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    Genie at Walt Disney World

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What is Disney Genie?

Disney’s Genie is advertised as an itinerary-building service: “Disney Genie ... creates your best Disney day inspired by your party’s top interests” says one ad.  Sounds like one of our touring plans, right?  In practice, however, we think that Genie’s real purpose is to serve Disney’s park management needs more than yours.   To understand why requires some background.

What's the difference between Genie, Genie+, Lightning Lane, and Individual Lightning Lane purchases?

  • Disney Genie is Disney's itinerary-building app. Genie is described on this page.
  • Genie+ is a paid ride-reservation system that allows you to avoid the regular standby line on certain popular rides. Genie+ does not include access to the two most popular attractions in each park.
  • Individual Lightning Lane is a separate, paid ride-reservation system that covers just the two most popular attractions in the park.

How much does Disney Genie cost?

Disney Genie is free. But there's always a catch, right?

Genie's first job is to distribute crowds around the parks

Around 2010, Disney’s guest survey data indicated that people who used the original, free Fastpass system were more satisfied than those who used it less.  So to encourage more use (and get higher satisfaction), Disney launched FastPass+ as a free service, and allowed guests to grab three ride reservations before they set foot in the park.

A lot of ride capacity is needed to give each guest at least three FastPasses per day.  To get that capacity, Disney had to offer FastPass+ at many secondary attractions that guests wouldn’t normally ride if they had to wait in the standby line: Mad Tea Party at the Magic Kingdom, for example, or Journey Into Imagination with Figment at EPCOT.

Making that many FastPasses available, and at rides located around the park, made FastPass+ a very effective crowd distribution tool - you had to move around the park to use those FastPasses.  Spreading guests out, especially at less-popular rides, made the waits at the headliner rides slightly lower.  It was a classic win/win: guests would be more satisfied, and Disney’s ride utilization numbers increased.  We said in previous editions of this book that FastPass+ was one of the great Industrial Engineering achievements of the decade, and we still believe that.  

So FastPass+ lowered wait times at headliner attractions by (1) giving guests at least three free reservations; and (2) using less-popular attractions around the park as additional system capacity to provide those three rides per guest.

But Genie+ Costs Money Now consider the Genie+ ride reservation system. It costs money, so far fewer people will use it as compared to FastPass+.  That means Disney loses the all-important crowd distribution mechanism that free FastPass+ provided.  The risk to Disney’s park operations is that guests will simply line up for Disney’s best, most popular rides, resulting in long lines there, while other attractions sit under-used.  

That’s where Genie comes in: as a way for Disney to send guests to lower-rated, less-popular attractions that they wouldn’t otherwise visit, and direct crowds away from the parks’ most popular attractions.  

That’s a bold claim, but it has been borne out in our field testing across Walt Disney World.  For example, we tested Genie one day at Hollywood Studios.  Arriving at 8:30 a.m., in time for Early Theme Park Entry, Len fired up the Genie app while inside the park to get Genie’s recommendations for the day.  Here was the morning itinerary that Genie suggested:

9:30 am - Toy Story Mania

10:20 am - Buy a droid in Galaxy’s Edge

11:10 am - Eat lunch at Ronto Roasters

That’s right: Genie knew Len was in the park at 8:30 a.m. At that early hour, waits at Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Toy Story Mania were well below 5 minutes (we checked).  Despite that, Genie suggested exactly one ride in the first 3 ½ hours Len was in the park.  

Genie's second job is to sell you things

The other thing Genie did immediately was try to upsell Len on the benefits of Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane purchases, plus the opportunity to buy a $100 Star Wars droid. All told, Genie suggested three ways for Len to spend money before noon, but only one ride.

It gets weirder.  Len declined Genie’s invitation to buy a droid at 10:20 a.m., and Genie suggested these four attractions as alternatives:

  • Walt Disney Presents
  • Disney Junior Live on Stage
  • Lightning McQueen Racing Academy
  • Alien Swirling Saucers

Some of Genie's ride suggestions seem ... unusual

Let us point out that Genie is suggesting that Len - a middle-aged man in the park by himself - see two stage shows designed expressly for small children, or go on a midway-style ride also designed for small children.  Setting aside the ick factor, these are also four of the lowest-rated attractions in the park.  

The afternoon portion of Genie’s itinerary looked like this:

12:10 pm - Ride Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run

  2:00 pm - Experience Star Tours

  2:35 pm - Ride Rise of the Resistance

  4:30 pm - Ride Alien Swirling Saucers

  5:35 pm - See MuppetVision 3D

  6:00 pm - Eat dinner at ABC Commissary

  6:40 pm - See the Vacation Fun Mickey Mouse movie

  7:35 pm - Ride the Tower of Terror

  8:45 pm - Watch the Wonderful World of Animation projection show

Rise of the Resistance broke down before Len could ride it, and Genie swapped Rise out for Slinky Dog Dash.  While Rise of the Resistance resumed operation shortly after, Genie never suggested Rise to Len again that day.  (Genie probably knew that Rise’s downtime would require Rise to accommodate all of the guests who had purchased Individual Lightning Lane access to Rise during that outage, plus all of the guests who had ILLs for the time it was up.  So Genie routed regular guests away from Rise to prioritize guests who paid more to ride.)

Genie's suggestions ignore some of the the park's best rides

It’s worth noting that Genie’s initial 12 ½-hour plan for Len in the park didn’t include Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Slinky Dog Dash, or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, which are some of the park’s highest-rated attractions for his age group.  And while Len eventually got on Slinky, he missed out on Rise of the Resistance.  So in a full day in the park, with plenty of spare time, Len got to experience just three of the park’s top five rides for his demographic. 

On the same day, however, Genie suggested Len visit all seven of the lowest-rated attractions in the park.  The most likely explanation for this behavior is that Genie’s trying to move crowds over to rides they wouldn’t visit by themselves.  That is, Genie is doing what’s best for Disney, not what’s best for you.

What happened in the Studios isn’t unusual: in every park we’ve tried Genie, it asked us what rides we wanted to ride and produced an itinerary that ignored some of those choices.  In the Magic Kingdom, for example, we’ve told Genie that we want to ride Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain, only to have Genie suggest Swiss Family Treehouse, Enchanted Tiki Room, and Country Bear Jamboree instead.

Another odd Genie behavior is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to tell Genie when you want to leave the park: the only way it works right now is by assuming that you’ll be in the park until it closes.  

For now, we think Genie is 2 parts crowd control for Disney park operations; 2 parts upselling engine; and 1 part guest planning app.  Needless to say, we don’t think it’s a substitute for our touring plans.