My Disney Experience–An In-The-Park App Review
My Disney Experience has been released as a new free app on the iPhone and iPad. Already it’s had largely five star ratings on iTunes. Yet no one has actually used it at Walt Disney World! So, I spent the day at Walt Disney World at two parks and at a couple of resorts. This is a review of how well this app is working. I used the iPhone while in the parks. I’m assuming that the iPad version is identical.
Before continuing on, I must admit that I have a very big interest in reviewing this. I created the first of these kinds of interactive apps for Disney back in the mid 90s. It wasn’t for the general public–it was for marketing to travel planners. And it wasn’t on the internet, but used for dedicated machines and for dispersing on disc. But it was the first, so I have a sense of what it takes to create one of these. I come in awe and respect as to how hard this really is.
Disney already did an app in connection with Verizon recently, so its current team should have some experience down this path. I have not seen that app. But I understand that this app is different. In fact, an Android version is not yet available. It is intended to link up with NextGen FastPass system, so I expect an Android version by then. Still, let’s look at what they have.
It wasn’t hard to download. Signing up was a problem. At first it didn’t look like it would allow me to click on October as my birthday. That sent me down a trail that required me creating two registrations to get on. Since I focus on all things Disney, I went ahead and did it. Plus, you can’t know wait times until you register. But I really don’t like to give away things like birthdays and addresses. Come on. This is about theme park planning– not banking.
This app looks great! And its maps are very, very accurate. In fact, I really prefer the maps on this app to the maps handed out in the park. For wayfinding purposes, it’s actually more helpful. This is probably one of the best things about this new app. Kudos to Disney!
This should be straight forward. Click on the map until you find what you want. Or, go through a series of pull-down style menus. That’s the intent. But there are some misses here. For instance, there are times when you need a Back button and one isn’t available. And then there are attractions like the Voyage of the Little Mermaid. There is a menu for attractions and another for entertainment. Is Voyage an attraction or an entertainment? It’s confusing because if you look under attractions, it will show you the FASTPASS times. If you look over at entertainment, it will list for you all the showtimes for the day. Then there’s another button separate of the other two which lists neither of those things other than overall hours and guest with disability access. It’s all confusing. I found the same thing for Festival of the Lion King. There needs to be one place you go to get that information, and then all that information needs to be there.
This is the most troublesome aspect of this app–and yet it should be the easiest for Disney. I know it’s been a week since I’ve been to the Magic Kingdom, but I’m pretty confident that in that time frame the Baby Care center wasn’t moved to the Confectionary Store. Also, I’m sure that the new Fantasyland expansion hasn’t added Pirates of the Caribbean next to Pinocchio’s Village Haus–along with Automated External Defibrillators (AED). But that’s what you see on the map when you click under Guest Services. Not the end of the world if you have to walk further to find Pirates. It IS the end of the world if the AEDs aren’t shown in the right place. That’s serious stuff that makes for really interesting lawsuits. I know where most things are in the park. I admit I haven’t memorized AED locations yet. But given how many inaccuracies there are in the app with things I do know about, I wouldn’t guarantee the AED locations when a Fantasyland location is listed for Pirates.
When you get deeper, it gets more inaccurate, even confusing. For instance, Pioneer Hall is listed. You can search for it and it comes up. Search for Hoop Dee Doo, and you get lots of interesting places, but you don’t get the dinner show. Even the description of Pioneer Hall doesn’t state that it’s the home of Hoop Dee Doo dinner show. While you’re adding that show to the menu, you may want to take note that for recreation, there is more to do at Fort Wilderness than visit the campfire. Search for Horse and all you get is the Leaping Horse Libations at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn. Click on the Electrical Water Pageant under Fort Wilderness’s Entertainment and it takes you to the front of the Magic Kingdom on the map and a page showing the Contemporary Resort. Very confusing.
Meanwhile, on the page where they talk about Disney Friends at the Sorcerer’s Hat, they have a wonderful picture of the Earful Tower. But that’s not the same as the Sorcerer Hat. I would feel bad for the family trying to figure out how to get to that Earful Tower in their confusion.
Some content is missing. ESPN Wide World of Sports does not exist when you hit that button. But at least it has a button. DisneyQuest is shown on the map, but there’s no button for it and it’s difficult to find on the pull down. There isn’t any sign of golf at all–even if you search for it. However, the icon for the Recreation button is a golf ball.
