If you haven’t been to Disneyland since it reopened this spring, there are a couple of major changes to get up to speed on first. For starters, you can’t simply waltz up to the front gate anymore, you’ll need a date-specific reservation (a change that’s rolled out to the annual pass-replacing Magic Key program, too). You also can’t currently book line-skipping FastPasses for attractions and instead have to wait in the standby queue—though that’s about to change in a pretty major way.
This fall, the theme park will roll out a new tool in the Disneyland app dubbed Disney Genie, a digital assistant of sorts that’ll help plan out your day. But it’ll also eliminate the old free FastPass system and replace it with two premium, extra-fee options, including one specific to three of the most in-demand Disneyland rides.
The basic free Disney Genie service will automatically craft a daily itinerary based on the interests you choose to share with it, whether for a specific ride, types of attractions like thrill or water rides, or entire properties like princesses or Star Wars. It’ll also upgrade the app’s current system of posted ride wait times with one that includes forecasted wait times, too.
But pay-up functionality within it will replace the theme parks’ existing FastPass reservation system, including FastPass+ at Walt Disney World in Florida starting October 19 and MaxPass at Disneyland at a still-to-be-announced date. (We’ll be skipping the Florida talk to focus solely on SoCal’s home park.)
The biggest change: The free tier of paper FastPasses is completely going away. This system used to involve feeding your park ticket into a kiosk at each attraction that would then spit back a time-stamped reservation to let you join a considerably shorter line. Even after the paid book-via-your-smartphone MaxPass system was rolled out in 2017, this tier still existed as a no-cost option tied to your park ticket.
Come this fall, the only way to bypass the line at the bulk of rides will come via Disney Genie+, which is actually pretty similar to the old MaxPass system. You’ll once again pay $20 per ticket per day to be able to book a timed reservation from your phone for one attraction at a time. You’ll be presented with the next available time for each eligible attraction, which you can start to book once you’re inside the park. When your time slot arrives, you can jump into what’s now being called the Lightning Lane for expedited entry. As far as ride choices, Genie+ sticks pretty close to the MaxPass selections: The resort says at launch it’ll include 19 attractions, like the Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Indiana Jones Adventure, Space Mountain, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, the Incredicoaster, Soarin’ Around the World, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! and Toy Story Midway Mania.
So what about the rest? That’s where the new “individual attraction selections” option comes in. For another to-be-announced extra fee (The OC Register reports they’ll range from $7 to $15 a ride), this will let you schedule a Lightning Lane time at up to two of the most sought-after attractions per day—ones that aren’t included in Genie+. Pricing will vary by day and attraction; it also won’t require that you purchase Genie+, so you can stick with one, both or neither. At launch, this option will be limited to Radiator Springs Racers, WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (of note, the latter two had previously only been accessible via a virtual queue).
It’s also worth noting that—other than those couple of rides with virtual queues, if they remain in place—you’ll still be able to wait in the standby line for any attraction. You’ll only need to shell out for Genie+ if you want to take advantage of the Lightning Lanes (which are unfortunately kind of essential on crowded days).
If you can recover from the impending sticker shock of this FastPass shake-up, the base-tier Disney Genie system actually promises some useful planning tools. A video walkthrough outlines a pretty slick use case: You let it know that you’re into Peter Pan’s Flight and princesses, and it’ll automatically put together an hour-by-hour itinerary that takes your preferences into account and balances them with projected and actual wait times, with some nearby food reservations or mobile ordering options thrown into the mix, too. If there are any unexpected changes in weather or crowd levels, it’ll factor that in and reshuffle your itinerary on the fly. If you’re a Disneyland newbie, this seems remarkably helpful, so here’s hoping it works as advertised.
We’ll admit, it took us a few minutes to completely wrap our head around Disney Genie, so dive into this 14-minute walkthrough below if you’re still confused.
This story was originally published August 18, 2021. It’s since been updated with a list of attractions that’ll be included in Disney Genie+ and the individual attraction selection option.