We’re headed out to Hollywood Studios on the morning of Friday June 29th to test out my “ideal morning at Hollywood Studios” from the “Planning Around Disney World’s FASTPASS Return Enforcement Policy” post now that some of the largest crowds of the year have settled in. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be entirely ideal as I end up running a bit late. But that can be reality, whether it be a late bus, a missed wake-up call, longer than anticipated transit times, etc. So we’ll make a few adjustments and I’ll explain some of the smarter options as we move along. Just as a reminder, this is the plan:
- There may or may not be a line at the Guest and Cast Member entrance. The turnstile immediately to the right of the arrow almost always opens, but the other two may not be staffed first thing in the morning. I like to hedge my bets and get in line at the arrowed turnstile. If the others open, I can either move over quickly myself or watch the line in front of me dissipate as others move over.
- Collect FASTPASSes for Toy Story Mania with a return time of 9:40am – 10:40am.
- Ride Toy Story Mania in the standby line.
- Ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
- Ride Tower of Terror.
- Collect FASTPASSes for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with a return time around 11am – 12pm.
- Ride Toy Story Mania with FASTPASS.
- Ride Star Tours.
- Do whatever.
- Ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with FASTPASS.
- Have lunch.
So here we are. It’s 8:37am. Ideally, you want to be here by 8:20am. That would put you close to the front of one of our desired turnstiles and you wouldn’t experience a wait of more than a few minutes at Toy Story Midway Mania and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
I ended up getting stuck in line at what seemed like the most thorough bag checker in the history of Walt Disney World. Generally speaking, you’ll find that security spends more time looking through bags when lines are short. It ended up taking nine minutes to get through security, so it’s 8:46am here.
You may be aware that Hollywood Studios no longer does a “rope drop.” Instead, they open the turnstiles and you’re welcome to head to the attraction of your choice. Usually, only Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror will be running prior to 9am and it’s possible that you’ll arrive at one of the attractions and it won’t be ready to go until 9am. Since it began in December 2011, the turnstiles open sometime between 8:30 and 8:45am. Today, they opened around 8:35am. So even if you had gotten here at 8:15am, you’d only be looking at a wait out front of about 20 minutes. On the plus side, I was able to walk right up to a turnstile. The “no rope opening” is infinitely more pleasant because there’s virtually no jockeying for position on the walk to Toy Story. The turnstiles naturally separate groups.
Wait times as they appear at 8:47am.
At 8:50am, FASTPASS return for Toy Story Mania is already out to 10:20am.
No wait time listed, unfortunately. A lot of the time, Disney grossly exaggerates the wait first thing in the morning and it’s not unusual to see it posted at 40 or 60 minutes. You actually want that to happen because it will turn a lot of people away. With a short or nonexistent wait time listed, people are more likely to get in line.
It’s hard to tell here because I don’t have any photography skills whatsoever, but we’re decently far back in what’s going to end up being a 20-or-so minute line. I step on the ride at 9:10am, so it’s “exactly” 18 minutes. That’s not terrible. Other than potentially the very end of the night (like 9:55pm for a 10pm close), you’re never going to find wait times shorter in the standby line. When it’s less crowded overall or you arrive first thing, you may be able to ride twice in the standby with wait times of 15 minutes or less. This post from February takes a look at Toy Story crowds with far fewer people around.
The queue is fun to look around though, especially when you’re moving through it faster with no FASTPASS returners until at least 9:30am.
Given the same number of people in line at 3pm, the standby wait would be closer to 50 minutes with FASTPASS users getting the priority.
It’s rude to laugh at science. Please don’t.
The somewhat interactive Mr Potato Head.
I’m not very good.
I’m back out front at 9:20am for a total wait/ride time of about 28 minutes.
If you want to ride Toy Story Mania without the 60+ minute wait, you really need to be here first thing in the morning. Your other option is FASTPASS, but as you can see, return times are already out to 12:15pm at 9:20am.
Over the summer, the Sorcerer’s Hat characters only appear from 9am – 9:20am, 9:30am – 9:50am, 10:30am – 10:50am, and 11:30am – 11:50am. When it’s cooler, characters appear continuously from 9am – 12pm. Click here for the current Studios’ character schedule.
Heading down Sunset Boulevard at 9:22am.
FASTPASS at Tower of Terror is still 40 minutes out to 10:05am. The posted wait is 20 minutes.
Over at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, FASTPASS is a little further out to 10:20am. The posted wait is 10 minutes at 9:26am.
Along with Expedition Everest and Test Track (RENEWAL), Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster offers a “single rider entrance.” I’m not a proponent of it here as the wait often seems to be just as long, or longer, than the standby line. The problem is that you can’t gauge the length of the single rider line out here and you won’t know how many people are in line until after you make it through the preshow. Even a group of ten people that decide they want to split up can increase the single rider wait time by five minutes. Just imagine what happens when a tour group decides to ride single rider!
Or longer, for that matter. “Theoretically,” it could never be your turn if every party has an even number of people.
