"How much do you know about lines?"
November 22, 2021 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Kevin Perjurer of Defunctland (previously, also previously, also previously) had planned on doing a simple feature on Disney's now-defunct FastPass virtual queuing system. However, after falling into a rabbit hole of research, he instead produced a feature length documentary on queuing, the theory behind queue management, how that would drive the creation of FastPass - and how FastPass would become a monster out of control.
posted by NoxAeternum (30 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm just getting in to it (and considering maybe saving it for the long media-free weekend coming up), but man alive those queues in the intro look like hell on earth. Nope!
posted by Kyol at 8:02 AM on November 22


I just love saying erlang. He did mention the erlang, right? The understanding of queueing theory was fundamental to making telephone networks economical, so some basic familiarity with the concepts (at least enough to use a calculator and understand the needed parameters) was required to handle phone systems back when you couldn't just throw all the bandwidth you could ever possibly want at the problem.
posted by wierdo at 8:06 AM on November 22 [4 favorites]


I really wish more providers would understand queuing systems properly. I feel like the only ones that do it are Apple and Disney. The scramble for high tech products like consoles and PC parts has been a nightmare trying for random fucking supply drops and coming up short because of fighting with the secondary market which has been buoyed by the uncertainty of access more than anything. If I could put my order in, wait in a queue, and receive it eventually like with any in-demand Apple product it'd be so much easier.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 8:09 AM on November 22 [7 favorites]


man alive those queues in the intro look like hell on earth

Later on, he discusses the fact that the published wait time in line for the Avatar ride at Animal Kingdom once reached six hours and forty minutes. Animal Kingdom doesn't have many other attractions, so most people on that line are at the park only for that ride. The ride at the end of that wait is approximately four and a half minutes long.

That said, at least for the last hour or so, it's not so much Hell on Earth as Hell on a cunning facsimile of Pandora.
posted by The Bellman at 8:21 AM on November 22 [10 favorites]


If ever you do have a burning desire to visit the theme parks in Central Florida, try February. The queues are not nearly so long. Not as short as Cedar Point after a late afternoon thunderstorm, but good enough that you won't spend most of the day waiting around and unlike in the busier times it's possible to find respite from the crowd.
posted by wierdo at 8:57 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure I would be arsed to queue for 6hrs and 40 minutes even if they were actually transferring my consciousness into the simulated body of a 12' blue alien.
posted by biffa at 9:01 AM on November 22 [15 favorites]


I nice unexpected bonus of going to UCLA for my undergrad in the 80s was getting taught Queueing Theory by Len Kleinrock, who had pioneered the internet there in the late 60s. The math was all quite beautiful, lots of exponentials of e with is and πs etc. and he ran a very tight class; clearly he was a sigma or two away from me on the IQ graph . . .
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 9:03 AM on November 22 [7 favorites]


I got half an hour into it before I realized that I kinda no longer cared about what happened post 2012 or so, but... I'm thinking about the last few times I was in Disneyland, which would have been the twenty-noughts, with Fast Pass, and how those queues were indeed a chance to chat with the other people I was there with, and strike up conversations with other people in line (and, since at least one of those visits was just me and my wife, occasionally have a grateful parent say "can my kid ride with you while I wait at the exit, because I am so over rides").

And I'm wondering how the social space has changed now that we all have these super powerful entertainment devices in our pockets. And how so much of some of the "watch a movie" attractions which only had a moderate amount of additional augmented reality (Soaring California, or whatever it was called, the Bug's Life theater thing with the goosing seats) really don't add a lot above the modern monster TVs that you can buy for roughly the cost of a night in a park hotel.

Of course a lot of my indifference is lilkely driven by a year and a half of masking and not wanting to be around people, but as I watched how the parks adjusted to how people understood how the parks worked, and used technology to do so, I'm wondering where they're gonna go with it. My niece was... I dunno, maybe 5 the first time she went to Disney World, and she was super excited to go see the princesses, and then she figured out that the princesses were just people in costumes and I think she's still excited by the park, but that sense of wonder disappeared.

