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Disney to provide park navigation by cell phone

Starting next year, Disneyland visitors will be able to find their way about the park by cell phone — and like a ghost at Haunted Mansion, the mobile application could follow you home.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Disneyland visitors will soon be able to find their way about the park by cell phone — and like a ghost at Haunted Mansion, the mobile application could follow you home.

The Walt Disney Co. and Verizon Wireless announced Wednesday that they have reached a multiyear deal to provide theme park information and extras to Verizon customers who download a special application.

Beginning next year, visitors to Disneyland in California and Florida's Walt Disney World will be able to use their Verizon phones to locate shows, costumed characters and restaurants; find wait times for rides, play mobile games and receive messages from Disney characters.

Because a cell phone's location can at least be estimated when it's in use, customers can use that information to tell how far away they are from Mickey Mouse, for example.

"With more than 90 percent of families bringing a mobile phone into our parks, our objective was to enhance the magical Disney experience through innovative wireless technology," Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said in a statement.

"Imagine receiving up-to-the minute tips on special park activities with just the touch of a button or receiving a call from Buzz Lightyear welcoming you to the Magic Kingdom."

Disney is joining many other tourists attractions, museums and historic sites around the country that now offer cell phone services, such as walking tours and push-button exhibit information.

While only Verizon customers will be able to access the full mobile services, the companies said they planned to make more limited information — such as park restaurant locations — available to all cell phone users.

Some fees may be charged
The companies were still working out the precise set of features that initially will be offered. Some might be offered free while others might be part of a fee-based premium package, executives said. As with most mobile applications, there are plans to allow customer feedback and add features down the line.

For instance, users eventually might be able to reserve times for popular rides or include Disney animations into the personal photos they share via e-mail.

The application also has the potential to allow Disney and Verizon to aim personalized marketing messages and advertising at cell phone users after they leave the park.

However, Disney officials said they had no plans to bombard visitors with ads and noted the Verizon customers must voluntarily opt in to the application.

"This is not an advertising channel. This is not a marketing channel," said Scott Trowbridge, vice president of creative development for Walt Disney Imagineering, Research and Development.

"That is absolutely not what we want to do. People get enough spam of all shape, sizes and varieties."