In addition to telling a story with data, Disney uses data to shape their storytelling. Through Magic Bands, wristbands equipped with an RFID chip, Disney can track your precise location and preferences. This captures an immense amount of data from each guest, including movie preferences, how long a guest waited in line for a specific character meet-and-greet, and how many times they’ve visited each attraction. By capturing guest behavior data, Disney can further analyze guest preferences in terms of movies, TV shows, and their respective characters. Disney uses this data to curate and improve their storytelling abilities and immersion capabilities.
This wasn’t always the case. Disney learned to listen to data in 2012 when its $350 million movie John Carter flopped in theaters. Disney hired an AI agency to predict the success of John Carter, considering the movie’s budget and preconceived success based on its formulaic storytelling and stunning visuals. When the AI agency told them the movie would flop, Disney continued with their theatrical release plans instead of listening to the data, resulting in a loss of over $100 million. Ever since then, Disney chooses to make data-driven decisions to drive impact in instances of immersive experiences and storytelling, especially among its most popular franchises.
Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge debuted in Disney World in 2019, in conjunction with the releases of Toy Story 4 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, respectively. By using park data and theater data, Disney knew they could compound their success through unifying park experiences and film releases. The Toy Story and Star Wars franchises remain wildly successful, spurring sequels, theme park attractions, merchandise empires, and billions of dollars in revenue. At this point, they amassed enough data from the prior theatrical releases of Toy Story 3 and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, to predict that sequels and movie-specific lands would make a huge profit, especially considering both movies’ spots on the top 50 highest grossing films of all time. In addition, they utilized guest data, like wait times and number of times attended, from Disney rides and attractions like Toy Story Midway Mania! and Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. Additionally, guests’ MagicBands track their success in certain rides in Galaxy’s Edge, so cast members throughout the land will congratulate (or make fun of) guests based on their performance during the ride. Disney was able to collect a large enough amount of data to drive successful business decisions purely based on theatrical releases, screenings, and park guest behaviors. From personal experience, it is nearly impossible to navigate most of Hollywood Studios during any shows or character appearances relating to Star Wars. Disney successfully created a data-backed empire based on 2 movies.
Disney’s data-based decisions cemented it as an immersive experience and storytelling leader. Additionally, Disney used these tactics to enhance guest experiences in the parks. Without tracking and analyzing immense amounts of data, Disney would not be the theme park and entertainment giant it is today.