With Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding groups coming online right at official Park open, and Disney now holding guests on Hollywood Boulevard until official opening time, we continue our reassessment of what we can expect to accomplish in the early morning.
We pick things up from Part One, where we reexamined what to expect from the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding group signup process, with thousands of people trying to lock in their positions all at once. For some reason, I think it’s more likely that everyone is looking down at their phones waiting for the “Join Boarding Group” button to illuminate in red, rather than reading my latest tweets here at 6:58am. It’s exactly two minutes until showtime.
Our rope drop is going to go a little differently than usual, since it was announced that Slinky Dog Dash was going to be down at Park open. It isn’t unusual for outdoor attractions, and particularly the roller coasters, to see delayed openings in cooler temperatures. The only reason that I don’t use these exact same pictures all year, and just write slightly different words, is due to how strange it would look to see all of these scarves and hoodies in July. Theoretically, I could Photoshop Hawaiian shirts on all of these people, but it’s actually less time-consuming to go back to Hollywood Studios and take the same pictures again, even if that means having to go Hollywood Studios. If you’re headed to Toy Story Land first thing, then you’ll want to stay to the right of the mass of humanity that congregates at the end of Hollywood Boulevard until Disney finally releases us at official Park open.
With the official 7am open, boarding groups for Rise of the Resistance open at the same time as the slow marches toward Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land begin. Over on Sunset Boulevard, for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror, a hundred or so people are probably waiting to head over to the thrill rides as well.
The good news is that the walk over to Galaxy’s Edge is a lot easier when the sun is coming up and we can see a little better. You might remember that back in August, it was basically pitch black at rope drop with only the promise that Rise of the Resistance would open here before Disneyland lighting our way.
The fact that a lot of people are going to be concerning themselves with the boarding group signup process also seems to slow people down and make the walk over to space world less stressful.
As we pass by the Hyperion Theater, where the Frozen Sing-Along is performed throughout the day, we see some signage that may not be entirely on point. If Galaxy’s Edge is open, then Smugglers Run is probably also technically operating. Granted, the definition of “shortly” may change based on context, but there’s no telling when Rise of the Resistance will begin calling over boarding groups. If Tower of Terror is open, then Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster probably is as well, unless it’s down for technical difficulties. Which it isn’t. So we’ll just continue on our way. In a couple of minutes, what you see here will probably be more accurate.
Here we are walking along as the path begins to narrow. This gentleman to the right was admonished for cutting through, but he may be on to something as he’ll be able to save his elbows for later.
We’re heading towards Backlot Express, and then we’ll take a right up ahead at Star Tours.
While our early arrival isn’t necessary for a Rise of the Resistance boarding group, it is important as far as how long we’ll wait for our first attraction. A couple of thousand people are headed in this direction behind me. Your options are to arrive earlier and be in front of them, or arrive later and find yourself at the back of the pack. As always, moving through our first attraction quickly is what allows us to pile up several attractions with short standby waits first thing. If we were to scan our tickets at 6:59am, with the 7am open, then we’ll have just as much of a chance to get one of the first Rise of the Resistance boarding groups as someone who arrived at 5:30am, but we’re also going to wait 90 minutes for Smugglers Run instead of the five minutes that those who arrived much earlier will experience. Somebody back there was inside the Park before 6:45am and will still wait over an hour for Smugglers Run.
As usual, I find myself falling behind the pack as we approach Star Tours, partially on purpose, partially because I take so many blurry photos, and partially because I’m just that slow.
From here, we’ll take a right.
Then from here, it’s basically a straight shot underneath the tunnel and into Galaxy’s Edge.
At least on this particular morning, rope drop wasn’t uncomfortable at all in the front of the pack. This may have been due in part to the cooler temperatures, and in part due to the people who are in no apparent hurry, since their plan is to just stand in front of Rise of the Resistance until their boarding group is called.
This is a disgusting amount of available space, particularly when we all know that the less space there is, the faster we’ll be on the attractions. It’s basic physics.
Despite being something like the 120th day of operation at Galaxy’s Edge, at least half of the people here have their phones held up high to capture just about nothing as they head through the tunnel. One wonders how much more impactful Smugglers Run, and the full-size Millennium Falcon, would be if it were stationed here towards the front of the Land, instead of in the very back.
