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Ears the News with Richard

Photo Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog
Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, has made the first official announcement of the NextGen initiative 'MyMagic+'. 'MyMagic+' is the combination of several technologies that have been emerging over the past year, including FASTPASS+, the MagicBand RFID wrist strap, and the My Disney Experience website and apps.

Here is the full text from the official Disney Parks Blog.

At Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, we continually push the boundaries of creativity and innovation to deliver the best possible experience for our guests. We’re always looking for ways to take what we do and do it even better. Over the past few years, we’ve devoted considerable time and resources to create a more immersive, more seamless and more personal experience for each and every guest who spends time with us. I know there’s been significant speculation about these efforts among our fans, so we’re pleased to give you a glimpse into the work we are doing to take the entire Disney guest experience to the next level.

Some of these initiatives are more apparent and can already be seen by our guests – like our interactive queues at Walt Disney World Resort and the Enchanted Art on our cruise ships – while others are more behind-the-scenes and are focused on “how” visitors plan, access and enjoy their experiences with us. Over the next several months, we’ll be rolling out a collection of tools at the Walt Disney World Resort called MyMagic+ that will give guests more opportunities to customize and personalize their entire visit.

Like most people who visit Walt Disney World Resort, my family and I have our “must-do” attractions, and as the father of three boys, those attractions often end with the word “mountain.” Now, rather than dashing as a group, or even splitting up to gather FastPasses, imagine booking guaranteed ride times for your favorite shows and attractions even before setting foot in the park. With MyMagic+, guests will be able to do that and more, enabling them to spend more time together and creating an experience that’s better for everyone.

A major component of MyMagic+ is the new My Disney Experience website and mobile app, which gives guests planning their trip the latest information on all Walt Disney World Resort has to offer. We know that some people like to plan every aspect of their Disney vacation in advance while others like to plan very little, letting their day unfold spontaneously. No matter where guests fall in that spectrum, My Disney Experience gives them the flexibility to plan as much or as little as they’d like to create the exact Disney experience they want. They can book dining and other experiences and reserve times for their favorite attractions, shows and more through an enhanced FastPass system, FastPass+. Once they arrive, they can use their smart phones to spontaneously change their plans in the moment, exploring our parks at their own pace and getting the most out of their visit.

Linking the entire MyMagic+ experience together is an innovative piece of technology we developed called the MagicBand. Worn on the wrist, it will serve as a guest’s room key, theme park ticket, access to FastPass+ selections, PhotoPass card and optional payment account all rolled into one. We’ve began testing certain aspects of MyMagic+ in Florida last month and the early reactions we’ve gotten have been fantastic.

This collection of tools is another step forward in the ongoing evolution of our guest experience, giving us even more ways to help friends and family create the unforgettable Disney memories that they want most. We’ll be testing, adjusting and adding features to MyMagic+ and My Disney Experience over time and will continue to make improvements based on our guests’ feedback. We look forward to sharing more with you in the months ahead! 

Even though Disney has fully announced the 'MyMagic+' NextGen enhancements, there remains a lot of confusion about what the service actually is. Thankfully, Steve at WDWMagic has compiled a great FAQ. MyMagic + has still yet to fully launch, so beware that any of this information can change at any time.

1. What does 'MyMagic+' provide?
- 'MyMagic+' comprises of 3 main components: My Disney Experience website and smartphone app, FASTPASS+, and MagicBand RFID bracelet. The MagicBand replaces traditional tickets with a bracelet that is worn on the wrist. MagicBand combines all tickets, allowing room entry, park entry, FASTPASS+ attraction entry, PHOTOPASS, and room charging.

2. When will 'MyMagic+' be available?
- The system is in limited testing now, and Disney has said that it should be available to all Walt Disney World guests later in 2013.

3. How much does 'MyMagic+' cost?
- The system will be available at no additional cost. The basic MagicBand RFID bracelet can be upgraded to a customized band, such as a Princess band, for an additional fee. This is only a cosmetic change however, and does not impact the actual experience.

4. Will you have to use 'MyMagic+'?
- No. The system is opt in, and is not required. However, if you do not use 'MyMagic+' you will not be able to use FASTPASS+.

5. Will Annual Passholders be able to use 'MyMagic+'?
Yes, Disney has said that they will be contacting Annual Passholders to provide them with a MagicBand to take part in the program.

