Our most recent visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios concludes with this post. Next up, we’ll cover a fresh rope drop visit to Magic Kingdom. For a timeline of what to expect in the coming weeks and months, read this note from the website’s CEO, if you haven’t already.
When it comes to efficient theme park touring, we carry a few key tools in our Mickey Mouse fanny packs. Rope drop, or arriving before the majority of the other people have had a chance to arrive prior to Park open, has historically been one important tactic. That allows us to be at the front of the line for a super-priority attraction, and gives us ample time to move to subsequent priorities while most people are still in a long line for something like Flight of Passage or Slinky Dog Dash. That advantage has been reduced significantly in the FastPass+ era, thanks in large part to the fact that FastPass+ comes online right at Park open. With the majority of an attraction’s capacity going to FP+ priority right off the bat, standby lines stagnate earlier than ever before, particularly now that virtually every FastPass+ is accounted for at most attractions into the early afternoon. As I’ve said before, it doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense to use FastPass+ at something like Star Tours at 8:45am. Its hourly capacity, of over 2,000 riders per hour, is high enough to meet demand. But when 8:45am is the only time slot available, and Star Tours is the only ride with any FastPass+ availability whatsoever, somebody is going to use it, which means longer waits in standby for everyone else. From 8am to 9am, you basically go from 2,000 people being able to ride in standby, to just 600.
Back in the legacy FASTPASS days, the first FASTPASS return window typically opened 40 minutes after Park open, and most people used those paper FASTPASSes towards the end of the window, which basically gave us free reign to enjoy short waits at most attractions for at least 90 minutes. This is now ancient advice, but way back in the day, or circa something like 2012, the predominant strategy for Hollywood Studios was to race to Toy Story Mania, try to get a FASTPASS for 9:40am to 10:40am, ride in standby, and then hurry to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, where you’d arrive before anyone could return with FASTPASS priority. After riding, it would be time to pull a paper FASTPASS to return to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster later, before moving on to Tower of Terror, would you would do the same thing.
The problem we now face with FastPass+ coming online right at Park open is exacerbated at the Studios, with more people arriving before 8am than ever before in order to try to join a Rise of the Resistance boarding group. With only a handful of rides opening with the Park, and none of the shows beginning for at least 90 minutes, wait times skyrocket to unprecedented heights within just a few minutes. We’ve seen that time and time again over the last few months, culminating in some really rough mornings over Presidents Day Weekend and the beginning of the spring break season, before all of that obviously came to a halt with the theme park closures earlier this week.
Our afternoon visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Monday, March 9th, 2020 continues, as we head towards our first standby ride of the day in Star Tours, which is posting a 25-minute wait just before 6:30pm. So far, this is what I’ve accomplished:
- Star Wars Launch Bay: 3:40pm – 3:50pm
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid: 3:52pm – 4:18pm
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular: 4:25pm – 5:15pm
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with FastPass+: 5:25pm – 5:41pm
- Tower of Terror with FastPass+: 5:43pm – 6:02pm
- Mickey Shorts Theater: 6:12pm – 6:25pm
In Part One, we set the stage for our afternoon arrival, by considering our overall strategy with FastPass+ and how we wanted to organize our day, in addition to stopping at Star Wars Launch Bay, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. Part Two covered the next few attractions, along with a look at some current refurbishments and a little bit of this and that.
During our last several rope drops, we’ve seen the standby queue for Star Tours backed up outside and into what may or may not be Endor as early as 8:30am in the morning, as people balk at the 60+ minute waits that they’ll see at virtually every other ride, and instead get in line for the only operating attraction with a wait resembling something reasonable. You’ll remember that Star Tours is the only viable standby option for those beginning their morning with Smugglers Run, which takes about 20 minutes to complete, even if you’re the first person to arrive at the ride’s entrance about ten minutes after the Park opens. The fact that the space simulator enjoys such a large hourly capacity is why we’ve started our standby assault here, instead of beginning with an attraction that will likely have a longer wait time that lingers later into the evening. No matter how long waits are elsewhere, the wait for Star Tours should be the shortest earliest in the evening.
See this post for what you can expect to see on easywdw.com over the coming weeks.
