We pick things up for one final walk around Animal Kingdom at 12:50pm with Kilimanjaro Safaris posting a 35 minute wait, which isn’t bad at all. It’s still 20 minutes longer than I’m willing to wait, but it bodes well for some of the other experiences that we may be interested in doing. If the waits at the rides are relatively short, then people are more likely to get in line, reducing interest in things like Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek.
As promised, Rafiki’s Planet Watch will reopen on July 11th, just eight days before the live action version of The Lion King hits theaters on July 19th.
The Wildlife Express, the name of the train required to transport guests to and from Planet Watch, will reopen at the same time.
Affection Section, which is where guests have an opportunity to interact with, and perhaps be spit on by, a variety of animals, will also reopen. I’m looking forward to saying hello to Jack and Jill.
In addition, a new attraction called “The Animation Experience at Conservation Station” also starts July 11th somewhere inside Conservation Station, which is part of Rafiki’s Planet Watch. You can pull up the full announcement here, but it sounds like it’s the return of the Animation Academy with Lion King characters as the focus. Since this is Animal Kingdom, there will be a bit more of an educational slant, with guest artists learning about the animals that call the Park home and how some of those animals have influenced Disney animators.
FastPass+ will be offered, though it’s currently unclear how popular they will be or whether booking one will be necessary. Thirty days out, it looks like all shows remain available for booking. That may change once word gets out. We don’t know the class size, but it “feels” like 35ish people is likely, which would mean very few FP+ experiences will be distributed. With nine or ten shows per day, we’re talking about 250 total FP+ with about 350 total people being able to partake on a given day. Expedition Everest distributes something like 18,000 FastPass+ experiences a day with 25,000+ people experiencing the ride. If you’d like to attend The Animation Experience, I think I’d recommend booking it in advance as it’s potentially unlikely that those who do book it will cancel. On the other hand, it could prove to be unpopular given its location and the fact that a lot of people only identify rides as things worth doing.
Shows look to be 25 minutes long with guests invited to arrive between five and twenty minutes before the start. I’d probably give yourself 20 minutes to get out there after you arrive in Africa as the train can take as many as ten minutes to arrive, load, and depart. You may want to head out a little earlier as there’s easily 15 minutes worth of stuff to see. We’ll certainly check out the offering once it debuts. It sounds like a lot of fun.
With the return of the train, it will be nice to see this wall in Harambe Market come down. When the Wildlife Express is operating, it blazes through the area at a couple miles per hour. Sometimes I ride the train with a net and try to either take pictures of other people’s food so I don’t have to buy it for the review or simply scoop it up so I can take a picture of it at my leisure. If half has been eaten, I just Photoshop the other half back in. I’ve been very hungry during the Planet Watch closure.
We’ll see if there are any other changes come July 11th.
The lunchtime wait at Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe isn’t too bad, thanks in part to the fact that it operates with twice as many registers as Woody’s Lunch Box. With no mobile order and all-outdoor seating, it’s a rough proposition in June.
The posted wait at Kali River Rapids now exceeds an hour, which makes our prior use of FastPass+ look smart in comparison. You might remember that my total experience time, including a stop at the lockers to drop off and pick up my camera, as well as a moment to squeeze into my poncho, took more time than Flight of Passage first thing in the morning.
I may run a review of the new version of Rivers of Light, which debuted about three weeks ago.
I continue to think that it’s a lesser experience than a lot of Animal Kingdom’s other attractions, but if it fits into your itinerary, then you may elect to see it and decide for yourself. Removing the live shamans and acolytes was a big loss; it eliminated much of the show’s energy and the addition of Disney animation and nature clips is a lateral move for the most part, erasing some of the more memorable moments from the original version and replacing them with a story that’s even more incoherent.
Word is definitely out and with few people returning to see the show a second time, demand for seating is now much lower. That means the standby section doesn’t typically fill until ten or fifteen minutes before a show and FastPass+ are relatively easy to get on the day-of with a minimal amount of refreshing.
Expedition Everest’s 40-minute posted wait just after 1pm is a solid 50% less than the 4-week average at this time slot.
The best days to visit the Disney World theme parks are those that Disney expects to be crowded, but end up seeing attendance that’s lower than anticipated. This picture is from the Friday leading into Memorial Day Weekend with 8am to 10pm operating hours and plentiful staffing. With attendance that ended up being just slightly above average, we’re enjoying a pretty easy time. We might be able to find a day with fewer people visiting, but if Disney removes a train from Everest, reducing the capacity by 20- or 25-percent, then we aren’t necessarily doing any better for ourselves. Who would have thought “go to Disney World when it’s busy” would be anything but laughable advice?
While Everest’s 40-minute posted wait is about 30 minutes longer than I’m willing to wait, it means most people interested in experiencing the attraction will get in line, which also frees up walkways for those of us just collecting pictures of wait time signs.
At what is purportedly 1:11pm, the wait for TriceraTop Spin looks to be about ten minutes, pending the amount of ongoing flapdoodlery.
Primeval Whirl was posting a 20-minute wait, which is certainly reasonable for the afternoon. Waits do typically drop a bit around now with people heading to lunch and shows.
DINOSAUR remained busy with the 45-minute posted wait, potentially due in part to an hour of downtime earlier in the day.
I’m heading back to Pandora to use my third FastPass+ at Na’vi River Journey.
One nice thing about Pandora is that there are so many winding paths that is rarely “feels” congested, unlike Toy Story Land where there’s just the one thoroughfare. The path heading in is nice and wide.
