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Disney Verizon app will allow users to check wait times, plan for events

11 November 2009 by Orlando Sentinel - Etan Horowitz

Each day, thousands Walt Disney World visitors are faced with a series of decisions. What ride should they go on next? When is the best time to get Mickey’s autograph? Should they eat lunch before they pick up a FastPass for Space Mountain?

Starting Wednesday, answering those questions and others like it will be a lot easier, thanks to a new mobile phone initiative by the theme park giant. Disney is officially launching a downloadable cell phone application for Verizon customers as well as two new mobile Web sites to provide guests toting BlackBerrys, iPhones and other smartphones more information while inside the park.

The “Mobile Magic” application for Verizon customers marks the first time Disney is making its own real- time updates about ride wait times, FastPass distribution, character locations and events available to the public in a digital form.

The Sims family from Savannah, Ga. becomes the first family at Walt Disney World Resort to use the Verizon cellphone application called 'Mobile Magic' (Joe Burbank, Orlando Sentinel)
The app costs $9.99 for 180 days of use and will initially be available for download on about 30 Verizon “feature phones.” Eventually, Verizon plans to make the app available on smartphones including BlackBerrys and the recently launched Motorola Droid. The program uses GPS to determine the phone’s location and display information about nearby rides, restaurants, events and characters.

“We want to help guests answer the question, ‘What should I do now?’” Arturo Vera, a Disney digital marketing manager, said as he demonstrated the application at the Magic Kingdom on Tuesday. “With this you’ll be able to be on one side of the park and not have to walk all the way to other side of the park to find out that the wait time for a ride is two hours.’’

The app is a recognition of the increasing role that mobile phones are playing as digital sherpas for travelers who want instant access to information about nearby restaurants, attractions and events. Disney has been slow to embrace mobile applications, as several third-party iPhone apps that provide attraction wait times and park information have been available for months.

Mobile Magic covers all six Disney parks in California and Florida, water parks, Downtown Disney, Wide World of Sports, and all Disney resorts and restaurants.

Arturo Vera, a digital marketing manager for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, demonstrates the 'Mobile Magic' application to Orlando Sentinel reporter Etan Horowitz. (Joe Burbank, Orlando Sentinel)
When a visitor opens up the app while standing at a Disney property, the program will detect their location and display the version tailored to that park. While standing outside Cinderella Castle at about 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, Mobile Magic was able to tell a reporter that Space Mountain was nearby but closed for renovation, the line for Splash Mountain was 10 minutes long and that picking up a FastPass for that ride would allow entry between 3:25 and 4 p.m.

Users can browse for nearby attractions, characters, events and locations or search for them by name, or view them on a map. Phones with the app can be set to vibrate 15 or 30 minutes before an event begins, even if the phone is closed.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said Linda Sims of Savannah, Georgia, who was visiting the Magic Kingdom on Tuesday with her husband and two daughters. “It would save us a lot of time.”

Sims said her family was constantly juggling different pieces of paper with limited park information and struggled to stay up to date on events while inside the park. She said the family had already walked to one attraction only to turn around because the line was too long and had found out about a party they would have liked to attend on a night they already had plans.

“If we had this, we wouldn’t have had to miss the party,” Sims said.

Although the app has GPS, it does not provide walking directions from point to point inside the park because Vera said Disney did not want guests walking around holding their phones up and “spoiling the park experience.”

“We expect people will use this to complement the guide maps,” Vera said.

Although Disney has an exclusive agreement to provide real time data on Verizon phones, non-Verizon customers will be able to access park information through two new mobile optimized sites that are expected to be available Wednesday – for Walt Disney World and for Disneyland.

Instead of displaying the number of minutes someone would have to wait in line for a ride, the mobile sites will categorize the wait as “see now,” “moderate” or “high demand.”


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