midnight 30 days ago, as soon as my annual pass would allow me to do so. At the time, I was impressed that it was so easy to make the reservation for these popular characters. (I even tweeted about it, praising its simplicity.)
Last night, I logged onto the My Disney Experience web site to confirm that my FastPass+ booking was still waiting for me. Indeed it was. Just in case something went wrong, I took a screenshot of the booking on my phone via the mobile version of the site. (I do not currently use the My Disney Experience app because it won’t run unless I upgrade to iOS 7, which I’d rather not do.)
As it turns out, my concern was valid and there was indeed a problem.
I arrived to Princess Fairytale Hall at the Magic Kingdom at around 9:30, waited until my 10:10am FastPass+ time and – along with two friends who also had booked 10:10am times – proceeded to the FastPass+ entrance.
But when they scanned their MagicBands and I scanned my annual pass, none worked. The Cast Members checked the system and said we did not have any FastPass+ bookings for Anna and Elsa this morning. After double and triple checking through a few different ways, the conclusion was the same.
So I showed the Cast Member my screenshot, as did my friend who had also thought to do the same. But the response we received was surprising, as the Cast Member said they could not honor the screenshot. When asked why, she replied that we could have changed the photo to show any time or attraction we wanted and that only an active reservation in the My Disney Experience site or app would allow us entry. It’s a valid concern, but we did not appreciate the insinuation that we were trying to game the system with a phony screenshot. We certainly had done nothing of the sort, but obviously could not explain how or why our 30-day-old booking had simply vanished.
Now nearly 11am, we were sent to Guest Relations in City Hall at the front of the park, who directed us to Town Square Theater, where FastPass+ Cast Members are stationed. Unfortunately, after a very similar conversation with them and several phone calls and scans later, they were also unable to help.
Returning to City Hall, I spoke with a supervisor who made even further efforts to get to the bottom of what happened, taking a photo of my screenshot with her phone, taking my information from my driver’s license, and contacting their IT department with it. After disappearing backstage for a few minutes, I was once again denied, as she told me that IT had absolutely no record of me ever booking a reservation to see Anna and Elsa.
It was my word against the computer’s and I had lost.
As a last ditch effort to salvage my Easter morning, I showed her the tweet I posted 30 days ago in the hopes that she would see I had indeed made the reservation. It didn’t help. So I decided to head back to Princess Fairytale Hall one more time with the hopes of finding anyone who could assist me.
The same Cast Members were still stationed at the meet-and-greet and they confirmed there was still nothing they could do. I had received many apologies throughout the morning and was politely told “no” many times. It was time to give up.
I intended to visit the Magic Kingdom today only to see Anna and Elsa, planning to leave immediately after. Now 11:30am – nearly 1.5 hours after my FastPass+ time that vanished – I decided to ride The Haunted Mansion to make the best of the situation. After an always-excellent trip through my favorite Disney attraction, I was walking toward Main Street to leave the park when my cell phone rang with an unfamiliar local number.
On the other end was a man who identified himself as being with Walt Disney World Guest Relations. As it turns out, Disney’s IT staff had been working on the issue since my City Hall visit an hour earlier and discovered there was indeed a technical glitch that caused my FastPass+ reservation to disappear. He’d retrieved my home phone number from my account on MyDisneyExperience.com and called it, after which my wife gave him my cell phone number to reach me. Finally, he offered to set up a new FastPass+ reservation on my account, valid for any attraction in the park – including meeting Anna and Elsa – any time between 12:30pm and 11:30pm today. I thanked him profusely and headed back to Princess Fairytale Hall to wait for my new reservation time.
Sure enough, as seen in the video above, everything worked flawlessly this time and I was inside meeting the “Frozen” characters within a couple minutes of my arrival. This is how the system is supposed to work and it would have been a wonderful experience at 10:10am.
