We pick things up at Disney’s Hollywood Studios after Part One, where we went over the only foolproof method to be among the first guests inside the Park. This will prove to be a substantial advantage as the lines very quickly get longer within a few minutes of my arrival at each attraction.
It’s now 9:29am on the morning of Wednesday, November 18th, 2020, and we’ve already been on Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, where it was “literally” five minutes from the time I arrived at the theater entrance, to the time when I was on-board my wild and zany train through whatever is going on during that ride. Something about heavy winds, a carnival, and cowboys is as much as I’ve been able to put together so far. And then squids, water rafting, and bubbles. Everyone coming in now is inside the Park over 30 minutes before official Park open. If you arrived at the auto plaza around 9:10am and parked yourself, this is probably about where you would now be. If you were at the bus stop around 8:45am at your Disney resort, you’re probably also heading in around now, though it’s possible, and potentially likely, that you would arrive even later with physical-distancing on the buses limiting how many people can board each and the fact that they get going transporting guests over to the theme parks so much later in the morning now. You can always chime in with recent arrival experiences in the comments – good or bad.
The extended queue for Runaway Railway is completely full and those getting in line now are looking at waiting 45 to 65 minutes, even with the increased capacity. One of the reasons why we’re going to be here all day is to reassess our touring strategy now that Disney’s newest attraction is filling every row, in turn just about doubling the number of people who can ride per hour. Here’s the Railway wait time chart from the last couple of weeks:
We can clearly see that Disney began filling every row on November 17th, when the average wait basically drops by a half hour over night. A couple days ago, on November 21st, and a Saturday for that matter, the average wait was 39 minutes. The Saturday a week prior, it was more than twice that, at 81 minutes. And the much higher average on the 14th comes despite longer hours potentially helping to distribute the crowds better over the course of the day. It remains curious that the Studios basically sells out of Park Passes every day, and especially every weekend, but Disney has rarely extended the hours beyond the standard 10am to 7pm day. They certainly didn’t this past weekend. We’ve basically only seen extensions from November 13th to the 16th. And even then, the posted wait to start the day is 85+ minutes at 9am. Even now, over Thanksgiving Week, which Disney touted during their recent earnings call as a virtual sellout across the board, we’re still at 10am to 7pm.
If you’re thinking, “Well, what if the waits everywhere else also dropped a similar amount?” the answer is obviously no or I wouldn’t be talking about any of this. We’re headed to Slinky Dog Dash next. Here’s the chart for the same dates. The color-coding is completely meaningless other than it matches the dates above where the Railway’s capacity changed and is festive for the season:
The average wait time at each attraction over the two time periods may be relevant. At Runaway Railway, the average wait between November 8th and November 16th, the dates when only every other row were loaded, was 80.7 minutes. From November 17th through November 22nd, when just about every row was loaded, the average wait was 46.3 minutes. That’s a 42.6% drop. It makes sense that it isn’t exactly 50%, even if they effectively doubled capacity, because people are more likely to get in line if the posted wait is shorter, in turn pushing waits up a bit. But we’ll certainly take a drop of 40%+ and a line that basically moves twice at fast.
At Slinky Dog Dash, where no increase in capacity has yet been realized, the average wait between November 8th and 16th, the same dates used in the previous example, was 67.9 minutes. From November 17th through the 22nd, the average wait was 67.8 minutes. That’s a difference of 0.1 minutes, which would also come out to a drop of 00.147275% to be exact. So between the two rides, you have one where the wait essentially dropped 43%, and one where the wait essentially dropped 0%. If virtually every day at the Studios sells out of Park Passes, and the Park almost always sees the maximum number of guests, then every day is virtually the same outside of things we can’t control, like attraction downtime and how early the rides open. That also means Slinky Dog Dash’s average is still about 68 minutes, while Railway has dropped to 46 minutes. Slinky then becomes the obvious priority.
I still elected to ride the Railway first.
If I had done Slinky first, and arrived at the Railway closer to 9:30am instead, I would have been at the end of this line that we saw in Part One. The end of it is actually not pictured here.
It certainly doesn’t look like the end of the line is where you would want to be when the Park doesn’t even officially open for over a half hour.
It also “felt” like going to Railway first, then moving on to Slinky Dog, and then heading over to Smugglers Run would be more efficient than trying to race past Railway to Slinky, then double back to Railway, and then head over to Galaxy’s Edge, either doubling back through Toy Story Land again or going through Echo Lake, Grand Avenue, and finally all the way to the back of Galaxy’s Edge. But I didn’t measure the distance. The latter sounds worse though.
It’s also worth noting that averages aren’t everything when it comes to touring strategy. Most people are still headed for the Railway first thing, which means we want to take advantage of a short wait there if we can beat most of them. We’re going to wait longer at our second priority attraction no matter what order we go in, since we’ll be arriving later and more people will have an opportunity to get in front of us if they opt to head to that attraction first.
