We pick up our day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 1:20pm at Backlot Express. So far, this is what I’ve accomplished:
- Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway: 9:32am – 10:18am, including the ~30 minutes it took for the Park to open
- Tower of Terror: 10:23am – 10:47am
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: 10:51am – 11:12am
- Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy: 11:13am – 11:32am
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance: 11:46am – 12:28pm
- Muppet*Vision 3D: 12:32pm – 12:55pm
Ordering quick service is a much bigger hassle than it used to be. You’ll first need to lock in a return window to pick up your food on the My Disney Experience app. That return window could be 30+ minutes away. In most cases, Disney requires mobile order to even enter the venue. That likely means eating at off-times is an even wiser decision. You’ll run into fewer people, a less hectic experience, and immediate pickup times for your order. As someone who does not ordinarily follow their own advice, I find myself in the middle of a rain storm waiting for my hummus to be ready around 1pm. That’s three hours after the Park opened at 10am and probably right at peak lunch time. The precipitation pushes even more people towards indoor areas.
At most quick services, it’s unlikely that you’ll be let inside the venue until your mobile order shows up as being completed. Cast weren’t even letting guests with pending orders inside to use the restroom. A manager sent across the way to the restrooms outside Star Tours, in the rain. That left 50 or 60 of us huddled together, waiting outside, in close quarters, for our phones to tell us that we were hummus-eligible. I clicked the “I’m Here, Prepare My Order” button in the app at 12:55pm. I then waited until 1:10pm for the order to be ready.
Ordinarily, a 15-minute wait sounds like a couple minutes too long, but that annoyance was only exacerbated by the initial delay in ordering. “It’s just hummus, I thought.” Nobody is grinding garbanzo beans or milking the cow back there. You’ll remember that I couldn’t put in to pick up my food until 12:40pm, even though I was ready for lunch at 12:30pm. Seeing Muppet*Vision was a good way to pass the time, but it put me at the quick service about 30 minutes later than I would have liked.
The moral of the story: Do as I say and not as I do. Lock in a time in advance and expect the overall process to take a few more minutes than usual. Also plan on spending your time waiting for your food to be ready outside. I would suggest clicking the “I’m Here, Prepare My Order” button 30 minutes before the group is firmly in the hangry zone. I did not manage to do that myself.
Here’s what’s on the Backlot menu these days:
Like a lot of locations, Disney has pared down Backlot’s menu. There is no Chicken Sandwich option and the Caprese Sandwich is long gone.
Backlot also removed The Chicken and Biscuits that we liked. That dish was probably in the running for best quick service entree at the Park.
There are two items on the menu that I would endorse heading in. The $12 Cuban Sandwich is above-average. I said:
The bread was nice and thin with a light, crispy quality. There’s plenty of flavorful Sliced Ham to line the bottom of each half with the roasty Pulled Pork spilling out of the sandwich on top. Underneath the top piece of bread is a thick layer of crunchy, briny pickles and what may be an overwhelming amount of tangy mustard. I like putting “too much” mustard on my sandwiches and even I was like, “This is a lot of mustard.” Overall, I was impressed by the offering. It’s a terrific alternative to a burger and “feels” like a lot more effort is put into it than your basic deli sandwich. It’s another dish that I would order again and sizable enough that you could probably share it, particularly considering all of the snacks and treats available around the Park.
The Southwest Salad is very good too, particularly considering the Fairfax Salad is unavailable. As I recall, my only complaint about the salad was that the avocado was “too cold.” Go figure.
This time around, I went with the $10 “Tatooine Two Suns Hummus – Red Pepper Hummus topped with Plant-based Meat and Sesame Seeds alongside Original Hummus garnished with a Cucumber Relish, Fried Chickpeas, Sesame Seeds, and Za’atar Spice served with Pita Bread and a Lemon-Vinaigrette Tossed Spring Mix.”
Given the heat and humidity, this was perfect. There’s just something about 115-degree RealFeels and clunky overcooked hamburgers that don’t always seem to go hand-in-hand. Unlike most of the hummus snacks that you’ll find at a number of kiosks and stands, cast members arranged the plate nicely. That beats the simple handover of a small Sabra-branded cup of hummus with some thin shards of pretzel on top. This is probably still Sabra hummus. At least someone has gone through the trouble of putting it on a plate for us.
Anyway, the Pita Bread was soft and fresh, and did a nice job of carrying whatever the plural of hummus is to my mouth. With five small circular discs, we were probably three or four pieces short of having enough bread to use. The regular hummus was about what you would expect – creamy and garlicky with toasted sesame and a touch of tahini. The fresh vegetables on top elevate the smooth hummus by adding a little crunch and a burst of juicy flavor. The dish would be considerably more ho-hum without it. The subtle za’atar spice adds an earthy element, making for a richer, nuttier bite.
