Genie+ and Lightning Lanes started on December 8, 2021 at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, with the rollout being plagued by system downtime. This post recaps how things went and offers commentary on yet another resounding success for Disney IT.
None of this should come as a colossal surprise to anyone who has paid attention to recent history or read our past warnings. Disney has a reputation for slow-motion train wrecks on drop days, making fans come to hate the beloved Big Thunder goat or the sight of Space Mountain. And of course, we’ve all had Stitch eat a page or two in our years of browsing Disney’s sites.
This is how it always goes on Disney drop days. Some people spend the better part of a day waiting only to come up empty handed. Anyone who has tried to book something on a Disney “drop day” probably has their own horror story. These woes are predictable and inevitable until Disney IT upgrades the ‘ole Gateway 2000 they use to run the Go.com servers…
When it comes to Disneyland releases in the last year, there have been issues with Taste of Disney, reopening reservations and park tickets, Oogie Boogie Bash event tickets, Magic Key passes, and Merriest Nites event tickets. To my knowledge, every single new release tied to tech has had problems.
Contrary to Disney’s claims after the fact, these all have not been about “high guest demand.” Every single one was plagued by errors, as well. On several occasions, the above-referenced virtual queues were paused. I ended up with about a dozen pending charges on my credit card for Oogie Boogie Bash due to processing errors. I can’t recall the specifics of other issues, probably because I’ve blocked them out for the sake of my own sanity.
Perhaps naively, I expected the launch of Genie+ and Lightning Lanes to go better. This was an in-park ‘product’ rather than the normal virtual queue. It also was basically MaxPass 2.0, and that system seldom had problems.
There’s also the reality that Genie+ launched a couple of months ago at Walt Disney World, and its debut day went pretty smoothly in Florida. Sure, the product itself was rushed to start generating revenue and feels like beta software that could have benefited from a few more months of polish, but like the beloved Cyberpunk 2077 before it, Genie+ worked for the most part when it rolled out in Florida.
Genie+ launch day at Disneyland started auspiciously enough. Playing along from home, I was able to browse the Disneyland app, checking out the Tip Board for Genie+ return times and Individual Lightning Lane prices ($7 for both DCA rides, $20 for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance).
Return times were slow to progress for both types of Lightning Lanes, and posted standby wait times didn’t seem too bad. After a couple hours of reviewing the app, I was satisfied that there were no glaring issues. MaxPass 2.0 would minimally impact the guest experience, with the biggest question marks whether ILLs would be viable among the disproportionately local audience, and when a Magic Key add-on for Genie+ would be released.
The only issue I personally experienced was on the regular Genie itinerary builder side of things, as I tried to obtain some ridiculous recommendations from that. Genie’s itinerary tool oscillated between not recognizing my park reservation and giving me an error message that “even Genie can’t escape technical difficulties.” (You heard it hear first: Genie’s inevitable live action origin story will be Genie and the Inescapable Technical Difficulties, coming to Disney+ Premier Access and a theater near you in 2024.)
Then we received a text from our homie Guy, who was on the ground and already having problems. Photos like that of long lines at Guest Relations and various recovery attempts would scatter social media throughout the rest of the day. There were also reports of misleading wait times and discrepancies between the Genie and regular tip boards. We hope those are errors, but regardless, not a good look.
Not long after that, the above error message greeted us when launching the Disneyland app, and would for most of the rest of the day. This warned that basically all aspects of the Genie system were unavailable…and remained unavailable for the full day.
In a statement to Scott Gustin, Disneyland indicated that they were still working to resolve technical difficulties plaguing the system, recovery options were being provided to impacted guests, and that sales of Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes would be paused for the rest of the day. No word on whether any of this has been resolved yet, so I guess we’ll find out today when Disneyland opens whether or not Genie+ is activated!
The regularity with which these kinds of problems occur is incredibly frustrating. As we wrote in our Merriest Nites Photo Report after an unpleasant experience, there’s a certain unstated arrogance in it being acceptable for day one to have so many problems time and time again. Little apparent effort is made to remedy this–the consumer is just expected to absorb it, despite the high price points.
Keep in mind that this company still sells a training “institute” to other businesses about ‘enhancing customer experiences.’ This is predicated not on present reality, but past reputation. In actuality, Disney offers poor customer service even relative to hospitality industry counterparts; it certainly is not the gold standard as compared to all companies. Anyone who thinks Disney’s customer service is “great” must usually do business with AT&T, Spirit Airlines, DirecTV, Equifax, Motel 6 and Monsanto.
Amazon, the world’s largest retailer, isn’t above constantly working to improve the customer experience, reducing friction and wait times both online and in real life. Amazon spends billions of dollars on this, recognizing that the smoother the flow, the more loyal customers who will continue to spend. Even as Amazon grows larger and more dominant, the company remains laser-focused on minimizing disruptions…and growing more!
Disney’s attitude is more “no one can touch us” and that consumers will put up with the problems. If there has been an effort to remedy the tech errors, it’s absolutely unapparent. This same type of issue has plagued Disney IT for years, and rather than minimizing friction or reliance on tech, Disney has deliberately weaved technology into more of the guest experience, striving to make everything more complicated. Rather than looking to Amazon as inspiration for innovating, Disney is seemingly embracing the business philosophy of Kruger Industrial Smoothing.
Nevertheless, we hope this might be a cautionary tale, and those who aren’t glutton for punishment will take heed next time. Unless you’re a blogger or vlogger doing it “for research,” don’t do or purchase anything from Disney on its debut day. (This goes for both coasts–Walt Disney World experiences the same woes as Disneyland.)
The likelihood of problems is high, and as their lengthy track record with the same type of perpetual problems bears out, they don’t care enough to fix the underlying issues.
Finally, another friendly reminder to be kind to Cast Members if you’re choosing to visit Disneyland and beta-test Genie+ this holiday season. It should go without saying and is always the case, but it’s especially true now. It has been a tough couple of years for them, and having to deal with the many woes of Genie+ will not be easy or pleasant, especially given how belligerent some guests can be about it.
Frontline Cast Members with whom you interact have literally zero say over the problematic policies and attitude identified above–and they certainly aren’t the ones coding the Disneyland app or IT infrastructure. You are not going to change or “fix” anything by being rude to them, only reveal the true content of your character. Hopefully we’re preaching to the choir, and everyone reading this already knows that. The real problems lie with the decision-makers who are insulated from the operational consequences of the products they release and actual on-the-ground experience–because it’s rare for them to visit the parks like actual paying guests.
Ultimately, this saga of Disneyland’s launch of Genie+ is still unfinished. For one, we don’t know whether anything was fixed–the day just ended–so it’s possible these problems still exist or that Genie+ and Lightning Lanes will be disabled today. For another thing, it wasn’t exactly a busy day at Disneyland. Walt Disney World didn’t have its worst woes with Genie+ until Thanksgiving week, when high demand overwhelmed the systems and resulted in even more glitches and errors than normal.
If you’re visiting Disneyland in the next several days, our advice would be to just stick to standby (anyone following that yesterday would’ve saved a tremendous amount of time not waiting in line at Guest Relations) until it’s clear the problems are resolved. That is, unless you savor the prospect of doing some unpaid (technically you pay them) QA work while on vacation.
Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!
Did you visit Disneyland or DCA on December 8, 2021? Were you able to use Genie+ or Lightning Lanes? What was your experience with the new system? How much of your day did you waste? Any horror stories of your own to share with Disney IT? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!