Potential Usefulness of Genie+ at Hollywood Studios

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We can now officially call it a trend – Disney has decided to inject characters and IP into everything. Your new AP options? Pixie Dust, Pirate, Sorcerer, or Incredi-. I personally don’t see how pirates are more powerful than pixie dust (have you seen Peter Pan, Disney namers of things?), but that’s another subject for another day. The character injection we’re here to discuss today is everyone’s favorite duo: Genie and Lightning.

What do Genie and Lightning have in common? Gaping mouths, obviously. And what do gaping mouths remind you of? Empty lines. So use Genie+ to get in the Lightning Lane, which is an empty line. Totally intuitive.

For today’s analysis, the relevant background that you need to know is that you’ll be able to use Genie+ to get in the new Lightning Lanes (which are just the old FastPass queues) sometime in the near future. Because of the branding, I can only assume each return time will be called a “wish”, and the moment your window opens to join a Lightning Lane, you get a notification that the “green flag has dropped”. Oh, and don’t forget that you’ll be paying $15 per person, per day to use that Genie (and you get to wake up at 7 a.m. to make your first wish). In the past week, we’ve been looking at past data to figure out if there are situations at Animal Kingdom and EPCOT where Genie+ could potentially be a good value. We’re not arguing the merits of Genie+ as a whole. But you’re not getting FastPasses for free anymore no matter how much we all complain about it, so we might as well do the due diligence to see whether the upcharge can actually save us a significant amount of time or not.

Explain the Math!

As mentioned above, the cost of Genie+ will be $15 per person, per day. Paying that cost will allow you to reserve return times at various attractions across each park to skip the standby queue by utilizing the Lightning Lane instead. We’re also going to assume that the average cost of an hour in the parks for each person is about $15. So in order for a purchase of Genie+ to be “worth it”, it needs to save you at least an hour of waiting – ideally, for rides you would already ride at times you would already ride them.

But hold your horses Bullseyes Maximuses Pegasuses. Genie+ isn’t here yet! So we don’t have any data about it. I could end the blog post here, but that wouldn’t be any fun. So we need to find a close approximation of Genie+ data to make our first hypotheses. Enter: FastPass+ data. From way back in 2019 when passes could just be fast instead of Lightning or Incredi-. If we make some assumptions about the availability, capacity and use of Genie+ being similar to FastPass+, we can start with that data.

Hollywood Studios was a VERY different park in 2019. Back then, the attraction with the most FastPasses used was Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

In order to analyze the FastPass+ waits, I had to pull all of the submitted actual wait times from the awesome Lines users in 2019. That was the last full calendar year that FastPass+ was used at WDW. We have some information about these waits: how long the wait was, what the attraction was, what day and time they were submitted (and therefore what crowd level the park had that day), and whether they were standby or FastPass waits.

I can aggregate (group) all of that data to analyze overall trends based on crowd level and time of day. That means I have average standby and average FastPass waits for every attraction that was open in 2019, in the following 9 conditions:

  1. Low crowds (Crowd Levels 1-3), Morning (before the 11-5 peak crowds)
  2. Low crowds, Midday (11 am – 5 pm)
  3. Low crowds, Evening (after the 11-5 peak crowds)
  4. Medium crowds (Crowd Levels 4-7), Morning
  5. Medium crowds, Midday
  6. Medium crowds, Evening
  7. High crowds (Crowd Levels 8-10), Morning
  8. High crowds, Midday
  9. High crowds, Evening

Let’s start there. For each of the nine conditions, I can calculate (on average) how much time you might have saved by using FastPass+ each day. And then we can use those results to hypothesize whether paying the $15 per day is the worth the potential time savings.

One bit of bonus math for this post – predicted wait time savings! We don’t have FastPass wait data for Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run or Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway from 2019. But we do know their approximate hourly capacity, load style, and demand. So we can use all of that information to come up with a ride that has similar capacity and load style to use as a “donor” of wait time data. Then we can use recent information about difference in demand for the two to update the wait savings based on there being higher or lower demand. For Millennium Falcon, we’ll use Star Tours as the donor, and update the information based on 2-4 times higher demand at the Falcon. For Runaway Railway, we’ll use Toy Story Mania as the donor, and update the information based on 1.5 times higher demand for Runaway Railway.

