Walt Disney World’sdistribution system appears to be preparing for an overhaul. Currently guests at Disney’s four theme parks are required to travel to the ride they wish to get a FASTPASS for, which could mean walking across the theme park. It is not uncommon for guests to head straight to their favorite ride after passing through the entrance gates, only to find that all FASTPASSES for that ride have already been distributed for the day. Disney World is currently testing a new FASTPASS distribution system at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The new FASTPASS system could solve the problem of traveling all over the Disney theme parks to get a FASTPASS, then traveling back to the attraction later in the day in order to use the FASTPASS.
Soarin’ at Epcot is a prime example of this problem. The ride is located quite a distance from the park entrance. Guests must park their strollers outside The Land, the large, indoor pavilion that houses Soarin’ and other attractions, and travel to the FASTPASS distribution kiosks on the ground floor. Although cast members post signs outside The Land to inform guests when all Soarin’ FASTPASSES have been distributed for the day, guests who make it to the kiosks before this moment travel all the way there to find that it is too late. Depending upon daily attendance at the theme parks, FASTPASS tickets for popular rides like Soarin’ could be gone before noon. Those who are fortunate enough to secure a Soarin’ FASTPASS might find that their assigned ride time is hours later, meaning they must travel all the way back to the ride later in the day in order to use the FASTPASS.
The new, centralized FASTPASS distribution system being tested at Disney’s Animal Kingdom could eliminate the need to travel all over the theme park in order to get a FASTPASS. Disney cast members report that the new FASTPASS system is only in the initial testing phase, so it is not certain that it will be implemented in all four of Disney’s theme parks. Universal Studios has used various centralized distribution systems for years, but they are not free for everyone. Guests at Universal theme parks have the option to pay extra for an Express Pass (it is free for guests who stay at Universal resort hotels). Although it is faster than Disney’s FASTPASS, the system is expensive and seems unfair when compared to Disney’s free FASTPASS ticket, which is available to all guests.
The free Disney World FASTPASS ticket enables guests to return to the attraction during a one-hour window of time, which is printed on the ticket. Guests are free to explore other attractions, shops, or restaurants before the return time.Â The FASTPASS tickets are distributed on a first come, first served basis, with FASTPASSES for thrill rides such as Tower of Terror, Test Track, Space Mountain (which is currently closed for refurbishment), and Expedition Everest running out early in the day.
In addition to testing a new FASTPASS distribution system, Disney World now offers a special birthday FASTPASS to annual passholders. Since Disney World started the 2009 birthday promotion, in which Disney guests gain free admission to a Disney theme park on their birthday, Disney passholders have been extended a choice. Already able to attend the theme parks on any day of the year, annual passholders can choose between receiving a Disney World gift card good for the amount of a one-day Disney World ticket (guests can use the card for purchases at the theme park on their birthday) or a special birthday FASTPASS.
Dismayed guests who arrived at Soarin’ late in the morning on August 8–only to find that all Soarin’ FASTPASS tickets had already been distributed for the day–saw one uncovered FASTPASS machine that they hoped would provide the FASTPASS tickets they craved. Yet a charming birthday FASTPASS sign announced that the kiosk was reserved exclusively for guests with the birthday FASTPASS. Guests tried their luck with the machine, but the coveted Soarin’ FASTPASS tickets did not come out, since they lacked the birthday FASTPASS.
Another problem that Disney Imagineers confront as they experiment with new distribution systems is the timing of FASTPASS distribution. Should all FASTPASS tickets for the most popular rides be distributed in the morning, or will an improved distribution system pace the disbursement of FASTPASS tickets so that they last throughout the day? Pacing FASTPASS distribution would be a boon for guests who visit Disney theme parks later in the day. In the meantime, Disney World fans eagerly await the results of Disney’s test run of centralized FASTPASS distribution.