Our morning at Disney’s Hollywood Studios continues just outside of Toy Story Land at 8:01am.
Officially, the Park has only been open for one minute, but I’ve been inside visiting attractions since just after 6:30am.
Over the last week, we’re seeing some patterns in how Disney is opening Hollywood Studios and around the time that all boarding groups are filled for Rise of the Resistance:
Since last Monday, Disney’s Hollywood has actually opened at some point between 6:20am and 6:40am, with all Rise of the Resistance boarding groups filling between 7:20am and 8:50am. That seems to support our 5:45am arrival goal and expectation that we’ll be inside the Park around 6:30am. With more and more people arriving earlier and earlier, you may even want to push that arrival a little earlier. You’ll be just fine at 5:45am, but things can “feel” a little more stressful and less defined farther back in the crowd. Once you get up to a well-defined line, you’re in good shape. With a 6am or later arrival, you’re looking at being at the very back of a massive clump of humanity that’s full of people who want to be in front of you in line.
Disney also continues to modify the Studios’ operating hours, moving the official opens even earlier. Here’s the most up-to-date look:
Since just a day or two ago, Disney has moved the openings around Christmas to 6am, with the likelihood that the Park will actually open at or before 5:30am. We also see some 7am opens at the beginning of January, before the 8am opens currently take over. We may see some of the those other January opens officially moved to 7am as well, given the fact that much of January is not the “low crowd time” that it once was. Disney has not made many changes to February yet, with the 8am open on February 1st a new addition since our last look.
You might remember that in the last update, we saw Disney change the morning Extra Magic Hours in December and January to evening Extra Magic Hours. This is likely due to the fact that Disney doesn’t know how early they’re going to have to open the Park moving forward, so scheduling exact morning EMH openings would prove difficult. From a cost perspective, you would think that Disney would prefer the single-hour morning Extra Magic Hour, with lower crowds and fewer people, to the two hours of evening Extra Magic Hours, with far more people. We’ll see if Disney changes February’s morning Extra Magic Hours to evening Extra Magic Hours in the coming days. I would guess that they will.
Officially, Rise of the Resistance will not operate during evening Extra Magic Hours, while just about everything else in Galaxy’s Edge will. It’s unlikely that there’s a mechanism within the My Disney Experience app to only allow those guests staying on-site to join certain boarding groups that would only be called during evening Extra Magic Hours. It would also be a bad look if regular guests who had acquired late boarding groups weren’t able to ride during regular hours, only for Disney to start back up with resort guests using a different boarding group system immediately at the start of the evening Extra Magic Hours. With the attraction moving through something like 1,200 people per hour, demand would also be far too high for the ride to switch over to a standby line during evening EMH. Ten thousand or more people would want to ride. With Disney not knowing when all of the boarding groups will be called, there’s also no guarantee that they’ll be done moving through everyone by the stated start of evening Extra Magic Hours.
Just today, a couple of news outlets reported that Disney would be releasing additional boarding groups later in the day, based on whether additional ride capacity opened up towards the end of the evening. That has turned out to not (yet) be the case:
Instead, Disney is adding more boarding groups for those who sign up in the morning, with the caveat that they might not be called. As if there’s anything more depressing than spending the entire day at Hollywood Studios, just hoping that your boarding group is going to be called, only to miss out by one or two boarding groups. Get there early folks. And just to reiterate, you don’t need to stay at the Studios to keep your boarding group position. You can scan your ticket, take one step inside the Park, join a boarding group, and immediately turn around and leave if you want. Ale House opens at 11am.
On the morning of my visit, I managed to join boarding group 17:
And at 7:13am, our boarding group was already called. That means I can return to experience Rise of the Resistance at any time between then and two hours in the future, or 9:13am in my case.
