Orlando focus may shift back to Disney with Fantasyland expansion

Posted Monday, January 9, 2012 8:54 AM | Contributed by Jeff

After nearly two years largely focused on Universal Orlando and Harry Potter, 2012 may be the year that Walt Disney World wrests back the spotlight from its smaller theme-park rival. Two of Disney World's biggest capital projects in recent memory are expected to begin bearing fruit this year: the expansion of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom, which analysts have estimated will cost $425 million, and the sweeping technology initiative dubbed "Next Generation Experience," projected to cost at least $1 billion.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Monday, January 9, 2012 10:39 AM

"Disney executives have said key goals of "NextGen," which has been in development for several years, are to make its crowded parks easier to navigate and more appealing to a generation of consumers increasingly in search of personalized experiences. A centerpiece of the overall project will be a new reservations systems that allows guests to reserve ride and show times — and just about every other component of their vacation — before they ever leave home."

The 100% pre-planned day has finally arrived.

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Monday, January 9, 2012 10:43 AM

I don't think that's really what it's about. If you look at how smart phone power users really use their devices, they're still making real-time decisions about how they roll, but they do it with more information. So for example, it's not that you're going to book Space Mountain for 4 p.m., three weeks from now. You're going to be standing at Splash Mountain and find out that Space Mountain is likely to have fewer people at 6 that evening and get a virtual Fastpass for it at that point.

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Monday, January 9, 2012 10:46 AM

Which is extremely boring in my opinion. My best vacations (whether they be in a theme park or somewhere else) are usually most remembered for the unexpected things we encountered. A restaurant that we stumble on while walking down the street for instance. We had a great meal in Venice at a restaurant that we never read about in Fodor's magazine and we still talk about that night.

There is something to be said for spontaneity. I don't mind if they want to provide opportunities for pre-planned vacations. But don't do that at the expense of those folks who would prefer just to stumble around through their trip.

Those "reserved" type of vacations wear me out. I don't want to have to always worry about the next place I "have to be".

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Monday, January 9, 2012 11:56 AM

wahoo skipper said:
We had a great meal in Venice at a restaurant that we never read about in Fodor's magazine and we still talk about that night.

And my wife and I had a god awful one by doing the same thing. There is something to be said for sitting and having a drink somewhere or being on a train or in the car and looking up where to eat nearby on Yelp or Urbanspoon. To each their own.

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Monday, January 9, 2012 12:25 PM

It should all be about options. If you want to plan out everything in advance, you can do it. If that doesn't appeal to you, don't.

It was great this summer at Disney having their app on my phone and being able to know that the wait times and FP return times were for the entire park and the show times for all the shows. Just that info was very valuable without being able to reserve anything.

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Monday, January 9, 2012 1:39 PM

Aamilj said:
The 100% pre-planned day has finally arrived.

I wish I could find the first post I ever made proclaiming that as the future of Disney visits. Beacuse it's been a while. My vision knows no bounds. :)

Interactive queues, turnstyle-free entry? This is the future ol' Gonchstradamus has written about in many a quatrain.

And it sure gets get hard to figure out who is getting preferential treatment with interactive, turnstyle-free queues, doesn't it?

GoBucks89 said:
It should all be about options. If you want to plan out everything in advance, you can do it. If that doesn't appeal to you, don't.

I suspect this is how it will work. The "I like to be spontaneous" argument has always come up when we talk of pre-reserved days.

I look at it two ways:

1. I think you'll still be free to frolic randomly and be able to have a good time doing it. But I think there'll be benefits to those who plan.

2. If you like spontaneity, perhaps Disney is no longer the vacation for you. (or soon won't be) Seems like this is another sign of the game changing - the same kind of game changing that is usually met with resistance on enthusiast forums. The idea of what a Disney Vacation is is changing.

I mean, I'd love to randomnly jet set all over the place at will, but that's not how the airlines work - you need to reserve seats, follow schedules and make compromises.

I think the key here is this:

"The timeline is less concrete for Next Generation Experience, or "NextGen," a many-faceted technology project."

It's not one piece of technology or one system. It's many small changes in the way a theme park works for the guest.

Disney has always been on the bleeding edge of what theme parks are. It all seems to trickle down in some way to the rest of the industry. (it only took what? 13 years before the rest of the big parks fully embraced VQ)

This is a glimpse into the ideas that will shape the industry for the next couple of decades.

