We pick things up at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on a morning with a 7am open, which means that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding group signups open at the same time as the walk over to Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land begin, also at 7am. In Part One, we took a look at what to expect from rope drop crowds, along with how best to join an early Rise of the Resistance boarding group. Part Two followed, with the walk over to Galaxy’s Edge for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run first thing, where the importance of our early arrival was made crystal clear as thousands of people followed behind us into the new Land, and then waited longer to experience the ride.
I think I speak for all of us when I say that there’s nowhere we’d rather be at 7:36am than standing in front of Alien Swirling Saucers.
While lightning is known to close outdoor attractions more often in the summer, colder mornings often cause delays in opening those same attractions in what Lake Buena Vista identifies as “winter.” We’ve already seen that at Slinky Dog Dash, which cast members announced wasn’t going to open with the Park as early as 6:15am.
Here at Alien Swirling Saucers, only one of the two sides is going to be operating, effectively halving capacity. Later in the morning, as more people with FastPass+ arrive, this will basically grind the standby line to a halt as there are more FP+ returners than there are seats on the ride. Perhaps one standby group will ride for every nine FastPass+ groups.
At least Slinky Dog Dash is running.
You wonder what our alien friends thought about the rush on Area 51 earlier this year. “We’re right here. Just come over and grab us.”
The half-closure turned what should have been a 10-minute wait into a 30-minute wait, as I arrived at 7:36am and wasn’t on-board until 8:10am.
I was back out front at 8:17am to a 25-minute wait, which is probably closer to 40 minutes at this point.
Fortunately, the walkway from Toy Story Land into Galaxy’s Edge has already opened. This is good news if you’re planning on doing something over there as you won’t have to circle all the way around to the main entrance on Grand Avenue – a detour that will take at least ten minutes.
This is what we were looking at wait-time wise at the time I boarded Swirling Saucers:
All of the Tier 1 FastPass+ rides are posting a 20+ minute wait and they’ll only go up from there. Fortunately, I’ve already taken care of Smugglers Run and I have FastPass+ for Slinky Dog Dash – the two rides that currently sport the longest standby waits. Swirling Saucers was our second stop, which shares a 30-minute posted wait with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. In other words, there aren’t a lot of low-wait opportunities at the rides just an hour into operation.
We could take advantage of the shortest line that we’ll see all-day for the Woody and Bo Peep Meet, perhaps with the exception of the last hour of operation.
These two continue to see the longest waits of any characters at the Park, with lines that continue to get longer.
About 75 minutes into operation, things remain more than manageable in Toy Story Land.
Toy Story Mania is our next stop, with a 25-minute posted wait at 8:19am.
With Slinky Dog Dash now open, we should be in good shape with most people now headed in that direction.
And ideally, with few people arriving with FastPass+ priority this early in the morning.
And ideally, the ride operating at full capacity.
And we’re in luck as I was past the merge with standby in just four minutes, meaning it was basically a straight shot to load.
I was back out front to some sunshine and a 40-minute posted wait at 8:43am, for a total experience time of under 25 minutes. With FastPass+ later in the day, that’s about as long as the ride would take, so we did just about as good as you could do.
One does wonder about Disney’s posted wait times. At Toy Story Mania, there’s no way to gauge the actual length of the line unless it stretches out into the outdoor queue, which is rare. That means we’d have to test our luck with the 40 minutes posted, by getting in line ourselves, to find out that the actual wait is much closer to ten minutes. It wouldn’t surprise me if some number of people balked over getting in a 25-minute Toy Story Mania line, in turn skipping an attraction that they could have been on in about five minutes.
At Alien Swirling Saucers, we can see that only one side is running, along with the actual length of the line, from the attraction’s entrance. The entire queue for Slinky Dog Dash is also visible from outside the entrance. Being able to see how many people are actually in line should help you gauge whether or not you want to commit to waiting. I do admit that I laugh, only on the inside, when I see some group rush to an attraction entrance when the posted wait is short, as if they’re somehow locking it in if they’re able to pass under it when it says five or ten minutes.
Slinky Dog is posted at 70 minutes with the extended queue cast member holding a sign stating as much up ahead to the right. That should be around the average wait for the day.
From Part Two, you might remember that I’m benefiting from an early morning switcheroo, when I changed my Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster FastPass+ for Slinky Dog Dash.
Disney continues to extend the Studios’ hours with about a week’s notice, moving the Park’s opening to 7am from 8am from January 5th through the 11th. Originally, the Park opened at 9am. Then it was 8am.
Here’s the latest on the operating hours:
What we’re seeing transpire throughout these posts, with the 7am opens, should continue to ring true at the beginning of the new year. At the moment, the Studios is slated to move to 8am opens beginning January 12th. On one hand, this may be a good thing, as it will cause people to sleep in a bit and arrive later. If the main purpose of your visit is Rise of the Resistance, then it also means that you’ll need to be inside the Park an hour later for a shot at one of the first boarding groups of the day.