6. Will guests have to use a smartphone to use FASTPASS+?
No. Guests will be able to use kiosks inside the parks to choose FASTPASS+ experiences as well as using smartphones or websites.

7. Is the MagicBand bracelet secure?
Yes, just like a normal park ticket, the bracelet just contains a unique ID code. This code identifies guests in the Disney database. No information is stored on the bracelet.

8. Will MyMagic+ be available to non-Walt Disney World Resort guests?
Yes. Guests staying at Walt Disney World Resort hotels and Annual Passholders will receive a MagicBand, as well as those guests who purchase a photography package. Guests who stay at non-Disney hotels will receive an RFID enabled ticket with features of touch to enter the park, touch to redeem FastPass+ and touch to pay. These guests can participate in My Disney Experience and purchase a MagicBand if they wish.

Online Walt Disney World Resort check-in began back in early 2009, and the check-in window will now be increased from 10 days to 60 days before arrival. Guests will also be able to set a pin number for the 'Touch to Pay' system via the RFID MagicBand. Finally, all guests will be required to login to the 'My Disney Experience' site to complete the online check in.

Online check-in aims to streamline the arrival process for guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel. Upon arrival at their resorts, guests visit a special welcome location where their room keys and other registration material are waiting. Disney cast members are also available to provide additional information and answer questions.

Disney has also changed the pin code policy for MyMagic+ 'touch to pay' payments effective immediately. All 'touch to pay' purchases on a Key to the World Resort ID card now require a PIN code. Previously, only purchases over $50 required a PIN code to be entered.

It seems that the semi-annual Walt Disney Company executive shakeup has happened once again. Disney has announced that George Kalogridis has been named President of the Walt Disney World Resort.

Most recently George has been president of the Disneyland Resort, where he oversaw the massive rebranding of Disney's California Adventure. In his 41 year career at Disney, he has also held positions at Epcot and Disneyland Paris. His new role will begin on 2/1/2013. George will report to Meg Crofton, who will continue as president, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, U.S. and France. Michael Colglazier becomes the new president of the Disneyland Resort, leaving his position as VP Disney's Animal Kingdom, and will also report to Meg Crofton. More organizational changes are expected throughout the Parks and Resort in the coming days
Here is a list of the other management changes wit the Walt Disney Company.

Michael Colglazier becomes the president of the Disneyland Resort, reporting to Meg Crofton.
Meg Crofton remains as president, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, U.S. and France, but passes on the role of president of Walt Disney World Resort to Kalogridis.
Josh D'Amaro has been named vice president of Disney's Animal Kingdom, reporting to Jim MacPhee. Josh comes from a position as head of Adventures by Disney.
Claire Bilby becomes senior vice president, Sales and Marketing Disneyland Paris and Europe, replacing Federico Gonzalez, and reporting to Leslie Ferraro and Philippe Gas.
Ken Potrock has been named senior vice president and general manager, Disney Vacation Club and Adventures by Disney, reporting to Karl Holz. Ken was previously VP or Disney Sports Enterprises and Downtown Disney.
Tom Wolber has been named senior vice president, Disney Sports Enterprises and Downtown Disney, reporting to George A. Kalogridis. Tom comes from the Disney Cruise Line, where he oversaw the launch of the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy cruise ships.

The Mad Tea Party refurbishment at the Magic Kingdom looks to be off again. The refurbishment was scheduled for 1/7/2013 to 2/18/2013, but has now been removed from the refurbishment schedule. There is no information yet on when or if it will be re-scheduled.

Downtown Disney's Cirque du Soleil La Nouba will have no performances from 1/13/2013 to 1/22/2013.

The France pavilion's brand new 'Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie' has opened at Epcot. The old bakery is now closed, and this completely new bakery takes it place. The entrance is at the back of the pavilion, through the original gift shop area. Inside guests will find a new seating area, and a brand new open kitchen, displaying all the goodies. Like the old bakery, there are two sides, each with the same menu items. A large central queue area should help to alleviate some of the capacity problems of the old bakery. The menu items have been expanded from the original bakery, with all the old baked goods still available, but with the addition of soups, salads, hot and cold sandwiches, and a selection of wines. Also new is a dedicated quick serve coffee window, which will save you from joining the main food queue if you just want a quick coffee. 

The former bakery will reopen soon as specialty gelato shop.


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