Walt Disney Company has struck a deal with Verizon Wireless that will allow it to remain in contact via mobile phones with visitors (guests) to its theme parks – even when they step outside the turnstiles in both Anaheim and Orlando.

It is being pitched as a way to enhance the “theme park experience,” enabling parkgoers to use their mobile phones for tasks such as saving a spot in line at a popular ride and zeroing in on where Cinderella can be found signing autographs.

The service does raise some concerns over privacy and the potential of both Disney and Verizon to bombard users with advertisements. However, because users will actually have to download an application to their mobile phones in order to utilize the service, where really is the concern? It is not like guests to Disney’s theme parks are being tracked and communicated with despite their wishes.

“What we’re doing is putting tools in the hands of our customers to better personalize their experience,” said Scott Trowbridge, vice president of creative research and development for Walt Disney Imagineering.

Users of the service will be able to to make trip plans, including booking hotel rooms and creating a checklist of attractions and shows to see. Once they arrive, they’ll be able to use their phones to check wait times at attractions such as Space Mountain or find the nearest eatery.

Additionally, using the technology in a mobile phone that pinpoints the device’s location, Disney would be able to recommend activities or restaurants to users. For example, Disney could help guests avoid long waits at certain attractions by alerting them to shorter lines at the other attractions, or exploit the phone’s location awareness to suggest burgers at the Tomorrowland Terrace to visitors who’ve just exited the nearby Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride.

“If I’m standing here, Mickey is there, how do I make my way to Mickey?” said Ryan Hughes, vice president of business development and strategic partnerships at Verizon. “If we’re dying for food, where’s the closest restaurant? How do we find our way there?”

Some are concerned over the fact that the service would extend beyond the theme park experience. However, Disney and Verizon executives say they have no intention of bombarding park guests with marketing pitches for fear of intruding on privacy or detracting from the experience.

“This is not us shooting out random messages; it’s about the guest experience,” said Disney parks spokesman John Nicoletti.

Personally, I like it and only have one complaint – how come it is limited to Verizon users. And that is natural seeing that I am on the AT&T network.

I would imagine that if this service is successful that Disney would look to extend it to other providers or even specific phone vendors such as Blackberry, iPhone and others.

For more information visit the Los Angeles Times.


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