Disneyland and Walt Disney World planned to surprise park guests with a special promotion tied in to today’s release of Prince of Persia, Disney’s third video-game-inspired film (after Tron and Grand Theft Auto: Toontown). The promotion involved special “Sands of Time” tickets randomly distributed to guests who received FASTPASSes. According to the text on the tickets, a guest leaving an indicated attraction could give the ticket to any cast member and “be taken back in time to the point where you entered the vehicle loading area, exactly as if you had returned to the moment before you rode!” This effectively allowed a lucky guest to ride an attraction twice in a row while only standing in line once.
It sounded like a neat idea, something that would generate excellent online buzz, but there was a problem. Guests quickly began to balk when cast members attempted to take their Sands of Time ticket from them. As one guest put it, “If I’m traveling back in time, then I’m traveling back to a time when I had the ticket, not to a time when I didn’t have the ticket yet, so why should I have to give it up? And since I still have it when I get off the ride, why can’t I use it to travel back in time and ride again, like I’m in an infinite time loop? Then when I’m tired, I can just get off the ride and choose not to use the ticket, and I shouldn’t have to give it away when I didn’t use it, so there’s no situation in which I should have to let a cast member take my ticket.”
When guests who had won tickets began using this logical loophole to bring the queue at Expedition Everest (and, soon, other attractions) to a crawl, Disney realized they had to do something. The first thing they did was stop FASTPASS machines from giving out more tickets. The second thing they did was quickly inform cast members not to mention to guests that if the park is closing they could use their ticket to “go back in time” to just before the park closed and take another ride, then do it again, and again, and again, possibly keeping attractions open long into the night.
And the trouble doesn’t stop there. “We forgot to put expiration dates on the things,” said a suicidal-looking member of the team that brainstormed the Sands of Time promotion. “At this point, there’s nothing that can be done. We may have ruined Disney parks permanently.”