Our last visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom with the current run of 8am opens comes to its conclusion. Beginning September 8th, the Park will operate from 9am to 5pm for the foreseeable future. The potential for longer hours on weekends and busier days remains a distinct possibility. We may not know whether Disney is willing to extend hours until the second week in October, when crowds have historically begun to pick up heading into fall breaks, cooler weather, and special events that may or may not still be on the docket. Thanksgiving will be particularly insightful as it’s the sixth or seventh busiest week of the year, on average.
What Disney will do with the potential for increased demand and limited opportunities to increase supply will be interesting. Labor Day Weekend coming up in a few days will be the first test of how successful Disney’s current slate of attractions/safety procedures/everything goes. With how light crowds have been since the Parks began reopening in July, overall stress levels have been low for the most part. After getting your temperature checked the first time, going through the new security protocols, following the queue markings and arrows, it’s relatively easy to get into the swing of things. That’s even easier with so few people around. At least outside of Hollywood Studios from 10am to 2pm.
With the light crowd levels that we’ve seen, keeping away from other people is relatively easy. The short waits make for an easy day, particularly at Animal Kingdom. They may also help make up for a lot of what we’re missing. That will at least be slightly less true with two fewer hours of operation each day. Come September 8th, the good news is that we should be set for the next five or six weeks. As we’ve established, avoiding weekends is also smart whenever possible. You’d probably be wondering what I’m talking about with low crowds and wait times if your visits were mostly on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays:
Here are Animal Kingdom’s wait times from “Walt Disney World Crowds and Wait Times Late August Update:”
And here’s the wait time chart from the day of my visit:
Our 12-minute average in the lower right-hand corner is higher than the overall average since the Park reopened by about 90 seconds. It’s also longer than the previous Friday, while being a little less than half of what you could expect to see on a regular Saturday. We’ll fill out the rest of the chart and take a look at Labor Day Weekend wait times once they arrive.
Expedition Everest is our next stop with a 10-minute posted wait at 11:08am. The ride would never post anything longer than 20 minutes over the course of the day and averaged just 13 minutes.
this is in your repertoire and you’re just like “nah. 5pm is a good time to send everyone home” pic.twitter.com/EX1cEZfFWf
— josh (@easywdw) September 1, 2020
Since all I do is complain, I was lamenting the early closures on Twitter earlier in the day. Expedition Everest is a lot of fun under the cover of darkness. Hopefully we’ll be able to experience that again sooner rather than later, even if we can’t make fun of Rivers of Light while it’s going on during the big drop.
Until then, we can enjoy an easy walk through the standby queue:
We boarded eight minutes after getting in line and were back out front at 11:20am.
With not a whole lot of people coming in this direction, we got back in line at 11:24am.
The posted wait had since doubled, despite our initial wait being less than the original ten minutes that was advertised.
We’ll see how it goes:
This time around, our wait ended up being about five minutes.
Without FastPass+, the standby queues move much more quickly and the overall system “feels” more fair. We always said that FastPass+ was great when you had it, and sucked when you didn’t. When very few people have priority access via VIP tours, Disability Access, Club 33, or what have you, waits “feel” shorter as there’s more to see as you move at a steadier pace. It also remains sort of fun jumping from one physical-distancing marker to the next. If we polled the people above, we might receive some interesting takes on the current state of the Parks. I’m slightly fearful with what some of them might have to say after thousands of years of silence. I would guess my first two words would be “Tempting Tigress.”
I would guess that figure in the middle represents what most people look like about a third of the way through one of my big wait time posts. Eyes bulging. Grey hair. You may have started the thing looking youthful. The figure on the far left is me writing it. Distinguished.
Just in case you think long sleeves on a thick black shirt would help accentuate your face mask, you can opt for an Animal Kingdom spirit jersey that came out a couple of weeks ago.
Why every garment isn’t a Columbia fisherman’s shirt I’m not sure. It’s the perfect look. Plus you cab grab dinner on the fly.
Finding Nemo the Musical remains closed. That, along with Festival of the Lion King, are two big pieces of most people’s visits to Animal Kingdom, and may go back to our chicken and the egg situation from the last post. Turtle Talk with Crush isn’t set to reopen this year and that production is obviously considerably smaller. On the other hand, few people are probably making the decision on whether they’re going to Epcot based on Turtle Talk’s availability. Finding Nemo and Festival of the Lion King are nearly Broadway quality and add a lot of value to the price of a ticket. Without them, your money buys you considerably less.
There’s a mistake we won’t make.
The carnival games in DinoLand remain closed along with Dino Diner.
Disney confirmed in July that Primeval Whirl would not come back online at the same time that they announced Rivers of Light would not return.
The timing seemed a little odd in the midst of so many other confirmed closures. Primeval Whirl had been seasonal for like a year before the March closure, opening only during the likes of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and potentially spring break and Easter. I feel like they also opened whenever I was set to visit, just to be mean. Few people would be expecting it to operate given present conditions. Or, after finding out that it was down, would understand as well as Americans can.
With Animal Kingdom not slated to be open after dark this calendar year, it’s no surprise that Rivers of Light would be temporarily off the schedule either. Considering the time and cost of building that dedicated theater for the water projection show, you’d think that we would see a replacement at some point in the future. Announcing the details of the new show seems to make more sense than passing on the information that another attraction will be permanently unavailable.
On the other hand, we probably have to give Disney credit for their transparency after insisting that attractions like Stitch’s Great Escape would return despite the fact that Disney gutted the theater and everything in it years ago.
What a life pic.twitter.com/1AEAx9uSAi
— josh (@easywdw) August 28, 2020
TriceraTop Spin takes about five minutes and you can typically ride around again and again. My maximum number of rides in one day is 817, which is going to be hard to beat with shorter hours. Maybe they will speed the thing up.