The line for Slinky will basically be backed up at least this far from 10am through 6:30pm with the official 10am to 7pm operating hours. At one point, we’ll pass by it when people are waiting in what should be the queue for Voyage of the Little Mermaid. So the fact that the line is not that long yet is a good sign.
And the fact that we can continue on without the line backing up this far is an even better sign.
And the fact that the ride is already operating means we’re three for three.
But I have a feeling that we’ll still be waiting outside the actual queue once we arrive.
There has never been a better time to be a Toy Story Mania aficionado. The ride now dedicates almost all of its capacity to standby and loads exactly as it did prior to the March closures. That may make it the Studios’ highest-capacity attraction, but we’d have to re-run the numbers given all of the social-distancing measures in place, along with some recent changes. Most days, after 3pm, it’s a virtual walk-on, even if the posted wait is 15 to 30 minutes. We’ll see how we do a lot later in the day with the expectation that it isn’t a major morning priority. Because of that, it doesn’t make sense to ride now, but we certainly could with the five minutes posted.
November 25th. The “Cheddar” will be mine.
They may tell you to go for a twirl somewhere else until closer to official Park open at Alien Swirling Saucers.
It varies on whether they’re ready for you this early. We don’t want to ride it now anyway as we would wait considerably longer for Slinky Dog after. The wait for Railway went from five minutes at 9:15am to 45 to 60+ minutes at 9:30am.
This is where I ended up for Slinky Dog. It’s the shortest the line will be all day outside of 9:15am to 9:30am, when we were riding Runaway Railway. Since I’m sort of cheating with the early BoardWalk arrival, we’ll also be riding Slinky Dog last thing to see how long the wait is then. The Railway will basically be a walk-on after 6:30pm with waits that will only get lower as 7pm approaches. If you arrive right around 9:30am and head immediately to Slinky, you’d be right where I am in line. You could then end the day with a short wait at the Railway instead.
As anyone will tell you, all of the lines appear longer than they actually are with the six feet between parties thing. If I was backed up to where I was in line back at the beginning of March, and FastPass+ was in play, my wait would have been about 100 minutes. Between seventy and eighty percent of the ride’s capacity would have gone to the equivalent of FastPass+ priority, which includes rider swap, VIP tours, disability access, and what have you.
I arrived at 9:36am and was underneath the wait time sign five minutes later with 80 minutes posted. I doubt there are that many people behind me to make the 80 minutes accurate, but there will be momentarily.
There are no signs that Disney is about to install plastic barriers on the Slinky Dog vehicles, but they do have tall plastic barriers in between each row in the waiting area right before you would board.
That’s typically a sign that a vehicle modification is being considered. If Slinky were to begin loading every row, we could expect waits to drop about 40% there as well, and we get to reassess our strategy once again.
The barriers at load were not present after the Park reopened and were installed back in late October. Above is a picture from back in July with no plastic in sight outside of the shields over every cast members’ face. And a plastic trash bag. And some other plastic. But no tall plastic barriers is the main point.
I was on-board at 9:58am, or just 22 minutes after getting in line. Once you’re in the physical queue, the wait is about 20 minutes. If they were loading every row, it would be closer to ten.
It’s still two minutes before the Park officially opens.
We don’t typically use our time on rides to attempt to take pictures of the back of the line as it currently stands.
But we’ll try as all of these people on the left are in line. Across the way, the line for Toy Story Mania now stretches outside its own queue and back outside of the Land. Every minute here in the morning is critical. Come 10:30am, we’ll sort of be able to relax as waits everywhere become prohibitive and our options diminish considerably.
We can’t see the end of either Toy Story Land ride. The Park is not officially open yet.
Just a little over 20 minutes after I got in line myself, the line is now around the corner and stretching back towards Animation Courtyard. You’d be closer to Hollywood Brown Derby than the entrance. You might even be closer to Tower of Terror. That’s not ideal.
Thank that BoardWalk arrival. If we had parked ourselves, we wouldn’t have been inside the Park for at least ten more minutes. I would have waited 30+ minutes for Railway and then been in the back of that Slinky Dog Line after, wherever it currently stands.
Instead, here we go:
I was back out front at 10:01am, which means the Park is now officially open. There is currently no telling where the end of the line for Slinky Dog is, but it’s far out of sight. That’s the difference between getting in line at 9:30am and getting in line just thirty minutes later. My actual wait was 22 minutes. The person at the back of the line will wait 60 to 70 minutes now. So we’ve saved about 120 minutes in line at our first two attractions by getting to the Park at 8:30am instead of 9:30am. And we’ve spent a total of one minute of “actual” Park time given the fact that it’s 10:01am. On the other hand, I don’t know if the fact that we still have nine hours at the Studios ahead of us is a good thing or a bad thing.
