Using Disney Genie+ at Disneyland Highlights How Broken the System is at Walt Disney World

    We just got back from a quick trip to Disneyland to watch the return of the Main Street Electrical Parade and while we were visiting, we decided to purchase Disney Genie+ for one of the days of our visit. We have used Disney Genie+ extensively at Walt Disney World and the experience at Disneyland is essentially night and day, despite the mechanics of the system being (mostly) the same. In this article, we’re going to briefly touch on our day using Disneyland and Disney California Adventure but mostly focus on the difference in the guest experience between the West Coast parks and the East Coast parks.

    Genie+ Differences

    We’ll start with a look at the differences between the Disney Genie+ offering at the Disneyland Resort and the Walt Disney World Resort. We’ll reference this chart as we progress through the article.

    Walt Disney WorldDisneyland
    Genie+ Price$15/person/day$20/person/day
    Individual Lightning Lane Price$7 to $15$7 to $20
    Individual Lightning Lane Return TimesUser-selected windowNext available
    Genie+ Lightning Lane Return TimesNext availableNext available
    Genie+ Initial Attraction Selection Time7amUpon entering theme park
    Audio TalesIncluded with Genie+Included with Genie+
    PhotoPass downloadsNOT Included with Genie+Included with Genie+
    PhotoPass AR LensesIncluded with Genie+NOT Included with Genie+
    Participating Lightning Lane attractions4719
    Individual Lightning Lane attractions8*3
    Individual Lightning Lane Attraction Limit2 per day2 per day
    “120-Minute Rule”YesYes
    Genie+ “Stacking”YesYes
    Complimentary Disney Genie OfferingYesYes
    Lightning Lane Re-Ride?NoNo
    • *Until August 7, 2022, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Frozen Ever After, Space Mountain and Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain will be included via Disney Genie+ service and will not be included as an individual Lightning Lane selection.

    Individual Lightning Lanes

    At Disneyland, there are only three attractions that are a la carte. Just like Walt Disney World, there seems to be guest confusion over what a Lightning Lane is and what an Individual Lightning Lane is. More correctly, guests are confused over what is included with Disney Genie+ and what isn’t. Just like at Walt Disney World, some of the most popular attractions are NOT included with Disney Genie+ and instead require a separate, independent purchase to skip the line.

    When we visited the Disneyland Resort, the following attractions were offered as a la carte Individual Lightning Lanes:

    • Rise of the Resistance – Disneyland
    • WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure – Disney California Adventure
    • Radiator Springs Racers – Disney California Adventure

    We used Disney Genie+ on a day when we started in Disney California Adventure. We purchased Individual Lightning Lane access for both WEB SLINGERS and Radiator Springs Racers. When we visited, the pricing was as follows:

    • WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure | $15 per person
    • Radiator Springs Racers | $15 per person

    We’ll pause to review the Individual Lightning Lane process here before talking about how we used Disney Genie+.

    Pricing Fluctuations

    At Walt Disney World, there are two prices for an Individual Lightning Lane (to date). The lower price can be found on Monday – Thursday, whereas a higher price point is established for Friday – Sunday. At Disneyland, there is much more variation in pricing. There are patterns, but it’s clear that Disneyland is much more comfortable with the dynamic pricing strategy than Walt Disney World. For example, Radiator Springs Racers range in price from $7 to $18. For that reason, it’s a little bit tough to talk about the value of an Individual Lightning Lane purchase. Racers for $7 seems like a no-brainer, but you might pause a bit with a family of four when the pricing creeps up past $12 to $14.

    Next Available vs Choosing a Time

    Another difficult thing about using Individual Lightning Lane (ILL) at the Disneyland Resort is that you can’t choose a time window in which to use the skip-the-line pass. At Walt Disney World, you are able to choose a time window that you’d like to use the ILL for (pictured below). At Disneyland, you are only given the next available time window – just like for the Disney Genie+ service on both coasts. Because you’re limited to the next available time window, you might not want to book an ILL right away. For example, we waited a couple of hours before purchasing our ILL for Radiator Springs Racers to ensure that the time window worked with the rest of our day.

    We’re not entirely sure if we like not being able to select a return window. On the one hand, it is a consistent experience between Genie+ and ILL, which simplifies things, but on the other hand, you aren’t able to plan your day with the precision that the procedure at Walt Disney World allows for. Ultimately, we think that each system works well for the park culture they’re implemented for. A Walt Disney World vacation is far more structured than at Disneyland, so allowing that extra bit of control at Disney World makes sense.

