How Disney's Mobile App Transformed Their Park Experience

Read Time: 5 min

The home of Mickey, Minnie, and happy ever afters, the Walt Disney theme parks have always had a special allure for children and adults alike. But in recent years the happiest place on earth has gotten even better. The reason isn’t because there’s a new cast of characters or because some spectacular new ride has opened, but rather thanks to the release of one particular Disney mobile app.

To be clear, Disney isn’t a newbie when it comes to apps. The company has dozens of them, most of which are highly popular games and puzzles featuring some of its most famous characters. As a user, you can create your own stories, sing karaoke, win prizes, and send emojis. Disney even has apps for posting themed gifs, child-friendly messaging, and viewing unlimited Disney content across multiple devices. Yet in recent years it has really been the My Disney Experience app that has proven to be a game-changer for both the company and park goers.

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What Is My Disney Experience?

In 2013, Disney launched its ambitious MyMagic+ digital platform, consisting of four main components: MagicBands, FastPass+, the My Disney Experience mobile app, and the PhotoPass Memory Maker. The project was aimed at integrating digital infrastructure into the park experience, and the company committed $1 billion to the initiative. Practically speaking, what this meant was that guests could use a wristband or smartphone to enter the park, pay for rides, buy food, enter their hotel rooms, book restaurants, and access maps. Wi-Fi had to be installed across Disney resorts to allow use of the apps, and the locks on over 28,000 hotel room doors were upgraded. While the wristbands have had a rocky start and won't be rolled out in international Disney resorts, the app has continuously improved over the years and has been transforming the park experience since it was launched.


What it does

The way that Disney sometimes describes the My Disney Experience app is that it has "features to help you plan and play." That's a pretty spot on. It's basically a one-stop-shop that lets park visitors do everything from purchase tickets and merchandise and find their way through the parks with step-by-step navigation and directions, to making FastPass+ selections and checking reservations and schedules.

Among its features are the My Resort Dashboard, which gives access to all accommodation details, including room location, transport options, and a direct line to the front desk. The interactive GPS-enabled map helps visitors navigate the park and spend less time trekking to what they want to visit. You can also pre-book tickets and reservations, get wait times for attractions, and show times for fireworks and parades. Plus, you can easily share your itinerary with friends and family when you organize reservations and activities using the My Plans feature. By using the app, you can also download, edit, and share Disney PhotoPass photos on your mobile device throughout your vacation. You can even pre-order food and pick it up when it's ready.

To operate, the app will request access to the phone's camera to scan credit cards for purchases, link tickets and passes to the account, and scan and link PhotoPass cards. It also comes with the option to receive push notifications for information relating to the park visit or resort stay, and comes in customized versions for international parks like those in Shanghai and Hong Kong.


What's in it for Disney and for visitors?

By making visits more efficient and more personalized, Disney has clearly got its eye on guest dollars. That makes sense. Create an easier, more enjoyable experience for the whole family, and they'll be more likely to come back.

Remove the long lines for rides and restaurants with a pre-booking system, eliminate the need for hotel room keys and tickets, and make it simple to get to the attractions and you've got happy guests who'll open their (digital) wallets. The problem with the Magic Kingdom has always been logistical. As its popularity increased, so did the crowds. Yet the efficiencies that the app creates have helped Disney manage its resources better and enhanced the overall experience for visitors.

In fact, the company was able to accommodate 3,000 additional daily visitors during the 2013 Christmas holiday season by effectively managing advance reservations for rides that were in high demand. Creating a vacation management system has clearly made good business sense. And that's before you factor in the public’s increasing expectations to have goods and services literally in the palm of their hand.

Disney’s mobile apps: A new way to experience the magic

New attractions and maintenance aside, the My Disney Experience app is probably one of the most revolutionary changes the Disney Parks have ever undergone. As we’ve seen, putting the power of mobile vacation management in its guests' hands has been an incredibly smart move. That’s because any time that you can make the happiest place on earth even happier, all at the touch of a button, it’s a win-win for everyone.


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