The Red Pepper Hummus comes topped with Impossible Burger. The Hummus is more sweet than spicy. There’s a little bit of a chili heat to it that’s tempered by the mildly-spiced “beef” and a few pieces of dry, fried chickpeas.
The Salad is probably there largely to fill up the plate, but the lemony vinaigrette adds a nice citrus zest to the mix and a nice crunch from the fresh lettuce. There’s only enough pita for about half of the hummus. At some point, you’re going to be mixing the salad with the hummus and the “beef” crumbles. That ended up being fine with me.
Overall, it was a light, refreshing, filling meal at a pretty economical price point. I left satisfied without feeling weighed down. That’s a good thing when your next three stops consist of Star Tours, Smugglers Run, and Slinky Dog Dash.
Alternatively, the $13 “Felucian Kefta and Hummus Garden Spread – Plant-based Meatballs, Herb Hummus, Tomato-Cucumber Relish, Pita” from Docking Bay 7 in Galaxy’s Edge is probably better. It’s three dollars more, but also heartier and not quite as obviously grocery store products spread out on a plate. I would return to either dish, particularly during the heat of the day, for a refreshing cool-down. The Backlot Express version of the hummus did “feel” more like a large snack than a proper meal. At ten bucks, you could split it between two people and come away with good value for your money. Considering a Mickey Pretzel is now just 21 cents south of seven bucks, the Backlot Pita and Hummus looks pretty good in comparison.
Backlot was doing a nice job of keeping people socially-distanced. They also immediately wiped down every table and chairs after a party got up.
Ordinarily, fountain beverages are refillable at Backlot. Instead, a cast member will fill your cup for you at the drink station. If you’d like a refill, they’ll use a new cup. I was potentially more amused by the “For Access Contact” sign attached to the top of the dispenser than I should have been. As recently as the middle of March of this year, you could waltz right up and refill your drink at your convenience. Now, you actually do have to contact someone to get your Diet Coke.
I pulled up the My Disney Experience app to check on wait times in between scoops of hummus:
We’ve got plans to stop at Star Tours, Smugglers Run, Alien Swirling Saucers, and Toy Story Mania. Seeing waits of 15 minutes or less for each of those sounds promising.
With lightning in the area, it makes sense that Slinky Dog Dash would be closed:
Rise of the Resistance is also down again. I ended up getting lucky with my timing there. The attraction with the longest wait, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, we visited first thing. It’s almost like we know what we’re doing.
The weather was not cooperating with the light sprinkle continuing. Luckily, the entrance to Star Tours is only a few steps away from Backlot Express. The sign reads 5-minutes.
That should be about right.
The queue is largely unmodified through here.
We’ll take the usual ramp up.
This time, it will be single-file. Back in the Please Fill in all of the Available Space Days, there would be two independently-moving lines here with people crammed in as close together as possible. That was undoubtedly less pleasant.
We grabbed our own 3D glasses. Cast were careful to cover the bin in between sending guests towards their bays. We do see optional hand sanitizer there. As I’ve mentioned before, keeping your distance from the cast members near load is typically impossible. The person who will ask you how many people are in your party will likely be just a foot or two away from you. This is nobody’s fault, but it may be time to go with hand signals. After taking one look at me, people quickly come to the conclusion that I’m alone. There is rarely a surprise when I hold up one finger. If you look like less of a vagabond, and don’t shoot Canon, then you’re more likely to hold up a couple more fingers.
Cast will load the first, third, and fifth rows of each simulator.
Inside the simulators, there are two potential seating arrangements.
In this one, it should be just one party per row.
In at least four others, you’ll see these plastic dividers separating different parties in the same row.
This seemed less ideal given the fact that there are three separate parties seated in the first row. There’s just a short, narrow piece of plastic dividing them. On the other hand, the enclosed spaces and air-conditioning are probably what we should be more concerned about. Without the dividers, it’s possible that simulators with as few as three people could be running. With the dividers, the capacity rises to about 18. In the back row, they had it set up for two parties of four with just the one small separator. Up front, there are two dividers to separate three parties of one or two people. To nobody’s surprise, I am by myself in the middle.
Anyway, Star Tours is not exactly an “anytime attraction,” but it’s one of the most forgiving at the Park. That means you can visit it later in the morning or earlier in the afternoon and still experience a relatively short wait. I arrived at 1:41pm, and was back out front at 2:01pm, for a total experience time of 20 minutes. That’s about how long the ride has historically taken with FastPass+.
