On episode 6 of Mouse Mountaineers, we discuss various changes to the Disney parks, including one of the biggest changes to come along in quite some time, the replacement of Fastpass (now called Legacy Fastpass) with Fastpass+. Indeed, Fastpass+, replete with its cute, colorful, Mickeyized Magic Bands, has already become the only Fastpass option available to Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom guests. By the end of January, Legacy Fastpass will be eliminated at Epcot and Hollywood Studios as well. With that in mind, we thought we’d give a little primer on Fastpass+, so you won’t be so shocked the next time you hit the park. I also offer my own theory of why Fastpass+ was rolled out.
What is Fastpass+?
There are a lot of ways to explain it, but simply put, it’s akin to a ride version of Disney’s advanced dining reservations. Guests with on-site resort reservations can book Fastpass+ ride slots up to 60 days in advance of their visits. For daytrippers and those who buy their tickets at the gate, well… you’ll have to make your Fastpass+ selections from whatever slots are left over at kiosks located around the park on the day that you arrive. Ditto for anyone who wants to change their pre-existing Fastpass+ reservations.
Are there restrictions to Fastpass+?
Oh yes. Guests are limited to obtaining between 2 and 4 Fastpass+ slots a day, subject to the specific park and availability. Additionally, Fastpass+ slots are organized into ride tiers. For example, at Epcot, rides are divided into two tiers:
- Test Track.
- IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.
- Living with the Land.
- Captain EO.
- Journey Into Imagination with Figment.
- Mission: SPACE Green.
- Mission: SPACE Orange.
- Spaceship Earth.
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends.
- Turtle Talk with Crush.
- Epcot Character Spot
On a typical day, you will be allowed to choose 1 Fastpass+ from Group 1, and 2 Fastpass+ tickets from Group 2. The interesting part of this, of course, is that regular Disney visitors know that the vast majority of those Group 2 rides are walk-ons or have a short wait through much of the day. Seriously, does anyone ever really need a Fastpass+ for Journey Into Imagination with Figment? On the flip side, the limitation of Fastpass+ tickets for headliners ensures you will be waiting in line for at least some of the big rides. This is a drastic change from the old days of Legacy Fastpass, where, if you knew the ideal way to tour, you could get Fastpasses for all headliners and avoid waiting in lines of more than 20 minutes on even the busiest of days.
What about DVC and annual passholders?
For now anyway, Disney Vacation Club guests and annual passholders are treated the same as on-site guests, and allowed to reserve Fastpass+ tickets up to 60 days in advance online.
Why did Disney move to the Fastpass+ model?
There’s a lot of speculation on this. The prevailing explanation seems to be that Disney wants more guests using Fastpass tickets, because guests who use Fastpass report being more satisfied with their trips. However, because Fastpass slots are limited, encouraging all guests to use Fastpass, through this new Fastpass+ system, requires limiting the Fastpass+ tickets as well. That sounds very thoughtful on the surface. However, Disney guests were satisfied with their trips using Legacy Fastpass. This new system,severely limits the benefits of Fastpass, at the expense of trying to force those who hadn’t used the system before onto it. It remains to be seen how this will work out. Right now, views are decidedly mixed.
So improving guest satisfaction doesn’t sound like the real reason Disney made this change.
Umm… nope. Which brings us to our Disney, “black helicopter” top secret theory of why Disney killed Legacy Fastpass: that model had become too efficient.
As a long-time Disney park-goer, I know how much time Legacy Fastpass saved when touring the Disney parks. As a daytripper in the old, pre-Fastpass days, I’d get to the park about 10 a.m., leave about 8 p.m. and be happy to see eight or nine rides in my time touring. However, using the Legacy Fastpass system properly, I could whip through all the rides I wanted to see at the Magic Kingdom in that same amount of time, on even some of the most crowded park days. If I can do that at Magic Kingdom, which has the greatest concentration of “must-see” rides as well as the largest crowds, I can certainly do that at the other parks.
Now, if I’m a visitor from out of town with a week or so on my hands, especially one that’s come to the parks a few times and knows my way around, the time saved with Legacy Fastpass suddenly leaves me with more time to see other attractions… non-Disney attractions. Attractions like the wildly popular Harry Potter area at Disney arch-rival Universal Studios. Indeed, while Disney’s attendance has increased, Universal Studios has seen exponential growth in its attendance, largely on the back of the “Boy Who Lived.”
So… what can Disney do? Well, it could add a fantastic themed area of its own. But that takes years, and lots of money. Or… it could make it take a little more time to tour the parks, make you have to wait in a long line or two. That wouldn’t really hurt it against the competition. After all, Universal doesn’t even have a free Fastpass system for guests who don’t stay at the hotel resort. Thus, the logic at the Mouse House might be… if parkgoers have to spend a little longer at our parks, they’ll spend more money here… and less at Potter’s Field.
Of course, that’s just wild-eyed speculation on my part. But it’s a heck of a lot more plausible in my mind than the idea that Disney is trying to improve the overall guest experience by making it more difficult to get Fastpasses.
OK, so regardless of why Disney did it, who gets the most benefit out of Fastpass+, and who loses the most with the death of Legacy Fastpass?
Well, strictly put, it looks like no one sees a net benefit here. If you’re a Type-A personality who is visiting Disney for a week or two, stays at a Disney resort, makes your reservations (and reserves your Fastpass + tickets) well in advance, and keeps to a strict schedule with no deviations, you may be OK with Fastpass+. Again, though, bear in mind that you’ll still have access to fewer fastpasses per day than under the old system. So it’s still a loss.
If on the other hand, you’re a local, a daytripper, someone who doesn’t plan things out in advance, or is subject to multiple in-day changes of itinerary (Hello, families with young kids!) Fastpass+ is probably a train wreck.
Good grief, this sounds like it sucks! Will Disney change it?
It’s new and is just being rolled out, so chances are it’ll undergo a number of tweaks. As with everything Disney, nothing is a sure thing (except price increases 🙂 ). If Disney sees the new system is significantly detracting from guest enjoyment they’ll tweak, and/or change it. However things change, though, it’s safe to assume that the Legacy Fastpass we knew and loved (at least free Legacy Fastpass) is gone for good (and yes, that means I’m predicting expanded Fastpass options… for an additional charge).
As we mentioned on the show, we’ll be heading to Disney in early February, shortly after all the parks have converted to Fastpass+. We’ll give a first-hand account then. Until then… just because legacy Fastpass has faded into history doesn’t mean it’s the end of the (Disney) World as we know it. Just keep calm and tour on. 🙂