On the downside, more people will have an opportunity to arrive for an 8am open, and waits will increase faster in the morning. Eventually, Disney will move to 8am opens and we’ll return then to see how things go.
Don’t fret over those February 9am opens, which you would also expect Disney to move to at least 8am as the month approaches. Currently, February 2nd is only the second morning Extra Magic Hour scheduled since Rise of the Resistance opened on December 5th. Disney changed the morning EMH to evening EMH for December and January due to some confusion over how early the Park would have to open to accommodate resort guests.
With FastPass+, I’ll be on-board my Slinky in about five minutes. The actual standby wait is going to be over an hour already:
As usual, FastPass+ is great when you have it, and sucks when you don’t, as my total experience time came in under ten minutes. The 70-minute posted wait should hold true, meaning those without it will spend about 7.5 times longer waiting for and riding Slinky Dog. In a half hour, the posted wait will hit triple digits.
Things are beginning to pick up in Toy Story Land, now about two hours into the day.
Speaking of the number two, that’s how many registers Woody’s Lunch Box continues to operate.
With things heating up, in more ways than one, the second turntable at Swirling Saucers is operational, which should help reduce waits.
The line to meet Woody and Bo Peep is now at least twice as long as it was on our last pass as it stretches back down towards Toy Story Mania’s exit.
We’re heading out of Toy Story Land before 9am, having experienced all three rides, in addition to Smugglers Run. Theoretically, there would be no need to return here to experience peak afternoon crowds.
Toy Story Mania is still posting a 40-minute wait, which is probably now about right.
Buzz Lightyear, Santa Hat and all, is headed towards what is currently a backstage area. At some point in 2020, the Roundup Rodeo BBQ will open in what is currently that grey building.
Eventually, this is what we can expect this space to look like. The green wall that Buzz is about to walk behind in the picture from our visit will be the area underneath the “Roundup Rodeo BBQ” entryway in the concept art. Details are scant on what type of sit-down meal we’ll see, but my dream is to dine alongside Mr. Pricklepants. We may need to wait for the Toy Story takeover of Biergarten to see that.
We have a somewhat unique situation on our hands at the Studios; it’s going on 9am and waits for the rides are already becoming prohibitive. Every ride other than Star Tours is currently posting a 40-minute wait at a minimum.
And the shows don’t begin until 10am, at best. The first Frozen Sing-Along is 90 minutes away, at 10:30am. The first Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage isn’t until 11am, which is two hours away. Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular’s first show starts an hour after that, at 12pm. Even Muppet*Vision 3D doesn’t come online until 10am. Voyage of the Little Mermaid shows used to begin as early as 9:15am, even with a regular 9am open, but 10am is the earliest show now, even with a 7am open.
This complicates things because one of our goals is to book additional FastPass+ experiences from Tier 1, after using our initial allotment of three FP+ that we can book in advance. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to use all three of your initial FP+ at the Studios until at least 10am, when it’s first possible to use the third FastPass+ at a show like Muppet*Vision or Voyage of the Little Mermaid.
At 9am, that basically puts us in no man’s land. In most cases, it’s too late to head over to Sunset Boulevard for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. We’ve tried that in the past, only to find 30+ minute actual waits. We could ride Star Tours a couple of times with waits that should be under ten minutes each.
What you may want to do is visit some characters. The Star Wars characters in the Launch Bay begin meeting at Park open, as do Mickey and Minnie across from Sci-Fi Dine-In, and Olaf across from Star Tours. The Toy Story Land characters also begin meeting at Park open, but you’re looking at 45 minutes for Woody and Bo Peep and closer to 20 minutes for Buzz or Jessie.
It had been a while since I met the Star Wars characters, and it “felt” on-theme with Rise of the Resistance being in focus, so I headed over there:
We should be able to meet Chewbacca, Darth Vader, and BB-8 over the course of an hour. After that, we can get back to our FastPass+ experiences at Star Tours and Muppet*Vision.
At most character meets, you’re looking at 90 seconds to two minutes per group in front of you, meaning a line of just eight groups will result in a wait of about twelve minutes. Chewbacca(s) meets behind these doors, so our wait may be cut in half.
Darth Vader meets in place of Kylo Ren just to the right of Chewbacca’s queue. Vader is a lot more popular than Kylo was, and it probably makes more sense to visit him first, as waits are typically longer earlier in the day. You can also use your Disney Visa card to jump the line between 11am and 4pm. The entrance for that perk is around the corner to the right. You just need to show the card to the cast member and they’ll basically send you right in.
