Disney's NextGen Next Step: Story Maker Installation

There is a lot of buzz going around with respect to Disney NextGen, My Magic+, and other interactive elements that are going into the Disney Parks. Much of it has to do with the My Disney Experience website and mobile app, along with the wrist bands that, among other things, serve as a room key, theme park ticket, and access to FastPass+ selections.

Here comes the next step: Story Maker. I wrote about what was heading to Walt Disney World virtually back in October. I discussed Wilderness Explorers, additions to Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure, and even noted Pirates Adventure: Jewels of the Seven Seas. But the one big thing I made note of was Story Maker. Unlike the other adventures which are park specific, this one encompasses all of the parks–perhaps even the entire resort.  Stitch Kingdom has been reporting some of this over the last year, as far back as last March. They noted that a host of still and video cameras would capture photos and video, and then thematically weave them into a variety of media outputs such as a flip book or a photo keepsake.

Over the last several days, installation has begun for this project. Most of it is not very obvious. Some of it is in the form of props that may not catch your attention when you first walk through a queue or attraction. Here’s one example: Step into the waiting area at Muppet Vision 3-D in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You’ll recall there are lots of luggage and props from the muppets (yes…to include “a net full of jello”). But now a new piece has arrived, and its placement is such that you wonder if it’s always been there.

This mirror has been installed for Disney's Story Maker. It sits on a crate that says Fragile! Ship to: Walter Whistler-in residence; The Muppet Theater, USA. It's a reference to Walter, the newest muppet from the recent movie.
This mirror has been installed for Disney’s Story Maker. It sits on a crate that says Fragile! Ship to: Walter Whistler-in residence; The Muppet Theater, USA. It’s a reference to Walter, the newest muppet from the recent movie.

Truth is, this is coming throughout all the parks. Think the exit to “it’s a small world”. Think Journey Into Your Imagination. Think It’s Tough to be a Bug. It will bring a whole new layer of interactivity not seen before.

Of course, all of this is coming at a time of considerable discussion & controversy. Tom Staggs, in the Disney Parks Blog, gave a broad brushstroke overview of what was coming on January 7th. As of January 28th, people were still weighing in on the observations, questions, and concerns. “How is this going to work?”  “Will it affect privacy?” “Is this Big Brother?”

To add fuel to the fire, Congressman Edward J. Markey wrote Bob Iger demanding answers to the issues as to the potential to gather personal information about children as well as target-market such toddlers.

The truth in all of this can be found in the new THINK exhibit at IBM. Here you find a quote on the wall to the entrance of the new Innoventions exhibit.


Nate Silver, American statistician, said: “Every day, three times per second, we produce the equivalent of the amount of data that the Library of Congress has in its entire print collection, right? But most of it is like cat videos on YouTube or 13-year olds exchanging text messages about the next Twilight movie.”

Data is everywhere. This couldn’t be truer than at Walt Disney World. And with that comes two facts:

1. Disney has been collecting a lot of that data for some time. Disney is deep in analytics. They already know quite a bit about you–what days you entered the park; which park you entered; when you entered; what rides you drew a FastPass on; what charges you put to your room…etc. If you’re concerned all of a sudden about Disney being too much of a “big brother”, you aren’t paying attention.

2. With all of that data collection, Disney is, in truth, somewhat modest in their gathering/use of data compared to Google, Apple, and others. Even your grocer knows what you are buying. In fact, in Disney’s defense, I’ve heard that Disney and the Chinese government have gone back and forth in disagreement on the number of cameras to be installed throughout Shanghai Disneyland. If you think Disney is into surveillance, you are going to be blown away by the Chinese government.

Personally, I think Story Maker will be fun, as are the other interactive elements like Sorcerers in the Magic Kingdom and Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure over at Epcot–activities that also gather data on you. But what do you think? Is this just too much? Or is this where the future is headed?

J. Jeff Kober

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *