Thursday, February 17, 2011

Disney and the NextGen Project

On Thursday, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chair Tom Staggs gave a speech to an investors conference.  In the speech, there was a little more information about what the current and upcoming NextGen Project is going to entail. 

(For those who are unaware, the Next Gen Project is a more or less "secret" project that Disney has been pouring money into, with a budget of around 1 billion dollars, which is supposed to up the game of the theme park experience.  The project seems to consist of technological advances that are going to be put in place in the parks to ensure that guests satisfaction remains at a high rate.  Currently, we are seeing the beginning stages of this project now with the Next Gen Queues that have been popping up, such as Space Mountain, Winnie the Pooh, and the upcoming Haunted Mansion queues.  To read the details of the speech, please check out this article from the Orlando Sentinel.  If you want to read the actual Investors Conference Speech given by Tom Staggs, click here.) 

This project as a whole intrigues me.  I think it's very interesting to watch and see how Disney takes the theme park experience up to an even greater level than it already is.

Things that were mentioned as options at Thursday's events were things like the ability to reserve FastPass times before a vacation even starts, being able to obtain room keys in advance of a vacation, personalization on attractions and with characters in the parks, even more interactive queues, and behind the scenes systems that help Disney enhance the guest experience by increasing things like operations and dealing with crowd control.

There are a few things that I want to take a deeper look into now, in discussing this NextGen Project.  I'm sure this won't be the last time I look deeper at things this project will entail.

The first thing is something that I didn't originally know would be a part of this venture, but it's something I really like. I really like the ability to be able to leave home with your room key in hand, all you have to do is show up and you'll be able to access your room immediately as soon as you arrive down there.  That way when you arrive at your resort, you won't have to worry about the hassle of dealing with the check in process, you'll just go right to your room and get rid of anything you won't be needing, then hit up the parks immediately!  (Although, I hope that the person that was in your room previously really has left...meaning they haven't requested late checkout or needed to stick around for another day or something...that could be embarrassing!  I'm sure Disney will make sure those types of kinks are worked out before implementing this system.) 

This seems like a no brainer idea.  I'm honestly almost surprised they don't already have it implemented.

I also really like the idea of Disney being able to do personalization for each guests.  Rumors have indicated, but Disney has not yet confirmed, that in the future, rides may say your name and or Happy Birthday due to information that Disney has collected about your trip beforehand, which I think is interesting, as long as it's not done TOO frequently, as it may quickly become annoying.  (I mean, if every ride wished you a Happy Birthday, yeah...that be neat, but I'd think after like the 5th ride, you'd get tired of it just a bit.)

The thing that I'm anxiously awaiting though, and I can only assume would be a part of this whole NextGen project and in particular, this specific facet of it, would be the characters who can actually TALK with you!  This was something that we saw last year with Mickey Mouse who held a conversation with a family at a meet and greet.  (If you haven't seen it yet, you need to!  Click here!)  While some were a little freaked out by it, I think it's fabulous!  I am one who feels a little uncomfortable meeting Disney characters, but I think being able to talk with them would definitely help with that. 

The other thing that I want to take a look at though is something that concerns me greatly.  This is something that I've heard through the rumor mill was potentially coming, but I didn't want to believe and that was being able to FastPass your vacation before you actually get on your vacation.

To quote Tom Staggs, "a version of Fast Pass for an entire Disney vacation." where future guests, he said, "Guests will be able to reserve times for their favorite attractions and character interactions… secure seats at our shows and spectaculars…make dining reservations… and pre-book many other favorite guest experiences – all before even leaving their house.."

This is something that bothers me a lot.  I am one who now, at this point in the game, isn't a BIG planner.  I rarely make ADRs at 180 Days in advance (which, personally, I think is a ridiculous window for that anyway...WAY too early.  I loved it when it was 90 days.  Much more manageable.)  So, I'm one who doesn't feel the need to have every moment planned out for myself.

With a FastPass System like this potentially being introduced...I feel as if some of my freedom is going to be taken away and that if I DON'T partake, then I will not have as enjoyable of a vacation because everyone else, all those uber planners, are going to make it so.  This makes me very sad.

Now I understand that part of the things mentioned are things that are currently happening, like making dining reservations beforehand and pre-booking other experiences.  Those are things that I think should be done beforehand, in a reasonably timely manner, not in an excessive manner.  But planning out which attractions you want FastPasses for during your ENTIRE vacation, that seems a bit excessive to me.   

I want to have a spontaneous vacation...I feel as if that may be taken away from me.  My biggest fear is that I'm going to have to become a slave to a schedule to have a successful vacation.  I deal enough with schedules at home, I don't need one when I'm trying to relax! 

I do have to keep in mind that it's hard to judge (and I definitely know I shouldn't be judging this in finality) this right now, seeing as how it's just in the planning stages, so, I'm still trying to keep an open mind about the whole thing.  Once all is said and done, who knows, maybe it will surprise me and not be as constricting as I think it has the potential to do. 

The NextGen Project as a whole though sounds like it has a lot of potential.  It sounds exciting and it really does seem like Disney is trying to keep on the cutting edge of things.  I really am anxious to see where all this goes in the future, even if it is still a long way off for the majority of it.

What do you think about the NextGen Project?  Make sure to let me know in the comments section!


Unknown said...

I'm indifferent on the room key thing - I've never found check in to be a huge hassle.. I always like confirming with the CM that I have what I asked for (neighboring rooms, etc...)..

but I'm with you on the FP thing.. I don't want to over plan more than I already do.. If they offered a full day FP (like Universal does) for $$ to a limited amount, that would be one thing.. but planning before I go? maybe an app that can get one during the day instead? We'll see!

Jessica @ Wanting Adventure said...

I think the room key thing is a neat idea - but I would put my foot down on the FastPass thing. I like the dining reservations 180 days out, but I know I can walk up to most places and still get in. But getting passes that far ahead makes no sense to me.

Unknown said...

I completely agree about the whole FastPass issue. I don't mind it like it is. But if some people have already reserved all the times for all the good rides before any of us even get there, it doesn't sound like a fun day for the rest of us. I'm much more spontaneous in my Disney trips than I used to be, and I would rather keep it that way.

Dawn B said...

I'm not a big planner so the Fast Pass thing doesn't sound good to me. I don't want to be charged for it either, I like the way it is now. Everything else doesn't bother me right now but we'll have to see the out come on it all first.