Disney’s official response to automated camera use at indoor character locations

A Disney representative reached out to me today and requested I provide this official Disney response to my recent article that explained how Walt Disney World will be using automated, robotic cameras instead of human Photopass photographers at 9 different indoor camera locations. Here’s the official response:

Disney – “Disney PhotoPass Photographers Remain an Important Part of Capturing Special Vacation Memories.

The most special part of a Disney vacation is the treasured memories our Guests take home, which is why our Disney PhotoPass photographers play a key role throughout our parks. Whether it’s capturing the moment when a family sees Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom Park or when Grandma, Grandpa and the grandkids pose behind animal print frames at the Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park or when a young girl asks for a picture with Sebastian and he magically appears online when she views the photos in the My Disney Experience app, Disney PhotoPass photographers use their creativity to capture customized photos of our Guests every day.

Walt Disney World Resort continues to have more than 100 locations where Disney PhotoPass photographers will personallycapture these moments, and we know our Guests enjoy the interaction with our Cast photographers and characters to create those magical, one-of-a-kind memories. We will be installing automated cameras at nine character greeting locations with the first location in use beginning in early 2019.

(KtP – I had been informed by a Photopass photographer that Tinker Bell meet would begin Nov 26, with the remaining phasing in next year.)

Multiple cameras will capture numerous memorable moments during a character interaction, allowing guests to choose from a wider variety of character photos. While Disney PhotoPass Cast Members will no longer capture photography at these nine locations, photographers will continue to support the more than 100 other Disney PhotoPass locations across our parks so that they can use their creativity to take personalized photos for our Guests.”

What do you wish to communicate to Disney concerning their response?

51 thoughts on “Disney’s official response to automated camera use at indoor character locations”

  1. This still does not address issues those with special needs may have. We had a great photographer experience on our last trip at the Stitch meet in Magic Kingdom. He took the time to update/test the camera settings with no flash so our son could meet Stitch without being afraid of flashing lights. That’s just one example of many great photographer interactions we’ve had over the years – we really rely on them to make the character experiences work for our son.

  2. What happens if a family does not have Memory Maker? It was always nice to have a photographer take a pic with your phone. Now it sounds like you have to have Memory Maker to get the automated pics. Without MM, you will have to have a family member take shots with their camera, or ask another guest in line to do so.

  3. Wow worst idea EVER. I too bought the memory maker for the magical experience with human photographers. I dont do selfies….EVER. I guess Disney just saved me a lot of money. This trip will be our last for a long time. Disney has out priced themselves and other theme parks are doing it better for less.

  4. I emailed and spoke to my coordinator friend, company responded saying nobody is losing their jobs along with a similar email and my coordinator friends said that what they’ll more than likely do is allocate those photographers to take more photos in areas throughout the parks

    1. You’re drinking the Kool-Aid if you believe Disney will drop that much money (we’re talking hundreds of thousands after R&D, design, construction, installation, and maintenance) on these boxes, and still budget the same amount of hours to the cast. The locations they’re claiming will now have the opportunity to be staffed are ones that are — for good reason — low priority locations, because their metrics show they aren’t purchased, printed, or downloaded; there’s simply no money in keeping those locations active.

      “No one is being fired,” is the phrase being thrown around, but their part time cast will absolutely be losing their income, inevitably forcing them to transfer or quit. Your coordinator friend was being optimistic. He’s in no danger.

  5. I love the outrage for something that has not yet happened. I’ve had more than one crappy photo pass cm( they are not professional photographers) at meet n greets. I’m interested to see how the pictures turn out. Several cameras capturing shots from diffeeent angles sounds great. Oh- there will still be a handler there so let’s all take a deep breath and relax.

  6. I don’t line the change. But here are my thoughts on the updates and some concerns I’m reading here.

    Good to know it will be multiple cameras and angles. So there’s a better chance at getting the shots i usually miss since they typically and understandably don’t allow me to get into position across the m&g area during another family’s session.

    I have to imagine there will still be a cast member present. In my experience the non-photographer cast members and the characters do more to coordinate the posing and interaction than the photographers did.

    For those who think this will cause people to take their own photos, they were already doing that! It’s extremely rare to see a guest only get the photopass shot these days. So i don’t see it adding to the wait.

    Why wouldn’t you add all the shots from your session to your MDE and sort it out later? Why should it be some involved process afterwards?

