Excellent article in FastCompany on Disney’s ambitious tech enabled tinkering of the UX at its flagship park in Orlando
“While most observers view Disney’s parks as kingdoms of escapism, Neal Gabler, in his definitive biography of Walt Disney, argues that their success actually derives from "crafting a better reality than the one outside," with a reassuring "control and order" where all is "harmonious." But in the ensuing weeks, working from a trailer behind Epcot, the founding five started digging into the problems that made the reality of Disney World something less than "harmonious." There were the endless lines for rides, food, and bathrooms; parents juggling maps, hotel keys, baby carriages, and bottles of SPF 75; and kids pulling families on long treks to try to visit every attraction. The park was filled with complications, such as a tiered ticketing system with wonky rules.
Given Disney World’s ticket prices, families felt obligated to "divide and conquer," says MacPhee. The team created diagrams illustrating how families, seeking to maximize their time, would crisscross Cinderella Castle, the center of the park, as often as 20 times a day. Worse yet: the swarms of people. On average, 8,000 to 10,000 guests flow through the park’s main entrance every hour. "On the surface, we had super happy guests, but in reality, we were making them go through so much hassle at the park that down the road, they would simply say, 'No más!' " says one former longtime Disney manager. As MacPhee, who has the look of a Division II offensive coordinator, admits, Disney World was on the verge of becoming "dangerously complex and transactional." The team soon presented its ideas to Rasulo. He gave them the go-ahead to rethink everything, including turnstile entrances and paper ticketing. That’s when the project got its code name, Next Generation Experience, or NGE. The founding five soon found themselves on a perpetual shuttle between Burbank and Orlando.”