We pick things up at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the morning of Wednesday, February 19th, 2020, at 8:06am. In Part One, we arrived before 6:15am in order to move through Slinky Dog Dash this quickly, and ideally join a guaranteed low-number boarding group for Rise of the Resistance. I went one for two, which would be good if I were batting cleanup in the All-Star game, but potentially less good if I only had one shot at experiencing Disney’s newest ride, and my entire family was relying on me to get them there. Fortunately, things will end up coming together pretty well as we move about our morning, despite a considerable amount of chaos happening around me. Let’s see what we can expect from the Studios on a legitimately busy day.
While being at Hollywood Studios at 6:15am would not ordinarily be near the top of my list of where I’d like to find myself, being at the end of this line for Slinky Dog Dash would be much further down that list. The line extends all the way out of the Land and back into Animation Courtyard, where you’ll find Star Wars Launch Bay and the Disney Junior show. Slinky’s posted wait is currently 120 minutes, but it will very quickly hit 165 minutes, which is nearly three hours. To the right, we have a small glimpse of the extended outdoor queue for Toy Story Mania already filling. In 15 minutes, the posted wait will be an hour, and the actual wait could very well be worse. Rise of the Resistance, and the necessity of arriving before Park opening to have any shot of being able to ride, continues to drive morning crowds higher than they’ve ever been before. Given the long length of the line for Slinky Dog, some number of people make the obvious choice to bypass it, instead heading to Toy Story Mania. This phenomenon will make it difficult or impossible to ride all three Toy Story Land attractions in standby with short waits first thing in the morning. The actual wait for Toy Story Mania at 8:05am is about a half hour, which isn’t all that bad considering what we’ll see once we get to Sunset Boulevard.
Fortunately(?), few people are going to bypass a 30-minute posted wait at Toy Story Mania to see what’s coming up a little farther down the line, particularly given the long length of Slinky Dog Dash’s current queue. For all they know, the next line is worse.
The thought of heading over to Woody’s Lunch Box to chug some Bud Lights did occur to me, as it almost always does at Hollywood Studios; at least five minutes into operation, the two registers look to be sufficient to meet demand.
But we have pressing business ahead.
As usual, you can’t enter Galaxy’s Edge from Toy Story Land this early in the morning. This path serves as an exit from Galaxy’s Edge into Toy Story Land only. The problem is the fact that the standby line for Smugglers Run…runs all the way around this area, and it would be a crowd control nightmare to have thousands of people streaming in to Galaxy’s Edge and trying to pass through multiple layers of people trying to wait for another ride. With less capacity now going to standby with Smugglers Run offering FastPass+, it’s possible that these cast members will be blocking our way into Galaxy’s Edge later into the morning. Smugglers Run moves through about 1,500 riders per hour. As recently as a couple of days ago, almost all of that capacity would be given to standby, and the standby line would move relatively quickly. Now you have less capacity going to standby, which means the line will remain longer later into the morning.
I’m in business at Swirling Saucers, where I’ll basically be able to walk right on.
Demand is low enough that we’re being sent through the FastPass+ line again, like we were at Slinky Dog. The length of the FP+ line is shorter, which means we’ll be able to board that much more quickly.
Only one side of the ride was initially working, but they managed to get the second side going as I waited. With only one side going, basically no capacity goes to standby, and we’d basically be at a standstill. There aren’t enough aliens for the number of FastPass+ returners in that scenario, let alone all of the people mercilessly waiting in a largely uncovered queue.
Swirling Saucers took less than ten minutes, which is probably about as much time as most people are willing to commit to the flat ride.
Forty minutes is now posted as the line just to enter the physical queue stretches back here on the left.
The standby queue has not actually filled, but they need to open a switchback or two, which will happen imminently.
This is another reason why my early arrival is necessary if I want to be able to do not only Slinky Dog Dash, but other attractions with short waits. If I were to arrive at Swirling Saucers just ten minutes later than I did, I’d wait 30 or more minutes longer to ride. That would be my reality if I arrived at Slinky Dog later, waited longer, and then arrived later at subsequent attractions.
