You don’t need to be an expert to see how Disney films have been advanced by technology – the recent remakes of Lion King, Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast look world’s away from the originals.
But, what about ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ – where you step into the big screen and the characters come to life? Many of us book flights to Orlando – a place where kids dreams comes true and adults feel nostalgic as they reminisce about their own childhood – and have a magical time. But, how has technology changed it? Has the change been just as drastic off screen as on it?
The park certainly looks very different from when it first opened in 1955. There are more parks for a start plus additional – bigger and faster – roller coasters. It is constantly changing and evolving in order to stay current, keep visitors coming back for more and because it takes advantage of new technology.
It has always been ahead of its time – a prime example of this was the Disneyland Monorail, which was introduced in 1959 and was the first of its kind in the USA.
However, by the 2000s it was falling behind – a major part of this was that they weren’t keeping up with modern technology. The growth of smartphones and social media – and everything that came with it – was starting to become a threat. But, it also provided an opportunity that was used and gave them an advantage.
It has, for example, being able to offer a way to fix the frustration visitors had. Let’s face it, as magical as it is, a day at Disney World can also be stressful – with long queues and big crowds being just the start. Technology has revolutionized it and in the process eliminated a lot of this stress.
One way it has done this is with a MagicBand. This is digital, lightweight, waterproof and can be customised to act as your ticket, hotel key and contactless payment as well as storing your FastPass+ and a route based on your favorite attractions. Everything you need is in one place, on your wrist – so you aren’t carrying more than you need and don’t have to worry about losing anything.
In 2017, Disney also introduced the Mobile One system which can be linked to My Disney Experience app. One of the frustrations is that after a morning of queueing for rides, you then have to join a queue to get food, before getting back in line for the rides again. Now you can order and pay for your food in advance, while arranging a time to pick it up. You’ll then be notified when it is ready for collection from a designated window.
They are also currently working on “soft body robot for physical interactions with humans” – with the plan being for them to be able to act in a similar way to the characters.
Disney World has always managed to keep the right balance of old and new, keeping up with the times without losing the nostalgia we feel when we step through those gates – or even turn on the film. Speaking to PRI, senior writer at Fast Company Austin Carr, said: ‘“What separates Disney from other competitors in the space is that has both continued to innovate over many decades and never grown stagnant, but it has also kept that key nostalgia that brings parents back with their kids, back with their grandkids, and so forth, so they can connect over a shared experience they had when they were growing up.”
Disney World has come a long way in – but without losing what makes it so special. While in many ways it has changed, it is still just as recognizable as it was 60 years ago. Who knows how it could look in another 60 years? Whatever changes, the magic should stay the same.