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Monday, January 9, 2012 1:46 PM

As with most things in life, it's about finding the proper balance. I usually have a rough idea of what I'm going to do each day ahead of time and will make reservations for things where that is recommended or required. But I always plan plenty of contigency time. Like what I want to do should only take 2 hours, but I'll plan for 3 so that we don't have to feel rushed and have flexibility. Or I think we can do 3 things, but make sure the third thing is something I don't mind missing.

Totally agree that this system would be useful for fine-tuning your plan after you're in the park.

No plan at all means you waste your time trying to figure things out and don't get to experience as much. Plus what you do experience might not be as enjoyable because you made an ill-informed decision or ended up there at the wrong time. Especially if you take forever to make a decision like my wife and I.

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Monday, January 9, 2012 5:33 PM

I like a spontaneous vacation too... unless I'm at Disney. One week this past October I took a friend who was a first time visitor, and when laying our plans I had a heck of a time convincing him that the better idea was to know in advance what day we'd be at what park and where we were going to eat when we got there. I finally quit running choices by him and decided for myself, adopting the "trust me, you'll thank me later" attitiude. He did.

October isn't exactly high season there, but those dinner reservations saved our butts more than once. As far as rides, attractions, and shows go, I think the operative word in the quote above is "crowded". Those holiday crowds we discussed in another thread might have appreciated the new system to help them navigate those god-forsaken crowds, or better yet, decide not to go in the first place. Back in October when most rides were walk-on we had a casual need for it at best. Even hard-to-gets like Toy Story Mania worked out using that old fashioned manual system!

What I don't get is the B as in Billion dollars for this, even if it's the world-wide system figure over a time period that includes forever. Seems like an awful lot, and what's the return on this service oriented project? Happy customers? 1.99 app fee? Ok. Help me if I'm missing something.

Oh well, maybe by the time all that money's spent and NextGen rolls around for good I'll be PastGen and won't give a crap!

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Monday, January 9, 2012 8:32 PM

I believe the "next gen" plan your day in terms of scheduled ride reservations will be offered to very few guests and to those who do participate it will come at a significant price premium.

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Monday, January 9, 2012 10:06 PM

Disney really is amazing; investing $425 million for just one section of one park? A billion more dollars elsewhere? These are absolutely stunning amounts. Imagine being on the team that got to plan the Fantasyland expansion; there was basically no limit to anything they wanted to do, and since the expansion is so comparatively small, it was probably pretty hard to spend that much (which means lots extra for the highest quality materials and stuff).

I bet this comes off as a pretty bemused post but I've never really grasped Disney's expenditures and I haven't been there, plus I just read that story about Six Flags's measly $250 million lol.

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Monday, January 9, 2012 10:44 PM

bjames said:
Disney really is amazing; investing $425 million for just one section of one park? A billion more dollars elsewhere? These are absolutely stunning amounts. Imagine being on the team that got to plan the Fantasyland expansion; there was basically no limit to anything they wanted to do, and since the expansion is so comparatively small, it was probably pretty hard to spend that much (which means lots extra for the highest quality materials and stuff).

I bet this comes off as a pretty bemused post but I've never really grasped Disney's expenditures and I haven't been there, plus I just read that story about Six Flags's measly $250 million lol.

You would be surprised how much companies like Disney will over-pay for the most basic of things.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012 1:46 AM

maXairMike said:


You would be surprised how much companies like Disney will over-pay for the most basic of things.

He's pointing at you Mater. $100MM for a Cuddle up with whip style action for the seats.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012 8:50 AM

I agree with Jeff on "pre-planning".

We took the family to Disney World last summer, and honestly I was not excited about having to make restaurant reservations 4 months early. Added stress for me. Planning my rides weeks or months in advance doesn't appeal to me.

On the other hand, I bought the "Lines" app for my phone, and loved the idea of knowing present and future wait times in the parks. We scored multiple rides on all the big "mountains" on a busy day, with time to spare. Most of that planning was only a few hours in advance.
We filled the time between with spontaneous things.

It was the perfect mix of planned efficiency and unplanned surprises.

Still, I'm interested to see what Disney is planning. If the Fantasyland expansion is as popular as they hope, maybe even Fastpass will need to be improved.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012 10:26 AM

From what I have read about it, Next Gen will be all about having something interesting to do while waiting in line. Waiting in line might not be standing in order either. People who are waiting will be able to roam a specific area until their turn comes.

