When D-23 happened in mid-2019 before any whiff of a global pandemic, Disney made it seem as though Walt Disney World was exploding with creative potential. Epcot was getting a Makeover, Star Wars was getting the WestWorld treatment and There were two major anniversary celebrations on the horizon. Hot off of the heels of a successful 90th birthday celebration for Mickey and on the cusp of a Disney streaming platform that was going to blow the Disney vault wide open Disney had nothing but big exciting news. So when they said a new and improved app called Disney Genie would help us plan the perfect Walt Disney World vacations, we were understandably giddy.
Cut to present day. Basically, none of it happened. At least not the way we all wanted it to. Blame whoever, or whatever you like, but the picture that the company painted for its next couple of years of development was a little rosier in its depiction than what the reality turned out to be. As we saw the more realistic version of Disney +, the reimagined EPCOT, the insanely impractical and unaffordable Star Wars “cruise” come into light, who would have thought that decreased attendance and lower quality offerings would lead to higher costs and premium charges for previously free services? Enter Disney Genie.
What is Disney Genie?
Disney Genie is complimentary. However, some of the most sought-after services are pay-to-play. The new Disney app allows you to guarantee a spot on the top new attractions, or shorten your wait time for other popular attractions. Unlike My Disney Experience, Disney Genie works at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Gone are the Fastpass Plus and Maxpass systems as we know them. Now on top of your ticket price, each person must also pay an additional charge for the opportunity to experience Rise of the Resistance, a notoriously difficult attraction to access.
Disney Genie is a game-changer and it will have a deep impact on how you experience the Disney parks and plan your vacation. Here are the facts and what you can expect on your next magical Disney trip. Let’s start with a quick breakdown of the features.
Complimentary Disney Genie Features
Essentially this part of Disney Genie is a reimagining of the My Disney Experience app you may already be familiar with. Disney Genie offers such free services as restaurant reservations and waitlists, mobile orders, and virtual queues. You can also see forecasted wait times, manage your itinerary, get travel tips and access a virtual assistant.
The complementary features are definitely an improvement over the My Disney experience since you get more personalized tips and you can forecast wait times when previously you could only get real-time wait times. I used to recommend doing your own research by checking in on My Disney Experience before your trim to see what your wait times might look like when you are there. Now, that isn’t necessary since Disney is sharing that data. The downside of Disney Genie is that it is definitely a marketing tool and you, the guest, are also providing that data that Disney uses to make suggestions to others. Although ads (however targeted) are not typically welcome. The aspect of Disney Genie most Disney fans resent is the paid features. The removal of Fastpass Plus now means greater access to attractions for guests who will pay more.
Remember that part in Aladdin where he gets the first wish free but then he has to pay Genie on the side to get the other two wishes? No? Maybe I’m paraphrasing. Or maybe that’s not how Disney magic works. It certainly never used to. Be that as it may, most of us in the Disney community have been holding our breath and waiting for the day paid Fastpass would inevitably become a thing. That’s Lightning Lane. The Lightning Lane lets you skip the line if you pay for the Disney Genie upgrade that offers Lightning Lane as a feature. This add-on, called Disney Genie Plus, also includes Photo Pass for Walt Disney World and Disneyland.
This is where it gets tricky. Because everybody in your family can use Disney Genie for free. However, when you upgrade, every guest has to pay in order to use it. So it’s much harder for large families to experience more of the parks even though they would benefit the most from the saved time. Still, at least without Lighting Lane, you can still use the standby lines for most attractions. You may experience less of them, but you can still choose your top picks and hope for the best. However, even if you have Disney Genie Plus, the most popular attractions are still kept out of reach. I guess they needed to save something for wish number three.
Paying For Individual Attractions
If you want to ride Rise of the Resistance or other blockbuster attractions like Flight of Passage (Disney World) or Radiator Springs Racers (Disneyland) you can’t get a Lightning Lane Pass to ensure a chance to ride. virtually the only way you can safely assume the opportunity to ride the attractions is by purchasing them on top of the cost of admission and in addition to Disney Genie Plus. While low attendance may mean these additional features aren’t necessary, advance planning makes it difficult to know how much accessibility there will be when you finally take that next trip to Disney.
The Practical Use of Disney Genie
The way Disney Genie is supposed to work is that it uses an algorithm based on trends to make predictions and offer suggestions. It is supposed to help you get more out of your time in the parks by steering you this way and that toward available experiences. It’s an automated attempt to increase guest spontaneity, which largely went away when Fastpass Plus was first introduced. For those of us who still like to plan, we have to pay extra, but only time will tell which type of Disney vacation will prove more satisfying in the end.