Light rain continued to fall. It wasn’t heavy enough to keep most people under cover; it was plentiful enough that I didn’t want to travel any further than I had to. While I obviously won’t be permanently damaged by a little rain, my hairstyle is slightly more complicated than Christian Bale’s character in “American Hustle.” (Warning: there is some strong language in that clip.) That is the only thing that Christian Bale and I have in common. If even one drop of rain touches it, the entire thing on top of my head falls apart.
I took the opportunity to walk about a minute away to “Vacation Fun” at the Mickey Shorts Theater.
You may recall that Vacation Fun opened alongside Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway back in March and operated for about two weeks at that point.
It’s another opportunity to enjoy plush seating and air-conditioning for about 12 minutes. As with Muppet*Vision and other theater shows, Disney has closed every other row with guests leaving three empty seats in between parties.
You can watch the show from the comfort of your home if you would prefer.
At 2:20pm, I’m headed towards Galaxy’s Edge for Smugglers Run. That’s a little less than 4.5 hours into my day.
Light rain continues to keep most people off the streets, but the Park has already cleared out considerably. Probably next week, we’ll take a look at visiting the Studios from around 1:30pm through close to see how we do there. You’ll remember that the main reason why we arrived before the Park opened was to acquire a coveted spot in the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance. Outside of that, waits are going to be longer from 10am to 2pm than they will be from 4pm to 8pm. There’s little to keep people around with no Fantasmic, projection shows, or fireworks.
Also, with no Park Hopping, people can’t finish up with what they’ve got going on at one Park and then head to another. I would prefer to visit the Studios first, try to get a boarding group, potentially experience one attraction, and then head over to Epcot to rope drop that Park at 11am via the Skyliner. I could then return to the Studios later in the afternoon when crowds have dissipated. That’s off the table at the moment.
Rise of the Resistance remained closed for technical difficulty as I passed.
I already covered much of what to expect from Galaxy’s Edge in “What to Expect From Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge When It Reopens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios” a couple of weeks ago. Everyone on the right here is waiting to head into Oga’s Cantina, which currently has room for about 25 people.
At 2:27pm, Smugglers Run is posting a 20-minute wait. Since the Studios reopened a couple of weeks ago, this is right around average. Wait times have been trending upwards recently with Disney moving more and more availability to Annual Passholders. That are basically the only guests currently willing to show up. So even if Disney didn’t actually increase the overall capacity cap for the Park, they’re now admitting more people because the Passholders fill more of the available spots.
You’ll remember that Disney already delayed the reopening of several resorts. That includes the BoardWalk Inn, Beach Club, Polynesian, and Art of Animation. That bodes particularly poorly for Epcot. It’s typically at its busiest in the fall for the Food and Wine Festival. The Beach Club and BoardWalk, with the International Gateway entrance to Epcot so close, are typically some of the most popular resorts from September through December.
Disney’s decision to delay the openings of the resorts in the Crescent Lake area is also a little curious considering that the DVC wings at Beach Club and BoardWalk opened in June. The front desk staff are already there. The stores are still largely open. Most of the restaurants and bars are operating. The pools are open. And all for a very small number of guests. There is simply very little demand in a Walt Disney World vacation right now from anyone who doesn’t already have tickets.
Our experience at Smugglers Run will be exactly as expected.
We’ll walk the queue:
While the Hondo pre-show is running, you’ll simply continue walking through it by default. You can theoretically step off to the side and watch, but it’s likely that you’ll start about half way through, anyway. It’s a bit of a shame since Disney decided to go with a character that virtually nobody is familiar with to helm the attraction. It would make sense to most people if we were flying the Millennium Falcon on behalf of Han Solo. Knocking containers of coaxium out of the air for a strange-looking pirate may not have been what most people had in mind for a Star Wars ride.
Anyway, cast will assign up to six guests in a single party to each cockput:
Up to six people fit inside each cockpit. That puts two pilots up front, followed by two gunners behind them, and two engineers in back. You can arrange yourselves however you like as long as your party is six people or fewer. If your group is larger, you’ll need to break it down into subdivisions no larger than six. As a party of one taking the spot of the right pilot, the capacity in my particular vehicle dropped to 16.7%. In the past, cast would have put me in one of the engineer spots in the back with a group of four up front and then another single rider in back with me.
Cast can set the controls to auto for any seats that go unfilled. You can probably ask that a cast member also put your position on auto if you’d like to simply watch what happens on screen.
I was back out front at 2:51pm, for a total experience time of 24 minutes. That’s around the amount of time that the ride historically took with FastPass+.
With the sun coming out, we’ll head over to Toy Story Land next.