    1. “Multiple cameras” doesn’t mean what you’re taking it to mean. I understand your take, but the test cameras were situated (two of them) on the vertical axis, and only allowed the captures to stay on eye level with both kids and tall adults, depending on the guest’s height.

  7. “ok kids, look at the box and smile!”…..honestly, don’t tell us you’re still committed to our memories and experiences when in the same breath you tell us that our memories are worth nothing more to you than an assembly line experience.

  8. I think this is a terrible decision. I am not comforted by the fact that this will “only” affect 9 locations. The indoor character meet and greets include many of the best meet and greets (I’m thinking of the princesses, Anna and Elsa, Mickey and Minnie in a few locations in different outfits). I don’t want a distant photo that captures the entire space instead of framing my kids with the character. Also, my kids are young and often require prompting from the photographers to have them focus and smile. A box is not going to get them to look and laugh and the correct moment.

    1. I agree with this. Young kids sometimes listen to other people better then their parents so you need an actual person

      1. YES! I was going to say the same thing. I can’t imagine how this experience is going to be for the parents of little kids. I also can’t imagine the layout. They said that customers will get to look at the photos and choose which ones they want. That’s the beauty of the magic band, you just get all the pictures the CM takes. I hope that’s an option. If I purchased the memory maker and can get unlimited pics I really dont want to waste time at the park picking which pic I like best. I can do that later. Maybe I’m missing something.

  9. As an APH I value the photos that come with our meet and greets. The character shots usually end up in our Christmas Card. The first issue I anticipate with the new set up is guests asking other guests to take pics via cell phones because they anticipate the automated pictures will be subpar. This will result in longer lines. To start with Tinkerbell is interesting. I’m assuming they are installing these auto cams to expedite the meet and greet. Disney should prep for a backfire on this one.

    1. It will never back fire. Disney will just upcharge those who prefer a “Premium” photographer. Any great guest strategies at Disney quickly get absorbed into some new VIP package with a fee. Oh, you’re already paying for this one? Then you need to pay more if you want the ‘best’.
      We are within the decade where the same trip during year 10 will cost triple over what we paid year 1. Hang on! Especially to your wallet.

  10. The photopass cast members move around and take shots from different angles to really capture those special moments. That’s disney magic to me. Our photos really added emotion and gave us wonderful and important memories. We only visit every few years as live in the UK so we treasure our photos. Character interaction is by far our favourite part.
    This really saddens me and makes me question if memory maker is worth it as well as seeing Disney as a company who has lost sight of what their guests really want.

  11. I think it is going to backfire. I will go in let daughter get her picture with the box then wait and take candids from my camera then group picture with box and because the box pictures look like crap ask the handler to use my camera to take a group picture. I have now doubled the time with the character. Also why do I need to go pick the pic out that the box took. Shouldn’t it be able to read my magic band. So now more time waiting to select picture and you know some will take forever. Bad idea Disney. Don’t give us the canned responses that there are 100 photographers phase 10 probably is to eliminate all photographers.

  12. As a professional photographer, this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Can you imagine using an automated camera for your wedding photos? Part of the thing that makes Disney special is the guest interaction A box can’t pose a group coax out a shy child or capture those special moments There is no replacing a photographer’s eye or sense of timing

    1. Total agree 100%, I think you as a professional should send an email. Not that they would listen, they are probably ordered to send the same one to everyone. I agree with other posters, I will be in line LONGER and I will take my time, I no longer will be the one trying to grab an additional photo and move on. I will stay as long and I need too and other will also, this will turn into a Disney wait nightmare.

  13. Same response from Guest Relations! So here’s the deal. Families will be choking up the lines by sending in a member to capture the candids!! Right, I will be too! Keep your memory maker!

  14. This is absolutely insane. A robot can never replace the photopass photographers in ANY location. I’ve seen some of the test photos from the Tinkerbell meet and greet…. They’re HORRIBLE. Far away, bad quality photos that are reminiscent of security camera screen grabs. Disney should be ashamed of this decision, and their feeble attempt at an “official response” is despicable. Absolutely NO ONE likes this idea. Families pay a premium for Memory Maker because it’s just that- it captures memories in the moment that families are too busy enjoying to capture themselves. With all the cash grabbing elsewhere in Disney parks and resorts, which I will happily pay by the way, this one is unacceptable.

  15. Jeff
    Absolutely a terrible idea. How can a machine capture that special moment . It doesn’t know when to snap that picture. I will not use it.

