Finding the ‘magic’ of immersive design at Disney World


Adin Heller

Senior Research Executive, New York

On a recent trip to Disneyland, we learnt that Disney’s true magic lies in the immersive 360 experiences it delivers on, and off, the rides.

On my recent trip to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, I expected to be truly wowed, due to all the press (like this Fast Company article) I’ve read about ‘Disney magic’.


However, nothing really blew me away or created an immersive ‘360’ ride experience – that is, until I abandoned FastPass+.

If you’re not familiar with Disney’s system, FastPass+ allows you to book windows of time  at various rides so that you can ‘skip the line’ and get on rides faster.

This is well and good for older rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s A Small World whose regular (or ‘standby’) lines don’t have much to offer to those waiting in the queue.

However, if you use FastPass+ to skip the line for newer rides such as Under The Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, then you’re missing out on half the fun of the ride. Be it bonus animations, interactive games, or talking characters – for these rides, waiting in line is part of the full experience.

Windows and portholes throughout the Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid queue area offer the surprise of a friendly & mischievous crab
The first time I went on Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, I used FastPass+ and missed the windows and portholes throughout the queue area that offer the surprise of a friendly & mischievous blue crab scuttling amongst ship-wrecked treasure

Presenting guests with the option to risk the queue (and soak in the surroundings), or simply use FastPass+ to get straight to the ride creates a varied and flexible range of experiences that undoubtedly works well to meet the needs of Disney’s diverse guests. But for me, FastPass+ removes an important facet of the ride experience.

Throughout the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train queue, guests of all ages enjoy sorting
Even though we had to wait in line for nearly an hour to go on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, we didn’t mind queuing because it was a treat to see what fun games were around each corner and then join in the fun of playing with them (or watching children’s faces light up as they played the games).

Truly immersive 360 experiences are the key to creating that magical sense of wonderment for which the Disney brand is so well known. FastPass+ does offer speed and perceived convenience, but the true magic of the Magic Kingdom is more likely to be found when you slow down and discover the highly articulated worlds each attraction brings to life – from start (of the queue) to finish.