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Tom Staggs – (Chairman, Parks and Resorts) updates investors on Fantasyland expansion and 'NextGen' experiences coming to Walt Disney World

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Today, Tom Staggs (Chairman, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts) gave an in-depth presentation to Disney Co. investors on the state of the parks now and in the future. Most interestingly, he talked about some of the 'NextGen' initiatives that we've all been talking about on the forums for the last couple of years. You may remember, Jim MacPhee was moved from the Epcot VP post back in late 2009 to take on some of the NextGen projects. Today is perhaps one of the first times that any official confirmation of the work has been released. Tom also talks about the 'NextGen' queues being prepped around the Resort - the already complete Winnie the Pooh queue, and the upcomming Haunted Mansion queue.

You can read the full transcript here. The most relevent parts from the presentation for Walt Disney World are below.

"Meanwhile, we’re also investing for growth at Walt Disney World… which is, of course, our biggest and most profitable asset. For most of our guests, the centerpiece of a Walt Disney World vacation is a visit to the Magic Kingdom. And the most popular land in the Magic Kingdom is Fantasyland, with its iconic characters and popular characters. But Fantasyland has seen relatively little expansion since the park opened in 1971. Consequently, it can be extremely congested and difficult to navigate on busier days. That decreases the number of experiences guests can enjoy, which in turn directly impacts guest satisfaction. With this in mind, we are well into the expansion that is the largest in the Magic Kingdom’s history, and it will double the size of Fantasyland once complete. By expanding the offerings of our most popular land, we have a real opportunity to drive guest satisfaction even higher.

And we know that when we increase guest satisfaction, guests spend more time and more of their vacation dollars with us… and intent to return and positive word of mouth increase as well. We also have an opportunity to better utilize some of our most beloved stories and characters in new attractions, dining experiences and immersive environments to create a differentiated experience that no one else can match, like Under the Sea: Journey of The Little Mermaid, which will take guests into the world of Ariel, Sebastian, Flounder and all their friends.

Not far from Ariel’s new home, guests will be able to relive their favorite moments from Beauty and the Beast in Belle’s Village and Beast’s Castle. One of the most popular attractions of the Magic Kingdom, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, will double in guest capacity, and will also feature a circus-themed interactive queue that will delight guests of all ages as they enter the Big Top.

Finally, we’re adding an innovative new mine coaster based on one of our most iconic and enduring films, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This attraction will feature a new ride vehicle that we patented, which twists and turns on its track… adding atmosphere, kinetics and adventure to Fantasyland.

We have additional opportunities at our resorts as well. In 2013, we’ll open our new Art of Animation Resort at Walt Disney World. This new property celebrates some of our most popular animated stories, including The Little Mermaid, Lion King, Finding Nemo, and Cars. The resort will have nearly 2,000 rooms, including 1,200 family suites, giving us significant boost in our attractive value-priced room inventory. Now our value resorts, and especially our family suites, play an important part in providing our guests with a broad range of hotel and pricing options.
They’ve been extremely successful and have generated some of the highest occupancy rates on our property. We believe these initiatives in Florida and California will allow us to deliver attendance growth that outpaces population growth by several percentage points. By delivering better value, we also feel we can generate real increases in per capita spending. For example, we’re
already seeing a pricing benefit from World of Color. While previously, crossing between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure was essentially free for people on a two-day passes, there is now a $10 premium to park hop.

In addition to focusing on expanding and enhancing our physical assets, we’re also spending considerable time and energy to fundamentally change the way our guests experience our properties. As we’ve discussed in the past, consumers are changing: they have increasing access to information, an increasing array of choices, and an increasing desire and expectation for recognition and personalization and recognition. So we need to transform the guest experience to reflect that.

We know that our guests love creating great Disney memories with their friends and their families. We also know that they don't exactly relish waiting in line, checking at the resort, worrying about missing their favorite attractions or feeling uncertain how to best navigate and access our properties. In the coming years, we’ll introduce a broad, integrated set of systems and tools that will help us create a more seamless, personalized experience, and help guests to get more out of their visit with us. That’s our ultimate goal – to welcome more and more people, while making their experience more satisfying, more personal and more immersive.

We’ve launched a number of initiatives over the years, including FASTPASS and Magical Express, and they’ve been incredibly popular with our guests. But we plan to take these kinds of enhancements even further. Giving our guests faster and better access to the fun is the centerpieces of our investment in technology. As a result, we are currently developing an innovative system that will, in essence, create a version of FASTPASS for their entire Disney vacations. Now we define the guest experience as beginning from the time a potential guest sits down at a computer or picks up a phone to make a reservation. Our new tools will help them better understand all that we have to offer and better plan their time with us. They’ll be able to create a personalized itinerary that gives them the exact Disney vacation they want.

Guests will be able to reserve times for their favorite attractions and character interactions… secure seats at our shows and spectaculars… make dining reservations… and pre-book many other favorite guest experiences – all before even leaving their house. We also plan to simplify the check-in process so that guests will arrive at the resort with room key in hand. They will be able to go straight to their room or a theme park – again, allowing them to get to the fun faster.

We are also creating innovative new ways to pull guests into our stories. A picture with a Disney princess is a quintessential part of a Disney experience for many of our guests. So, in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, our Disney princesses will soon have dedicated homes complete with Disney magic. And the tools that we’re creating will allow them to greet and interact with our guests in an immersive and highlypersonalized way.

We are rethinking the queue lines at many of our attractions, and are enhancing them in ways that make them part of the show, essentially creating a new “Scene One” for the attractions, if you will. For example, the Winnie the Pooh attraction in Florida we just opened has a new hands-on area where our younger guests can explore and play in the Hundred Acre Wood. It’s been so successful that we’ve heard kids asking their parents NOT to use FASTPASS in order to enjoy the new first scene that much longer. You know we are doing something right if kids are asking to wait in line.
We’re also developing the means to better assess and manage guest traffic throughout our theme parks so that we can use entertainment experiences, characters, and other forms of Disney magic to help improve the flow of guests during peak periods… and drive increased utilization as a result for our parks. Through this work, we will put better information into the hands of our cast, so they can deliver even better and more personalized service for our guests. Now, it will be some time before we roll out the bulk of these initiatives, but we are well into development, and in fact have a number of patents pending on our approach. So it’s too early for me to say much more than that… but our vision here is clear, and we see a real opportunity to further enhance and differentiate the Disney vacation experience."
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