  16. 9…for now. If it works and saves money in cast member wages, it will be expanded. Wonder what other area’s the “suits” are looking to install automation to replace those pesky, living-wage demanding cast members?

    1. That’s 9 locations. Figure each location has anywhere from 2 to 9 photographers (sorry, kiddos, there is more than one Ariel), that’s a lot of photographers being replaced. For now they will be moved to other locations, mostly outside, so they don’t have the luxury of looking forward to rotating indoors to get out of the heat (or in some cases, the cold). and if any choose to leave the position, the position will not be filled.

      1. Sandy, you get it. You understand, completely, what the rest of the rabble seem unwilling to.

        There are definitely at least 35 boxes being installed in this “nine location” phase.

    1. Not just “nine photographers,” unfortunately — nine “locations.”

      Add up how many characters there are between three locations:

      • Launch Bay at Hollywood Studios
      • Princess Fairy Tale Hall at Magic Kingdom
      • Royal Summerhus at Epcot

      And then double that result. That’s just three locations.

      Then you realize that their “nine locations” nonsense is just Public Relations minimization in order to try to calm everyone down from what is actually a MUCH larger roll-out.

  17. Enough of the cash grabbing. I’ve been gladly paying your raising prices on everything but the diminishing customer service is embarrassing.

  18. I can’t believe that the money saved at 9 locations is even worth it, given how valuable the photos they are taking away are. What are they thinking?! This response is infuriating.

    1. Because “nine locations” actually means they’re installing around 35 boxes. One location is Fairy Tale Hall in MK, and there are eight meeting spots, there (the princesses like a change of scenery). Another is Launch Bay at Studios, with six rooms (it’s a secret base; of course there are).

      When you start adding everything up, you realize Disney is mincing their words for this PR statement.

  19. The automatic box cameras at Test Trak produce garbage photos and require careful timing of your pose. I can’t see the new ones being any better.

  20. Can you still just scan your magic band or will we have to stand in line and try to find our photos to scan like some of the rides?

  21. As a pass holder I love the cast members they are what make the magic a machine taking a photo is not going to come close to anything magical . Who’s gonna get that shy child to look at camera . If I read correctly after the photos are taken you have to sort through them to choose what you want . This is going to cause a pile up in the lines I really see no positive aspect to this . Shame on you Disney for doing away with the awesome photo pss photographers that make things so magical . Bad idea really bad idea!!!

  22. This is terrible. The best part of Memory Maker has always been the candid shots these human people see and capture. Guests love the interactions with characters and cast members that make Disney special. This is the worst idea I have seen Disney try to put forth. I think it is going to leave a LOT of really sad people and children. The shots that people pay almost $200 MIGHT be one of the 9 that are now taken automatically. This is just so so saddening.

  23. That’s the exact response I got when I emailed yesterday. I also go a survey asking my opinion of their response. I responded negatively in the survey and said that an automated box will never be as good as a human being who can time photos correctly, get children’s attention, and move around to get different angles for shots! I told them that if this trend continues, I will NOT be using Memory Maker on my future trips!

  24. My concern is that those character meet and greets are some of the most important parts of our trips for our children, and I know I’m not alone in feeling that way. We have countless pictures that are zoomed in on our children’s and the characters smiles, hugging each other, high fiving, and just interacting. I understand multiple pictures will be taken, but that automated camera isn’t going to crouch on the floor to get a better angle. It’s not going to zoom in on faces (I’m assuming it won’t, unless it’s super high tech, but even face recognition software isn’t always accurate). It’s not going to be living in the moment to make sure special interactions aren’t missed. This is going to completely change my view on Memory Maker and its worth.

  25. Sorry but a machine cannot take those special candid shots that a real photographer captures. Disney will do whatever they want regardless of our comments. They already got a low approval for this when they originally rolled it out but went with it anyway. Extremely disappointed in their decision

  26. I got that same exact response (guess they are doing a lot of cutting and pasting) Photopass captures the magic. People do that, machines cant! 9 turns into 19 into 90.

  27. My concern would that it will start with 9 and expand. Tink is my favorite so I wish that meet & greet had a photographer
    Baymax, Inside Out & some of the Starwars meet & greets would lend themselves to this imo.

    1. I agree…it’s getting harder and harder for me to justify being an APH (out of state) and bringing my family because the service I know and love keeps going down. I grew up in Disney and have been going since Magic Kingdom opened (used to live in FL). You would think they would value loyalty as well, but as long as people are going, it doesn’t seem like they care. They are squeezing out all human interaction

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