    First Booking: 7am vs Park Entry

    Ok, with a foundation established for Individual Lightning Lane, let’s discuss a major difference in when you’ll be able to make your first Disney Genie+ selection. At Walt Disney World, each and every guest can make their first Genie+ selection at 7am. At the Disneyland Resort, you can only make a Genie+ selection once you’ve entered the theme park. This limitation certainly favors early risers, which is a nice double-dip of sorts. Not only will you find lower wait times at the start of the day, but you’ll also be able to make Disney Genie+ selections. Because our internal clocks were still on East Coast time, we found it easy to make it into the parks by their 8am opening and found low wait times and easy-to-secure Genie+ selections.

    Perhaps an unintended benefit of requiring guests to be inside the park to make a Genie+ selection is that guests are in the “park mindset”. At Walt Disney World, a great many guests are making their first selection at 7am from a hotel room. Setting an alarm for a 6:40am wake-up time to make your first Genie+ selection simply isn’t user-friendly. There’s nothing quite like starting your day with a cup of coffee and some light competition with thousands of other guests. It’s the same thing that we had to do with Rise of the Resistance boarding groups and it wasn’t fun then either.

    Genie+ Availability

    Starting in the morning, the day is filled with promise and hope, unlike a day at Walt Disney World with Genie+. We found that we could take a completely different approach with Genie+ at Disneyland than at Walt Disney World. While “stacking” is definitely allowed at Disneyland, it’s unnecessary during all but the most crowded days. We found that we could use a location-based technique over a scarcity-based approach. What does that mean? During our morning at Disney California Adventure, we found ourselves making Genie+ reservations based on how close an attraction was to another attraction that we found a minimal wait time for. What might that look like? Instead of rope dropping Mission: BREAKOUT with a couple hundred other guests, we might get a Genie+ return time within the first hour of park opening and instead do a rope drop for another nearby attraction such as Monsters, Inc. At Disneyland, that might mean getting an early Lightning Lane return time for Matterhorn Bobsleds while riding “it’s a small world”.

    Perhaps the most difficult thing about using Disney Genie+ at the Disneyland Resort for someone who has used Genie+ extensively at Disney World was simply letting go a bit. It was difficult to shift the mindset from using the app as a means of competition with other guests to using the app as a companion for your own vacation. Honestly, you could probably stop reading here because that’s the most important point of the whole article. We’ll keep writing though in case you want to keep reading.

    Instead of spamming the article with a ton of screenshots, we’re going to use two graphs from that should hopefully illustrate just how wonderful Disney Genie+ availability is throughout a day at the Disneyland Resort. Here’s the description of what you’re looking at:

    A non-gray color indicates that Genie+ Lightning Lane or Individual Lightning Lane can be purchased, and the return time. Greener colors indicate return times earlier in the day were available; orange to red indicates return times later in the day were available.
    Thrill Data

    This graph is pretty great. Not only does it show the colors outlined above, but it also shows the average next available return time throughout the day. Note that for all these graphs, these are averages for April 2022.

    Here’s a look at Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ average next available return times for the month of April 2022.

    It’s important to note that these graphs are averages from the past month. Actual single-day data will look much worse. For example, here’s a look at Disney’s Hollywood Studios from Thursday of last week. Remember, grey equals bad.

    Here’s a look at Disney California Adventure from the same day. The difference is striking.

    For completeness, here’s a look at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom, respectively, from the same day.

    If averages look bad for Walt Disney World, single-day data generally look worse.

    What’s the Difference?

    When looking at the difference between the two resorts and how vastly different the Disney Genie+ experience is, we have to ask ourselves: why is Genie+ so much different at Disneyland?

    We’ve already discussed the logistical differences, but let’s drill down into what factors could cause such a difference in experience. In our view, there are a few different factors at play here.

    Price Difference

    We’ll start with the wallet. At Disneyland, the Disney Genie+ service is $5 more expensive. If we’re being honest, that’s not a lot of money. Now, the full price of the service might cause pause, and we think it actually does prevent a good number of guests from purchasing the service, but when we look at the actual delta between Disney World pricing and Disneyland, a $5 difference isn’t the main culprit here.

    Attraction Quantity Difference

    We’ll continue to use our comparison of Magic Kingdom/Disney’s Hollywood Studios to Disneyland Park/Disney California Adventure. Let’s take a look at the attractions and experiences offered with Genie+ at each park in a head-to-head matchup.

