Our morning at Animal Kingdom continues from Part 1, where we rope dropped Pandora to see what it takes to ride Flight of Passage or Na’vi River Journey first thing in the morning. In Part 2, we continued with Kilimanjaro Safaris, met Kevin the bird, passed a 50-minute wait at Expedition Everest, and experienced DINOSAUR in the standby line.
“Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight” is a “pandemonium of parrots,” as Disney describes it. When a group of Disney bloggers get together, the company describes it as, “just kind of sad.”
The 8-minute show takes place at the front of the Tree of Life in Discovery Island.
For years, Disney was secretive about when this “spontaneous” meeting of six different species of South American macaw, along with their handlers, would materialize.
More recently, they cop to the times that the Winged Encounter starts.
Currently, the show begins at 9:30am, 10:30am, 11:30am, 1:30pm, 2:30pm, and 3:30pm.
— josh (@easywdw) January 21, 2019
You can pull up Disney’s official word and see the showtimes for a future date here. Note that the times may not be updated more than a week or two in advance. Seeing the birds take flight is probably not a quintessential part of your visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but it’s certainly a neat opportunity to experience more than a dozen rare birds fly (ideally) a few inches above your head.
What a perfect backdrop for the show.
It’s 10:40am on Friday February 15th as we head towards Pandora. You can see how much crowds have picked up since earlier in the morning.
A perk of the early morning arrival. On the downside, those that visit early may not see the umbrella on that ice cream cart put up. That might be a reason to circle back around.
You’ll see this fun little Lion King photo-op next to Island Mercantile or on the left as you head into Pandora.
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the film (I know, I know), lines are typically short for a backdrop that doesn’t do a lot to differentiate itself from the Lion King section of the Art of Animation Resort. On the other hand, anything that saves me from having to board the Skyliner is probably a good thing. The gondola might not start out the day as a prop in a magician’s Chinese water torture chamber trick, but after all of the rain and sweat accumulate throughout the day, I’m guessing that we’re going to see some pretty impressive escapes once the flying cupboards (ideally) touch ground.
We’re heading back into Pandora at 10:40am.
Disney continues repainting the ground in Pandora with about half of the area leading into the Land walled off.
It’s 10:42am and Na’vi River Journey is posting a 70-minute wait. That’s actually below the 80-minute average for the last month.
Swotu Wayä, the Pandora Drummers, continue to perform near Na’vi River Journey. While I can rarely make out what they’re saying, I’m assuming that it has something to do with not riding Na’vi River Journey.
Shows are currently scheduled on the half hour from 9:30am through 7:30pm. Most people spend a minute or two listening before the fear of being selected to drum along sets in and they move on. I may just be talking about myself.
In a future Walt Loved Podcasting episode, we’ll be comparing and contrasting the decisions that Disney made when designing Pandora here at Animal Kingdom and Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios, and how those decisions have impacted guests’ experiences. I’ve always been surprised by how empty Pandora “feels” considering how popular it seems to be. When I took this photo, the combined wait for the two alien attractions was more than six hours and hundreds of people are either headed to or already at Satu’li Canteen, the Land’s quick service. Yet, there’s virtually nobody meandering about the Valley of Mo’ara.
Toy Story Land is the opposite – the combined wait for the three attractions there averages about half of the two Pandoran rides. With only two registers, Woody’s Lunch Box isn’t serving hundreds of people at a time either.
At 10:45am, the posted wait for Avatar Flight of Passage is 195 minutes, or more than three hours.
And there’s enough people in line to make that a reality. The entire extended queue is full and the line stretches back across the walkway and throughout the Valley, still ending somewhere along the walkway into Africa. While 195 minutes “feels” long, it pales in comparison to what we saw later on during Presidents Day Weekend. Here’s a look at posted waits on Sunday, February 17th:
Yes, Flight of Passage posted a 345-minute wait from 3pm to 4:15pm, which I would remind you is a five-hour-and-forty-five minute wait and not a three-hour-and-forty-five minute wait. It would be bad enough if it was really four hours instead of six, but choosing to get in line at 3pm with the belief that you’re not going to board the attraction until 8:45pm is quite the commitment to James Cameron. You could read at least two easywdw.com posts in that amount of time. The high wait time was due in part to theater downtime, but you’d certainly be better off finding something else to do from 3pm to 7:58pm. You could then get in line at 7:59pm and wait around an hour to ride. Remember that Disney will let you get in line for any operating attraction right up until official Park close and ride, regardless of the posted wait. We’ll see about returning for a late night arrival later this week.
We got in line at 10:45am with FastPass+ and were waiting to enter the pre-show in this position just five minutes later.
Five minutes after that, we were in the pre-show.
We were back out front at 11:18am for a total experience time of just 23 minutes, which is three or four minutes below average, even given the above-average posted wait. But that’s why all of these people in standby are going to wait so long. When one theater goes down, virtually no capacity goes to standby.