There are a few things to look at in the Chewbacca queue:
With Disney likely pushing the second season of “The Mandalorian” on Disney+, which is now officially coming out next fall, you’d think that Star Wars Launch Bay would be ripe for an overhaul with Mando and Baby Yoda. Park operations wouldn’t pay for it, but the marketing budget for the streaming service might.
This is one of several locations on property that now use an automated camera instead of a PhotoPass photographer. The photos come out fine for the standard standing pose, but they may be lacking for those candid shots where the PhotoPass photographer would move around to get some different angles. As always, you’re welcome to take as many photos as you’d like with your own camera, and the cast member standing next to the machine will also do their best to work with your equipment. I wouldn’t bank on the automated system capturing much more than the staged photos, and perhaps a couple of candid shots if you’re in frame.
I got in line for Chewbacca at 9:06am, and met the wookiee at 9:13am, which seems more than reasonable.
One thing that you’ll want to be sure that you do, if you’re using PhotoPass or would like the pictures attached to your account, is scan your ticket/MagicBand just outside the meet and greets with the automated systems.
In my experience, the linking is not automatic, like some of the on-ride photos, where somehow Disney can tell exactly which row you’re in on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster during the initial launch. Or, at least they can tell some of the time. You’ll need to scan your ticket/MagicBand at the kiosk at the exit.
Darth Vader took a lot longer to meet, potentially due to the number of Sith behind those doors coming in at one instead of two.
The items you’ll see around here are a little less friendly:
After being a little thrown off by Darth, I actually forgot to scan my MagicBand at the exit, so this is the only picture that I took away from the meet. If that happens to you, then you can contact Disney PhotoPass through this link, or call them at 407-560-4300. They’re surprisingly good at finding photos, perhaps with the help of some amount of machine learning. When you remember, you might also take a photo of your on-ride photos at the likes of Test Track and Splash Mountain to reference should they not link properly.
If worse comes to worst, I can always Photoshop your faces on other people, which is what I do in the photos I post anyway. I’m actually incredibly good looking, but I feel like I wouldn’t be seen like the common man if I were to show my true self, so I’m always pasting that dork into the photos to compensate.
I got in line for Vader at 9:15am, and met him at 9:34am, for a wait that was less than 20 minutes. It “felt” like it went much faster, in part due to the time that it took to look at and photograph the various weapons, but also because it was nice to relax for a minute. There’s a lot of go, go, go inherent in morning touring, along with the stress of the rope drop experience, obtaining the Rise of the Resistance boarding groups, and making it to the various attractions before long waits have an opportunity to develop. There are certainly worse places to spend about 15 minutes than in a dark, climate-controlled space like what will hopefully become Star Wars Mandalorian Bay. Disney can have that one for free.
In the time it took me to meet Darth Vader, the line looked to about quadruple in length, which points to fewer Vaders being back there.
Chewbacca’s line looked to be two or three groups longer than when I first arrived about 40 minutes earlier.
BB-8 is located on the upper level, with waits that are usually shorter than Chewbacca or Darth Vader. If you’re visiting early in the morning, then it makes sense to start with Vader, then visit Chewbacca, and then finish up with BB-8. This makes some amount of logistical sense as well. You’ll also find a real life PhotoPass photographer in there. The picture with BB-8 took less than ten minutes.
Speaking of “The Mandalorian,” Disney seems to have been somewhat caught off guard by the popularity of “Baby Yoda,” pushing out some amount of merchandise in a hurry. I’m not entirely sure why there is a frog on the top of this magnet-looking-thing.
A few more items:
Along with a few more items that you’ll find at the Launch Bay exit:
For a while, you could find some real high-end merchandise here, but that has been switched out for less expensive toys and apparel.
So far, my morning has gone well, in large part due to my early arrival, and being able to switch out my Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster FastPass+ for Slinky Dog Dash.
This is what I’ve done so far:
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run: 7:10am – 7:32am
- Alien Swirling Saucers (with only one of two sides running): 7:36am – 8:12am
- Toy Story Mania: 8:19am – 8:43am
- Slinky Dog Dash with FastPass+: 8:44am – 8:52am
- Meet Chewbacca: 9:05am – 9:14am
- Meet Darth Vader: 9:15am – 9:35am
- Meet BB-8: 9:36am – 9:44am
We had some bad luck at Alien Swirling Saucers, where we waited about 20 minutes longer than we would have if both sides of the ride were operating. We made up for it a bit with Slinky Dog Dash coming online, in turn pulling people away from Toy Story Mania, which we were able to basically walk right on. I could have flipped Chewbacca and Darth Vader and saved a minute or two in line, but being able to meet three priority characters over the span of about 40 minutes is nice.
At this point, I’m going to head over to Star Tours to use my FastPass+ there and then I’ll be able to use my third FastPass+ of the day at Muppet*Vision 3D immediately after.