I was cynical before my first park visit, and came away amazed by how the experience all came together, but it's a reminder of how much they have to work to keep ahead of the expectations of visitors, and the technology outside the park. There's only so long you can keep that magic going when insufficiently understood technology, and the ability of the culture to tell stories, is blowing forward at such a huge rate.
posted by straw at 9:12 AM on November 22 [5 favorites]


If ever you do have a burning desire to visit the theme parks in Central Florida, try February.

Similarly, the first couple weeks of November are often excellent times to visit those kinds of parks. My dad got hooked up with a great deal to take us all to Disney in Florida way back about '97 or '98. Nobody was there and we spent more time walking through the massive queue areas than we did actually waiting in them. We even stopped a couple of times along the way to look at some neat thing they had that are usually to keep people entertained while they're waiting. The only downside is that when they need to do some kind of major maintenance they try to do it in that same window.

My wife and I did the same thing for our honeymoon at an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta and that's when they have their annual employee Christmas party because that's when it was the least busy. Rates tripled if you wanted to stay any time from the week of Thanksgiving through December and into January.
posted by VTX at 9:31 AM on November 22


And how so much of some of the "watch a movie" attractions which only had a moderate amount of additional augmented reality (Soaring California, or whatever it was called, the Bug's Life theater thing with the goosing seats) really don't add a lot above the modern monster TVs that you can buy for roughly the cost of a night in a park hotel.

Disney has been moving to to trackless rides, with the last three major rides opened at WDW (Rise of the Resistance, Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railroad, Remy's Ratatouille Adventure) using the tech, and there's a lot of things the new tech does that's impressive (for example, in Runaway Railroad, there's an element where the cars "waltz" together that could never have been done with older tracked systems.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:47 AM on November 22 [2 favorites]


I would not have expected to want to spend two hours learning about theme park queue management, and yet here we are.

I'm only a half-hour in so far and the thing that stands out most strongly for me is how many Disney executives seem to get their ideas while on vacation (the original "fastpass" coming from a ski trip and the "magic wristband" from a skymall catalog...)
posted by ook at 9:53 AM on November 22 [4 favorites]


Oh! Okay, it's not all vacations -- I'm at 1:30 and now they're getting their inspiration from the DMV.

Guys I'm starting to think I might have what it takes to become a Disney exec; I too have been known to go places and notice things
posted by ook at 10:56 AM on November 22 [27 favorites]


I like Defunctland anyway but I was still surprised at how engaging this was and how much information it covered. Yes, it was long but it progressed quickly and I was never bored.

It does seem typical that the initial solution for the problem just created more problems. And then in trying to fix those, even more problems.
posted by edencosmic at 11:30 AM on November 22 [3 favorites]


I came here for a thing about geometry ("whoa, have you ever really looked at all your parallel lines that go through that one point off your line?") but queuing theory's decent enough.
posted by k3ninho at 11:36 AM on November 22 [1 favorite]


Wish this documentary could go into the new system now being implemented, which replaces a free- access system with one that is pay for play - at sometimes as much as $15 a ride. A much more obvious cash grab and one that is not going over very well.
posted by q*ben at 12:01 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


@q*ben: the documentary I watched appears to cover that system. Did you watch until the end?
posted by ®@ at 12:43 PM on November 22 [2 favorites]


No, planned to finish it tonight. Thanks!
posted by q*ben at 12:51 PM on November 22


Wish this documentary could go into the new system now being implemented, which replaces a free- access system with one that is pay for play - at sometimes as much as $15 a ride. A much more obvious cash grab and one that is not going over very well.

It does at the end, and points out that a) it's not as much of a cash grab as you might think and b) the people complaining about the end of FastPass+ aren't as objective as they appear.