So far, this is what I’ve accomplished:
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run: 6:41am – 6:57am
- Jessie Meet: 7:01am – 7:03am
- Slinky Dog Dash: 7:04am – 7:26am
- Alien Swirling Saucers: 7:29am – 7:35am
- Toy Story Mania: 7:38am – 7:54am
At 8am, I’ve got just about 75 minutes to get to Rise of the Resistance.
I was still in “wait and see” mode, which meant I had set up my FastPass+ selections conservatively with:
- Star Tours: 9:45am – 10:45am
- Muppet*Vision 3D: 10:45am – 11:45am
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: 12pm – 1pm
The plan was to visit Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster as my third FastPass+, so I could then check on availability for Tower of Terror as a fourth FastPass+. It shouldn’t be too difficult given the fact that Tower of Terror is a low priority Tier 1 FastPass+, with most people selecting Slinky Dog Dash or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster as their initial Tier 1 FastPass+ that they were able to book in advance. We’d like to be able to do both Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror with FastPass+ without having to walk all the way back up and down Sunset Boulevard twice, which is the reason for the timing.
We do want to be aggressive where we can be, so I went on to Sunset Boulevard to see if it would be possible to squeeze in standby rides on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror before waits got prohibitive.
Crowds were pretty light at 8:05am. Although, based on the angle of the sun, it could be 8:06am here.
Tower of Terror is posted at 5 minutes.
We can also take a look at the wait times elsewhere, thanks to this screen to the left of the Guest Experience Team kiosk:
Smugglers Run is posting 55 minutes already, so it’s nice that we were basically able to walk on first thing. I’m not sure that “Normal Wait” is particularly instructive for Star Wars Launch Bay. Obviously, “Normal Wait” is no wait, but you would think that they could either put a zero or simply say that you can walk right inside. Perhaps once Rise of the Resistance adds a standby line, it will display “Normal Wait” as well. Only that will mean a 500-minute wait.
It’s a good thing that we’ve been to Toy Story Land, too, where we only waited about 15 minutes for Slinky Dog Dash, 30 seconds for Alien Swirling Saucers, and perhaps three minutes for Toy Story Mania. The combined wait for the three attractions is now over 100 minutes.
Boarding passes for Rise of the Resistance were available later into the day than usual as they ended up running out of inventory at 8:30am. This picture was taken at 8:08am, which means boarding passes would have been unavailable at this point in the day on each of the last six days. Get there early.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is my next stop. As we learned from the last series, as long as that ramp up inside the building is clear, our actual wait to get into the pre-show room should be less than ten minutes.
I ended up timing this poorly. You might also remember that early in the morning, cast typically turn off the regular Aerosmith pre-show and let guests immediately fill the alleyway in the next room, just before load. This moves through as many people as possible as we’re not unnecessarily waiting for a pre-show when nobody is on the ride. Unfortunately, the alleyway was completely full, and all of the available space in the pre-show was filling in, to the point where the actual pre-show started and ended a couple of times while we were all crammed in here.
I persevered, but spent ten minutes in the pre-show room, which is also on the warmer side. I’m always relieved to get to the loading area, which “feels” about ten degrees cooler.
I was back out front at 8:30am, for a total experience time of 21 minutes.
At Tower of Terror, the wait was posted at ten minutes.
But as I walked towards the entrance, a bellhop informed me that the actual wait was going to be 20 to 25 minutes.
Ordinarily, I would have the time, and a 20-minute wait to board now might be better than having to return later with FastPass+.
The bigger issue is that my cutoff for Rise of the Resistance is in just 43 minutes, and there’s no way that I’m going to be able to wait 20 minutes to enter Tower of Terror’s pre-show, wait in the boiler room, ride, and make it over to Galaxy’s Edge in that amount of time. But I thought I might be able to do that with FastPass+, so I fired up the My Disney Experience app:
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror are both Tier 1 FastPass+, so I’m going to have to switch out my Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster FastPass+ for a chance at Tower of Terror. From a few posts ago, you might remember that Disney has changed the way you modify FastPass+ experiences in the app. I can either change the attraction that I’m planning on experiencing, or I can change the time that I want to experience my currently-selected attraction, but not both at the same time. Since I know that I want to change the attraction to Tower of Terror, that isn’t going to get in the way.