So in terms of content, Disney doesn’t even pass the laugh test. Seriously, is anybody reviewing this at Disney before it goes out?
There’s a reason why Disney announced Wi-Fi in their parks last week. It’s very connected with this new app. I had no problem working the app while in the parks and while at Riverside. I had a different experience at the Boardwalk where it bogged down.
A great feature is that you can make Disney dining reservations on this app. It looks like it works, but I haven’t made a reservation yet. I’m assuming it’s using the same software that allows you to do it currently online.
Queue Lengths/FASTPASS Times
This is really one of the most important features people are looking at. It’s been provided by other unofficial apps over the last couple of years. Those apps work off of educated assumptions and guests sharing real time information while they are in the park. Disney has the opportunity to nail this.
They did and they didn’t. Twice I went to the Great Movie Ride and it was accurate in both instances. And the queue looked about right for the 30 and 40 minute lengths that had been posted. I also found correct show times listed for American Idol, Disney Channel Rocks, and Indiana Jones. They also matched up with the show times brochure.
Star Tours showed a 3:25 to 4:25 FASTPASS return time at the attraction. Online it was showing 3:55 to 4:55.
Studio Backstage Tour was showing a 30 minute wait online. Stated at the attraction it was 10 minutes. I actually pretty much walked on the attraction. An hour later it was still posting a 20 minute difference again.
Toy Story showed both online and at the attraction that it was out of FASTPASSes for the day. Online, it posted a 110 minute wait. They posted a 70 minute wait at the attraction. That’s a pretty significant gap.
All in all it was hit and miss. At this point I would not rely on what is being stated on the app. You will probably have to check out the tip board and/or the attraction itself.
GPS: Here & Now
One of the coolest opportunities this app has is a button on the main screen called “Here & Now”. Press the button and it showcases what attractions, restaurants, stores, entertainment is right around you. This can be very cool for those people scratching their head and asking, “What next?” It can save people from walking all over when there’s something to do right around them.
The first time I pressed it was in the Animation Courtyard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Up popped everything around me. Great! I did the same time out at the Boardwalk. Content was somewhat inaccurate but it worked. But when I repeated it later it gave me all the wrong information altogether. I shouldn’t be standing near the pool at the Boardwalk and be given options of going on Captain EO at Epcot. I also imagine there’s a closer place to smoke a cigarette than what was listed for that location, which was Japan in World Showcase.
Needs more tweaking.
“Where’s the bathroom?” They are listed in a hit and miss way on the map and on Guest Services drop down menus, but usually the focus is on companion restrooms. If you look at the map at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it’s missing a bunch of restrooms, leaving you to think you are going to have to hold it longer while walking right past one not shown on the map. Not only do they need to be shown accurately, there needs to be a pull down menu separate of Guest Services that gives you choices just as you do for attractions, restaurants, shopping, etc.
The other thing that is really missing is Disney transportation. This is a wonderful opportunity for Disney. How to get from, say, Caribbean Beach Resort to the Yacht and Beach Club is one of life’s great mysteries. Imagine knowing that the next bus coming to do pick ups at Typhoon Lagoon is only 5 minutes away, and that you could track that bus coming to you. And yet, I’m really glad nothing is listed here. Because if they don’t have the information right on this, they will have guests far more frustrated than they could ever imagine. Hopefully they’ll attack that after they get everything else right.
If I was going to give it a rating, I would be hard pressed to do 3 stars out of 5. It’s got great promise. But it isn’t ready for prime time vacationing. I would not use it as a replacement for a guide map and a show times schedule. If I didn’t know the parks well enough, I would become very frustrated by its inaccuracies.
I’m sure that many of the bugs and inaccuracies stated in this article will get fixed. But if Disney’s going to be in this business, it needs to be accurate, and it needs to get it right the first time. I wondered how rigorous the piloting of this instrument was. Seriously, Disney needs to get their game on. If they don’t have the processes to get it right up front, they probably don’t have the processes in place to continually update the huge amount of information that will need to be updated over time.
Again, I understand how difficult this is. I’ve done it before. And while my current apps that I have authored recently deal with the stories of the parks and best-in-business ideas rather than theme park planning, I know how difficult it is to get it up and going through iTunes. Still, I expect better of Disney. Everyone’s “Disney Experience” will depend on it.
What about you? Have you downloaded it? Have you tried it out in the parks? What do you think?