ALA Attendees: Final Walt Disney World Promotion and MagicBands

THE SALES PITCH

Last week, Disney announced an Awaken Summer Vacation Offer that includes room savings of up to 30% and a special MagicBand option. Not only will guests enjoy savings at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels from June 12 – August 25, 2016 (which include those end of June ALA dates) but they may also select a unique “Awaken Summer” MagicBand (showcasing BB-8) in their My Disney Experience account. Packages must include at least a 2 Day park ticket to qualify for the MagicBand offer.Over the summer, the MagicBand will activate a special sound or lighting feature at select touch points located throughout the parks.

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WHAT IS A MAGICBAND?

As Disney describes them:

MagicBands are colorful, waterproof wristbands—resembling a watch or bracelet—that you can quickly and easily touch to a sensor called a touch point. MagicBands allow you to travel lighter throughout your vacation.  You can use your MagicBand to:

  • Unlock the door of your Disney Resort hotel room.
  • Enter theme and water parks (with valid admission).
  • Check in at FastPass+ entrances.
  • Check in for Disney’s Magical Express airport transfers
  • Connect Disney PhotoPass images to your account.
  • Charge food and merchandise purchases to your Disney Resort hotel room 
  • Add a touch of magic to your vacation by unlocking special surprises, personalized just for you, throughout the Walt Disney World Resort!

MagicBands are basically RFID devices that are linked to the Disney resort systems.  For those of you who work with RFID circulation systems, it’s essentially the same technology, but expanded by many orders of magnitude.  MagicBands are made from non-latex hypoallergenic TPU (thermal plastic polyurethane) in a mold over the electronic components (so those of you with latex allergies will not have to worry about rashes or other reactions).  .

MagicBands are part of a suite of services called MyMagic+ which collectively were intended to alleviate pain points and barriers that guests had with the Disney resort and theme park experience.  MyMagic+ takes the ideas behind wearable computing  and the Internet of Things and applies those ideas to the Disney experience.  If you think all this sounds pretentious, this March 2015 Wired article describes how this can be our future.  Development of the program took four years and over a billion dollars and was first rolled out at Walt Disney World in 2013.  Implementing MyMagic+ and its associated functionality required the installation of new equipment across the entire resort (43 square miles) in a way that minimized disruption to the resort’s operation through the transition.  In addition to installing thousands of readers at all theme park and attraction entrances, networked cash registers,  and photo spots,  Wi-Fi had to be installed across the entire resort and locks on over 28,000 hotel room doors had to be upgraded to support the new RFID system!

The RFID technology used by Disney is not a GPS-based technology (so no tracking of your every movement).  I think most people would agree that this is a good thing, but the parent who loses a child and asks the nearest cast member “Can you find my child?  She’s wearing her MagicBand.” will be sorely disappointed.  The best the cast member can do is to see where the MagicBand was last scanned or read.

MyMagic+ uses two types of scanners: touchpoints (for theme park and attractions entrances, cash registers and hotel room locks), and short-range readers that are used mostly at photo points (so if you wonder HOW that picture of you shrieking on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror showed up in your Photopass account, it’s because there a short-range reader in the general vicinity of the photo opportunity).  For those of you who have privacy concerns with RFID technology (an important issue for librarians), Disney offers a very detailed privacy policy with an opt-out option.  Instead of being issued a MagicBand, you are issued an RFID card (about the size of a credit card) whose signal can only be picked up by specific types of touch points (and not by the short range readers).  Disney states that there is no personal information on the MagicBand itself, only a randomly assigned code that securely links to the MyMagic+ encrypted database.

So has the MagicBand improved the guest experience?  Heck yeah!  No more pulling out lanyards and wallets or digging through pockets and purses to find those park tickets, fastpasses, credit cards and room keys.  And no more losing those little pieces of paper either.  The MagicBand is thicker and sturdier than your typical Fitbit wristband and does not easily come off your wrist.  It’s also sized for kids (as the backing is removable to create a kid-sized wristband).  And if you do happen to lose it, one visit to Guest Services is all it takes to replace it (albeit with a blander than bland grey band…but hey, if you like grey….perfect!).  I had my epiphany two years ago at Typhoon Lagoon.  When you’re at a water park, you have three options for your tickets, money, credits cards, etc.: buy a waterproof card holder (which in my case was not), remember to bring a ziploc bag (and hope it stays both ziploc’d and in your pocket as you go down Summit Plummit) or rent a locker (which means going back to the locker whenever you want a beverage or a snack).  Well, no more!  With the MagicBand, I show up, touch my band at the entrance, touch my band to rent my towel, and touch my band to buy my Coke.  MagicBand….where have you been all my life?!!

Of course, Disney will take any opportunity to cash in on personalization.  A free MagicBand is given to ever guest staying on property and to annual passholders.  They are all plain Jane, choice of one color (customized with your name though so if the twins get the same color, they can still identify their band).  But one can buy themed MagicBands (to fit your mood or identify with your favorite characters) as well as sliders and pins for your MagicBand to personalize it even further.  And just as you might with jewelry, you might have multiple bands depending on your mood (Am I in a Tinkerbell or Grumpy mood today?) or your outfit (Do you think Bambi goes with this outfit?).

Just like my husband likes to collect Starbucks cards and he has his favorites that he routinely swaps through, I’ll have to think about my next MagicBand (to replace my plain Jane blue band with its annual passholder slider).  Maybe something in a Goofy green??

If you’re interested in getting your own BB-8 MagicBand, contact me to help you book your next Disney vacation.  But do it soon!  The promotion ends June 10th.

 

 

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