Genie Arse

Not too surprisingly this week has been a busy one and a bit of a blur. Work was ridiculous for the first few days, where I found myself in the position of having so much to do I had no idea what to tackle first, next or not at all.

Then on Thursday, Mustard were out gigging at a fairly large corporate do in Manchester. We played at an awards show for the Manchester Society of Architects (I think) at the Albert Halls in Manchester and it was a bit surreal, not least because the likes of James and The Manic Street Preachers have played there and the in house PA system we were able to use was incredible. We had proper sound folk and all sorts looking after us. It was awesome, nerve wracking and weird all at the same time. It went well anyway.

So with all of that and more going on, there has not been too much time for the planning of the WDW trip. I did find time to watch a handful of vlogs around the introduction of the new Genie service and all its chargeable variants.

Now I recognise that the system is still very new and I am sure things will get smoothed out and changed, but, and pardon my knee jerk reaction, what an absolute shambola and piss take the whole thing seems to be. I have always thought that any system that sees people pay more money when the parks and lines are busier is just giving that park the absolute ability to inflate wait times and make more money, but from what I have seen so far, I am absolutely gutted that this horror show has been introduced.

Costs aside for a second (but I will come back to that, don’t worry) getting on a few rides seems to be more complex than a moon landing now. I am fairly tech savvy for an old boomer, and I know the parks inside out. How on earth is someone who isn’t that great with a smartphone, newly arrived in WDW for the first time going to cope? It appears to be massively over complex. Nobody likes a good bit of planning and strategising over a theme park day more than me but I think we have jumped the shark here. When and how you are allowed to pay and book stuff will require full time study for about three months prior to a trip. There will need to be months of planning about your planning. The danger is that first timers may find the whole thing so overwhelming and over complicated that they fail to fall in love with the place like we all did all those years ago, and that will be to Disney’s detriment of course. One of the vloggers I watched already said that they noticed far more phone usage in the parks with Genie in play, which is no surprise as it seems you need the app to schedule your restroom stops. Hang on, that could be a handy feature!!

As for the costs. Just no. Now, I am sure once I am in the parks and in the moment I will succumb to handing over some dollars to get on some things, because it’s a long way to go for us to then not ride some of the headliners, but I will massively resent it and it will and has already tainted my perception of WDW. The huge financial pressure this is going to put on families with smaller kids who are giving them the puppy eyes to get on a ride that costs extra is just heart breaking to think about. This may not be the cash cow Disney think it will be. Families have finite budgets so anything spent on these new extras will surely only come out of any budget that may have gone on merchandise or on-site dining, and guests may now have to do less of both to accommodate these new “essentials”. Or folks will just take fewer trips as the cost of one has escalated so much in this and every other way.

When I apply this new system to our own situation, having already paid literally thousands of dollars to get my party into a WDW park on each day on our trip, if all six of us then wish to ride Rise Of The Resistance with what would have been a free FastPass+ in the past, we would need to pay an extra $90. That could be on top of the other $90 we have already paid that day for the Genie+ thing too. Then, if the only way we can ride, say Remy is to pay again, that would be another $50 or so. If we bought Genie+ and two of the extra special rides for all of us for each day we were in a Disney park on our trip (assuming that is say ten days) we would spend another $2,300. An extra $230 a day, ($40 per person) on top of the ticket price is absolutely crazy and they should be ashamed. I’m sorry, this is just too much money.

I know it’s optional, and I am painting the worst case scenario but when attractions like Rise Of The Resistance have standby lines of two hours almost constantly there isn’t much of an option if you want to ride that. And if you simply can’t afford the extra money you have an inferior experience to those who can.

This feeling that what we all had once for free is now provided at a premium is really the thing that sticks in my throat. I was always that person defending the cost of a WDW trip, pointing at the likes of ROE, Wishes and Fantasmic all provided pretty much nightly, as just one way in which the investment you made in a holiday to Disney was repaid.

They or their replacements are all still there (or soon will be) and they are on the same impressive scale, but this latest cash grab seems to have tipped me over the edge as a result of my own knee jerking.

I remember vividly standing in Galaxy’s Edge for the first time and feeling both blown away and somehow proud that a brand and experience I had long advocated had yet again delivered in such an impressive way. It bolstered my opinion that they always knew what to do and when I handed over my cash they knew how to spend it. That exchange felt fair.

I suspect and fear that if and when I do get on to Rise of the Resistance the whole thing will be soured both by the $90 we have handed over and the feeling that we are being taken for a ride and not in the way we might like.

Again it’s early days and things may settle but there’s a very real prospect that only on-site guests will have any chance to secure a Lightning Lane for this ride. There have long been on site perks which I understand but they need to give all guests a fair chance.

Universal have their own version of all this. We typically pay for the on-site experience when we do go there. The difference is we go to Universal infrequently because of that. That extra cost means we are selective about our visits there and Disney may find this begins to apply to them.

Yes, WDW has always been expensive but I have always felt that the quality, service and limitless entertainment made it good value. This new model feels like it is bordering on a piss take. For the first time it feels like Disney are not on my side. I’m sure they never really were, but at least I felt I was getting good value and a fair shake of the stick for my dollars.

As things settle and improve and maybe they even listen to some of their long standing customers, this all may change, but right now, from what I have seen it leaves a very bad taste in the mouth. It seems a move borne out of greed and not to improve the customer experience. Disney seem to have overcooked this massively both in terms of complexity and cost.

I appear to have gone off the deep end on something that when it was announced didn’t really bother or register with me. I suppose that was mainly because at that point I had no expectations of going any time soon. On the plus side, if things keep going as they are in the UK, that may be true once again.

So I shall leave it to Disney to sit in the corner and think about what they have done. They have time to smooth things out and make changes of course, and whatever happens we will hopefully go and have a good trip whenever that time comes regardless of all this nonsense.

For next week I shall ban myself from moaning and as ADR booking time approaches in the coming days we shall focus here on the nicer side of planning and me boring you with a day by day, blow by blow plan for our next American adventure.

Till the next time…..