Disney World releases MagicBand +, special effects, games

The new wave of MagicBands spurred a lot of arm waving by theme park visitors at Walt Disney World on Wednesday. It was the first day of operation of MagicBand +, the resort’s updated wearable technology that offers increased interactivity at the attractions.

A most visible addition is the MagicBand + capacity to activate special effects at the Fab 50 character statues installed in the parks for Disney World’s 50th anniversary last year. By waving the new bands around the figure, music begins or the character’s voice is heard.

At Magic Kingdom, Stitch said “aloha” while tropical serenades accompanied the Orange Bird figure. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, droid noises came from “Star Wars” figures BB-8 and R2-D2 and piano melodies surrounded Joe, the lead character from “Soul.”

MagicBand + also can be used for a new game at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios and creates effects during “Harmonious,” the Epcot nighttime spectacular, and “Disney Enchantment,” seen nightly at Magic Kingdom.

“I think overall, for the first day with so many people trying, I think it’s doing well,” said Nicole Fairess, who owns a travel agency in Winter Haven. “I’ve gotten most of them. It’s just a little difficult at times. “

MagicBand + bracelets light up as they approach a Fab 50 figure. Wearers then must wave their arms – a move called the “magical spread of pixie dust” in Disney-speak – near the statues to trigger effects. There was trial and error among first-day attempts.

The activity is a bonus for park visitors, Fairess said after making the Mad Hatter figure react at Magic Kingdom.

“We have repeat clients that are always looking for the new things. And Disney is doing great with that right now with [Epcot rides] Guardians of the Galaxy, Ratatouille, and then Tron will be opening [at Magic Kingdom], ”She said. “And now this MagicBand + and the new fireworks … It’s just always something new.”

The statue effects are brief, perhaps a snippet of dialogue or music, basically a five-second overture.

“There is a lot of diversity in the audio at all the statues. Some of them do have character voice audio; some of them have just musical tracks to them, ”said Gina McCarter, product management director on Disney World’s digital experience team. “But there are several responses that you could get from each of the sculptures.”

The new bands work with Bluetooth along with the My Disney Experience and Play Disney apps, and there are additional uses planned, McCarter said, including special effects with “Fantasmic,” the show scheduled to return to Hollywood Studios sometime this year.

“We are just getting started,” she said. “MagicBand + has a lot of capabilities to be able to integrate in all kinds of new and exciting ways. We’re definitely looking forward to being able to expand that as we go forward. “

Like their less flashy predecessors, which are still sold at Disney World, MagicBand + comes in a multitude of colors and designs. They also have the previous bands’ capacities such as park entry, Lightning Lane redemption, PhotoPass access and use as a hotel-room key.

MagicBands have been available at Disney World since 2013. MagicBand + will be added to Disneyland Resort in California later this year.

The Florida debut prompted a rush at some retail locations Wednesday with waits of 30-45 minutes to purchase the new product, which has pricing starting at $ 35. They are available at Disney’s four theme parks, its hotels and Disney Springs locations. Some buyers reported getting bands that had run out of charge. MagicBand +, unlike the original version, is rechargeable and comes with a power cord.

Devin Saults, a Disney World annual passholder who lives in Lakeland, said she owns about 40 of the “old” bands but she was happy with her MagicBand + experience and her favorite interaction, the one with Stitch.

“I think it’s great. I mean, I was up seven o’clock this morning, ready to drive and come get it, ”she said. “I am all for the parks growing and doing different things.”

Park visitors gathered at statues and shared waving tips, strategies and theories about where to stand to get the best results.

“It’s working by waving high,” said Todd Hunter, an Orlando annual passholder. “It takes getting used to… take your time with it, and then it activates. … It’s a nice little scavenger hunt. “

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The effects were also competing with everyday park noise from loudspeakers, parades and passersby.

“It’s kind of hard to hear,” Saults said. “That might be the one thing Disney would need to work on is bringing up the volume.”

At Hollywood Studios, a game called Batuu Bounty Hunters debuted with MagicBand +. Participants receive instructions to track down characters virtually hidden in the land. The band guides players with “getting warmer, warmer” style indications. Once the target is located, players collect credits. It dovetails with previous activities built into Galaxy’s Edge and the Play Disney app.

“I’ve unlocked all the other achievements in the app. This is just something else I have to complete now, ”said Cade Gaskill, a passholder from Orlando.

It’s not Disney’s first go-round with interactive products. The parks previously featured a Pal Mickey doll as well as “Glow With the Show” mouse-ear caps. Visitors have also played games like Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom and A Pirate’s Adventures: Treasures of the Seven Seas.

“I think there are definitely learnings from everything that we’ve done within this space,” McCarter said. “But this is absolutely kind of the next generation and evolution of MagicBands… and something that’s really going to allow us to expand our storytelling with guests.”

Email me at dbevil@orlandosentinel.com. Want more theme park news? Subscribe to the Theme Park Rangers newsletter at orlandosentinel.com/newsletters or the Theme Park Rangers podcast at orlandosentinel.com/travel/attractions/theme-park-rangers-podcast

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