(Article last updated: April 25, 2016)
Memory Maker is a hot topic since Disney promotes it a lot but many (most?) people are really confused about how it works and whether or not they should buy it for their trip.
Today, I have details about how it works, what's included, who should buy it and how to save money by pre-purchasing it.
Let's get started...
In this article
What it is
We need to start with some definitions since this is the root of a lot of confusion.
First of all, PhotoPass is the overall system that Disney uses to take your pics in the parks, on rides and at some character meals. Anybody can use the PhotoPass system whether staying off-site or on-site.
Within the PhotoPass system, you can do lots of things including:
- Adding Disney-themed borders/effects to your photos
- Having pics taken in the parks, including Magic Shots where Disney will place characters in your pics after they are taken
There are several kinds of products you can buy with your PhotoPass pics including:
- Items with your photos printed on them - calendars, greeting cards, mugs, mouse pads (do people still use those?), etc.
- Individual photos - for $15, you can order individual prints or digital photos
- Memory Maker - a digital download of all of your pics taken in the parks and on rides. People who buy this package have the rights to use the photos however they'd like, including printing them at a local printer and ordering products with the photos (such as ordering products from Shutterfly or Snapfish). Memory Maker purchasers also get on-ride videos and animated Magic Shots that are not available to anyone else.
How to use Memory Maker
First of all, you can purchase Memory Maker at any time (including after your trip), but to take advantage of the pre-purchase price (which saves you $20), you'll need to buy it at least 3 days before your trip using the pre-purchase link. The pre-purchase price is $149 and the full price is $169.
Side note: many types of Annual Passholders get free photo downloads, which is basically getting Memory Maker for free.
When you're in the parks, you can just take photos with the photographers as you encounter them. Disney has a map of PhotoPass photographer locations (scroll down the page at that link to see it), but the reality is that it can really vary and they aren't always in these spots.
They'll scan your MagicBand or Memory Maker card (park tickets can also be used if they are linked in your My Disney Experience account; people with park tickets that are not linked should use PhotoPass cards given out by photographers instead to avoid losing photos). Scanning these will link your pictures to your MDE account.
When you're on rides, Disney will automatically add your ride photos to your My Disney Experience account because they can detect your MagicBand on rides. It does seem to work well for most people, but just to be sure, you can scan your MagicBand under the ride photo screen as you exit. If you don't see it in your PhotoPass account within a day, call 407-560-4300 and give them your ride photo info (such as the date and time you were there) to see if they can find your pic and add it to your account.
Special situation with on-ride photos: you must either purchase them in the parks or have Memory Maker to get them.
The attractions that offer on-ride photos are:
- Magic Kingdom - Buzz Lightyear, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain
- Epcot - Test Track
- Hollywood Studios - Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror
- Animal Kingdom - Dinosaur, Expedition Everest
On-ride videos are currently available to people who purchase Memory Maker:
- Magic Kingdom - Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Hollywood Studios - Tower of Terror
These meals/shows offer PhotoPass photographers and the digital photos will be added for Memory Maker:
- 1900 Park Fare
- 'Ohana (breakfast)
- Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show
- Chef Mickey's
- Cinderella's Royal Table
- Tusker House (breakfast)
- Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue
A couple of notes: 1.) most of those photos are taken outside the restaurant/show, not at your table and 2.) these are digital photos; the printed pics were no longer offered at the meal as of January 2015.
There are other opportunities for photos as well:
- Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique takes LOTS of pics and Pirate's League will have a photographer available as well
- Most scheduled character meet-and-greets have photographers
- Enchanted Tales with Belle has photos taken of the people who participate in the show
- Most parties (including the Halloween and Christmas parties) offer PhotoPass pics.
- Deluxe Resorts during the holidays have photographers at times to take pics
- Many other things that aren't listed here, but the bottom line is that there are lots of opportunities for pics
Sharing Memory Maker with other people
In order to share Memory Maker with other people, you can either:
- Make sure you're all listed in the same My Disney Experience account OR
- Make sure you're linked as friends within My Disney Experience and have checked the option to allow sharing of photos for all people
When you're logged in, go to the family and friends page and make sure this option is selected for the people you're connected to.
