Our day at Hollywood Studios continues because we don’t have any other choice. This remains the back of the line for Smugglers Run at 1:55pm with a 50-minute posted wait that is headed for 65 minutes as it continues to wind around much closer to the entrance to Slinky Dog Dash than the Millennium Falcon.
With Park Hopping resuming in less than a month, with people expected to be able to move over to the Studios beginning at 2pm, it’s likely that waits and congestion will only get worse as those who decide to leave are replaced by others just arriving. Part of our usual touring strategy is to try to wait out the crowds in hopes that people will eventually give up and leave. That hasn’t been the case at the Studios for the most part, with the early 7pm close almost every day, and no nighttime spectaculars to pull people away. Even if you add 10,000 people to the Studios at 7pm, with Fantasmic! and the fireworks scheduled, those additional people are occupied by those shows. You either have the opportunity to enjoy them yourself or take advantage of fewer people in line. Without those additional people and without the shows to absorb them, it’s basically a wash as far as wait times are concerned.
With the Studios’ average wait for each ride coming in at a constant 40 minutes, waiting for eight of them will cost you about 320 minutes in line. That’s over five hours of the standard ten hour day, not including the time it takes to experience the attraction, walk to the next one, visit fillers, eat lunch and dinner, etc. If you’re headed to the Studios and want to do each of the rides, you’re looking at spending the entire day there. Even as we bob and weave as intelligently as possible, there aren’t a lot of late morning and afternoon opportunities to do much of anything without waiting longer than we’d like.
You can check the standard wait time distribution chart again a little further down this post to see how long you can expect to wait throughout the day, but there are only two opportunities to ride Millennium Falcon without waiting 45+ minutes. And that’s either very very early in the morning or basically last thing at night. Since it’s impossible to be everywhere first or last thing, you’re going to find yourself waiting. A lot. And because of that, people tend to linger later as it takes them about an hour to get through each ride. After all, if you’ve spent a considerable amount of money to do something, chances are that you’re going to want or need to take the time to accomplish it. Most people visiting the Studios want to do most of the things, particularly considering it’s the Park with most of the newest attractions. We’ll continue to do our best as we move through the day and then see how things turn out come January.
In the previous post, I updated my advice on what requests to make throughout the Rise of the Resistance experience, so you can see as much of the pre-shows and ride as possible. You can pull up that post here, which starts 99% spoiler-free, before delving into more of the specifics with the help of some pictures.
If you’re unfamiliar with how we got here, you can pull each of the previous parts:
- The Best Way to Rope Drop Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios Morning Touring With An Extra Early Start
- The Impossibility of Late Morning Disney’s Hollywood Studios Touring
The first post describes the key to a successful morning at the Studios and then moves on through a standard day from there.
Here’s a refresher on what is basically the standard wait time distribution across the day:
I’ve highlighted 2pm because that’s where we are in the day. Waits have come down from their late morning highs, but 25+ minutes remains the norm. And waits will actually go up over the next hour, potentially as people get in line for one last ride after not obtaining a Rise of the Resistance boarding group with the 2pm release. With Rise now moving through about twice as many people, we may also be seeing more people sticking around until their boarding groups are called, which would also increase waits later in the day since you’ve given a thousand or more people a good reason to stay. It’s pretty much always a lose-lose situation at the Studios. Wait times drop from 4pm onward, and we’ll hope that we can take advantage of some shorter waits in the early evening.
So far, this is how my timing has worked out:
- 8:51am arrival via walking over from the BoardWalk area
- 9:11am entry into the Park
- Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway: 9:15am – 9:28am
- Slinky Dog Dash: 9:36am – 10:01am
- Smugglers Run: 10:06am – 10:36am
- Muppet*Vision 3D: 10:44am – 11:10am
- Mickey & Minnie in Vacation Fun: 11:16am – 11:35am
- Echo Lake Decorations and Atmosphere: 11:36am – 11:51am
- Wandering Around: 11:52am – 12:15pm
- Pixar Character Cavalcade: 12:16pm – 12:18pm
- ABC Commissary Lunch: 12:25pm – 1:15pm
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance: 1:22pm – 1:52pm
Alien Swirling Saucers is at 20 minutes and Toy Story Mania is posting 25 minutes as we pass through just before 2pm.
