Our consideration of wait times since Walt Disney World reopened in the middle of July continues with Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We opened with a discussion of Magic Kingdom and some of the overarching changes that we would expect to see across each of the major theme parks. We then moved on to Disney’s Animal Kingdom to see just how much waits have dropped there. Since much of our discussion focused on how low wait times have been since the Parks reopened, and how many resorts Disney has either kept shuttered or pushed back the opening dates for, it’s not too surprising that we now have a new wrinkle.
Beginning September 8th, Disney will be reducing the operating hours at each of its theme parks:
- Animal Kingdom will be open from 9am to 5pm. The hours were originally 8am to 6pm.
- Epcot will be open from 11am to 7pm. The hours were originally 11am to 9pm.
- Hollywood Studios will be open from 10am to 7pm. The hours were originally 10am to 8pm.
- Magic Kingdom will be open from 9am to 6pm. The hours were originally 9am to 7pm.
You can pull up a spreadsheet of the hours, which currently go through October 31st, here. But what you’ll see is exactly what’s listed above. Currently, Disney has only released operating hours through October 31st. Historically, about 6.5 months-worth of hours would be available, back when the 180-day restaurant reservation window was in effect. Now that the restaurant reservation window is 60 days, and there are no FastPass+ available to book, we may not see Disney release operating hours more than about 75 days in advance. It may have been a mistake on Disney’s part to release the operating hours through the end of October in the first place. After all, if the “new” operating hours were what Disney originally released, they wouldn’t now be “reducing” the original set. Those would just be the original, unaltered operating hours.
We’ll have to wait and see what Thanksgiving looks like in November with Christmas following in December. Those are historically two of the busiest times of year, with December 24th to January 2nd as the busiest period of the year, by far.
Theoretically, Park capacity would increase with longer operating hours. You can serve more people if you’re open until 11pm than if you’re open until 5pm. Assuming, of course, that someone shows up after 5pm. As we’ve come to realize, that doesn’t do us a lot of good at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where the vast majority of those guests who will visit over the course of the day arrive before it opens. The fact that Disney is largely cutting hours off of the end of the day also doesn’t bode well for nighttime extensions.
Before the Parks reopened, there was some chatter of the possibility that guests would choose an available arrival time. That has not been the case thus far, but it would be a way for Disney to potentially increase capacity. You could book Hollywood Studios for 8am to 4pm or 4pm to 12am, for example. Potentially, they could also stagger arrival times. You might gain entry to the Park at 8am, 9am, 10am, or 11am, with the assumption that those who arrived earlier would also leave earlier. Either method of trying to control crowds would pose logistical challenges for both Disney and its guests. Assuming demand does increase, Disney will be turning a lot of people away come Christmas time if they don’t manage to significantly increase capacity.
Below is the current version of our main chart, which shows the overall average wait across a number of attractions at each of the theme parks that we’ve dived into thus far:
We pick things up at Epcot at 11:55am on the morning of Wednesday, July 29th, 2020. In Part One, we checked out what to expect from the arrival experience at a Park that now opens at 11am, in addition to rope dropping Test Track and then seeing how long it would take to ride Frozen Ever After…after. Part Two was largely a rant about the current state of Epcot, but we also rode Gran Fiesta Tour. So that’s something. So far, this is where we’ve been:
- Test Track: 10:43am – 11:06am
- Frozen Ever After: 11:12am – 11:23am
- Gran Fiesta Tour: 11:26am – 11:37am
Neither attraction in the Imagination Pavilion should be a priority, so we should be safe to head over there later.
While we’ll specifically be avoiding wall references for the majority of this post, it’s worth noting that there are still basically two diverging ways to enter Epcot from the main entrance. You’re either headed right after passing Spaceship Earth, which will take you by The Seas Pavilion and then on to the Land and Imagination Pavilions. The other path, which we took ourselves along with most other people, leads to Test Track and Frozen.
Worst Case Scenario Waits on a Capacity Day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
We’ll take a quick look at what is currently the worst case scenario at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in terms of wait times. I’ll follow this up with a larger analysis of what wait times have looked like at what may or may not be Disney’s most popular theme park since it reopened in the middle of July. Hollywood Studios is certainly the most difficult theme park to book via the Disney Park Pass system, thanks in large part to what is presumed to be the lowest capacity.
This past Saturday, August 8th, 2020, was one of the first days that the Studios completely sold out of Disney Park Pass availability for all three ticket types – Theme Park Tickets Guests, Disney Resort Guests, and Annual Passholders. That means the Studios’ (current) capacity was reached and attendance and wait times should have been just about as high as possible.
Here’s a look at the wait time chart for the day:
Epcot Morning Touring After Reopening
We pick things up at Epcot on Wednesday, July 29th, 2020. It’s both 11:24am and 24 minutes after both Future World and World Showcase opened. This is a departure from how Epcot operated before the extended spring closure, when Future World opened at 9am and most of World Showcase followed at 11am. Since the Frozen ride opened in Norway, that Pavilion opened with the Park, typically at 9am. The bakery in France also opened with the Park. Now, just about everything that will be open will open with the Park…at 11am.
Pull up Part One if you missed it, which will get you acquainted with Epcot’s current opening procedure and also take you along to Test Track and Frozen Ever After. To recap, I entered the Park at 10:37am, arrived at Test Track at 10:43am, boarded my sim car at 10:58am, and was back out front at 11:06am. I then proceeded to Frozen Ever After in Norway, where I arrived at 11:12am, boarded my boat at 11:16am, and finished up at 11:21am. That’s two of Epcot’s highest priorities completed in about 20 minutes. It’s an auspicious start at a theme park that nobody really goes to anymore.
Wait Time Trends at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Since Reopening
Chart Week continues on easywdw.com as we take a look at wait times and what we’ve seen so far since Disney’s Animal Kingdom reopened on Saturday, July 11th, 2020. Our analysis started at Magic Kingdom Park with the aptly titled, “Magic Kingdom Wait Times Since Disney World Reopened.” We are nothing if not creative.
Perhaps the most surprising phenomenon that we’ve seen since Walt Disney World reopened is the low wait times in Pandora. Avatar – Flight of Passage, a ride that’s now about 3.5 years old, was still pulling 120+ minute peak waits before the extended theme park closure in March of this year.
Since reopening, Flight of Passage’s average wait is 15 minutes. That’s over two hours less than the overall average that we’ve seen from the day the ride opened in May, 2017 through the middle of March of this year. Here’s Flight of Passage’s chart over the last ~3 weeks: