Disney to bring mobile technology to more parks

Reuters News
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Posted: May 21, 2015 10:44 PM

By Lisa Richwine

ANAHEIM, California (Reuters) - The mobile technology that helps Walt Disney Co theme park guests beat lines and pay for Mickey Mouse ears at the company's flagship resort in Florida will expand in some form to other Disney resorts, Chief Operating Officer Tom Staggs said.

The $1 billion MyMagic+ program features wristbands and a mobile app that let Walt Disney World visitors unlock hotel room doors, pay for food and merchandise, and book dinner reservations or ride times.

The technology aims to help people plan trips in advance, move more quickly through the park and personalize visits. More than 11 million wristbands, called MagicBands, have been used.

"The folks who are saying the MyMagic+ experience is excellent is the vast, vast majority of folks who are using it, and that, we know, is good for our business," Staggs said on Thursday.

Staggs spoke in an interview on the patio of an apartment once occupied by Walt Disney at the Disneyland Resort, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

The executive ran the Disney parks and resorts division from 2010 until his promotion in February to chief operating officer, which put him in the lead to succeed Chief Executive Bob Iger in 2018.

The parks unit's earnings have climbed over the past few years as Disney invested billions to add Cars Land at the Anaheim resort, expanded Fantasyland at Walt Disney World, built a new cruise ship and made other improvements.

For the six months that ended March 28, operating income rose 22 percent to $1.4 billion. It is Disney's second-largest division.

Adding new technology is one way Disney aims to keep the business growing.

"We will bring variations on MyMagic+ to our parks and other businesses around the world," Staggs said.

He said it was "possible" the use of the MagicBands will be enabled at parks outside of Walt Disney World. The company also is exploring if other wearable technology could offer some of the same functions as consumers adopt new products such as the Apple Watch.

"We are really open to doing that," Staggs said, though he said there were no plans specifically for the Apple Watch.

As part of its 60th anniversary, Disneyland is unveiling new night-time entertainment including a fireworks show that adds projections inside the park. Classic characters such as Mickey will appear along with new ones such as Anna and Elsa from blockbuster movie "Frozen," part of Disney's strategy of bringing its hit franchises into the parks.

(Editing by Stephen Coates)