History of the MagicBand
The MagicBand was originally called the xBand. x was short for experience. It connected (and still does in the current MagicBand form) to the xConnect system, which is the equipment and hardware behind the scenes that makes it all work. The idea for the band was originally conceived by a Disney executive reading a SkyMall catalog on a flight, where he spotted a golf tracker band worn on a wrist within the catalog and thought it would be a good idea to use with the “Next Generation” (known as NGE at Disney at the time) project now called MyMagic+.
The MagicBand originally cost more than $35 each to produce in the early stages, but since then Disney has been able to bring the price down way below the $5 per band mark. The original MagicBand design was contracted out and developed by Frog, a specialized design company. Designers with Frog worked with Imagineers at Disney to come up with the final product. MagicBands are made from non-latex hypoallergenic TPU (thermal plastic polyurethane) in a mold over the electronic components.
Design of the MagicBand and its electronic circuits is done by Synapse Product Development out of Seattle, WA, which is where most of Disney’s new IT projects are created (for example, the My Disney Experience app and website are created and updated out of the Seattle office). Much of the back-end work involving connecting the bands to computer systems that collect and analyze the data was done by Level 11, also out of Seattle. MagicBands are manufactured and produced by Jabil Circuit, Inc. based out of St. Petersburg, FL. They are the third largest contract manufacturer in the world.
The main set of managers who were in charge of the development and rollout of MyMagic+ within Disney were Michael Jungen, John Padgett, Rich Criado, Mark Lewis and Doug Steele.
The MagicBand’s main Product Development Manager was Rich Criado at the Walt Disney Company under the Parks & Resorts division from March 2009 to March 2014. He is listed as the main contact on most FCC filings related to MyMagic+ technologies. The MagicBand, according to Rich “is an injection molded TPU wristband consisting of two primary technologies; HF RFID and 2.4GHz RF.” This excerpt was taken from his his LinkedIn page:
“[I was] Responsible for product design, experience design, ecosystem design, product prototyping, component selection, vendor selection, design for manufacturing, vendor negotiations, DFX, NPI, product certifications (FCC/IC/EU), and manufacturing execution at high volume. Lead global design and engineering teams and drove the product vision from concept to delivery. Successfully lead a massive internal coordination effort for a product that touches every part of the 49 sq. mile Walt Disney World property. Regularly delivered presentations to all levels of management.
Served in the same capacity for a wide range of custom developed and manufactured MagicBand ecosystem hardware, software, and cloud-based products which are now used by thousands of Disney Guests every day.”
For a fascinating high-level history of the creation behind MagicBands and MyMagic+, check out this article by Fast Company.
In the early days of graphic MagicBands back in early 2014, Brittany Upton, an illustrator and designer intern at Disney, created many of the early graphic designs. These include the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train press event band and the Walt Disney Imagineering 2014 Open House band. She was not involved with any retail products. Currently, graphic MagicBand design and art is generally created by artists at the Disney Design Group division in Florida. According to LinkedIn profiles, Erika Jarvis was the Project and Strategy Manager of MagicBands (she is no longer in that position after a consolidation and is now on a different team) and Derrick Lirette is in charge of art design for MagicBand products, both out of central Florida. From what I understand, the MagicBand product development team currently consists of just three people.
MagicBands can be used to unlock exclusive content in the Disney Infinity 2.0 and 3.0 video games.
On November 18th, 2016, Disney officially released the MagicBand 2 to the public at D23’s Destination D: Amazing Adventures in the Contemporary Resort Convention Center. Disney had been in development of the redesign and upgraded band since at least early 2016.
Design Verification Test MagicBand 2
This is the back of a Design Verification Test MagicBand 2.
Purple Prototype with Black Strap
This is a purple prototype MagicBand with black strap (not dark gray). It’s the thicker version of the band and not the thinner model. No purple MagicBand was ever released on the thicker model, so this is the only know purple MagicBand from that era.
Blue/Purple Strap Prototype
The source I got this from said it was an “original Disney Cruise Line test” MagicBand. It’s red (like the original test DCL MagicBand was) but has a mixed blue-purple color for the strap and say “Have A Magical Day” on the back, just like this all-pink prototype MagicBand has. The strap is a color I have never seen before.
I am not sure if this band is actually from Disney Cruise Line or not, as there is no indication on the band anywhere with a graphic or text, so for now I am going to file this in the Development section of this website.
Back of the band on the left. Original gray on the right.
