Disney’s CEO Praises New Smart Wrist Bands, Hints at ‘Avatar’ Land

Sep 25, 2013 7:40 am

Skift Take

While the smart bands may be controversial, Disney will likely have a sure-fire winner in any well-done park that taps into “Avatar”‘s enormous fan base.

— Jason Clampet

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Lucas Jackson  / Reuters

Robert Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, arrives at the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood. Lucas Jackson / Reuters

The chief executive of the Walt Disney Co. said Tuesday the company’s billion-dollar-plus MyMagic+ system will roll out to all Walt Disney World guests “fairly soon,” though he stopped short of committing to a precise date.

“It’s rolling out fully in the months ahead,” Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger told analysts during a conference hosted by Goldman Sachs in New York. “It’ll be fully rolled out fairly soon.”

Disney executives have previously said they hope to have the central elements of MyMagic+ which is built around rubber wristbands, known as “MagicBands,” with radio-frequency identification microchips embedded in them — by the first quarter of their 2014 fiscal year, which begins next month.

The bands function as theme-park tickets, hotel-room keys, credit cards, and FastPasses for park rides. The company is thought to be investing between $1 billion and $1.5 billion in the project.

Iger said Disney has now had more than 200,000 visitors test the MyMagic+, a central element of which is a reservation system that allows guests to book a limited number of ride times from home, weeks before they leave on vacation.

Giving visitors the ability to guarantee they will experience their favorite attractions without hour-plus standby lines “is a big deal and a game-changer, we believe, in terms of the park experience,” Iger said.

He said the plan is to eventually expand MyMagic+ to Disney’s other theme-park resorts around the world. “It’s a complex project,” he said. “We’re starting with Florida because of the scale that Florida gives us.”

Iger also expressed confidence in the yet-to-built Avatar Land planned for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Disney has provided few details about the project since announcing it two years ago, and fan interest has been tepid on some Disney Internet forums.

“We’re very excited about Avatar Land,” Iger said. “I think that will generate substantial growth down there.”

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