Disney finally announced when the Genie will emerge from its magical digital lamp – Tuesday, October 19th, is now certified as doomsday, at least if you work in Disney IT or don’t want to run into 1,000 vloggers. I’m not sure which would be worse. If I were working in the IT division, I would probably come down with “c*vid” that week. The website can supply the necessary documentation. I’ve been getting out of writing these blog posts for years doing the same thing. Jada Pinkett Smith must be exuberant as she’ll reunited with the sort-of live action blue ghoul, Will Smith, from the film, but there is only one true genie. And he’s the late and great Robin Williams.
The Chapek “led” company also confirmed which attractions will be part of regular Genie+, and which attractions will be a la carte, which must be French for, “costs extra.” We had been calling these attractions, which aren’t part of Genie+ whatsoever, “Individual Attraction Lightning Lane selections,” but “a la carte” is easier to type, and sounds more bourgeoisie, so we will just use Disney’s nomenclature from now on, so there isn’t any (more) confusion about this thing. Remember, we’re expecting people to be able to purchase the a la care selections without also springing for the cost of Genie+ on that date. And if you’re Park Hopping, you can make your a la cart selections in two separate Parks, so you could theoretically book Flight of Passage and Rise of the Resistance on the same day. What a world that would be.
In this post, we’ll discuss which attractions are likely worth the extra cost of paying a la carte Lightning Lane Prices. We’ll also briefly discuss which attractions are likely worth using Lightning Lane on via standard Genie+, if any, in priority order. The latter priority list will likely look similar to or the same as the FastPass+ priority list we used to use, since Lightning Lane is basically the same system as FastPass+, only for money! Yeah! (We stockholders still aren’t getting paid dividends *womp *womp.* Maybe by The Mandalorian season 5 the company will be profitable. Just don’t ask the guy who actually played Darth Vader in Star Wars and has seen about negative four Lightning Lane Passes out of that role over the years. Read your contracts, kids. If you missed our detailed Animal Kingdom series, complete with well over a hundred pictures inside the Park, plus plenty of charts and graphs backing up our numerous claims, you can check out Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.
While the website hasn’t discussed Genie+ much overall because it has spent almost all of its time griping to cast members in Guest Relations about Journey into Imagination with Figment, I’m actually a bit surprised Disney went to a paid FastPass system. Walt Disney World traditionally carried a veneer of egalitarianism. Once you were in the Park, everyone was equal. Just like Squid Game. You can read my original thoughts on Genie+ and how much of it came to fruition here. I think we’ve done pretty well so far, but I’m not reading through that thing again.
Typically, vacation budgets and trip lengths are largely finite for most people. It’s the principle reason we’ll never see a 5th gate in our lifetimes. You’ve managed to save $4,000, or your AMEX credit limit went up unexpectedly, and that’s about what you’re planning on spending on the trip. Four grand won’t get you much further than a tent at All-Star Sports, but at least you’re on property, even if it’s next to Donald on a tennis court who hasn’t been attending his lessons and manages to hit a ball into your tent 30 to 40 times a day. At least he goes to bed early and doesn’t yell “MULLIGAN” that often. At least it’s a sporting term.
And instead of spending an extra $15 per person on a Mickey Pretzel and a SmartWater, or opting for table service instead of quick service, that extra $15 that you might have spent elsewhere will simply go to the Genie. Of course, as a digital product, outside of the original (high) cost of developing the software, selling it for 15 bucks per day per head “costs” very little – just the Windows XP servers that power the thing and the army of two cast members who will be on the phone answering questions. But it’s not like a $3.50 bottle of water or $7 Mickey Pretzel was exactly making Bob Chapek look through the coffers for money to spend on an actual finale to Harmonious. So you already have people swearing off Disney World, or at least staying off-site, for a variety of reasons, from no more complimentary MagicBands, to no more Magical Express begging next year, to paying for parking, to price increases, to a lack of discounts, to other more intangible things. Once you’ve lost a customer, you’ve probably lost them. Charging for Genie+ may be the nail in the coffin in the Haunted Mansion queue. And we actually needed that water to drink.
Whether or not Disney is trying to “price out” the middle class is up for some debate, if there even is a middle class anymore. We’re just at war with everybody. “He might be a Democrat, even though he votes Republican most of the time, but we can’t take Disney touring advice from this guy anymore!” You can’t be too careful as you alienate your entire fanbase.
But the Disney marketing machine is so powerful that your kids are going to be begging to go for the majority of their adolescent (or adult) lives. They may be less enthusiastic when that first tennis ball hits the tent at All-Star Sports, but hopefully you’ll be out using Lightning Lane at the likes of Mickey’s PhilharMagic or It’s Tough to Be A Bug during those hours. And you’ll need to be up at 7am to join that Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure Kitchen PizzeRizzo Funnel Cake boarding group at Epcot, anyway.