    When considering Magic Kingdom versus Disneyland, there are a whopping 10 more attractions and experiences at Magic Kingdom over Disneyland. That’s not to say that Disneyland has a terrible lineup, but it’s easier to put a higher value on the Genie+ service at a park with 22 attractions and experiences.

    Magic KingdomDisneyland
    Big Thunder Mountain RailroadAutopia
    Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger SpinBig Thunder Mountain Railroad
    Disney Festival of Fantasy ParadeBuzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
    Dumbo the Flying ElephantHaunted Mansion
    Haunted MansionIndiana JonesTM Adventure
    “it’s a small world”“it’s a small world”
    Jungle CruiseMatterhorn Bobsleds
    Mad Tea PartyMillennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
    Meet Mickey at Town Square TheaterRoger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
    Meet Princess Tiana and a Visiting Princess at Princess Fairytale HallSpace Mountain
    Meet Cinderella and a Visiting Princess at Princess Fairytale HallSplash Mountain
    Mickey’s PhilharMagicStar Tours – The Adventures Continue
    Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor
    Peter Pan’s Flight
    Pirates of the Caribbean
    Space Mountain**
    Splash Mountain
    The Barnstormer
    The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
    The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
    Tomorrowland Speedway
    Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid

    Here’s a look at the head-to-head matchup between Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney California Adventure. Similarly, we have a lopsided matchup with the Disney World theme park having a larger list of offerings.

    Disney’s Hollywood StudiosDisney California Adventure
    Alien Swirling SaucersGoofy’s Sky School
    Beauty and the Beast Live on StageGrizzly River Run
    Disney Junior Play & Dance!Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
    For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along CelebrationIncredicoaster
    Indiana Jones Epic Stunt SpectacularMonsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
    Meet Disney Stars at Red Carpet DreamsSoarin’ Around the World
    Meet Olaf at Celebrity SpotlightToy Story Midway Mania!
    Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway**
    Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
    Muppet*Vision 3D
    Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
    Slinky Dog Dash
    Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
    The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™
    Toy Story Mania!

    By adding so many attractions and experiences to the Disney Genie+ service at Walt Disney World, Disney has likely made the offering more attractive.

    Locals versus Tourists

    Perhaps the biggest reason why there appear to be fewer guests using the Disney Genie+ service at Disneyland is that Disneyland is a local’s theme park. Magic Key Passholders and locals simply visit Disneyland differently than a tourist. Whereas there is a premium on riding as many attractions and experiencing as many offerings as possible as a tourist, locals don’t mind skipping an attraction or even spending time in a standby queue for the few attractions that they might experience.

    Essentially, the culture of Disneyland is vastly different than the culture of Walt Disney World. Even the fact that we’re writing this article, as an Orlando-based outlet, dissecting a service that Disneyland outlets don’t cover as much should speak to the difference in even experienced parkgoers.

    Low Uptake

    All this is to say that it appears that uptake of the Disney Genie+ service is considerably lower at Disneyland than at Walt Disney World. There is no appreciable difference in, say, attraction throughput at Disneyland over Walt Disney World. In fact, Disney World even has things like character interactions and parades under the Disney Genie+ banner, something that is designed to spread out usage. Furthermore, Orlando execs made the decision to demote one Individual Lightning Lane attraction at each of the four theme parks to the Disney Genie+ service as a carrot and additional capacity measure to attempt to create more value for their product.

    Closing Thoughts and Suggestions

    We’re both about 2,300 words into this, so it’s time to wrap it up. In short, we found the Disney Genie+ service to be much, much more enjoyable at Disneyland. Is it worth a purchase? That’s still a complicated conversation that we might bump to another article. In short, the $20 cost of the service (per person) isn’t a large percentage of your total vacation investment at all. You will find much more availability at Disneyland and that availability will last much further into the evening than at Walt Disney World. The fact that you can likely get a Lightning Lane for every attraction at a park (or even both parks if you hustle) at the Disneyland while Walt Disney World literally attempts to lower guest expectations on how many attractions can be experienced in a day shows the divide between the two coasts.

    We’ll finish by trying to answer a question way above our pay grade: what can Disney World do to improve the Disney Genie+ service? In our view, there are really two quick-fix options: raise prices or limit sales. This is, essentially, the same conclusion we came to about the Disney Park Pass system.

    Of course, there is a third option: do nothing.

    Disney can essentially just slap a notice on their website that says that their flashy new system that now charges you for something that used to be free will be a worse experience. They would never do that though, would they?

    Disney World Attempts to Lower Guest Expectations of Genie+ Paid Skip-the-Line Service
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