All Photos by Alex Westcott.
If you’re trying to identify your delinquent neighbor at the end of the street who has not yet disposed of their Christmas tree laid out oblong against the curb or put away any of their holiday decorations then there’s at least a 25% chance that Walt Disney World is the culprit.
Usually, Disney keeps most of the decorations up through marathon weekend, ostensibly to give those willing to pay $275+ to run the streets of Florida arbitrarily an opportunity to see something that isn’t related to Hanes t-shirts or apple juice squeezes.
Most photos by Alex Westcott with the exception of a few of the nighttime shots of Spaceship Earth with the fountain out from behind the “progress walls.” The post ends with more recent construction photos from mid-January that I took myself, if you can believe that.
It was a festive year at Epcot, all things considered.
The various character cavalcades were made all the more festive around World Showcase. Wintery characters like Anna and Elsa made their way around the promenade often throughout the day. They’ve since moved the Frozen characters to a sort of selfie station area in Norway as Disney has now returned to the more generic lineup of characters.
Earlier this week, the website published a post titled, Walt Disney World Starts Filling Every Row on Attractions Among the Heaviest Christmas Crowds of the Year. We took a look at a number of attractions where Disney recently began seating guests in every row, even on vehicles where they’ve made no safety modifications.
Considering the lengths they’ve gone through to modify some vehicles, it seems at best a bit arbitrary that someone would wake up on December 10th and decide that every row on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Slinky Dog Dash, and others can now be filled, while it was previously unsafe to do so from the middle of July until then.
The capacity changes do create a bit of a wrinkle in our collected wait times over the last several months, as it’s no longer an apples to apples comparison at a number of attractions with double capacity. Attendance continues to go up, even if wait times at several attractions are down.
We’ve been interested in keeping tabs on how and when Walt Disney World increases and decreases the capacities of its various attractions since the theme parks reopened in July. The majority of our touring strategy relies on identifying which rides build waits fastest. We visit them first whenever we’re able to arrive early enough to take advantage of those shorter waits. Then, we pinpoint the next set of rides where waits will begin to rise, and ideally arrive at those attractions just before appreciable waits materialize at each. That way, we’ve minimized waits as much as possible without starting the day at Alien Swirling Saucers.
Attraction waits are largely dependent on capacity, or how many people can ride per hour. If Disney increases capacity at some attractions, and not others, then our priorities and how we move about our day will likely change, as waits drop at the attractions with the new, heftier capacities, and either stay the same or rise at attractions where capacity remains unwavering. “Popularity” also enters the equation, as people inevitably rush to the newest attractions, those that they’ve seen or heard have high waits, or (most commonly) where most other people are heading first.
Disney has made a number of moves over the last six weeks, and particularly during the last three, to increase capacity at certain attractions. Propensity to travel to Walt Disney World will (ideally?) increase heading into the new year, and Disney will want to be ready to meet that demand as best they can. Or, they can at least rationalize selling more tickets and open up more Park Pass spots with additional seats now available on the likes of Slinky Dog Dash, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
This post will primarily focus on what’s going on at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as it remains the trickiest Park to tour with the short hours, limited number of attractions, and the whole Rise of the Resistance boarding group thing. Since there will be more words and charts than either of us would like in this post already, we’ll take a closer look at the other Parks as we go about fresh touring days there, but I’ll bring up a couple examples at the end to show how much of an impact simply filling every row on a boat ride can have on wait times.
One of the best examples of Disney increasing capacity via vehicle modification is Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Disney installed plastic barriers and started loading every row in each train back on November 17th, 2020. By filling every row, instead of about half on each train, you’ve effectively doubled the number of people who can ride per hour.
Not all of our charts will be this long, but we can clearly see how much shorter wait times became starting on November 17th:
All photos by Alex Westcott
Since it’s apparently still there, we’ll take a walk around Epcot/EPCOT to see what is or isn’t going on.
It’s artsy because it’s tilted.