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How Disney manages crowds at its theme parks

Nobody likes lines at amusement parks.

Disneyland and Disney World are known for their iconic rides, attractions and large crowds. The result is that many guests have spent a lot of time just waiting on lines while visiting the theme parks.

Disneyland and Disney World are both known for their iconic rides, attractions and large crowds.
(iStock)

Until recently, both parks utilized the FastPass system to keep guests moving. On certain rides, park-goers could obtain a ticket that allowed them to come back within a specific time window. At that point, they would wait on a special line for priority seating.

As explained in a recent YouTube documentary, the system worked similarly to a virtual queue. Instead of waiting in line, guests could continue to explore the park and, most importantly for Disney, spend more money at shops and restaurants.

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While the FastPass system became popular, usage ended during the recent pandemic. With both the California and Florida theme parks operating at reduced capacities, the space taken up by FastPass kiosks was instead used for socially distanced lines.

FILE PHOTO: Fireworks go off around Cinderella's castle during the grand opening ceremony for Walt Disney World's Fantasyland in Lake Buena Vista, Florida December 6, 2012. 

FILE PHOTO: Fireworks go off around Cinderella’s castle during the grand opening ceremony for Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland in Lake Buena Vista, Florida December 6, 2012. 
(REUTERS/Scott Audette/File Photo)

In its place, Disney has developed a new planning tool called Disney Genie. The online app, which became available in Disney World in October, allows guests to create an itinerary for their visit.

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By using park data that’s updated throughout the day, the app will help guests plan out their visit so that they can hit the rides and attractions that they want to in the most convenient way. Some rides will offer a “Lightning Lane,” which will work similarly to FastPass.

Guests using the app pay an extra fee and get the option to book the next available time to ride select attractions.

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According to Disney, Genie will provide guests more flexibility than FastPass.

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