Disney (NYSE:DIS) is raising the bar before it lowers the bar at its Rock 'n' Roller Coaster in Florida. The theme-park operator is testing a new queue system for the thrill ride this week, allowing guests to wander around the general vicinity of the attraction until their group is called into the building.

It may sound a lot like the FastPass system already in place at Disney's parks in Florida and California, but this has meatier implications, since it deals with the second standby queue. Long standby lines that move at a snail's pace -- as patrons send disparaging looks to those passing them up with FastPass vouchers -- have been the biggest knocks on the family entertainment giant's ride reservation system.

Disney is now committed to turning its crowded Dumbo attraction in the Magic Kingdom into a queue-free experience, and it's apparently testing a similar strategy at its popular coaster.

It's easy to get behind the theory of eradicating long lines at any theme park:

  • Fatigued guests snaking through massive queues tire easily.
  • Guests who spend more time in line than on rides or at shows may not leave the park satisfied with the experience.
  • From Disney's perspective, it's more lucrative to have someone at a gift shop or restaurant than in a line that can't be monetized.

Smaller park operators Cedar Fair (NYSE:FUN), Blackstone Group (NYSE:BX), and Six Flags have approached this question in different ways -- sometimes charging for more convenient ride access -- but there doesn't seem to be any kind of consensus on the best approach to maximize the customer experience and the park's profitability.

Disney appears to be onto something here, though. As long as the system can't be gamed or abused, everybody wins if they're able to experience more than just the dronish shuffle of an uninspiring queue. One can always argue that convenience will make the standby lines even longer. The park will also feel more crowded if folks aren't swallowed up in massive mazes.

A lot is at stake, because running a theme park has been a frustrating experience for media companies other than Disney. Despite the obvious content tie-ins, CBS (NYSE:CBS) and Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) have thrown in the towel in the past, and General Electric (NYSE:GE) is in the process of reducing its exposure to the Universal theme parks.

If Disney's novel idea of keeping folks out of line makes them more likely to chow down on extra snacks, play games, or leave the park with a few extra keepsakes, the industry's guest spending per capita can really take off -- like Dumbo, or at least an Aerosmith-themed coaster.  

How would you improve on the current state of theme park queues? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.