It's probably a lot more than that, and could be different from attraction to attraction.

I think that they are calling the new queue at Haunted Mansion "Next Gen". People still wait in a queue, but have things to interact with during their wait. Rock 'n' Rollercoaster is considered to have (or have had maybe) a Next Gen system as well, but that one had an area where people waiting could freely roam to visit different things to do, and have a scheduled time to arrive to loading platform.

And once again, I think that Next Gen will be a lot more than what I know about. This means that t could include an all day schedule of every attraction booked months in advance.

I'd hate to have to carry an itinerary around with me all day, detailing every minute of my visit, but I don't think that that is the point of Next Gen. Something like that might be included as an offering, but I'm not sure everyone will want to do it like that.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012 3:31 PM

I'm interested to see how the new Next Gen will work on Test Track. You will be able to customize your cars while waiting in line and that would be pretty hard to do in a line because your continuously moving.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012 4:58 PM

Maverick00 said:
I'm interested to see how the new Next Gen will work on Test Track. You will be able to customize your cars while waiting in line and that would be pretty hard to do in a line because your continuously moving.

I think that would be a perfect example of the aforementioned interactive queues and turnstyle-free entry.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012 5:05 PM

Unless they establish areas where groups will come in, step up to monitors and (after a video lesson in engineering and car-building, of course) customize a certain aspect of their vehicle before moving on to the next area, the next lesson and the next step. That would keep the line moving and be a great way to occupy everyone's time, in managable groups, while they wait. Fast passers and single riders, if that still exists, would probably be forced to take whatever.

I think Test Track is a fun ride, especially the exterior run, but the 'test' aspect of it is kind of eye-rolling fake, isn't it? "Customized" vehicles can offer a variety of plug and play experiences, I suppose, and I hope the interactive aspect improves the experience, but my guess is the basic ride will remain the same.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012 5:36 PM

RCMAC said:
Unless they establish areas where groups will come in, step up to monitors and (after a video lesson in engineering and car-building, of course) customize a certain aspect of their vehicle before moving on to the next area, the next lesson and the next step. That would keep the line moving and be a great way to occupy everyone's time, in managable groups, while they wait. Fast passers and single riders, if that still exists, would probably be forced to take whatever.

Sounds too much like a queue.

My guess is that everyone needs to shake everything they know about queues at parks. Sounds like the idea of a traditional plodding line is slowly going bye-bye at Disney.

Think of all the scenes you pass queueing for Test Track. Now imagine the whole area updated with interactive-type areas instead of the passive scenery and remove the railing that forces you from A-to-B in a certain way.

I imagine something along the lines of an interactive plaza area - more akin to what you find after riding SSE. Where people roam about at will occupying themselves until notified (in some manner) that their time to ride is approaching.

And they will find ways to offer levels of preferred access. It could be as simple as diving guests by resort type (off property, value, moderate, deluxe - seems nice and clean, huh?). And with a "free roam" queue, 99% of the guests won't even noticed the varied levels of access.

I'm basing all of this on nothing but the little info we have and my own idea of what seems inevitable, but this is serious game-changing stuff over the long run. Might not seem like it at first, but when this whole "Next Gen" thing has played and we're at the other side looking back, the idea of waiting in cattle pens and navigating switchbacks is going to seem like using stone tablets to write in comparison.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012 5:37 PM

From what I have read about it, Next Gen will be all about having something interesting to do while waiting in line.

Yes, it'll have something to do with the lines. There's going to be a indoor NextGen queue for Dumbo, which should be interesting. Perhaps 3D circus games using Toy Story Mania technology?

Also, Peter Pan is getting a little attention with a NextGen queue. They're building restrooms where the old Fantasyland Skyway station was. I believe these will replace the existing restrooms tucked between Peter Pan and the Columbia Harbour House. And this space will be used for the Pan queue expansion/ remodel.

Both Dumbo and Peter Pan have historically slow wait times. The dueling Dumbos will solve this problem doubling capacity. And add an interactive queue to make, this should be interesting. Peter Pan is virtually landlocked, but the NextGen queue should make the wait more bearable. The stand-by line is short distance-wise, but still a brutal wait.

Blake

WDW Fantasyland CP Fall 2004

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