Let’s see what we’re dealing with, beginning with Animal Kingdom:
First, these are your a la carte (extra cost) offerings:
- Avatar Flight of Passage (Expected Lightning Lane cost: ($12-$25/person)
- Expedition Everest (Expected Lightning Lane cost: $7 per person, probably going down if anyone finds a brain cell within the company)
As noted in our Animal Kingdom series, Everest is a significant surprise. We had mentioned that Disney was looking at one thrill ride and one easier attraction at each Park, but you’d think Flight of Passage would be easy enough to fit the bill. Plus, the ride garners near universal acclaim, anyway, Here’s a reminder of what the wait time chart looked like for Everest. Remember we used the peak waits in July and then the lower waits in August as our example for all attractions:
At Everest, average waits were ten minutes lower than Kali River Rapids, about 20 minutes lower than Na’vi River Journey, the same ~20 minutes lower than Kilimanjaro Safaris, less than half of Flight of Passage, and so on. Without Genie+ in the picture, Everest’s posted wait doesn’t hit 20 minutes until after 9am, and waits are famous for being short in the last hour, even if they’re still posted at 25 minutes.
Some nights, you can ride Everest five or six times in that last hour. And if you favor it over Pandora, you may continue doing just that. It’s hard to imagine most people springing for the $7/person cost of Everest, when waits never average more than 40 minutes here. Animal Kingdom has a relatively limited number of things to do, so even if you end up waiting 25ish minutes, it shouldn’t affect your ability to “do everything.”
Flight of Passage is a much more obvious a la carte selection that will save you 2+ hours in line in the afternoon. Here’s that chart:
Even without priority boarding, you’re looking at triple digit waits most of the day. With Lightning Lane coming online, we can probably expect waits to go up 30% overnight, and only continue to go up as people start seeing long waits and figure out that they can bypass them. The option to get in line at the end of the night for Flight and River Journey should remains viable, of course, but it means a late night, which may be a no-go for families.
Of course, your party size also comes into play. As a couple, your Genie+ cost is $30/day plus ~$30 for Flight of Passage. If your party is six people, you’re now at $90 a day, plus ~$90 to ride Flight of Passage. That’s a much tougher pill to swallow, but the per-person cost remains the same – so you may be able to rationalize it by breaking it into parts instead of multiplying the cost of everything. That’s what my mom did whenever I wanted HBO as a kid for $9.99 a month, or about 33 cents a day. She’d say, “well, if you multiply that by 12 months a year, it’s $120, and if you multiply that by ten years, it’s $1,200.” Yes mother, but it’s also 33 cents a day.
But it’s likely that rope drop will be a clustercuss, even with Disney management doing a good job of separating eligible and non-eligible guests. Buying Flight of Passage Individual Lightning Lane means you can theoretically choose when you ride, and worry a lot less about when that bus, Uber, parking lot, etc. is going to open. You can easily ride River Journey in standby and have a pretty easy day moving clockwise without the need for Genie+. Of course, Genie+ may have far-more-reaching effects, increasing waits between 30% and 100% across the board.
There’s no word that Disney will run out of Genie+ opportunities/sign-ups as they are not exactly a company to turn down your 15 bucks. For future vacations, Disney is expected to allow you to add Genie to every day of your trip in advance. Those who already have tickets will be able to purchase it at midnight the evening before, though it’s unlikely you’ll need to get in before that early 6:30am to 6:45am wakeup time.
So for the easiest, worry-free arrival at Animal Kingdom, buying the a la carte Lightning Lane for Flight of Passage will open your day up significantly and allow you to saunter in without worry to rush to Flight. You can certainly still do so for a first ride. It will be interesting to see if Disney allows guests to cancel their Lightning Lanes in the app should they be able to experience the ride in standby and prefer to save their money for attractions at other Parks. You would think so.
Strongly consider budgeting for Flight of Passage and potentially forget booking Genie+ on that day, making things sort of a wash.
Skip Lightning Lane at Expedition Everest with so many opportunities to ride with short waits, particularly if you’re not concerned with ending the night in Pandora. We may need to reassess should waits increase substantially. But it’s going to be hard to rationalize $7 per person for a 15 year roller coaster most guests have experienced. It’s also interesting that it’s an outdoor ride prone to technical difficulties, particularly in the winter when the colder weather is less friendly to roller coasters and the ride often opens late.
Bringing back up the chart,
The empty cells represent 15 minutes of downtime, and Everest actually looks good here considering we’re talking about the peak of the summer in July and then the lower waits that arrived in August. Everest is also closing for a refurbishment beginning January 4th and continuing through at least the middle of April. I wouldn’t expect too many addition. But I think if you pay $7/person for Everest you’re probably a chump. And that’s what Disney is banking on. Let’s just hope there aren’t a lot of them because it will keep the standby line moving with few people in the Lightning Lane. And this is a rare opportunity to look at them and give them that “WTF” side-eye. At least they didn’t wait five minutes at the beginning or the end of the night.
As far as the rest of the Genie+ attractions, here they are in priority order with the average wait in standby:
- Na’vi River Journey – 46 minutes
- Kilimanjaro Safaris – 42 minutes
- A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King – 10 to 25 minutes
- Kali River Rapids – 29 minutes
- Dinosaur – 16 minutes
- It’s Tough to Be a Bug – The next show ~ ten minutes
- The Animation Experience at Conservation Station – The next show ~ arrive ten minutes early
- Feathered Friends in Flight – Wear a helmet and arrive a couple minutes early
That means you’ll want to book your Genie+ selections roughly in that order, at least preliminarily. If you can walk-on River Journey (why you would want to I’m not sure…maybe because it’s not Soarin’.) But once you get through the top two or three Genie+ selections, and potentially either Flight of Passage last thing or with the a la carte lightning lane (you baller), you’re basically set up for a largely wait-free day at the Park. You’d then have an opportunity to Park Hop, take a break, pick an incoherent nighttime spectacular to check out,