I don’t frequently include photos of myself on this site, but given the personal nature of this story I thought it would be appropriate to share my first-ever meeting with Anna and Elsa:
Even with the glitch, the time I spent wandering the park trying to get it all sorted out was still less than the posted wait time when I arrived in the morning, so it was ultimately a positive result.
But the lesson to be learned here is that while FastPass+ is still being tested, particularly with new experiences, all Walt Disney World guests should make sure to check and double-check reservations before visiting the park. Though I was mildly disappointed and rather annoyed that the system had initially failed me today, I would have been far more upset if had been traveling with a little girl whose one dream was to meet Anna and Elsa, only to be denied and repeatedly told to simply enter the 3-4 hour standby line. That’s a tough sell to a girl who’s been looking forward to a meeting like this for several months, after a parent has told them there would be no wait courtesy of Disney’s sparkling new system.
Since posting about this earlier today, I’ve received messages from several people who told me that they checked their FastPass+ reservations for Anna and Elsa only to find their bookings had also disappeared. Thankfully, they have enough time to correct it now that Disney’s IT staff is aware of the issue.
Looking ahead, it seems Disney’s guests have absolutely no way of proving their reservations if the system has another glitch. Screenshots aren’t enough and there is no paper proof anymore, like under the old FastPass system. FastPass+ system is entirely digital and if anything unexpectedly changes on Disney’s computers, guests can make no case to the contrary short of spending hours hopping between Cast Members, hoping for some help.
Yes, FastPass+ is still testing. These are the types of bugs that can be expected during any major software rollout. Hopefully today’s bug is quickly being squashed now that Disney is well aware of it.
As a personal side note, as I posted to social media this morning about the FastPass+ issues, I received a handful of replies from people who claimed I was using my “clout” as the owner of a popular web site to demand preferential treatment. This is not the case. I never once mentioned my site by name, except when I was asked for my e-mail address by Cast Members to access my account on their system.
When I showed the City Hall Cast Member my tweet, I did not mention or emphasize my name or site in any way, simply showing her the content of the message and timestamp to affirm that I had booked the reservation 30 days prior. When I received the unexpected phone call from Guest Relations, I asked how he got my number and why he was calling, just in case it had somehow filtered through Disney’s public relations department, whom I frequently work with when writing stories about them. To the best of my knowledge, PR had nothing to do with the positive outcome. As far as I can tell, it was simply Walt Disney World doing their best to follow up on a poor situation, admitting their fault and making it right. Though it took a couple hours to get fixed, and I was nearly out of the park when it did, I was ultimately happy with the result and even more satisfied that they followed through.
The only complaint I am left with is that Cast Members should not accuse guests of forging FastPass+ reservations. While it is entirely possible that someone could do that, it should not be mentioned. A simple “it’s our policy to not accept screenshots” would have sufficed.
Just in time for the arrival of Anna and Elsa to the park, the Magic Kingdom has stocked up on “Frozen” merchandise in the nearby Sir Mickey’s store, including wigs, books, DVDs, cookies, T-shirts, iPhone cases, and much more. There’s also some beautiful artwork behind the register that shows what “Frozen” would have looked like had it been a 2D hand-drawn film.
What about Snow White?
There is some added good that came out of Anna and Elsa moving in to Princess Fairytale Hall. Snow White was formerly meeting there, but now there is no room for her. So instead, she is meeting with guests in Town Square. And while the Easter Bunny and Miss Bunny were occupying the meet-and-greet area next to City Hall, Snow White was simply out in the street mingling with guests today, even sitting down to play a game of Duck Duck Goose with some children.
Video: Snow White plays Duck Duck Goose with kids at Walt Disney World
This is the best kind of Disney meet-and-greet – the natural kind that happens unexpectedly in the streets of the park, not hidden behind queues or FastPass+ reservations. Stumbling across Snow White on my way out of the park solidified the smile I had on my face after finally meeting Anna and Elsa. There was Disney magic at work today and though FastPass+ had a meltdown this morning, in the end it was a happy Easter.
More photos from Anna and Elsa at Princess Fairytale Hall: