1. Disney has released a new video game, Disney Universe, avaiable on the Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC platforms. Reviews of the game so far have been positive, comparing it favorably to the Lego series. John Saccheri, @DisneyWorlds on Twitter, provides a nice overview of the game on @AmandaTinney‘s Disney Every Day blog.

2. Now is a great time to book a Disney Cruise Line cruise for 2013. Itineraries for the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy were released just two weeks ago, so most staterooms on most cruises are still at their least expensive, Tier 1, price. Make a deposit now to hold a reservation, and you’ll have over a year to make final payment. A Fairytale Journeys by Dis Dads agent would be happy to help find the right cruise for you and your family today! Link sponsored by Fairytale Journeys by Dis Dads. Disney Cruise Line Ships’ Registry: The Bahamas.

3. Thank you to this week’s participating Dis Dads: Mark Harbeson (Captain_Oblivious); Mark Pratt (prattpak); Scott Stradtman (Scott2997); Rob Reber (GoofyIsAsGoofyDoes); Dale Gravatt (DaleG)

4. This past week, Walt Disney World began testing FastPass distribution for the 3:00 p.m. afternoon parade in the Magic Kingdom. The tests appear to have been primarily tests of the user experience, as the test FastPasses were distributed directly to random guests by Cast Members, rather than being distributed via a dedicated FastPass machine. This experiment has generated some buzz in the Disney fan community, with most of the discussion centering on issues of whether there’s really a need for an afternoon parade FastPass; whether FastPasses will be extended to other parades or nighttime entertainment; speculation about Disney’s financial angle; fairness to those willing to invest time in a good viewing spot; whether the FastPass viewing location will be worth a dedicated location (and if it’s TOO good, will it create an us/them atmosphere). Frankly, in my opinion, all of those questions are really secondary. I think what we are seeing is just part of a continuing effort by Walt Disney World to expand the number of FastPass opportunities available in each park – whether they’re really needed or not. The ultimate goal is connected to the NextGen Project and the as-yet-poorly-communicated-and-understood concept of advance reservations for attractions.

I don’t think we’re going to see the worst-case-scenario prediction of guests making all of their dining and attraction reservations 180-days in advance of their trip. I don’t think even Walt Disney World wants that. As we’ve seen with the recent changes to the ADR cancellation policy, WDW understands that too much advance planning just results in late cancelations that ruin WDW’s resource allocation planning. What WDW really wants is to entice more guests to stay on property, at higher resort accomodations levels, at the lowest cost of sales to WDW. Right now, WDW maintains resort capacity levels by offering Free Dining and hefty room-only discounts during the off season. But what if WDW could entice guests to stay on property, and even choose higher levels of accomodations, at much, much less cost? I think this is the ultimate goal of NextGen. To tie this back to the issue of parade FastPasses, I think that what WDW is doing is building a larger bucket of attractions of all kinds for which guests can have an advance reservation. Somewhat like the promotion run at the Disneyland Hotel during its refurbishment/reopening this past summer, FastPasses will be used as a premium to entice guests.

I anticipate a scenario whereby the standard WDW offer would offer Value Resort guests 1 FastPass/day; Moderate Resort guests 2 FastPasses/day; and Deluxe Resort guests 3 Fastpasses/day. ALL guests would still have access to regular FastPasses from the machines. But the resort guest FastPasses would be waiting there for you in your room (or simply encoded on your wristband, with a printed itinerary delivered at check-in). In order to accomodate both resort guests and regular park guests, Disney needs to expand the number of FastPass opportunities. Now, consider your booking options. Let’s say your family loves Toy Story Mania and Fantasmic! You could stay at a Value resort, pre-order one of a limited number of Toy Story Mania FastPasses 180 days in advance of your Disney’s Hollywood Studios day. But, if you upgraded to a Moderate, you could also pre-order a Fantasmic! FastPass and receive preferred seating for the show. How enticing is that? And from WDW’s perspective, offering those pre-ordered FastPasses has a marginal cost per guest the approaches zero, especially as compared to the cost of Free Dining or room discounts. And pre-ordered FastPasses could also give WDW much more granular control of special offers. Is capacity lagging during a particular week at a particular Deluxe Resort? Offer bonus FastPasses!

In my opinion, the public pitch from WDW that NextGen is about improving the guest experience is mostly marketing-speak. NextGen is the next step in WDW’s ongoing efforts to get guests into on-property resorts, to stay on property once they get there, and to maximize the profit per person that they can generate. There are limits to WDW’s ability to continue to grow profits simply by charging more. NextGen is an effort to reduce expenses. The bright side is that this effort to reduce expenses does have the potential to actually improve the guest experience, as it cuts WDW expenses without compromising overall resort investment and maintenance.

5. Congratulations to Scott Stradtman, designer of our new banner; and Rob Reber, designer of our new logo. Both designs were so good, and the vote was so close, that we decided to incorporate both of them into our redesign. Both winners will be receiving one-year premium subscriptions to TouringPlans.com for their efforts. I’m personally quite fond of Dale Gravatt’s father and children balloons design, so I’m working on finding a role for that one as well. Thank you to all of the logo contest participants and voters.

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