Basically, FastPass+ wound up being a mess, and one that heavily benefitted people who understood the system and knew how to manipulate it to get the best result for themselves. The problem is that this came at the expense of infrequent guests who had no real impetus to learn the system, and as such wound up having a subpar experience - and these were the guests that Disney had an investment in bringing in, as they were the ones spending more money overall. As such, removing FastPass and replacing it with paid systems actually improved the guest experience for those guests. The reason that it got such a negative response is that the insider group includes the Disney review ecosystem (that is providers such as AllEars, Disney Food Blog, WDWNT, etc.), and thus they saw the removal of FastPass+ as purely negative because from their perspective it was. It's just that they, having learned how FastPass+ works in and out and not really understanding either industrial engineering or queue theory, no longer had the perspective that not only is it the case that not everyone had the knowledge they did, but that the system working well for them actually required that the less savvy get screwed over.

(It's worth noting that Disney has a love/hate relationship with their annual passholders (which is why Perjurer's model had not only annual passholders, but entitled annual passholders as well.) APs have had a positive role as park evangelists who draw others in, but at the same time tend to not spend as much money as tourist type guests and have historically been a pain point for cast members (again, entitled annual passholder was a specific guest type modeled.) It's not surprising that the new annual passholder programs have more restrictions because of this.)

Ultimately, Perjurer concludes that the move to Genie+ falls between the optimistic and cynical conclusions - money is driving this in part, but at the same time so is how FastPass+ failed and caused guest dissatisfaction for a group of guests Disney viewed as important.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:08 PM on November 22 [13 favorites]


I am a fan of Disney World, and I can say that I am certainly one of the people who did better with FastPass+ than regular FastPass, and I hated it with a fiery passion. I thought it was a bad setup, it was inflexible, it was too hard to work if you aren't tech savvy, I believed (apparently correctly) that it made wait times longer, and it just made things a lot less fun. (I did like original FastPass.)

That said, I have been reading about their new plan, and I have watched this entire (fascinating) video and to the depths of my soul I think Genie is 100% a cash grab, and I cannot imagine how anyone can look at the Disney Corporation and think it's anything else. Yes, it's convenient that this will help the infrequent visitors, and I am sure they want the infrequent visitors to be in fewer lines (so they can buy more food -- apparently they are planning to decrease serving sizes -- and souvenirs), but again: cash grab. It's also insane that they are calling it $15/day in this video, when it's clear it's 15/day/person + 15/day/person for each of 2 rides, which is now $45/day extra. Let's lay bets on whether the price of a regular ticket will decrease in any way.

The real problem is that there are too many visitors for not enough rides, and they keep increasing hotel rooms, which can be done very quickly, and the number of rides are not keeping pace.

I absolutely agree with dumping FastPass+. It was a disaster. But re-enacting the E-ticket system is the cash grab way to fix it.
posted by jeather at 2:38 PM on November 22 [3 favorites]


That said, I have been reading about their new plan, and I have watched this entire (fascinating) video and to the depths of my soul I think Genie is 100% a cash grab, and I cannot imagine how anyone can look at the Disney Corporation and think it's anything else. Yes, it's convenient that this will help the infrequent visitors, and I am sure they want the infrequent visitors to be in fewer lines (so they can buy more food -- apparently they are planning to decrease serving sizes -- and souvenirs), but again: cash grab. It's also insane that they are calling it $15/day in this video, when it's clear it's 15/day/person + 15/day/person for each of 2 rides, which is now $45/day extra. Let's lay bets on whether the price of a regular ticket will decrease in any way.

I can, because I just got back from a trip to WDW where we had access to Genie+ and individual passes, and at no time did either me or my wife feel the need to use the system to go on the rides we wanted. We did purchase a reservation for Rise of the Resistance, but that was more to enable us to plan our day better, and we tried out Genie+ when we went to Animal Kingdom only to find out that was questionable because standby queues were short. Otherwise, there was no need to use either, and we got to ride everything we wanted.