You never know when the first Rise of the Resistance boarding group will be called – it’s primarily based on when the ride is ready to go. Over the past week, Rise has opened around 7:10am, though issues still do arise. On December 21st, the first riders weren’t called until 9:20am, and only 129 boarding groups were called over the course of the day. On December 23rd, the first group was called at 7:05am and more than 190 groups were called. About 90% of the time, the ride is operational before 7:30am, with an average of about 150 boarding groups called over the course of the day.
We’re keeping right.
And we’re keeping to the right.
And still, to the right.
To the right.
To the right.
I had enjoyed seeing the Stormtroopers up here, menacingly greeting guests to the new Land, on a couple of previous visits, though we usually strolled by either earlier or later in the day. It would still be fun to see them up here during the initial walk over to Smugglers Run.
We’re staying to the right.
You can bring your droid from the Depot over here later in the day to drive it around a bit. It’s sort of like a dog park. Maybe “real” droids would roam the land if it weren’t for all of the leash laws.
The path up into Toy Story Land is up ahead.
I’ll be heading over to Andy’s Backyard after Galaxy’s Edge. Since the walk over to Star Wars is much longer than the one into Toy Story Land, it’s unlikely that walking over here and then cutting off and racing towards a Toy Story Land attraction would result in an earlier arrival.
Now it’s largely a straight shot to the space simulator.
To the right, you’ll find one of the two sets of bathrooms in Galaxy’s Edge. The other is just inside the Marketplace on the left.
At this point, a somewhat identifiable line has formed as the walkways narrow. 20 to 25 people will still be constantly trying to cut in front of you, so you’ll want to keep your elbows spry. “Never give an inch, let alone a parsec.” – Walt Disney
Oga’s Cantina is located up ahead. If you’re looking to kill up to exactly 45 minutes in Galaxy’s Edge, ideally after experiencing Smugglers Run, then you should be able to walk right in during at least the first 90 minutes that the Studios is open. After that, even with a reservation, you’re probably looking at a 15 minute wait, with little ability to experience the bar without a reservation until the end of the night. I think we all wish there were more opportunities to order a $15 beer at Walt Disney World.
While it “feels” like I’ve fallen behind, I should be doing pretty well for myself, despite the appearance of the long line.
And luckily, it’s a straight shot into the attraction’s entrance.
Depending on your timing, you may find yourself winding around to the right, around the Falcon. We’ll see that for ourselves in a moment.
It took exactly ten minutes to make it back here, with a 30-minute wait posted at 7:10am.
That should be about accurate for those who are about half way back in line. With Smugglers Run moving through 1,500 people per hour and not currently offering FastPass+ as long as we’re among the first 500 or so people we should wait less than 20 minutes.
There are probably about 300 people in front of me, and as many as a couple thousand behind me. While my early arrival isn’t necessary to sign up for a Rise of the Resistance boarding group, I am going to wait a lot less here for Smugglers Run first thing, and it will allow me to experience a couple more attractions with short waits after.
My walk through the Smugglers Run queue will be largely uninterrupted, outside of everyone in front of me stopping to take the same picture of the Falcon from the second floor of Ohnaka Transport Solutions.
Meanwhile, the line for Smugglers Run is going to wind around Galaxy’s Edge for at least the first half hour of operation, resulting in a wait of about 75 minutes for those at the end of it.
I was in the pre-show with Hondo at 7:19am, or less than ten minutes after initially getting in line.
We have another good opportunity to take some pictures in the chess room. In a half hour, this area will be swamped, and it will be more difficult to make your way over here for an exclusive family photo.
Five minutes later, we’re collecting coaxium.
At least kind of.
And I’m back outside at 7:32am to a 120-minute wait, which comes in at an even two hours, rather than the hour-and-twenty-minutes that I was hearing quoted.
The line for Smugglers Run now stretches around Galaxy’s Edge, making our early arrival look at least a little less crazy.
We were standing outside Oga’s Cantina about 20 minutes ago ourselves, just as these people are now. The difference is that when I was here, the queue for Smugglers Run was almost completely empty. Now it’s completely full.