When two theaters go down, you’d be lucky to see one standby group ride for every nine FastPass+ groups. Hence, 5+ hour posted waits. As I type this post up on Tuesday February 19th, Flight of Passage is actually completely down. That’s not good.
Amusingly, just one minute later, Flight of Passage’s posted wait climbed from 165 minutes to 190 minutes. I guess we should have taken the opportunity to run to the entrance in order to lock in that wait of “just” two-hours-and-forty-five minutes.
At least the standby line is contained within the extended queue and no longer continues across the street.
River Journey is up to 80 minutes. If you have to ride standby during the day, then the best time to get in line is around 1:30pm. A lot of people will be eating lunch and there’s a bit of a lull with the people that arrived first thing in the morning looking to move on to secondary attractions and then the exit and those arriving in the afternoon and heading to Pandora first thing. Of course, the second best time to ride, outside of first thing in the morning, is last thing at night. To ride both River Journey and Flight of Passage to close out the day, I’d get in line for River Journey 45 to 60 minutes before Park close to be on the safe side of things, though you can typically get in line for River Journey with 30 minutes to close and wait less than 20 minutes. If you arrive an hour early and waits for River Journey are already short, then you can “enjoy” a second ride along with the Pandoran landscape at night. The drummers also typically start playing 30 minutes before Park close.
At 11:28am, the number of people present in the Park has just about peaked.
But they’re still streaming in.
We’re heading to Expedition Everest via DinoLand.
No more lamppost.
Nothing is real.
Except the crowds, maybe.
Expedition Everest is posting a 120-minute wait at 11:37am, which is well above average.
Single rider would typically be posting a wait at this point, rather than simply saying that it’s “Open.” It’s possible that they don’t have a wait time sign high enough.
Obviously, when posted waits are long, single rider lines also increase as the wait is typically shorter. Expedition Everest’s single rider line is unique in that you can see exactly how many people are waiting before you commit to joining the queue. There looks to be at least a hundred people in line. With 17 rows per roller coaster vehicle, perhaps three single riders will board per train, which means the last person in line is waiting through at least 30 dispatched trains before riding. That means the wait would easily be 30 minutes, but it’s still better than two hours.
Me, praying that the My Disney Experience app doesn’t crash before I’m “literally” able to do anything.
Maybe if Disney started collecting the pennies from all of the queues and fountains, they would be able to afford to run DINOSAUR all day. At some point, this company will turn a profit.
We arrived at Everest with FP+ in hand at 11:37am.
And boarded about eight minutes later, which is three or four minutes longer than average.
The new Coronado Springs Resort tower stands tall in the distance.
Prayer flags – also useful when opening the My Disney Experience app.
Left turns only.
Very thematically appropriate.
For Daytona weekend.
If anything, I think this proves that the Yeti is right-handed.
Left-handed people would likely use their dominant hand to twist the track in the opposite direction, creating right turns. Something that you won’t find in any guidebook.
We arrived at 11:37am, and were back out front at 11:51am ,for a total experience time of 14 minutes. That’s not bad at all, though the wait has also dropped ten minutes since our initial arrival. I bet those people that rushed the line when it was posting 120 minutes to guarantee a 2-hour wait are feeling foolish. You win some. You lose some.
My FastPass+ lineup for the day is a solid one:
But it wasn’t easy to secure these on the day before our visit. I probably refreshed a couple of hundred times before finding a single Safaris return window in the afternoon. I was actually able to luck into the Flight of Passage FastPass+ before the Safaris showed up.
Day-of FastPass+ availability is reliably limited. Here’s what we saw as a party of two people when checking at 7:22am:
The only ride available is Primeval Whirl. There’s nothing for DINOSAUR, Expedition Everest, or Kilimanjaro Safaris. Even UP! A Great Bird Adventure only offers two return times, meaning the other three shows have distributed the maximum number of FastPass+ experiences for the day. To refresh availability, you simply press a time of day at the top of the screen. As people change or cancel their plans, their FP+ become available for anyone to book. These days, it’s going to take a lot of refreshing to get anything good, even given average crowd levels and a small party. More people become privy to FastPass+ every day and Disney does a good job of alerting its on-site visitors that they can and should book FastPass+ as soon as possible.
It’s 11:54am as we head through Asia and towards Africa.
Kali River Rapids remains closed for refurbishment through “Late March.”
It’s a bit of a shame at the moment as high temperatures are near record levels for this time of year. Yesterday’s RealFeel was above 90. In February.
The Park could also use the additional capacity given heavy holiday crowds. Spring break crowds throughout most of March aren’t going to be much better.
The usual work looks to be going on. In typical Disney fashion, there’s no hurry.
With some time to kill, we elected to walk the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
We could have also sat in the back for the 12pm UP! show:
Most guests probably spend about 20 minutes walking the path with an emphasis on seeing the tigers.