Our afternoon at Disney’s Hollywood Studios continues as we consider the best approach to tackle a Park that houses seven or eight rides that you probably want to experience, but will also carry multi-hour waits throughout the day. Part One of this afternoon-arrival plan covered FastPass+ priority after the opening of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, how you might plan on structuring your day, and got the ball rolling with visits to high-capacity shows in The Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.
Of course, there are reasons to descend on the Studios much earlier in the morning, including the ever-important Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding group signup, which requires an arrival inside the theme park no later than the Park officially opens. Signing the kids up for Jedi Training Academy, a process which takes place between the entrance to Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and 50’s Prime Time Cafe, is another priority. With so many guests focused on positioning themselves for a priority attraction first thing, Jedi Training signups are a lower priority than they were prior to Toy Story Land’s opening, but you still want to be there before 10am if you can swing it.
Here just after 4pm, the sign says that alternate spots are available, which either means that enough people have canceled that they can add the kids to an upcoming show, or there’s room on the stand-by list in case kids who had previously signed up don’t return. Disney asks kids and their parents to return to the signup location a half hour before showtime to go over a few things, like not swinging the plastic lightsaber in a manner that could injure poor Darth Vader. Imagine getting swarmed by hundreds of kids every day who would like nothing more than to hit you over the head with a plastic wand. That may not be unlike my daily routine on Twitter.
Depending on your Park Hopper situation, and what you want to do with your overall itinerary, most people will want to plan on arriving before the Studios opens on at least one of their days. Those staying in the Studios after it opens will want to consider trying to ride one or two attractions in standby before beginning to use FastPass+. The previous Part in this series described some of the overwhelming wait times that you’ll run into shortly after the Studios opens.
As you have undoubtedly heard, the Walt Disney World theme parks are now closed, with most of Disney Springs to close on March 17th, and all of the Disney-operated resorts here in Florida to shutter on Friday. There is no concrete reopening date and, at this point, any such guidance would be a wild guess based on circumstances that are rapidly changing.
What I’ve got going on personally is probably of little concern to too many out there, but I’m positioned fairly well to ride this thing out for however long it takes. As far as what you can expect to see on this website moving forward, over the next week or so, we’ll continue our series at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, taking a look at an afternoon arrival and how to go about touring that Park through close. I’ll follow that up with a Magic Kingdom rope drop. I’ll also finish up the Flower and Garden Festival reviews and we can take a walk around that Park to enjoy the flowers and topiaries. Once we’re done with that, I’ll spend most of my time updating and republishing old content so that we’re in the best possible position to continue outwitting the tourists once the theme parks reopen. I have a number of restaurant reviews, resort reviews, and the like to publish as well. This is, after all, a website that does not currently have an official Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance review. So if you do have some time over the coming days, weeks, and potentially months, there will be as much or more content to consume.
When the theme parks reopen, the website will be on the ground to cover whatever that looks like. My estimation is that it will be a relatively slow ramp up back to the crowd levels that we saw as recently as a week ago. That means the first couple of weeks should see low crowds and short wait times as people plan new trips and travel capacity increases. How quickly we see crowds increase will depend on how much notice we have that things are returning to normal and how bad things get in the interim. There will almost certainly be some deals and promotions to get people back out to Florida. Pent up demand should mean a bustling summer and fall, assuming that we’re looking at spending about eight weeks inside.
I do hope everyone out there is healthy and safe. I’ve met thousands of you over the past ten years of running this site, and your support means more to me than I would ever publicly acknowledge. Take care of yourselves and I’ll see you back out there, hopefully a lot sooner than later.
If you’ve had the misfortune of following the website over the last couple of months, then you’d know that we’ve run into quite a bit of trouble touring Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the morning. To get a better idea about what I’m talking about, including a 75-minute wait for Alien Swirling Saucers at 8:30am, and a perpetual 165-minute wait for Slinky Dog Dash all morning, you can pull up this post. At 8:40am, or just over a half hour into the day, I waited 75 minutes in line for Toy Story Mania. And that wait was below-average compared to the other available rides. That’s not great.
Our problems with early morning wait times are largely due to the fact that an unprecedented number of people are arriving before Park opening in order to secure a boarding group for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Once they either succeed or fail at doing that right at 8am, they then need to find something else to do with their time come 8:01am. With a great lineup of attractions on the high-end of things, including five of Disney World’s newest rides, it makes sense that people would be eager to visit Slinky Dog Dash, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, etc.