Christmas Sweater prototype MagicBand
I’ve obtained a graphic prototype MagicBand that is now for sale as of November 2015. It looks like a Disney Christmas sweater and the 15 indicated on the back of the prototype MagicBand shows that this was planned to be released for the 2015 holiday season.
The design is identical to a Christmas shirt that was available in Walt Disney World in 2013:
Jack Skellington prototype MagicBand
A long-time reader has sent me a picture of a Jack Skellington (The Nightmare Before Christmas) graphic prototype MagicBand. The back of the band says “Jack A” which indicates that Disney may have made a “B” prototype style as well (I have a Darth Vader prototype band that says “Vader B” on the back). This band was released to the public on August 14th, 2015.
Darth Vader Star Wars Weekend 2014 prototype MagicBand
See the blog post here for more details on this MagicBand.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Prototype MagicBand
This is a prototype of the press event Seven Dwarfs Mine Train MagicBand that was eventually released (but with a different box and graphics). You can see the released version here. This design and box, as well as the final released designs, were created back in early 2014 by Brittany Upton, an illustrator and designer intern at Disney at the time. She hasn’t been with Disney since the early days of the graphic MagicBand. You can view some other designs of this band that never got produced and printed here.
Be Our Guest Restaurant Test MagicBand
This special Be Our Guest Restaurant Test MagicBand was used for testing the advanced reservation and food ordering system at the restaurant. Some special invited Cast Members got a box for this as well for the test as far as I know, but the box could just be a prototype. For full details on this band and how it works, see my blog post here.
Usually I don’t show the inside back of the box, because all of the boxes show the same instructions, but I saw that the colors here actually match the rest of the box, which is different:
Design Verification Test MagicBand
This development MagicBand has a DVT1 on the inside. DVT most likely stands for “Design Verification Test”. It also says “Hans” on it below the DVT1, and I currently have no idea what that means. This band looks just like a normal red band with gray strap. There are also DVT2 MagicBands that are blue, green, red, and orange that I am aware of. I’m unsure if there is a DVT3, DVT4, etc. to match all of the colors that were initially released.
This red band (with a red adult sized strap instead of the production gray) was used as the device to get FCC approval for electronic devices in the USA. Here is the back side. Notice that it has only the MyMagic+ logo on the back and nothing else. What is interesting is that the MyMagic+ logo actually appears to be an early pre-production design of the logo, as the current Circle Mickey logo (as I like to call it) doesn’t have the + on the logo at all in the bottom right corner.
This translucent frosty MagicBand was clearly an early development prototype. Some bands have a MyMagic+ logo on the back, some don’t. Also, there is a small wire coming out from the side of the band on the back, obviously used to connect to some type of debugging and development device. Check this blog post out for a great detailed breakdown of what components are inside of a MagicBand.
Some versions of the band have the MyMagic+ logo on it, as seen on the right.
Reverse Color Blue
This MagicBand is a special one in that the colors have been reversed. The detachable strap is blue, and the band itself is dark gray. What’s even more unique is that the back of both is all blue. There are some interesting printed details on the back as well, such as the “dummy” number and the band ID. The JBL in the serial number most likely stands for Jabil Circuit, Inc.
Reverse Color Pink
Just link the reverse color blue, only this one is pink and dark gray (not black, as the picture may look). It also has a JBL (Jabil Circuit, Inc.) serial number on the back, but no FCC information or anything else. The back is all pink.
This prototype MagicBand looks just like a normal band, but is actually in a teal color that was never released (teal has now been released as a base color for MagicBand 2, but it’s not the same shade). The comparison shot shows the released blue on the left and the teal prototype on the right.
This is an all yellow band similar to the all red band used for FCC approval of the device. It’s unique because the detachable strap is also in yellow and not dark gray like the current design. The end of the detachable part of the band also has a little notch that wasn’t removed.
All Dark Grey
Similar to the all yellow band, this band is actually a new color, in that the band itself is dark gray, matching the detachable strap color. You cannot buy this color currently.
Another all solid color prototype band, this time in green.
Another all solid color prototype band, this time in pink. The backside is interesting in that it shows an enlarged Mickey head (not the MyMagic+ logo) with the words Have A Magical Day in Disney marketing font.
Yellow with Pink Strap:
Mickey Mouse Faces
This one caught me by surprise, as the released E-Ticket band itself is already one of the most desired and rare MagicBands there is. This is the first prototype I’ve ever seen of a band that was a promotional band and never available for the general public to use. The prototype graphics are actually slightly different than the final released version, so it deserves its own mention for sure. The E is black instead of pink, and no graphics appear on the Mickey heads.