Hollywood Studios, Low Crowds

Time saved (in minutes) by using a FastPass at each attraction

A few notes about how to read the table above. Wherever a question mark appears on the table, that means that we either don’t have any FastPass data about that attraction, or we don’t have enough to make a statistically valid claim about the time saved using a FastPass versus waiting standby. Anything attraction that appears in the table is a Genie+ potential ride. The gray attractions at the bottom are some (educated) guesses about which attractions might require “individual access” (aka, paying more) and therefore don’t qualify for Genie+. Since the wait savings for Millennium Falcon and Runaway Railway are inferred from other rides and demand, and not exact FastPass savings, they’re marked with asterisks.

  • Hollywood Studios is a tricky beast of a park. There are many attractions that typically generate lengthy queues, so you would think that it would be a perfect candidate for Genie+. But at low crowd levels, does that hold true? Eh … maybe. It depends on your touring style. Wait times are still low in the morning and evening at Hollywood Studios. As of right now, on crowd level 1 days, it’s possible to do every headliner in the park even with a 5 pm arrival.
  • In January 2020, my family rode Runaway Railway, then Millennium Falcon twice via child swap, and made it to Slinky Dog Dash … before the park even officially opened.

    The caveat here comes if you can only be in Hollywood Studios during peak hours, or if you want to re-ride specific headliners multiple times. Things can quickly get hairy if that’s your plan. If you’re hitting the park at 11, and can manage to grab Genie+ return times for Millennium Falcon, Runaway Railway, and Toy Story Mania between 11 and 5pm, you could save between 54 and 72 minutes compared to standby waits.

  • What’s the Becky plan for Hollywood Studios on a low-crowd day? I’m hitting Runaway Railway as soon as I get in the park (mostly because it’s my kids’ favorite right now), then dashing toward the Slinky Dog and doing the rest of Toy Story Land before lunch. Midday, we eat a relaxed lunch, catch some shows and do the “big kid” rides at the end of Sunset Boulevard (or even leave the park for some naps). Then in the evening we head to Batuu to knock out Millennium Falcon. No Genie wishes needed, thank you.

Hollywood Studios, Medium Crowds

Time saved (in minutes) by using a FastPass at each attraction
  • Ooh, now things are starting to get interesting. Hollywood Studios doesn’t really have many more Genie+ attractions than Animal Kingdom or EPCOT, but more of them generally require longer waits. So while at those parks I still didn’t think Genie+ would be worth it at medium crowd levels, at Hollywood Studios, it starts coming in the realm of potential usefulness. Especially midday, there are a lot of significant wait savings to be made – but the numbers in the morning and evening aren’t too shabby either. Just don’t use a Genie+ on Star Tours, unless you’re already headed there and one is immediately available. It’s not worth using up your time on medium crowd days.
  • Tower of Terror frequently has wait time spikes during peak hours, due both to crowds and to downtime.

    Let’s say that you can get a Genie+ for the morning at Millennium Falcon, then there are still midday return times available for Runaway Railway, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror between 11 and 5pm. It’s a medium crowd day, so maybe not as many people are buying into Genie+ and there are lots of return windows to choose from. Then in the evening you can grab another for Toy Story Mania. With 5 Genie+ “wishes”, you’ve potentially saved 148 minutes in line compared to standby. Not too shabby.

  • The Becky plan for a medium day at Hollywood Studios? I’m cheap, so I’d probably still try to game the wait times and not buy Genie+. But I’m tempted. I’d rope drop Slinky Dog and try to knock out the rest of Toy Story Land while I was there, then if I had time before lunch would hit Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and/or Tower of Terror. Head back to the resort or hit up some shows during peak hours, then come back in the late afternoon and evening to tour Batuu and then ride Runaway Railway on my way out of the park. But that’s me and my touring style – the numbers point to potential good use of Genie+ on medium crowd days at Hollywood Studios.