DINOSAUR is our last ride remaining of the day. Those physical-distancing markers on the right are for the attraction whose queue stretches far outside to the right already.
Labor Day Weekend. Somebody may be standing here.
You may have noticed that I have avoided the weekends myself. Part of this is because I don’t like to wait in line either, but also because the thought of being packed in with more than twice as many people seems to increase the risk of my own fragile health.
I’ll have to check Park Pass availability and see if I can get in somewhere on Saturday or Sunday for an on-the-ground look at some of the highest crowds since reopening. I suppose I don’t actually have to get in line for anything, though the pictures would simply be of a lot of people. Our wait times charts may be enough to paint an accurate picture of “how bad things should get” until the middle of October and heading into Thanksgiving. At least on weekends.
On this particular Friday, there is no actual wait at 11:46am.
Well, we will have to wait 30 seconds while this cast member tells us which way the seat belts lock. I have been doing this for more than ten years and could still not tell you which way most attraction seat belts buckle. I just wait for the other person to screw up and hand me theirs.
We were on-board in four minutes:
Down below, you can see that nobody is waiting to board the next time rover. You could ride over and over for the next six hours. It will be interesting to see what kinds of cuts we see come September 8th and beyond. Disney was operating both loading docks to zero guests and three cast members were out front with basically nothing to do but occasionally measure a shorter rider who will probably regret boarding. Disney could halve the staff, cut the loading bay by half, reduce the number of vehicles on the track, and still not see an appreciable increase in September wait times.
DINOSAUR does seem to have gotten a little wilder, or at least it is with nobody in the middle row and you in back back right corner. The front row offers the tamest ride, but it’s still a bumpy affair. Such is time travel in a roofless vehicle during a devastating storm of asteroids.
The various caricature and silhouette artists are back after about six weeks. When you show up and you are already a caricature there is not much they can do. There are actually a number of caricatures around my house where I look exactly like myself, despite the fact that my head should be about three times the size of my neck and the rest of my body.
The Boneyard remains closed. I’m happy I went down that slide when I had the opportunity. I’m actually still stuck inside of it, so I am not sure what else is going on right now.
Some serious changes are coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom with the 9am to 5pm hours inevitably increasing wait times compared to an 8am to 6pm day. If you are packing a similar number of people into the same place with fewer operating hours, you are bound to see additional crowding. Without the 8am opens, we don’t have as much of a jump on the crowds as we currently enjoy. More people can arrive by 9am. The 6pm closes also gives us an extra hour for the morning folks to clear out and waits to drop. With the lack of September crowds, the shorter hours may not impact waits. Or, at a minimum, you’ll still be able to finish your itinerary without much trouble.
I made it through all the rides:
- Flight of Passage: 7:52am – 8:21am
- Flight of Passage: 8:21am – 8:47am
- Na’vi River Journey: 8:50am – 9:05am
- Na’vi River Journey: 9:05am – 9:33am
- Kilimanjaro Safaris: 9:45am – 10:36am
- Kali River Rapids: 10:47am – 11:02am
- Expedition Everest: 11:06am – 11:20am
- Expeditin Everest: 11:24am – 11:34am
- TriceraTop Spin: 11:40am – 11:45am
- DINOSAUR: 11:47am – 11:59am
That’s two rides on Flight of Passage, two rides on Na’vi River Journey, and two rides on Expedition Everest, three of the Park’s most popular attractions, along with one ride on each of the others, in about four hours. My longest waits were at Na’vi River Journey and Kilimanjaro Safaris. I could avoided those by skipping the second ride on Na’vi and moving to Safaris earlier, when waits would be shorter. Still, waiting a few extra minutes may be worth not having to backtrack later in the Florida heat. There is also the whole face mask situation making things less pleasant any way you look at it.
Here’s one last chart from our visit, since it’s going on noon, and you may want to spend more time in the Park:
Average waits hover around 10-12 minutes for the next four or five hours, before dropping under ten minutes after 4:45pm. Hence, it’s not surprising that Disney is chopping off that last hour beginning September 8th. You’ll also note that waits before 10am are also under ten minutes. Hence, we see the Disney chop and the new 9am, later open. Enjoying something Disney-related because there’s nobody else there is typically a sign that it won’t be there for much longer.
“Disney is a business” as people say, as if that is some sort of revelation that had not occurred to the rest of us. Surprisingly, as a publicly-traded company, they are trying to maximize profits. It doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense to operate a theme park for few people. On the other hand, doing so gets those arriving early out of the way, allowing guests arriving later to wait less and have a better time. I had cleared out of Pandora by about 9:30am after experiencing both rides twice. With a 9am open, I probably won’t be done with Flight of Passage until 9:30am and River Journey after 10am. That’s after just one ride each. Those arriving an hour after opening, as most do, will find far more people and much longer waits with a later open.
It’s possible that Disney will go back to opening Pandora a half hour early, unofficially.
They stopped doing that for the most part back in November, as we covered in “Disney’s Animal Kingdom Flight of Passage 9am Rope Drop with Later Actual Opening.” It wasn’t pretty.
On this particular Friday, I’m heading out of the Park, since we will be focusing on more of the full day experience next week with the shorter hours. Since it’s noon, lunch is probably on the docket. Flame Tree, Satu’li Canteen, Yak & Yeti quick service, and Restaurantosaurus would all offer outdoor seating Satu’li and Restaurantosaurus would also offer indoor, air-conditioned dining. Flame Tree would probably be the best choice on food quality and the ability to spread out with the size of the overall seating area. Once you’re done with lunch, just about everything should be a walk-on. Saving Pandora for the last 60 to 90 minutes of the day would still be smart.
We’ll head over to Magic Kingdom next.