We’ll try to beat the rush over to Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. At one time, the ride was a major rope drop priority, likely because so many people followed so many other people in that direction. Typically, very few people have a coherent plan in mind when they visit the theme parks and simply follow the crowd. I suppose if I was in a Dutch theme park that I had never visited, and didn’t bother to do any research despite the fact that it cost $5,000+ to be there, I would follow the other people assuming that they were smarter than me too. With the current staggered opening procedure, the only place to follow people is directly to Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
Our official advice should be to skip the Railway first thing and return in the last hour unless you’re able to arrive around the time I did and beat the number of people that I managed to stay in front of. If you’re doing the early BoardWalk arrival, you could do as I do, but the line for Slinky gets long fast if you’re even five minutes behind. It will be a similar story in Star Wars Land next.
Unfortunately, Disney doesn’t push wait times to the app before official Park open. Below is what I’m seeing on my phone at 9:40am, which is 20 minutes before official open, but also after I’ve already been on the Railway and Slinky is posting 80 minutes at the attraction entrance:
No wait times are yet posted. That wasn’t always the case, but with the whole physical-distancing thing, Disney probably wants to keep it a “secret” that the Parks actually open 30 to 45 minutes before the stated opening most days. People may also be upset if they see wait times posted in the app they’re headed to while still waiting for the first bus to arrive and depart for their destination. Imagine having to wait for four buses to arrive before it’s your turn to board, even with just 60 to 70 people waiting in front of you.
Alien Swirling Saucers would be viable now if we weren’t interested in Smugglers Run, had plans to do the space simulator later, or were running behind. Toy Story Mania will post longer waits from 10am to 1pm than it will for most of the day after, barring technical difficulty.
At 10:02am, Swirling Saucers is basically a walk-on. We could ride in about ten minutes, but if we did that, it would increase our wait at Smugglers Run from 15 to 30 minutes to 45 to 60 minutes. I’ll be able to basically walk-on Saucers later in the afternoon, along with Toy Story Mania.
Here are the other wait times come 10:06am via the app:
It might “feel” like the 15 minutes posted at Smugglers Run is a good thing, but it’s actually not, as it will cause a lot of people to head in that direction. If you were looking at this list, you’d probably consider it too, especially with four rides posting 35+ minutes basically at Park open. There is almost no worse time to be in line for Slinky or Runaway Railway.
All of these physical-distancing markers on the ground are for Smugglers Run.
The fact that nobody is yet standing on them is a good sign.
But there will be people standing on them in a half hour.
We’ll see how close we can get to the entrance. From Toy Story Land to Smugglers Run, you’ll basically walk past Swirling Saucers and continue walking straight. That’s the Droid Depot store on the left. We’ll continue forward and take a left once we arrive at The Milk Stand on the left and Kylo Ren’s ship on the right. Then it’s ideally a straight shot to Falcon’s entrance.
While we didn’t get the roaming droids that Disney originally promised, the restaurant from the concept art they released, the interactions with cast that would know how poorly we did on Smugglers Run and taunt us over our 1.75 container haul of coaxium from our visit back in October, 2019, they did change the font on the mask demand sign. So there’s that.
It’s basically impossible to get a reservation for Oga’s Cantina at the moment given the fact that its capacity is about 20 people at a time. And even with a reservation, you can still expect to wait as much as a half hour before you’ll be called after checking in. If you’re unable to get a reservation, and don’t mind going as close to Park open or close as possible, you can try to walk-up and see if there’s any room. It’s less likely now that capacity is lower, but there’s basically a 0% chance of walking up from 10:30am to 6pm with the usual 10am to 7pm hours.
As long as the line for Smugglers Run isn’t out the door, we’re basically in business.
It’s not with 15 minutes still posted.
But this line will very quickly fill in behind me and wrap around the Falcon and then throughout Galaxy’s Edge.
We should end up waiting less than 30 minutes given the fact that we’re already in the queue.
“Literally” just three minutes after I got in line, it was backed up outside and around the Falcon. That’s how important it is to move quickly in the morning and how you’re pretty much out of luck even if you’re among the first people to arrive via Disney bus or your own automobile. This is 10:09am, so the Park has only been officially open for nine minutes. I’ve been in the Park just under an hour.
We’ll move through the queue and onto the ride:
I arrived at 10:05am, boarded at 10:29am, and was back out front at 10:35am. That means my actual wait was 24 minutes with 15 minutes originally posted. The current wait is up to 50 minutes just over a half hour into the day.
While I was able to walk right into the Ohnaka Transport Solutions building, the line for Smugglers now winds throughout the land. It will only get longer over the next couple of hours with the 50 minutes currently posted potentially falling on the optimistic side of things.
