In an era lived at the speed of 4G, the Imagineers at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., have spent the past year establishing systems and park controls designed to prevent long lines and agonizing wait times from thwarting the buzz at the "Happiest Place on Earth."
If successful, their efforts will mean more fun for the price of admission -- as well as more time to shop (read: spend money) and eat (more money). Everybody wins.In the article, "Disney Tackles Major Theme Park Problem: Lines," New York Times reporter, Brooks Barnes, revealed that Disney World's new, high-tech nerve center hidden beneath Cinderella's Castle, "uses video cameras, computer programs, digital park maps and other whiz-bang tools to spot gridlock before it forms and deploy countermeasures in real time." Score one for progress!
For example, according to Brooks, if computers monitoring the number of guests waiting to ride Pirates of the Caribbean indicate a spike from green to yellow, "the center might respond by alerting managers to launch more boats." Cool.
Similarly, the center may send costumed characters to distract ... err, entertain, folks waiting in line or direct a mini parade to entice guests into a more unpopulated area. Pied pipers of fun (and crowd control) so to speak.
The command center also keeps an eye on restaurant and gift shop lines and will advise managers to open more registers or hand out menus to waiting guests in order to speed things up. Anyone who's ever languished in line should appreciate the effort. Phil Holmes, vice president of the Magic Kingdom, flagship Disney World park told the Times, "These moments add up until they collectively help the entire park."
In fact, Disney World has reported that since the new command center has gone into effect, the average number of rides per admission has increased from nine rides-per-visit to 10. Mama likes.
Although Disney has been using technology for years (analyzing data, Fast Pass systems and weather satellites), Mickey's new Bat Cave demonstrates an increased commitment to modernization. Thomas O. Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts told the Times, "It's not about us needing to keep pace with technological change. We need to set the pace for that kind of change."
Brooks points out that Disney is already experimenting with smart phone apps that can help visitors find where their favorite Disney princesses and characters are currently appearing in the park, and they have also added 87 video game stations to the highly trafficked waiting area for Space Mountain.
In the future, new wrist-band technology containing individual Disney preferences, identification and credit card information may further grease the wheels of wait times and provide a more personalized experience. "Picture a day where there is memory built into these characters -- they will know that they've seen you four or five times before and that your name is Bobby," said Bruce E. Vaughn, chief creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering in an interview with the Times. "Those are the kinds of limits that are dissolving so quickly that we can see being able to implement them in the meaningfully near future."
Definitely something to think about if you've been considering reserving one of those new budget-friendly rooms scheduled to open at Disney World in 2012. Hold on tight to your mouse ears and buckle up, the future is gonna be a wild ride -- with much shorter lines.
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