Only the person that has purchased Memory Maker and holds the "entitlement" will be able to edit and download the photos, but anybody that's linked can add pics.
The person with the entitlement does not need to be present to have pics added. Anybody who is linked can do that.
What happens after you pre-purchase?
The simple answer: not much. You've essentially pre-purchased a credit which resides in your My Disney Experience account and can be applied after your trip.
Some people will receive a Memory Maker card by mail, but most people don't. You should make sure it shows up in your My Disney Experience account.
Note: you should consider waiting until after package/room discounts have been released for your trip dates to add Memory Maker because modifying an existing resort reservation to use a promotion is much more difficult when you have Memory Maker than modifying one without it.
How to get your Memory Maker photos after your trip
After your trip, be sure to log on to your PhotoPass account (from your computer, not in the MDE app) well before your 45 day expiration and do these things:
- Make sure all of your photos are there and that any Magic Shot pics you took have the characters inserted. If anything seems off, call the PhotoPass support number at 407-560-4300 or you can report missing photos online.
- Make a copy of the pictures you want to edit so you can keep the original and the edited version
- Add any borders or any special effects that you'd like to use
- Add the pictures you'd like to download to your cart
- Go to "My Downloads" in your account and download pics as many times as you'd like within the allotted time period. The download is a zip file which doesn't work well from phones or tablets. You'll either need to install an unzip app on your phone/table or download from a computer.
Now that you have your photos, you can use them however you'd like.
Is it worth it?
I think Memory Maker is worth it for people who:
- Have trips that are at least 5 days in length
- Plan to ride most/all of the rides that offer ride photos
- Will be eating at the locations that have PhotoPass photographers
- Are willing to stop and get plenty of PhotoPass pics taken in the parks
- Have special events such as Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique booked since lots of pics are taken there
- Will be meeting lots of characters, since PhotoPass photographers take lots of pics of these encounters, including both candid and posed shots (if you hand your camera to the photographer to take pics, he/she will likely just take 1 or 2 posed pics, so you get many more when the PhotoPass photographers use their own cameras)
You don't have to be doing all of the items above but at least a few of them should be true for your trip to make sure you get plenty of pics.
Memory Maker promotions
Disney occasionally offers promotions that included a free Memory Maker which is essentially a $150 savings to your package. Not only is that not a lot to save on a vacation package, but Disney usually ends up releasing another promotion after that which many people applied to their existing booking.
The newer promotions are worth more savings but since people have previously added the Memory Maker to their package, most ended up keeping it and don't remove it with the new promotion.
My advice is that these kinds of promotions generally aren't a good idea (you can usually save much more with another promotion) and you should be sure to remove Memory Maker from your package if you originally got it for "free" but don't want to pay for it under another promotion.
I'm staying off-site so how does Memory Maker work for off-site vs. on-site?
Off-site guests won't have MagicBands to use unless they are purchased separately (they are available to buy in the parks) but can use PhotoPass cards or park tickets to scan pics. Since some new Memory Maker features (like on-ride videos) are only available to people who use MagicBands, it might be worth it to have at least 1 person buy one to get the full benefit.
I have more than 1 trip planned. Can I use Memory Maker on more than 1 trip?
You can take pics for up to 30 days after the first time you download a photo to your account and then Memory Maker photos must be downloaded within 45 days of the first day you download pics (translation: if you time it right, you could get up to 75 days of use out of Memory Maker). You'll most likely just end up using it for 1 trip unless your two trips take place within that 75 day period.
How do I get photos if I don't purchase Memory Maker?
You can still buy individual pics for $15 each, order products that use PhotoPass pics, etc.
I like having a CD backup. Can I get that with Memory Maker?
This used to be an option but doesn't appear to be available anymore.
Can I upload my own pics to the PhotoPass site?
You can upload your own pics for certain products on the PhotoPass site (like the photo book), but not for Memory Maker.
I'm combining Disney World with a Disney cruise. Can I use Memory Maker on both?
No, there aren't PhotoPass photographers on the ships so that's not possible. There are separate photo packages that you can purchase onboard.