If we come back in a couple of hours, we should see even fewer people and shorter waits.
The Slinky line isn’t looking too much better as it still stretches outside the Land and around the corner.
There may be a hundred fewer people in line now than we saw a couple of hours ago.
But nobody stuck waiting in the Voyage of the Little Mermaid queue to ride Slinky Dog Dash is only a good thing. How optimistic of us. I guess this is a positive blog now.
The Frozen Sing-Along is the one major stage show that Disney has brought back with virtually no modifications. Since there were typically just two characters on stage at once, it’s easy to keep them a safe distance apart. For the finale, five or six characters can easily be spread out across the stage. They basically were already to help fill the space. I’m arriving at 2:06pm for the 2:30pm show, which may be a couple of minutes too early. But it’s better to arrive a few minutes early than get shut out and have to return in a half hour to try again. And there’s not much we can do between 2:06pm and the latest that we’d want to arrive, which would be about 2:15pm.
Shows are scheduled throughout the day on the half hour:
I elected to see an early afternoon show, thinking that demand might be a little lower given wait times beginning to drop a bit. Those prioritizing the show, and willing to arrive earlier, also would have likely seen an earlier presentation. I also wasn’t ready to visit the headliners myself, hoping to see waits drop off more.
This is a terrible picture, but this is seven minutes after my arrival and most of the dots in the covered waiting area are full.
And about 15 minutes before showtime, it looked to be just about full. Arriving 20 to 25 minutes before showtime is currently smart with the limited theater capacity.
Cast seat guests by row beginning about ten minutes before showtime, so you’ll only be sitting there for ten to fifteen minutes before it’s time to roll.
As with other shows, every other row is blocked off completely, and then three seats are off-limits for each party of up to four guests. They warn parties of more than four that they’ll need to be prepared to split up into two groups sitting in two adjacent sections.
As I’ve mentioned before, and while nobody believes me to this day, I like the Frozen Sing-Along a lot. There is a tremendous amount of ad-libbing that goes on and the show is legitimately funny.
The Sing-Along part works a little less well with only about 20% of the people who would ordinarily be there seated. I used to belt out a few lines myself, as my terrible voice would get drowned out by others, but you could almost whisper and be heard during a couple of the singing sections.
For the holiday season, they’re also rocking the Olaf’s Frozen Adventure ending. Ordinarily, Olaf wouldn’t come out.
At least for me, the finale worked even less this year. It’s about ten minutes long, isn’t funny, the songs aren’t familiar (to me), and it’s almost all about coming together as family for the holidays. It seemed a little tone deaf given the year’s circumstances. The regular Frozen show is just fine, and I would have preferred more of it to a couple of songs that seemed a lot more obscure. It’s possible that you have seen Olaf’s Frozen Fun or wherever the songs come from many more times than I have if you have youngsters around. But if you were to ask me if we should dedicate 30% of a stage show to talking about family holidays at a time when those plans are up in the air for a lot of people seemed like a poor decision. The show should return to its usual form come January. And if you’re not stuck in Florida, with your entire family still in Washington, the section may not hit you the same way as it did me.
I appreciated the orderly exit, with cast directing guests in each row to file out individually once there was adequate space. Logistically, they had thought of just about everything.
Star Tours still enjoys a pretty hefty capacity and is usually a smart choice for your first afternoon ride as you try to visit the attractions that you skipped earlier due to long waits.
But even at 3:07pm, the posted wait was 25 minutes.
And the queue still went around the entire outdoor portion of the queue.
I’m not sure if they were finishing up with a cleaning cycle or what, but all of a sudden, we started moving very fast through the queue.
And my actual wait was probably about 19 out of those 25 minutes posted.
It is a little tight in there as you wait for your Starspeeder.
I’ve seen over a dozen seating configurations. Here, every other row is left empty, and then in the front row, it looks like they have room for three parties of up to two people each. The back rows are filled with larger parties. Other simulators don’t have any of the plastic barriers, potentially for much larger groups.
I was back out front at 3:37pm, or exactly 30 minutes after getting in line, and what is now a longer posted wait. I could have potentially returned later and waited less, but there’s still a lot on the docket with Alien Swirling Saucers, Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and a return to either the Runaway Railway or Slinky Dog Dash to close out the night. And we’ve got less than 3.5 hours with the 7pm close.
Toy Story Land is up next.