But sometimes you might be able to get a FastPass+ for Slinky Dog Dash for 5pm when it’s only 12pm. That’s a good pull, but you might be interested in either moving up Slinky Dog earlier in the day, if a better time becomes available, or potentially switch it out for a much earlier FastPass+ return time at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, should one of those become available. In this situation, you’d only be able to check on one or the other, but not both. Previously, the available return times for Slinky Dog would have shown up on the same screen as the available times for other attractions. With more than one person in your group checking on potential FastPass+ availability, you might have one person searching for a better return time for your current attraction, and another searching for availability at other attractions.
Here’s me looking up different available return times for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, on the day of my visit, at 8:34am:
Just to see how things were looking, I first went to change the time of my Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster FastPass+. Even for one person, there’s no availability until 4pm, or more than seven hours in the future. Note that I can only change the time for my Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster FastPass+ on this screen, but not see any availability at other attractions.
Here’s what I see when I go to change the attraction to something else:
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster doesn’t show up on this list, despite the fact that many afternoon times are available. Fortunately, a Tower of Terror FP+ for 8:45am was available.
I quickly selected it. I’ll be eligible to head over in five minutes, since it’s currently 8:35am.
If only I had pretended like I had set this up originally, I would look like a genius.
It took just three minutes to arrive inside the library pre-show. In standby, it would have been closer to 20 minutes.
The longer wait times were due to one of the four elevators being down for technical trouble.
Even if the ride was running at full capacity, it’s unlikely that I would have been able to ride in standby and make it over to Rise of the Resistance by 9:13am.
Potentially, that could be one good thing about getting a later boarding pass. At 9am, there are still short wait times for most characters and some attractions. I’d rather be in line for Rise around noon, when waits have peaked everywhere and I’ll wait about the same amount of time to ride Rise.
With the official 7am opens, and a lot of people returning with FastPass+ priority before 8am, I’m not sure how viable it is to get over to Sunset Boulevard for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror to ride both in standby. At least if you start with Smugglers Run and do all three Toy Story Land rides. If you were to skip one or two of those attractions, and then move over here earlier in the morning, then you would be in better shape.
This should be about what you can expect from wait times on an average day at the moment:
By 8am, wait times are already becoming prohibitive at most of the rides. And even at 7:30am, with a lot of people arriving with FastPass+ priority, waits are already beginning to climb. That probably makes Sunset Boulevard a better fit for later in the day. You could certainly use an early FastPass+ at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror, but it’s a bit of a hike over there, only to have to return later to ride the other with another FastPass+.
Right at 9am, things are picking up on Sunset Boulevard. Over the next couple of weeks, the Park will have been officially open for either two or three hours at this point.
I’m heading over to Galaxy’s Edge to ride Rise of the Resistance.
We’ve got an hour and a half until BaseLine Tap House opens.
Boarding groups have been completely filled by 7:45am, on average, over the last week, so these apology A-frames are going up well before the Park would have even opened most days prior to the opening of Rise of the Resistance.
There’s another one, this time in all black. I was part of boarding group 17, and all members of our group were eligible to ride at 7:13am. Given the fact that we have two hours to return to the attraction, I can head over at any point up through 9:13am. It’s currently 9:08am, so I have cut things a little close, which is another reason why you probably don’t want to try to experience the Sunset Boulevard thrill rides in standby before it’s time for Rise of the Resistance.
Rise of the Resistance should continue to take between 40 and 60 minutes to experience after you arrive with your boarding group passes. 50 minutes is right around average. So budget that accordingly.
In the next part, we’ll consider the best ways to set up FastPass+ for the day, drop by some other attractions, check out afternoon crowds and wait times, and grab a chicken log from Docking Bay 7.