Since it’s been a while since we’ve checked, here’s a look at posted waits here since the Wednesday before Memorial Day Weekend with 1:30pm highlighted:
The 60-minute posted wait is 17% lower than the average for that time slot, while the 55-minute average for the day is just three minutes shorter than the overall average for the time period. With a 40+ minute average posted wait from 9am to 9pm, most of us will want to be utilizing FP+ here during most of the day. While we always appreciate lower wait times, whether Na’vi is posted at 60 minutes, 70 minutes, or 80 minutes is somewhat irrelevant. There is no version of that line that I want to find myself in.
The actual wait looked to be 60 to 75 minutes, even if the number of people waiting in standby is actually less than what I experienced the week before when I got in line about a half hour before Park close. With the current 10pm closes most days in June and probably July, you’d want to get in line by 9:15pm to ride in standby before heading over to Flight of Passage. To be on the safe side, getting in line an hour before close is smart. Of course, FastPass+ aren’t particularly difficult to secure in advance of a date, in large part due to the FastPass+ Tier rationing that I discuss here.
With FP+, I arrived at 1:30pm and was on-board at 1:37pm.
AFTER TWO YEARS I FINALLY SAW THE SHAMAN SCREEN!!!!!!
my life is complete I’m never riding again pic.twitter.com/rkmK6QVRyC
— josh (@easywdw) May 24, 2019
After a couple hundred rides on River Journey over the last two years, I had never seen the screen that Disney uses when there’s issues with the shaman animatronic. Until this moment. The effect is actually pretty believable and, if you didn’t know better, you’d probably just assume that it’s the way the ride is supposed to be. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.
I was back out front at 1:45pm for a total experience time of just 15 minutes.
That’s right around average with FP+, whether the posted wait is 40 or 90 minutes.
Flight of Passage’s 110 minute wait is just ten minutes shy of two hours, despite the number of people that will gleefully celebrate that the wait is down to just over an hour. That’s also below average for this time of day.
Here’s the chart for Flight of Passage with the same dates as Na’vi and 1:45pm highlighted:
Again, the exact afternoon wait time is somewhat irrelevant, as we don’t want to get in line whether the posted wait is “just” 95 minutes, as it was on June 2nd, or as much as 145 minutes, as it was on May 27th. With the 10pm closes, the average posted wait at Park close remains 110 minutes, or the same as what we see now.
The difference is that you’d wait close to two hours now, while the wait at Park close should be about half that.
This is how my day ended up going:
- Flight of Passage: 7:35am – 8:05am
- Na’vi River Journey: 8:06am – 8:19am
- Na’vi River Journey: 8:20am – 8:35am
- Kilimanjaro Safaris: 8:46am – 9:16am
- DINOSAUR: 9:30am – 9:42am
- Primeval Whirl: 9:45am – 10:05am
- TriceraTop Spin: 10:06am – 10:18am
- Expedition Everest with FastPass+: 10:23am – 10:36am
- Kali River Rapids with FastPass+: 10:42am – 11:13am
With the third ride on River Journey from 1:30pm to 1:45pm, which we’ll largely ignore for this end-of-post discussion. Since I arrived at 6:50am, my total time at the Park was four hours and twenty-three minutes and I was able to experience nine rides, including River Journey twice, with two FastPass+.
During my evening visit, this is what I accomplished:
- DINOSAUR: 6:07pm – 6:21pm
- Primeval Whirl with FastPass+: 6:24pm – 6:42pm
- TriceraTop Spin: 6:42pm – 6:49pm
- Expedition Everest with FastPass+: 6:56pm – 7:08pm
- Kilimanjaro Safaris with FastPass+: 7:34pm – 8:09pm
- Na’vi River Journey: 8:24pm – 8:58pm
- Avatar Flight of Passage: 8:59pm – 10:03pm
That’s seven rides in three hours and fifty-six minutes, or 27 minutes less time than the rope drop. In those 27 minutes, I could have probably experienced Kali River Rapids after Expedition Everest, if I had started my evening a half hour earlier by beginning at DINOSAUR closer to 5:30pm.
As far as I can tell, that makes the two plans a wash, for the most part. We’d also do a little better with a 10pm close at Animal Kingdom, instead of the 9pm close that I experienced, as crowds will only be lower later in the evening. A lot of the success I saw in the morning was also due to the 8am opening, which was a big advantage with an extra hour of incredibly short waits early in the day.
How you want to craft your day depends largely on your own preferences. Despite focusing on rope drop touring a lot, I am not a morning person, so I would naturally gravitate to the afternoon start. Of course, with the early start, you’ve still got the whole day ahead of you. If you decide that you want to see an extra show or stop for some entertainment that you weren’t expecting to enjoy, then you can do so without any concern that you’re going to go over time. With the late arrival, you’ll need to stick to the plan or you’ll risk arriving too late in Pandora to make it through Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey. That can be mitigated by an earlier arrival or with FP+ at River Journey or Flight of Passage.
Ordinarily, I would give the edge to the later arrival with the opening procedure so unpleasant, particularly in the morning humidity, which is unrelenting in the summer. I may have lucked into a better experience, having only waited a minute for the walk to Flight of Passage to begin. That’s potentially worth taking into account. Also, the wait for Flight of Passage last thing at night can be much longer if there’s technical problems. Those are less common first thing in the morning.
Regardless of which way you decide to go, there are two very good strategies to enjoy the Animal Kingdom with minimal waits and hassle.
We may focus on Epcot next.