EDITORIAL: New Walt Disney World PhotoPass Plan Sparks Considerable (Hasty?) Reaction

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There is no way to overstate how truly passionate a great swath of us are regarding any and all things Disney. Take the general and immediate reaction to any bit of Disney news as an example. Deeply, emotionally attached, we’re not always completely rational.

This week, we once again condemned ineffective Walt Disney World management for another despicable example of allowing our beloved monorail system to fall deeper into disrepair. Reports of another defective door–one that actually fell of the train–sent shock waves throughout Disney blog and social circles. Calls for replacing the entire fleet, and general beheadings, were swift and heartfelt.

If you look deeper into the details–we did, here–you learn the incident was the result of a guest-related accident, rather than specific mechanical neglect. The clarification did little to placate the outraged. Our feelings on the matter were already well ingrained.

Hardly recovered from that arguable calamity, yesterday, fans were hit by news that Walt Disney World will replace PhotoPass Cast Members with automated cameras at select Character meet and greet locations. The rapid public response was simply lathered with emotion.

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Parents, associated Cast, and guests sympathetic to the plight of each voiced–mostly texted–their displeasure over such poorly conceived decision making. Concerns over job loss and whether a mechanized camera could elicit proper photogenic reactions from children were at the forefront. A lot of people seem really upset. Understandably. These Disney moments are priceless. Though, again, we may have jumped to a poorly supported conclusion.

Walt Disney World will not be undergoing a scorched-earth PhotoPass purge. According to now very busy Disney PR associates, nine out of more than 100 current PhotoPass locations will undergo automation. Further details of the change also seem to put our more common concerns to rest. As for not being able to create the same scrapbook memories, the new cameras will stream-capture guests’ entire interaction within the character location. Guests will then choose from a vast and varied wealth of options.

Sure, the professional interactive coaching aspect is lost, but isn’t the most important interaction between the guest and character? All families are different, though from the inception of photography, even the most demonstrable children may demonstrate an uncanny ability to clam up under the intimidating eye of a camera.

We all know the nine locations under consideration will quickly become every location if Disney finds this experiment to their benefit. And, yes, a lot of aspiring photographers may find themselves out of a job. Still, every Character meet and greet will still need Cast Member supervision, as guests attempt to turn these encounters into extended photo shoots. Best case, jobs may be redefined rather than simply lost.

Time will tell. Perhaps we can remain calm and faithful in the interim. Sure we can.

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About the author

Christopher Schmidt

Christopher Schmidt is a former Disneyland Resort bartender and author of The Unofficial Walt Disney World Drinking Companion, The Unofficial Disneyland Drinking Companion, and The Complete Guide to runDisney - Disneyland Edition.
If it involves amusement, attractions, athletics, adventure, and responsible enjoyment of exotic libations, you will find Christopher in the middle of it, eager to tell you all about it.
Questions, topic ideas or improvements, and private correspondence? Drop me a message: [email protected]

15 Comments

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  • Yeah, heaven forbid anybody question Disney when people’s livelihoods may be at stake? We should all just forfeit all reason to the Mouse and assume they know what’s best for the world.

    This is the kind of blind Disney fandom that needs to end. You may love what the company creates. That does not mean it is somehow beyond criticism.

  • Your journalism is a tad more optimistic. I am currently a cast member at disney and if you think it’s just 9 locations then you are mistaken. That’s just the start. Once it takes off they will replace all 100 locations. It is cost effective. It’s sad how much disney cuts just for money. They are killing what makes disney special for the all mighty dollar and share holders.

  • Perhaps the author of the editorial for one needs to acknowledge that WDW neglected to provide full details when the plan was first released.
    Perhaps this blind devotion/defense of all things/decisions Disney needs to to stop as well.

  • I am very sad at the lost of photopass photography. I as a Disneyland photopass alumni have more magic memories than I can count! Special moments captured. Magical interactions with laughing families playing with micky and the cast of loveable and loving characters. sharing occasions… some happy some sad…some children’s make-a-wish…listening to these people’s stories…recognizing that the loss of these important moments being replaced by machines is simply a hole in the magic of Disney. Lost will be preserved memories through the connections and captured moments made with photopass photographers. Try capturing a proposal with a machine…a military homecoming or a first visit or a 50th! A mistake for sure!

