In 2011, Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger proposed a technological reinvention of Disney's iconic parks, ostensibly to make the Magic Kingdom more amenable to tech-savvy millennials. He got buy-in from his directors to spend nearly $1 billion on MyMagic+, a tech overhauled centered around the MagicBand, an electronic wristband that would be a "virtual key" to the Magic Kingdom. Fast Company spoke with the chairman of Disney's Park and Resorts division Tom Staggs and several other anonymous insiders to get the scoop on this monumental proposal, and how this confluence of wearables and experiential design may be a case study in placemaking and park design.
Re-imagining a place as big (and, let's be honest, magical) as Disney World is a huge, not to mention costly, risk. The park includes 140 attractions, 300 dining locations and 36 hotels spread across 25,000 acres, all of which Disney believes still might not be enough to appeal to a new tech-oriented generation glued to their smart phones. Worried Disney World would quickly become irrelevant, the Parks division began gathering in secret in 2008, plotting out what became known as the Next Generation Experience project. The plan hoped to jettison the most annoying, least magical aspects of Disneyland—long lines and heavy backpacks.
According to the Fast Company story, one team member was looking through SkyMall when he saw a magnetic wristband that would inspire the MagicBand, a bracelet with a Mickey Mouse icon that broadcast a radio signal 40 feet and when tapped against a sensor, can provide access to the park, attractions, and even allow wearers to purchase memorabilia and funnel cakes. Read more about the history of Disney's theme parks, the future of wearables, and what it's like to wear a Mickey band and run around an updated Disney World over here.