Me, just trying to hang out.
Heavy crowds persist through Asia, though a lot of this is due to the UP! show just letting out.
Mr. Kamal’s recently revamped its menu, eliminating the Falafel and adding the $6 “Chicken Dumplings served with Ponzu.”
Your money buys you three, very golden, very deep-fried dumplings with a crisp, thick batter that gives way to the juicy chicken and crunchy vegetables inside.
The Ponzu Sauce is appropriately tangy, but perhaps too vinegar-forward for most. There’s at least six times more sauce than you’ll need for what ends up being a pretty paltry portion of dumplings for the money, given the fact that this is a grab-and-go kiosk. I’d recommend them highly if it was five dumplings for the money, and probably say they’re an okay value at four dumplings for six dollars. But three for six bucks is rough. They’re potentially a decent use of a snack credit if you’re looking for something that isn’t sweet, but these barely register as a snack for the amount of food you’ll receive.
In disposable cup news that I’m sure will excite even the most cynical among us, the rumors are true – Disney has moved from Dixie cups to Solo cups. No Star Wars jokes please.
The cups are thinner, yet sturdier, and are probably less prone to being squeezed so hard that the soda spills over the sides. While Disney probably cares about the environment only as far as it benefits them financially, the company is supposedly in the process of eliminating plastic straws and lids. Neither has appeared at Animal Kingdom in large numbers because of the potential harm they cause to the (rare, expensive) animals, but it’s nice to see these brawnier cups introduced. Whenever I order a drink, I always squeeze it as hard as I can in the general direction of another blogger to assert my dominance, so I’m glad that I’ll probably come away with a couple extra ounces of soda after doing that now. Actually, who am I kidding, I have trouble affording the free water as it is.
My third FastPass+ of the day is for Kilimanjaro Safaris, which is posting a 105-minute wait at 12:43pm.
The FastPass+ line was backed up past the touchpoints where you scan your ticket/MagicBand.
We were still on-board in about ten minutes:
We arrived at 12:43pm and were back out front at 1:21pm for a total experience time of 38 minutes. You might remember that my morning ride in standby took 37 minutes, or one minute less. The average experience time with FastPass+ is about 35 minutes, so we did end up waiting a little longer given the fact that the posted wait is so long.
It’s quite the day, you might say.
Overall, I was able to accomplish a good amount in a relatively short amount of time, even given the heavy crowds, long wait times, and my roundabout way of going about things. Here’s how my day stacked up with my 8:05am arrival:
- Na’vi River Journey: 8:27am – 8:39am
- Na’vi River Journey: 8:39am – 8:49am
- Kilimanjaro Safaris: 9:02am – 9:39am
- DINOSAUR: 10am – 10:26am
- Winged Encounters: 10:32am – 10:38am
- Flight of Passage with FastPass+: 10:45am – 11:18am
- Expedition Everest+: 11:37am – 11:51am
- Maharajah Jungle Trek: 12pm – 12:25pm
- Snack: 12:30pm – 12:40pm
- Kilimanjaro Safaris with FastPass+: 12:42pm – 1:21pm
As usual, I take a purposefully slow pace due to the number of pictures I take and to better mimic your own walking speed, where you’ll probably be making the occasional stop to either make fun of people on Twitter or take some precious family photos that will last a lifetime. It took me 20 minutes to walk from Safaris to DINOSAUR, for example, when the walk is much closer to ten minutes. It’s a similar story with the 19 minutes it took to walk from Flight of Passage to Expedition Everest. Despite the long standby waits that we saw, I didn’t wait much longer than ten minutes for anything and most of those longer waits were in the late morning and afternoon when I was utilizing FastPass+.
Here’s a look at posted waits over the course of the day:
Waits peaked at 12:30pm, with an average wait of 86 minutes across the attractions that post a wait. If I was somehow able to simultaneously wait in standby at all of the attractions that I experienced at 12:30pm, then I would have to wait 830 minutes, or almost 14 hours.
With our early arrival and intelligent touring decisions, we’ve waited a total of about 75 minutes, if that. Other than holding off on using FastPass+ until the evening because we’d rather wait five minutes to board Safaris than ten, there isn’t much we can do about waiting to board with FastPass+.
If I was making a more efficient plan for a future visit, I’d probably compartmentalize more, staying in Africa in the morning by doing Gorilla Falls and seeing Lion King after Safaris and before using my Flight of Passage FastPass+. Then I’d use FP+ at DINOSAUR and Expedition Everest later in the morning. With my willingness to walk all the way over to DinoLand after completing Safaris, I was able to use FP+ on a second ride on Safaris, which is always fun. At this point, it’s time to grab lunch, refresh FP+ for additional experiences, and catch a couple of shows.
It ended up being a fun day, despite the holiday crowds.