  • I’m wondering…. They want to replace or “substitute” the “live, breathing, human beings” with animated characters? That’s a throw back of what they did to the lives of the “live, breathing, human beings” called musicians …. Of which it is hard to find any at WDW now.

  • I was a Photopass castmember back in 06 & had to leave because of a medical condition but things were very good then. Then Photopass had their own leadership but sometime after I left they were put under Entertainment & things had changed. Now there are some very good members who are both that I know. But Entertainment & Photopass have two different mindsets. So I have learned that the numbers of Photopass castmembers have been reduced. I think most sites need castmembers need to be at theses sites to take the pictures automatic cameras can not help guests to get in the right position to make the best picture.

  • ” As for not being able to create the same scrapbook memories, the new cameras will stream-capture guests’ entire interaction within the character location….isn’t the most important interaction between the guest and character?”

    I’m assuming you’ve never seen the wonder in a child’s eye as they turn the corner and see ‘this’ character that until then was supposed to be make-believe? That doesn’t happen after the child steps into frame, puts their feet on the predetermined markings and smiles at some glass box.

    Unless the cameras are 360 or at least turn enough to get the initial walking into the room, then NO, I’m sorry, for many ‘the most important’ interaction might be feet apart from the actual character.

    • “I’m assuming you’ve never seen the wonder in a child’s eye as they turn the corner and see ‘this’ character that until then was supposed to be make-believe?”
      Are PhotoPass Cast Members snapping pics at this point? Asking for a friend.

  • This whole editorial seems overly biased in favor of the WDC. If you have any idea of how any company works, especially WDC as of late, anything that can be streamline and replaced by a machine to cut overall costs – a company will do it. These machines will take pictures at a predetermined height, angle, and in bursts of 15 (the current number as of now from a source within the company). It won’t know when someone is ready for a picture, a special moment, or if the correct pose is captured. You will end up with simply 15 random pictures that MAY have the one you want in it. Take for example the Slinky Dog attraction – according to a recent email sent out, the machine is having to be entirely recalibrated as over 66% of the pictures taken of the front riders, did not even have the riders in the photo. Most of them had slinky’s head in the frame and maybe half a body.

    So yes, it’s perfectly responsible and acceptable to be worried, upset, discouraged, etc about this change. It won’t just be 9 locations. It WILL be done at most locations. The entire point of the PR response is to cover their butts, due to the impending disgruntled guests they are hearing from. They sent the same canned response to everyone.

    Be sensible, don’t report with blinders on and unwavering faith.

  • I’m sorry but there is no way an automated camera is going to be able to capture those candid, magical moments like a photographer. If that box can’t zoom in to catch closeups or be able to adjust it’s angles if the character gets down to a kid’s level, it’s useless. And, you keep pointing out it’s only in 9 locations, but how long before Disney replaces the 100’s of remaining DisneyPhotoPass CMs? I’m sorry, but I’m glad there is negative guest reaction and I hope it keeps up because let’s call this what it is, an attempt by Disney to automate CMs out of a job while raising prices on guests.

  • This was the idea that actually led in to what became photopass. The guys idea was to have stations around where the Kodak photo spots were but the technology just wasn’t there yet. Photopass rolled out in the very end of 2004, the first group of interns were the ones that went out and searched locations. So this is an old idea for WDW, one that they came up with around 2003ish. I’m only surprised that they would think to put the automatic cameras with characters. It would be better suited for icon shots, IMO.

  • Nice article.
    It really is funny (and a bit pathetic) how some people are so eager to rip Disney at the first inkling of news they find the slightest bit negative.
    It one of the reasons I rarely read the ‘comments’ section anymore.
    It’s be great if these whiners would just go away & forget about Disney, but they continue to bitch & moan at every opportunity.
    Again….. it’s pathetic, but at least they make me thankful that I’m not such a negative crybaby.

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