I also find the cry of "cash grab" ring a tad hollow considering that Universal's equivalent can easily be $150-200.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:55 PM on November 22


Yeah, for travelers on vacation, $45 per person (once? per day?) is kind of down into a rounding error for the total cost of their trip, while locals who can game the system it's a significant chunk of the gate price.
posted by Kyol at 3:04 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


I am absolutely not going to argue that Universal's equivalent is anything but a cash grab. Disney's thing is to be a little less cash grabby than Universal (though looking at the cost, for a low season time it doesn't seem much worse for Universal, and they offer it to some resort guests while Disney is removing most resort guest perks).

I can, because I just got back from a trip to WDW where we had access to Genie+ and individual passes, and at no time did either me or my wife feel the need to use the system to go on the rides we wanted.

I'm really interested in this! So you went, you didn't pay for anything but Rise of th Resistance (fair), either the Genie+ daily cost or the individual Lightning Lane stuff, and you otherwise got on the popular rides with a reasonable wait? Everest, or the Avatar thing, Seven Dwarves or Space Mountain, etc? Because if you can get on those rides, without too high a wait, and without paying extra (at least during the lower seasons), that would be probably not unreasonable.
posted by jeather at 3:19 PM on November 22


With the individual rides in the parks, there are only eight with that designation, 2 per park:

Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarves Mine Train, Space Mountain
Epcot: Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, Frozen Ever After
Animal Kingdom: Flight of Passage, Expedition: Everest
Hollywood Studios: Rise of the Resistance, Tower of Terror

Of these, only Rise has seen the full $15 charge. Most have been $10 or less. And again, depending on the time of the year and day, you may very well not need to buy a reservation in the first place.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:20 PM on November 22


I'm really interested in this! So you went, you didn't pay for anything but Rise of th Resistance (fair), either the Genie+ daily cost or the individual Lightning Lane stuff, and you otherwise got on the popular rides with a reasonable wait? Everest, or the Avatar thing, Seven Dwarves or Space Mountain, etc? Because if you can get on those rides, without too high a wait, and without paying extra (at least during the lower seasons), that would be probably not unreasonable.

Yep. Some of it was planning based (we got to Animal Kingdom early using the on-property early half hour and went straight to Flight of Passage, for example), but for the most part standby lines were reasonable. (It helps to remember that the listed time has a decent amount of fudge factor baked in.) Now, we went during a sort of peak/non-peak period (the week leading up to Halloween, which is a bit weird), but it wasn't too bad (and the free Genie part is useful for making decisions on where to go.)

Honestly, the worst reservation to get for us was for Space 220, and that's because the restaurant opened only a month before our trip, so my poor wife was up at 3 am securing the reservation. So worth it, though.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:33 PM on November 22


I haven't heard E-ticket ride used since 1997 when my first SoCal university girlfriend said she was one.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:39 PM on November 22 [3 favorites]


I don’t think $45 per person per day is a rounding error, even at Disney World. My spouse was just there and was hearing people complaining about it who are in the target market (one-time family visitors). Also, they’ve apparently changed the “rush” system they use after breakdowns to make sure that people with Genie+ get to use their purchase - with FastPass they would go to a 1 standby : 10 FP to but now it’s closer to 1:30. This can slow the line to a crawl at standby without notice.

Agree though, entitled AP folks have always and will always be the objective worst.
posted by q*ben at 5:09 PM on November 22 [2 favorites]


And if you want to show your love for The Shapiest Place On A 2D Plane, there's now Shapeland merchandise.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:06 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


In addition, Perjurer has posted a Twitter thread of producer's notes and Easter eggs and this really did go all feature film documentary, didn't it?
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:17 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


This is fascinating and I am delighted to see agent based modelling (the simulation methodology) in the wild.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 4:11 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]


Finally got around to actually watching the video and I just keep thinking "that reveal, yo!" Talk about a twist.

The whole thing was just very well done.
posted by wierdo at 10:49 AM on November 24


« Older "The obvious target for any attempt at...   |   Vaccine protests and yellow stars Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.