Reserve Disney rides before ever leaving home?

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Some day not too far in the future, it'll be possible for a Disney-bound family to reserve specific ride times and pick up room keys long before arriving in central Florida or southern California.

The Orlando Sentinel recently reported that Disney has embarked on a secretive initiative called the "Next Generation Experience," and the planned innovations and changes supposedly involve investments of around $1 billion. At a conference, Disney executive Tom Staggs gave the lowdown on how the "experience" will likely play out for guests:

Future guests, he said, will be able to reserve specific ride times for popular attractions, secure seating for shows, make restaurant reservations and pre-book other experiences before they leave their homes on vacation.

They will also be able to obtain their room keys in advance, eliminating the need to check into hotels and allowing them to proceed immediately to their rooms or a theme park once they arrive on Disney property.

While discussing company plans, Staggs said Disney's ultimate goal is "to welcome more and more people, while making their experience more satisfying, more personal and more immersive."

It's easy to understand why Disney would be interested in "more and more people" visiting its resorts, but is that what Disney enthusiasts want? After all, we're talking about a place where the average park visitor only manages to squeeze in nine rides in a whole day, largely because long wait times make it difficult for some to enjoy more rides.

Some other concerns are addressed in the Sentinel story:

Former company officials have questioned whether technological advances would boost attendance or guest-spending enough to justify the billion-dollar price tag -- or whether advance-planning by some guests could spoil the experience for those who do not pre-plan and arrive at a park only to find the most popular attractions already booked.

Disney hasn't announced many details (or any of them, really) regarding how the new ride reservation system would work, exactly, but it isn't hard to imagine a scenario in which certain park visitors have little hope of getting on the most popular rides. Perhaps certain rides could even be booked before the park gates open for the day. And that scenario could easily make for a "next generation" of disgruntled park visitors.

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