Since I know how much you enjoy my suffering, we’ll give single rider a shot anyway. You walk up a separate path.
FASTPASS returners will be on your right.
And you’ll watch the preshow from a raised platform behind everyone else. Feels superior momentarily.
The preshow is the merge point for standby/FASTPASS users, so we have a mixture of them to our right. Single riders are placed whenever there’s a group with an odd (“literally,” not your opinion) number of people.
It’s 9:54am by the time I make it back out with FASTPASS to 11:05am – 12:05pm. So the total wait/ride time was about 30 minutes.
Over to Tower of Terror, the posted wait is 20 minutes with FASTPASS out to 10:40am, which is the minimum lead time.
With FASTPASS users starting to return in droves, I chickened out and decided to head to Star Tours instead. I’ll return later to pick up and use a FASTPASS. Waiting now would cut down on the amount of walking you’ll need to do, depending on whether or not you’re coming back over here later for a show or lunch. The actual wait/ride time right now would be about 30 minutes most likely. It depends on how many elevators are running.
Heading back down Sunset Boulevard, you can see that it’s already getting noticeably more crowded.
Posted wait times at 10:02am.
The incoming masses.
Star Wars Weekends merchandise is still available with a 30% discount:
If you’re in the market.
Jedi Training Academy sign ups are still available. As usual, you sign up inside the old Sounds Dangerous building on the way to Star Tours and to the left of American Idol Experience.
They were signing up for the 6:20pm show at 10:08am. That means only the 7:10pm and 8pm shows are left. I always recommend having an adult and the child(ren) that want to participate in Jedi Training head straight here first thing if they want to be sure that they’ll be able to participate. While that may mean a slightly longer wait at Toy Story Mania, you’ll still be able to ride. Once Jedi Training fills up, that’s it, unless you want to wait around on the wait list all day.
Star Tours with a 10 minute posted wait at 10:11am. We’re going to walk right on. FASTPASS is at 10:50am – 11:50am and will continue to be 40 to 60 minutes out all day.
It’s not so much that Star Tours is “unpopular,” it just has a monster capacity. With six simulators running with 40 people in each, you’ve got a capacity of around 2,000 people/hour. Compare that with the 900ish at Toy Story Mania and you’ll have a better idea about why wait times are 20 minutes here and 80 minutes at Toy Story.
A few quick queue pictures for no reason:
That’s actually a cast member tasked with moving people through the queue when there’s no line.
Looking down from the furthest simulator, there aren’t even enough people to load the one in front of us. I was out around 10:30am, for a total wait/ride time of around 15 minutes.
A few new-ish t-shirts:
This will be a day long remembered – Darth Vader.
The Build A Droid thing isn’t available at the moment, purportedly because they’re out of hats for the droids.
At 10:34am, FASTPASS is out to 11:15am and the posted wait is still 10 minutes.
The Citizens of Hollywood are only getting funnier. Victoria Throckmorton in this case. If pressured, Officer Percival Peabody is my favorite.
At 10:41, FASTPASS is 40 minutes out and the posted wait is 40 minutes. It probably would have been smarter to just take our chances in the standby line earlier in the morning. I probably would have had I not wanted some additional pictures and to also make sure Star Tours lines around 10:30am continued to be as short as expected.
Here are the two FASTPASSes I’m carrying.
At 10:43am, FASTPASS return times are up to two hours out and the purported standby wait is 60 minutes.
Look out for more and more tour groups as we move into peak summer season.
The Power Pack lunches have become a permanent fixture on the Studios’ quick service menus. With Toluca Turkey Legs back open, the Jumbo Turkey Legs aren’t offered here at the moment.
Just a Power Pack reminder.
Served in these cute little cartons. Not a bad value at $5.49 necessarily and like always, anyone can order one. It’s a nice collection of “to go” items for times when the kids “aren’t hungry,” but you know they’re going to be right after everyone else is done.
Back up Sunset Boulevard.
Posted wait times at 10:48am.
Guys, step away from the Vinylmation! There is enough for everyone to have one! Trust me!
After fooling around for a few minutes in the Art of Animation store, we’re headed back to use those Toy Story FASTPASSes. That 90 minute wait is exaggerated with no one in the extended queue outside. FASTPASS return is 4:50pm – 5:50pm.
With no one even this far back, the actual wait is closer to 40 or 50 minutes.
Headed up the right side of the stairs. They seem to be doing some goofy stuff with whoever they send up the right hand side. Sometimes they send single riders. Other times it’s groups of two or four. Other times it’s only FASTPASS users.
Not improving. I’d like to see what 578,600 looks like.
I’m back out front at 10:15am, for a total wait/ride time of around 15 minutes. FASTPASS is out to 5:30pm, or an additional 40 minutes since we last checked at 10:58am.
Along with Phineas and Ferb, the Toy Story characters see the longest wait times.
In Part 2, we’ll ride Tower of Terror, check out some merch, try the Southwest Salad at Backlot Express, and see what else is going on.