It depends just how far back it goes. But once you’re underneath the wait time sign, you’re looking at waiting about 30 minutes with the ride running all or most of its simulators.
While we’re here, we’ll take a look at wait times over the same dates as the Railway and Slinky Dog. The festive coloring scheme still corresponds to when the Railway essentially doubled capacity:
The average for Smugglers Run when Runaway Railway operated at half-capacity from November 8th through the 16th was 49.7 minutes. Smugglers’ average during the period that Railway operated closer to full-capacity was 49.0 minutes. So we are talking about a difference of less than a minute. That makes sense since attendance is virtually the same every day and Smugglers didn’t see any change in capacity. It likely won’t as the cockpits are simply too cramped.
Ronto Roasters serves its breakfast wrap and menu through 11am. It then switches to its lunch menu through 3pm. You can pull up the specific hours and menu at DisneyWorld.com here. If you’re after the regular Ronto Wrap after 3pm, you can pick one up at the Docking Bay 7 quick service just about next door.
The “Galaxy’s Edge: Storytelling Through Merchandise” panel at this year’s virtual D23 event may have been more successful than we thought as we look at the line to enter Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities. This is not the back of the line for it as the entrance is through the doors on the right, just past the statue. The stairs down to Smugglers Run are ahead and Ronto Roasters and Docking Bay are up on this level on the left. Galaxy’s Edge will be a little confusing to figure out on your first visit as few things indicate what they actually are. Savi’s Workshop is down below on the right and Droid Depot is to its right. Rise of the Resistance is back just inside the Land’s main entrance from Grand Avenue.
That’s the end of the line for the store before 10:45am with Savi’s Workshop and Droid Depot down below. If you’re interested in either of those experiences, you want to book a reservation. You can look them up for the Lightsaber building experience here and Droid Depot here.
With the increase in the number of people Disney is letting into the Park, physical-distancing on the paths is largely out at the Studios. You can see how close everyone is to each other ahead as they look up at Chewbacca. The way it’s supposed to work is that you wait in line on those physical-distancing markers on the right.
It’s hard to tell, but there are then dots where you stand to interact with the characters up above and take your selfie.
As pictured much later in the day.
I would imagine these distancing markers are for Smugglers Run.
The markers stretch back towards the entrance to Rise of the Resistance. I guess if the line was backed up this far, it would be easy for Rise cast to point to where another Star Wars line is located after they come up and complain that they couldn’t get a boarding group. You certainly wouldn’t want to be at the end of that line, though.
Rise looked to be operating well.
Signs now point to the left where you’ll need to get in line to scan your MagicBand/ticket only after your boarding group is called.
The line to scan your tickets has been much longer in recent weeks.
It seems like Disney has cut down on the number of cast scanning tickets up front.
Don’t be too discouraged so long as the external queue out here isn’t filling. You’ll be waiting behind these people until you arrive at the pre-show, so it doesn’t matter if it’s back here or further up in the queue.
So far, my day has gone splendidly as far as a visit to Hollywood Studios is concerned. That isn’t a sentence I often get to type. I’ve already completed three of the major attractions and we’re less than 45 minutes into the day. This was only possible because of the early arrival via walking over from the BoardWalk early, and with the help of Disney opening the attractions before 9:15am. Things are going to be considerably worse from here on out as we run into some rough wait times just about everywhere.
But so far, this is how the timing has worked out:
- Wait out in front of the entrance: 8:32am – 9:08am
- Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway: 9:15am – 9:30am
- Slinky Dog Dash: 9:36am – 10:01am
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run: 10:06am – 10:36am
If I had arrived at 9:30am and gotten in line for the Railway, I wouldn’t have been done until about 10:30am. The actual wait for Slinky would then be about 75 minutes and Falcon would come in at about an hour. That’s how important those 15 minutes are first thing.
As a preview/threat of what’s coming up in our immediate future, this is not even the back of the line for Muppet*Vision 3D at 11:11am. That’s barely an hour into the day and the entire extended queue on the other side is full as the line backs up towards the show’s exit. There are distancing markers on the ground, so Disney is expecting this.
At 11:45am, the line for Runaway Railway fills the entire extended queue and wraps around outside where the stage would have been.
The end of the queue for Toy Story Mania at 12:12pm is well outside the Land’s entrance. It can theoretically wind back even further and into the old Pixar Place area, where there are even more markers on the ground.
The end of the line for Slinky Dog is not visible in this picture. We wouldn’t even be able to see the entrance to Toy Story Land from here, let alone any of the entrances to any of the rides.
These people are in line for Slinky in the Voyage of the Little Mermaid queue. Again, Disney is ready for it with distancing markers in place. The fact that they’re expecting it also means Disney thinks this is a reasonable number of people to be in the Park and a reasonable amount of time to wait in line given current conditions.
We’ll see how things play out as we stay through close.