Hollywood Studios, High Crowds

Time saved (in minutes) by using a FastPass at each attraction
  • Winner winner! This is the first time savings table I’ve seen that makes me immediately consider paying the $15 per person to help my family avoid some of the CRAZY waits that happen at Hollywood Studios on high crowd days. On those days, just playing the game of visiting in the morning and evening isn’t going to be effective enough to work around the 60-90+ minute waits. When there are multiple rides where Genie+ could save a minimum of 45ish minutes compared to standby waits midday, that should make you think. A Hollywood Studios on a high crowd day, there are 6 attractions where you could save 30 minutes or more, 4 attractions where you could save 44 minutes or more, and 2 attractions where you could save an hour or more, just with one Genie+ return time midday.
  • This kid’s ready to get her high score! But she doesn’t like waiting more than 20 minutes for it …

    The caveat to all of this is that “competition” for Genie+ slots is going to be really tight on high crowd level days too. You’re not the only one that will have figured out that you can save a lot of time this way. So the balance there of potential time savings and actual time savings is something that will have to be worked out with some testing and observation. But let’s say, conservatively, you’re able to use 1 Genie+ “wish” in the morning, 2 during peak hours, and one in the evening before the return windows are all sold out. You get Millennium Falcon in the morning, Runaway Railway and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster midday, and Toy Story Mania in the evening. With those four “wishes” you could potentially save 183 to 240 minutes compared to standby waits. That’s up to 4 HOURS of wait saved. Nice.

  • The Becky plan for a high-crowd day at Hollywood Studios? Avoid Hollywood Studios. Ha! But if I did find myself there, I would probably pay the $60 for my family. I’d rope drop Slinky Dog while hopefully holding a Genie+ morning return time for Toy Story Mania. We’d knock those out and ideally grab Genie+ Runaway Railway and Millennium Falcon during peak hours. From there, we’d just pick up whatever was left while enjoying shows and being opportunistic about whatever lines start dropping in length.

What Does This Mean For You?

If the capacity and the wait times for Genie+ are similar to FastPass+, then:

  1. At the lowest crowd levels, there are still some attractions at Hollywood Studios that could see significant wait savings with Genie+. If you like touring during peak hours and can’t take advantage of mornings or evenings to hop in shorter lines, Genie+ could make your peak hours less wait-heavy. But if you have flexibility with your timing, you can easily knock out the headliners on a low crowd day outside of those peak hours.
  2. At medium crowd levels, and you’re stuck with touring during peak hours, Genie+ will definitely save you a lot of time. Even at these crowd levels, there are enough rides that you would want to rope drop all at once, or save until right before close, that you’ll have to deal with several longer waits because you can’t rope drop three rides at once. This might end up being the sweet spot where not enough people are using Genie+ to make availability a issue, but waits are long enough that it saves you a lot of time.
  3. At high crowd levels, Hollywood Studios is the park that gives me the most concern about Genie+ return time availability. There are a finite amount of return times that can be given out at each of the few attractions that offer Genie+ in the park. And if everyone at Hollywood Studios is trying to avoid long waits by using Genie+ all on the same day, it could become an issue. But if availability isn’t an issue, this is absolutely the best possible use of Genie+ that we’ve seen so far. There are multiple rides where one Genie+ “wish” will save you an hour all on its own. Grab a few of those, and your day will be much more smooth.

What was your touring strategy for Hollywood Studios when FastPass+ was available? What are your thoughts about potentially using Genie+ instead? Let us know in the comments! And stay tuned for a similar analysis for Magic Kingdom.

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Becky Gandillon

Becky Gandillon was trained in biomedical engineering, but is now a full-time data and analytics nerd. She loves problem solving and travelling. She and her husband, Jeff, live in St. Louis with their two daughters and they have Disney family movie night every Saturday. You can follow her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/becky-gandillon/ or instagram @raisingminniemes

9 thoughts on “Potential Usefulness of Genie+ at Hollywood Studios

  • September 5, 2021 at 12:31 am
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    HS was the one park I expected that Genie+ would benefit from on most CL days. On our next trip, I was planning on getting it on our HS days for sure and probably not our other days, and this helps confirm it.

