Big news has just been released by Disney, answering the question of whether Fastpass or MaxPass will come back. And the answer is no. Instead, a new Disney Genie system will roll out to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
This system will offer a few free conveniences for guests, but it’s mostly all about up-charging for access to a “Lightning Lane” to skip the standby wait times.
When Does Disney Genie Come Out
We don’t have an exact date, but we do know that the new program will launch in the Fall of 2021. I have my theory that they won’t choose to launch this during the Halloween season, and might launch it between Halloween and Christmas. However, it is a money-maker, so perhaps Disney will prove me wrong and launch it during Halloween at Disneyland and WDW.
What is Disney Genie?
It will help to understand that Disney Genie will be linked to your Disney account and app. And, it will have three main aspects of service.
The basic Disney Genie system will be complimentary and will help you plan and manage your day. You’ll be able to select your interests and Genie will help create an itinerary for you. It will also adjust your plans on the fly during the day. The free Disney Genie system will also show you current and forecasted wait times.
Disney Genie will be a more upgraded system for managing all your ride plans, dining reservations, and attraction boarding group ride queues. It’s also expected that Disney Genie will help Disney implement a digital DAS (Disability Access Service) for families that are in need of that service.
The big news about Disney Genie is that there will be two other aspects of the service that will be paid services, Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane access. These paid systems will help you skip the standby lines and get faster access to attractions. There will still be standby lines for guests who don’t want to pay, but there will no longer be free “FastPass” options.
Purchasing Disney Genie+ will also come with Disney parks-themed audio experiences and photo features to capture your memories.
Disneyland guests will also get unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads from your day (matching what MaxPass had). For guests buying Genie+ at Walt Disney World, they won’t get the PhotoPass but will have access to augmented reality lenses for their own photos.
Does It Replace Fastpass / Fastpass+ / MaxPass?
The free version of Disney Genie will not work to replace FASTPASS and MaxPass (Disneyland), or Fastpass+ (Disney World). If you want to skip the standby lines like Fastpasses used to let you do, you’re going to have to pay money for Genie+.
While Genie+ will get you access to the newly named, “Lightning Lanes” for certain attractions, the bigger news is that it won’t work for high-demand attractions, like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Radiator Springs Racers.
Those high-demand rides will have an added “Lightning Lane” access price that will be in addition to the Genie+ fee. For families who don’t want to do Genie+, they can still buy one-time Lightning Lane access to skip the lines at the individual rides. And, you’ll only be able to purchase TWO premium Lightning Lane ride passes a day.
It’s also unknown how this paid Lightning Lane system will affect standby wait times. If a lot of people are booking LL reservation times, the standby queues could lessen however the queues will move slower as LL riders are loaded.
With Genie+ you’ll be able to select the next available return time for a Lightning Lane attraction. If there are a lot of people requesting access then you might not be able to use the Lightning Lanes to continuously ride LL attractions as the return times might be far out. If guests aren’t willing to spend the extra money, Lightning Lane reservations with quick return times could be easy to get.
It’s also unknown how the timing will work with booking a Lightning Lane reservation. If it’s like MaxPass, you’ll be able to select a return time and can also book another reservation after a certain amount of time had passed, or after you used your original reservation.
We’ll have to watch and see what the time restraints are, plus how many people are willing to pay. If timing only allows you to bypass the standby line on a few rides in a day it’s hard for a family to rationalize spending $15/$20 for each person each day to save yourself a few long wait times.
How Much Does Disney Genie / Genie+ Cost?
Again, the basic Disney Genie program that helps you check wait times and build itineraries is free.
Genie+ which will grant you Lightning Lane reservation access for many attractions will cost $15 per person, per day at Walt Disney World, and $20 per person, per day at Disneyland.
The $20 price point is the same as what MaxPass cost when it was used at Disneyland. And depending on how many people are willing to pay $15 for the service at WDW I can definitely see Disney increasing it to match the $20 Disneyland price. MaxPass had started at $15 in Disneyland when it was first released.
However, it appears that only the Disneyland service offers PhotoPass digital downloads, which is well worth the additional $5/day over the $15 WDW price.
But the Genie+ Lightning Lane access won’t work for the high-demand rides — like Radiator Springs Racers, Flight of Passage, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (not the full list).
How much the high-demand attraction Lightning Lane access will cost is anyone’s guess. However, I have seen people throwing around the idea of it costing between $9-$18 per guest, based on what Disney has started charging for similar access at Disneyland Paris. All Disney has said is, “pricing for this option will vary by date, attraction, and park and will be announced closer to launch.”
It’s also noted that guests will be able to purchase TWO of these “high-demand Lightning Lane access passes” per day. So, those who are swimming in money won’t be able to just keep buying access to the premium rides.
These paid systems will significantly increase the cost of a Disneyland vacation. For a family of 4 on a 3-day vacation at Disneyland, that’s an extra $240 expense on your vacation for Genie+ and even more for the premium Lightning Lane access.
The cost to go to Walt Disney World will also increase. The same family of 4 will pay $180 for 3 days, but most WDW vacations are longer than 3 days which will increase the costs since the fee is per person, per day. For a family of 4 on a 5-day WDW vacation, they’re looking at adding $300 for Genie+ and more for the Lightning Lane access for high-demand rides.
How Do I Buy It?
You’ll be able to use the free Disney Genie and buy Genie+ and Lightning Lane access from your phone through your Disney app. Disney Genie can be used before your trip to help you plan. Genie+ and Lightning Lane access will be able to be purchased on the day of your visit.
Currently, it appears that you can add the Genie+ to your day at midnight, and reservations for Lightning Lane ride times will open for booking at 7 am.
It’s been mentioned that guests staying on-site at Walt Disney World might have early access to booking their first Lightning Lane reservation for the day. That could be a perk for on-site guests since WDW has recently gotten rid of the complimentary Magical Express bus transportation to and from the airport.
Can It Be Added to Disneyland Magic Key Annual Passes?
Disneyland has just started its new Disneyland Magic Key annual pass program. In the past, guests were able to add MaxPass onto their annual passes. However, it appears that you won’t be able to add Genie+ onto the Disneyland Magic Key passes.
This could really affect how passholders have visited the parks in the past, and who knows if Disneyland will change this and announce an option to add on Genie+ at a later date.
Overall, I think we all saw the writing was on the wall for this paid “FastPass” system. Disney has been really interested in bringing in income and when you look at other theme parks, like Universal, a paid quick access system is already available.
However, this is disappointing and keeps putting the cost of a Disney vacation high, making it even harder for lower-income families to make kids’ dreams come true in “the happiest/most magical place on Earth.”