All of this is Smugglers Run queue. You can probably imagine why it would be a problem if we were able to cut through them on our way into Galaxy’s Edge. To get to Star Wars Land now, we’d have to go around to Grand Avenue, which is probably a 10-minute walk away. Moving forward, I wouldn’t expect to be able to enter Galaxy’s Edge from Toy Story Land until after 10am. You’ll want to keep that in mind if you’re making reservations for Oga’s Cantina, Savi’s Workshop, or the Droid Depot, or potentially have your choice of Smugglers Run FastPass+ return times. If I had a Smugglers Run FP+ to use right now, it would be quite the walk over there, even if the ride is technically about three minutes away from where I’m standing if I were able to proceed forward.
Turning back around, there are more people headed towards us at Swirling Saucers. Some of these people have probably already been on one Toy Story Land ride, while others are looking for something more reasonable than a 165-minute wait for Slinky Dog Dash or a 60-minute wait for Toy Story Mania. I think most people would rather wait the extra 20 minutes for Mania over Saucers. I’d rather wait 40 minutes for Saucers than 165 for Slinky.
If we wanted some good morning beers, we’ve missed that opportunity too, as the line for breakfast tots has gotten much longer.
Despite record crowds, incredible wait times, and the highest revenue that the Walt Disney Company has ever realized, cuts continue. The Toy Story Land characters, including Woody, Jessie, and Buzz, had appeared at Park opening every day since Toy Story Land opened back in June of 2018. Now, none of them appear until an hour after the Park opens. On our right is where Woody will eventually arrive. He used to be accompanied by Bo Peep, but she should be leaving on February 22nd, and Woody will either meet alone or go back to meeting alongside Jessie.
If I wanted to get in the standby line for Toy Story Mania, I’d have to pass the ride’s entrance and get behind these people streaming into the Land. The line for Slinky is a lost cause.
Waiting an hour for Toy Story Mania before 8:30am isn’t the most palatable option, but it might not even be the worst way to spend the time at this point. By 10:30am, the only attraction with day-of FastPass+ availability is going to be Muppet*Vision 3D. If I want to experience Toy Story Mania, I’m either going to have to wait at some point, or pounce on someone else’s changed/cancelled FastPass+. The wait here will be an hour or more until after 7pm, which is almost 12 hours away.
Ideally, this “End of Line” sign that the cast member on the right is holding should not be seen as early as 8:15am. I wish it said “go home” instead. I probably would.
The line of people on the left is for Slinky Dog. We still can’t see the end of it.
Lines for the Guest Experience Team are dozens of people long as those who were shut out of Rise of the Resistance boarding groups hope for some sort of restitution. You may notice the amount of security they have around the blue umbrellas to start the day.
The line for Joffrey’s stretched back into what may still technically be called “An Incredible Celebration.” I’m constantly chewing caffeine pills myself, which is why I’m so perky.
The “M A R K E T” next door doesn’t serve coffee. They do have Bud Light though and we are approaching the sociable hour of 8:30am.
However much this poor cast member is getting paid to hold this sign, which reads a 165-minute wait for Slinky Dog Dash, isn’t enough. On the other hand, I’d probably agree to hold the sign for free for some amount of time, but the constant harassment would probably get less fun pretty quickly. I’ve never actually had a job before, so I’m not exactly sure what it would be like. I do know that it’s never good if you are in line for something outside of the land where the attraction entrance is located. This is sort of like the line for Space Mountain starting next to Pirates of the Caribbean. I’m physically closer to meeting Chewbacca than I am to the entrance to Slinky Dog Dash right now.
At least the Star Wars Launch Bay characters, which include Chewie, Darth Vader, and BB-8, continue to meet when the Park opens.
The line for the Guest Experience Team on Hollywood Boulevard stretches around this projections booth. Any of the other lines would be shorter, with the likelihood that the line on Sunset Boulevard will be the shortest. I’m guessing that the people are not getting any happier waiting here.