Rise of the Resistance looked to be processing groups quickly. Uptime remains hit or miss. It has its good days, when 100+ groups are able to ride, and lousier days, when they only get up to group 80 or so.
We may have been too hard on D23’s “Storytelling Through Merchandise” panel a couple of weeks ago as interest in the various creature stalls in the Marketplace has increased exponentially. Christmas shopping may also be coming into play. But they only let about ten people into the Marketplace at once, so you could very easily spend a half hour or more in line waiting just for the opportunity to look over what’s still available. The line was even longer earlier in the day. You might check Tatooine Traders next to Star Tours to see if what you’re after is available there. The higher-end items are at Dok-Ondar’s, which also now sees longer lines. They do sometimes use a virtual queue there, where you give your phone number to the cast member outside and they text you when space inside is available. I haven’t seen one in use for the Marketplace yet.
At 3:47pm, the line for Smugglers Run was “only” backed up to Kylo Ren’s ship. That’s a hundred or more fewer people in line than what we saw a couple of hours ago.
But they’re still posting a 60-minute wait with an actual wait that’s around 50 minutes.
There’s some winding around to do.
I had a choice to make between getting in line for Alien Swirling Saucers or Toy Story Mania first. Saucers looked to be down to operating just one side, but it also looked like they were just about ready to reopen it. You don’t want to get in line for Saucers when only one side is open if you can help it because you’ll wait twice as long.
I gambled and went with Buzz.
And the 20 minutes posted at 3:49pm.
Luckily, I guessed right, and the second side of the ride reopened just a minute or two after I got in line, resulting in an actual wait of 12 minutes.
Perhaps because Disney knew Toy Story Land would already be congested for much of the day, there are virtually no holiday decorations around this year. You will still hear a Christmas song on Swirling Saucers play during every fourth or fifth spin.
It probably goes without saying, but the line for Slinky Dog is out of sight around the corner.
It’s not unusual for Toy Story Mania to post a 30-minute wait after 4pm, but as long as it’s running at full capacity, your actual wait should be closer to half that.
I was already passing by Mr. Potato Head four minutes into the walk through the queue.
And I’d be on-board just about five minutes later.
Which puts my total experience time at 23 minutes, or right around the time we used to expect it to take with FastPass+. Swirling Saucers took about three minutes longer than it would have with FastPass+. Star Tours was about eight minutes longer than historical FastPass+ experience times. I mention that since that was the minimum amount of time you could expect a ride to take in the afternoon back before the March closures. If we’re close to those times now, then we’re timing things well.
And at least the Back of the Line Sign for Slinky is visible from inside the Land. That should reduce your wait by about ten minutes compared to what we saw a few hours ago. We’ll return again at the very end of the night.
I ducked into Walt Disney Presents:
I had in mind to watch One Man’s Dream, but I just missed the start of the film by about 30 seconds and didn’t want to wait 15.5 minutes for the next one. But it’s always fun to take some time to look around at the models and such inside the exhibit. And you don’t have to yell, “THIS SHOULD BE IN A MUSEUM!” too much since it basically is in one. While the Studios has obviously moved away from animation and film production of any kind, I’m still not sure why they don’t add a substantial archive building full of movie props, models, artwork, etc. Think Backlot Tour warehouse on a much grander scale with rotating exhibits. I might not even complain about the Studios if they did that. Considering the popularity of shows like The Imagineering Story on Disney+, you’d think there would be demand. And it would be an easy way to increase capacity.
Another cavalcade passed through on my walk over to Sunset Boulevard:
The cavalcades are always short, sweet, and a nice surprise. Once character meet and greets are back, they likely won’t continue, but a lot of people probably go their whole day without seeing the majority of the characters. Back in March, meeting Woody, Buzz, Mickey, and Minnie would take at least 90 minutes. Obviously a walk-by/drive-by isn’t the same thing as a hug and a picture, but it’s been years since Animal Kingdom, Epcot, or Hollywood Studios offered any semblance of a scheduled parade.
Thanks to putting a number of attractions off for the late afternoon, we did pretty well for ourselves at our last few stops. We’ll see how the end of the night turns out at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and then back to Slinky Dog Dash.
Considering that’s the back of the line for Tower of Terror, beyond the old Fantasmic FastPass+ machines, we may be in some trouble.