A few weeks ago, we started to get details on the Disney Genie and Genie+ services that were first teased back at D23 in 2019 and opinions were rampant. But now we have a launch date – October 19th(!!) – and a small group of us got to sit down with members of Disney's Digital Experience team yesterday and see how the app works, and even get it into our hands for a bit to play – and you guys. It's wild.
The Genie service is designed to create your best Disney day. It eliminates the perceived need to plan your trips down to the last detail months in advance (still an option if that's your thing!!) by allowing you to log into the system that very day, input things like your must dos, dining desires, general interests (say you have a princess-obsessed kid in tow – you just tell the app and it plans accordingly) – and out comes a suggested plan for the day that's aimed to optimize both the fun you have and the time spent having it. And it does that by taking massive amounts of data about the guest experience – from projected wait times to time spent en route between attractions (or even between parks if you plan to hop) – layering in your existing plans and preferences, and evaluating literally HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of combinations, scoring each iteration against your priorities, and presenting you with the best options.
©The Walt Disney Company / Marvel Studios
It's a bit like watching Dr. Strange run through a million possible scenarios, only to open his eyes and reveal “the one way” that maximizes your park experience.
First things first, the moment this launches, start playing with it. It's wild to see what it can do and just how much this service will enhance the process for all types of park visitors – planners and non-planners, novices and experts. It's easy to see how this has the potential to make a park day much less overwhelming for a first time visitor. It's also easy to see how people using the recommendations could also make for a better park experience even for folks not using it – as others are being redirected around the crowds and longest wait times.
Disney's Digital Experience team said they liked to think of the Genie service as a sort of navigation app for the parks and I can see how that comparison makes a lot of sense as it works real time behind the scenes. While what you're seeing on the surface might seem uncomplicated and direct, the app is actually working hard in the background all day long. If you have bluetooth enabled on your phone or Magic Band, the app is actually seeing what you've already ridden, or that you grabbed a snack and so probably aren't pressed for the previously suggested meal anymore. It even reroutes you around weather-dependent rides if inclement weather rolls through while you were supposed to be on Test Track or Thunder Mountain. Your suggested itinerary is always adapting real time to what you're actually doing with your day and what's happening around you.
And yes, it's recalculating based on what it's already suggested to other people as well – so you won't run into a situation where the app has sent everyone in the park to the same place.
You can make same day in park dining reservations. You can join virtual queues. (Hellooooo Nomad Lounge…) You can place mobile orders. And if you have a question, you can live chat with a Cast Member for help – right there in the app!! All within the new, free Genie service.
Genie also looks at dining options. Park hopping plans. How to sequence experiences to reduce travel time as well as wait times. It thinks about not just how to get it all in but how to pace your day so that you're still upright when it all ends.
There's also a Tip Board tab that I cannot wait for you to explore. It's brilliant.
Genie+ Add Ons
If you opt to pay for any of the add ons, those will be layered seamlessly into the experience as well. So if you opt to pay the $15 per person for general Lightning Lane access, you'll see the available booking windows for the 40+ included attractions right there in the app – along with standby wait times so that it's easy to weigh your options. You'll book these Lightning Lane options one at a time and grab another as soon as you use the last one – with no limit on the total number that you use throughout the day.
And if you have this Genie+ service, you'll also have access to short audio tours (just 3-4 minutes each) that give you added background on the parks experience. Not to mention a selection of Snapchat-esque PhotoPass AR lenses with Disney-inspired filters that will do everything from putting you and your beau (or pet) into the set of Lady and the Tramp to matching you with your inner villain.
Additionally, you'll have the option (after seeing actual wait times if they're available yet) of purchasing up to two à la carte options for the day. There will be two such options at each park – Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom, Remy's Ratatouille Adventure and Frozen Ever After at Epcot, Rise of the Resistance and Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom. These are NOT included in the $15/day set and so are meant to give you a way to assure that you will ride certain big ticket attractions only if they are hugely important to your day. Have relatives in town that care about NOTHING but getting onto Rise of the Resistance? Grab it. Have relatives in town that couldn't care less about Star Wars? Skip it or try your luck with standby or the virtual queue. It's a great way to customize your trip around what actually matters to you and your family. You can add the general Genie+ option or not and/or add à la carte options or not – just do what makes the most sense for your travel group.
You can only purchase TWO total à la carte options a day, no matter your wallet – which I love because it means that you really have to think about where you want to use them and we won't run into a situation where some guests are walking past the queue on every attraction because they were able to shell out limitless funds that you couldn't. (If you want that experience, stick with Disney's amazing VIP tour experiences!!) For better or for worse, that was one of my real concerns when this was announced – that there would end up being a measurable difference in experience once you were in park depending on how much money you were able to spend. And suffice to say that after getting one-on-one time with Disney's developer team, my concerns are alleviated.
To quote Jake Houseman, “When I'm wrong I say I'm wrong.”
All in all, after sitting down with Disney's team and actually getting the app into my hands for a short amount of time, I am itching for October 19th. I'm so excited to see what this does for the park experience. Will there be a learning curve? Of course. But I really, truly believe that this is going to end up being a very cool service that we quickly forget how we ever lived without.
Are you excited for the launch of Genie and Genie+? What concerns do you have? What questions?? I'm here to help!!
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If you’re missing home (or love someone who is) and are looking for a way to bring the magic home, I’d love for you to check out my Core Memory Candle collection right HERE. And as always, stay safe and be kind, my friends.