The actual wait for Smugglers Run should be about 70 minutes for the people at the end of the line.
As usual, if you’re running late, you probably want to abandon your plans to head to a super-priority like Smugglers Run or Slinky Dog Dash first thing. The line for Smugglers Run will never be longer than it is right now, which means everyone who arrived at the front of the Park around 7:15am and headed over here first thing will wait longer than someone who arrives at noon and gets in line after they arrive. There’s no worse place you could be right now than the end of the standby line for Smugglers Run right. Even waiting for your Rise of the Resistance boarding group to be called outside of the attraction, while cast members constantly beg you to disperse and do “literally” anything else, would be a better expenditure of your time.
The fact that the Smugglers’ line stretches back around the entrance to Toy Story Land is the reason why we can’t enter Galaxy’s Edge from Andy’s Backyard this early in the morning. If we could, we’d be cutting past these people in line, which probably isn’t “safe.”
But we can head into Toy Story Land from Galaxy’s Edge freely.
Now that Disney is holding guests on Hollywood Boulevard until official open, there is no opportunity to ride both Slinky Dog Dash and Smugglers Run back to back in standby with short waits. By the time you’re done with one, the wait for the other will be over an hour, even if you’re the first person on and off one of those attractions.
Because of that, my usual advice is to ignore Galaxy’s Edge until the late morning or early afternoon, and instead begin the morning in Toy Story Land with Slinky Dog Dash. One potential exception is if you’re able to secure FastPass+ for Slinky Dog Dash. In that case, it makes sense to begin the day with Smugglers Run, then move on to Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania in standby, before using FastPass+ at Slinky Dog.
Originally, this is how I had set up my FastPass+ on the day before my visit. This screenshot is from 5:40am on December 19th:
Slinky Dog Dash FastPass+ typically remain unavailable fewer than 61 or 62 days out, meaning that even at 60 days, there will likely be no Slinky Dog FP+ availability. Our plans are usually based around not having FastPass+ for the Toy Story Land roller coaster, which still posts the longest average wait in the Park, thanks to the fact that Rise of the Resistance has not yet posted a standby wait, and there is no FP+ at Smugglers Run to bog down the standby line.
One nice thing about Disney extending the operating hours at Hollywood Studios, often with little notice, is the fact that FastPass+ experiences open up during those added hours. After Disney extends the hours, they typically add FastPass+ experiences during that added time later that same day, or the following day at 6am:
plenty of slinky dog dash fastpass availability after christmas now. also check flight of passage on december 31st if you’re rockin it on new years eve. who would have thought so many fp+ would be available during the busiest week of the year with just a week or so to go pic.twitter.com/9zyDbyCguA
— josh (@easywdw) December 14, 2019
It only makes sense to book the super-headliners during the first hour of operation. FastPass+ for attractions with waits that rise faster are best saved for later in the day. Slinky Dog Dash will be posting a 60+ minute wait within a half hour of the Studios opening, whether that happens to be 6:30am, as it is here around Christmas, or potentially 9:30am, as we may see beginning in January.
Fortunately, I was able to take advantage of those added FastPass+ experiences, and switched out my late morning Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster FastPass+ for an early morning Slinky Dog FastPass+ on the day-of. Typically, the additional FastPass+ experiences that Disney adds will be gobbled up by people who see them within a few hours. Therefore, I was relying on someone cancelling their Slinky Dog FastPass+ on the morning of my visit in order for me to grab it. The early morning FP+ are the most likely to be cancelled, as people inevitably wake up late and realize that they won’t make it to the Park in time to use it:
Without a Slinky Dog FastPass+, the only opportunity I’ll have to experience the ride with a short wait will be last thing at night, when the actual wait is usually under a half hour, even around a busy holiday like Christmas. If Slinky Dog had opened with the Park, then I would have headed over there first thing, and I wouldn’t necessarily need FastPass+ for it.
In the next Part, we’ll see how things go in Toy Story Land after Smugglers Run. With Slinky Dog closed first thing, we’ll likely see longer waits for Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania as people find something else to get in line to experience. But we’ll cross our fingers and hope for the best.