The Magic Kingdom of Analytics
Nick Gurgone

The Magic Kingdom of Analytics

Nick Gurgone March 21, 2016 Posted in: Blog Posts, Predictive Analytics
When you think of the Disney Corporation, many things come to mind: Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, magic… and analytics? At the recent Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) Ratemaking and Product Management (RPM) Seminar in Orlando, I was fortunate to attend a presentation by Mike Akeroyd, a Managing Consultant with the Walt Disney Company. Mike demonstrated the many data collection applications and analyses that he and his team utilize to improve theme parks, optimize hotel bookings and maximize advertising effectiveness. He calls them “yield analytics” and applies them to the daily management of Disney projects. Mike’s team has statistically determined optimal outcomes for essential Disney operations, ranging from bus and shuttle schedules to the optimal order in which to ride attractions at the Magic Kingdom theme park.

Monorails, for example, transport guests between the various Disney parks. Park management asked Mike’s team to conduct a rail system study in order to determine where to add another shuttle and stop to minimize the average guest’s transport time across parks. So Mike’s team set out to monitor the existing monorail system and collect data on park travel times. Their analysis produced counterintuitive results: They found removing a shuttle would be the most efficient way to speed up travel since shuttles often spent time waiting for the shuttle ahead of them to depart. Subsequent to the implementation of Mike’s team’s recommendation, another study confirmed their initial analysis to be correct.

Mike and his team make another interesting use of data collection and analytics via the “magic bands” given to Disney Resort guests. The bands are bracelets given to all Resort guests in lieu of hotel room keys or attraction entrance tickets. Scanners read the guests’ magic bands to unlock their doors, make room charges or enter pre-paid attractions. Guests’ actions are thereby monitored by collecting information on how, where and when they are using their bands. The resulting data is then analyzed to determine the optimal locations in which to sell particular items, hold certain events and a host of other operational adjustments the company can make to provide its guests with the best, most personalized Disney experience possible.

If you have ever walked through a Disney park, or any other large-scale attraction, and wondered whether analytical thought has been incorporated into its design and layout, the answer is likely a resounding “Yes.” Disney continuously thinks outside the box when using data to address challenges that might not initially seem like “numbers” problems. The real takeaway from Mike’s session is that analytics can and are being used in highly-effective ways that might not be readily apparent.


Nicholas Gurgone is an Actuarial Analyst with Pinnacle Actuarial Resources, Inc. in the Bloomington, Illinois office. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Actuarial Science from Illinois State University and has worked with loss reserve analyses for group captive insurers writing commercial multi-peril, workers’ compensation, auto liability, general liability and auto physical damage coverage. He is actively pursuing membership in the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) through the examination process.
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