    I will be interested when actual Genie+ data becomes available. The only data that can be used to speculate at this point is FP+ data, and everyone used it since it was free. It is unlikely that will happen with Genie+, especially with local AP holders who visit frequently.

    Reply
  • September 6, 2021 at 12:04 am
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    While I am assuming that a big part of the switch to Genie+ is simply monetization on the part of Disney, the fact that they are limiting it to one “wish” at a time rather than an initial bank of 3 and also are not allowing for selection two months in advance tells me that part of the goal is also to reduce utilization of Lightning Lanes/FP with a subsequent reduction in standby wait times. They are trying to balance the experience for casual park goers vs power users. Intuitively, the combination of requiring people to pay for Genie+ and not allowing an initial bank of 3 should reduce the number of “wishes”/FPs. I think the approach you are taking is still the best starting point for evaluating the value of Genie+, but the expected wait savings might be somewhat overstated.

    Reply
    • September 6, 2021 at 8:54 pm
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      You’re absolutely right, Michael. One would think that there will be less Genie+ users than FP+ users because of the “paywall”. This may mean more Genie+ availability, or it may mean lower standby (or both). These analyses are definitely just a starting point.

      Reply
  • September 7, 2021 at 4:17 pm
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    I am having a very hard time understanding the goal of this incentive structure. Sure it’s to make more money but the whole thing sounds horribly inefficient when you narrow planning windows to be on the fly with no preplanning possible. I expect volatility to increase as people try to salvage their plan when they aren’t seeing the availability for the rides they hoped for. We will probably end up with the lottery like results of boarding groups but repeated several times a day across all rides. Ironically standby might be the only reliable and predicable strategy to have a chance of completing a trip plan and that’s even after paying for Genie + and Lightning . The interaction with dining also looks bad, as getting to ride a favorite ride may mean having to bump a reservation at the last minute (they love that).

    Reply
    • September 7, 2021 at 4:22 pm
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      I think you are assuming that all Disney guests are planners like us Touring Plans customers and “Liners”. I expect there are still a lot of guests who show up to the park, look at a map and wonder what to do next. This is the crowd Genie+ is gear to. It’s the same crowd that pays double to get the paid “skip the line” passes at regional theme parks (and they will think $15 per day is a bargain!).

      Reply
    • September 7, 2021 at 4:33 pm
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      I think TwoBits is on the right track here, Jason. We’re sort of our own echo chamber here at TouringPlans. We’re planners. Making advance reservations and knowing our first three FP+ choices weeks or months in advance is totally our jam. But a lot of WDW guests complain about having to plan too much and not being able to just vacation on the fly. Boarding groups and this new Genie+ methodology play to that crowd. We’ll still be here to help the planners plan, but I also doubt the “average” guest will see it as an inconvenience, other than the additional financial burden.

      Reply
  • September 7, 2021 at 4:27 pm
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    I’m wondering what your strategy suggestions would be if we’re able to plan 2 days at HS? Right now that’s our plan when we go in January. Only opt for Genie+ one of the days? I don’t think we’ll be able to rope drop both days.

    Reply
    • September 7, 2021 at 4:31 pm
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      Oooh, interesting scenario, Lynn. If it was me, and I could rope drop one of the days, I’d try to rope drop on my first HS day without purchasing Disney+. Make what I can out of the day, knowing I have a second day. Then I’d evaluate whether I’d want to spring for Genie+ on the second day to circle back to some favorites or skip lines at what I wasn’t able to accomplish the first day. It’s like a safety net if you decide you didn’t do enough on your first day.

      Reply
      • September 7, 2021 at 4:54 pm
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        Good idea! A benefit, I guess, of not having to purchase Genie+ ahead of time. I’m not typically good at the wait and see approach but I’ll have to adjust! 🙂

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