Business Planning What are the Benefits?
The long-range sensors would allow Disney to track guests as they navigated the park. The potential benefits were manifold.
By monitoring where crowds were forming, the company could better optimize flow. Say the sensors noted that one section of Magic Kingdom was becoming overwhelmed with guests: Operators could immediately respond with a character parade around the corner, to disperse traffic and ease strain on cast members as Disney calls all its Parks employees.
The MagicBand would also collect valuable consumer data. Insiders say the company historically knew little about its guests, even its most loyal ones. These teams, along with Frog and the NGE crew, dreamed up one innovative idea after another.
They mocked up new payment portals, in the hope that guests could one day sync their credit cards with the MagicBand to buy goods. A character like Goofy, with access to real-time guest data, could even wish happy birthday to a child without prompting.
For years, birthday boys and girls had worn a little button on their clothing to get such recognition. Disney had been mulling these kinds of forward-looking concepts for years.
It seemed that the time had finally come to say farewell to old-school inefficiencies like birthday buttons. There was never any shortage of pushback.
This will drive up our costs! Why are you taking away our control at the turnstiles? They faced opposition from a powerful corporate force: The tussle over digital access points, where customers would use their MagicBands to enter each ride, was typical of the dysfunction between Frog and Imagineering.
Imagineers argued that the uniformity of the access points would disrupt the spirit of their uniquely stylized attractions. Ditto for those waist-high digital posts; what business did something looking like a shiny modern mailbox have in the foreground of a medieval castle?
The Imagineers preferred designs that would be immersed in the theme of each Disney World ride: To them, the issues came down to usability and ergonomics; each access point needed to have the predictability of a light switch, so guests could locate them easily.
However, the Imagineers did torpedo a number of other Frog concepts.
These early skirmishes signaled tougher battles ahead. At this point, the project took on a new layer of complexity, as the NGE team felt the need to consistently dazzle the Disney brass.
Next came the flight-arrival stage of the set, which simulated the experience at Orlando International, with actual seats that the NGE team had purchased from the airport. There, family members would first touch their MagicBands to a digital access point, before proceeding to a replica Magical Express bus.
Many sources argue much of the vision work was complete by the time Staggs replaced Rasulo. When the CEO would visit, team members would hide behind the soundstage curtains taking detailed notes.
What do you think? Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter, inventor Dean Kamen, and filmmaker James Cameron—then at work on his Avatar-themed expansion at Disney World—all toured the lab.
The NGE team presented so many different concepts to the Disney leadership that some wondered if their aim was simply to wow top leaders with the long-term potential of NGE through whiz-bang features. The team began discussing ways to reengineer airport x-ray machines, and Padgett even organized a meeting with TSA officials.
Or was it just theater? This was optimistic, given the infrastructure challenges and the fact that Disney would have to create and implement the new system while still operating its theme parks, which are open every day. Many people wanted a piece of the big money flooding into Parks.
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