This picture is from a different day, but that’s where they’re at on Sunset.
I’m not sure what Disney is prepared to compensate anyone with given the lack of capacity at Rise of the Resistance. You might be able to talk your way into a FastPass+ for Voyage of the Little Mermaid, which would actually do you some good given today’s conditions. The bottom line is that on any given day, the vast majority of people will not be able to experience Rise, no matter what process they use to get people on-board. The fact that guaranteed boarding groups are completely gone in less than 30 seconds doesn’t offer much wiggle room, though.
The Studios has been open for about a half hour at this point, and I’ve already been on Slinky Dog and Swirling Saucers, which are posting a combined wait just shy of four hours. Smugglers Run is posted at 150 minutes as Rise of the Resistance is already on boarding group 18, after beginning the day on group six.
With the new FastPass+ tiers, I’ve pre-booked three priorities:
The plan is to visit Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster towards the end of the return window so that I can head to Tower of Terror and use FastPass+ there immediately after. That will also give me the opportunity to take advantage of whatever other short standby wait times that I can find before things deteriorate further. My Smugglers Run FastPass+ is scheduled from 10:30am to 11:30am, with the idea that I can head to lunch at Ronto Roasters or Docking Bay 7 after that. I’ll also potentially do less backtracking if I don’t have to continually enter and leave Galaxy’s Edge.
Despite the cataclysmic crowds, other meet and greet times have also been reduced. Since Mickey and Minnie began meeting together at Red Carpet Dreams across from Sci-Fi Dine-In, they’ve begun meeting at Park open. They don’t appear until an hour after Park open now, either. This does not make much sense given the fact that the Studios has “literally” never been busier, or seen as many people as it does now arriving before opening. Instead of gearing up for the masses by adding things to do, they’re somehow pulling back. Disney should be sending out ten or twelve more characters for people to meet. But if you’ve got to pay people $12 an hour, a character meet and greet team of the character, two attendants, and a PhotoPass photographer costs the company….about $50 an hour.
Star Tours is already posting a 45-minute wait. We’ll also note that Olaf’s meet has been pushed back to a 9am start, while Disney hasn’t added any earlier showtimes to the roster. You’d think that a 9:30am Indiana Jones or Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage would help absorb some of this. Instead, Disney is actively cutting things that people could potentially spend their time doing. The Toy Story characters don’t keep a lot of people busy, but you can be sure that there would be 150+ people in line right now if any of them were an option. Likewise, we can’t even go take advantage of a short wait for Mickey and Minnie right now. We basically have to join one of these crazy lines or twiddle our thumbs. There isn’t much else to do.
I decided to give Star Tours a shot, knowing I had an hour to get over to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster to use my FastPass+ there. We can’t even go to Muppet*Vision, since it won’t open until 10am, which is 90 minutes away. By the time the doors open, we’re going to see the extended outdoor queue in use before 10:30am.
There is probably not a great demand to meet Olaf at 8:30am, but every person in line there is someone who is not in line somewhere else.
It’s hard to tell how many people are headed towards Star Tours and how many will continue on to Galaxy’s Edge. Most people probably have no idea what they’re doing or where they are. There’s really no other explanation for why there would be so many people voluntarily at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s not like they’re having a sale.
But that is indeed a 45-minute posted wait for Star Tours.
And the extended queue is already in use.
Even so, I felt confident that relatively few people would arrive with FastPass+ priority, which means more standby riders will have an opportunity to board.
And that turned out to be largely the case. Still, we’re slaves to Disney’s chosen capacity. Star Tours runs a maximum of six simulators and waits will be shortest when more are in use. On past visits, I’ve been in line when as few as two simulators were in use. You don’t want to be in that line.
Fortunately, at least five simulators looked to be up and running, with the likelihood that the ride was operating all six Starspeeders.
I arrived at 8:32am, and was back outside at 9:03am, for a total experience time of just 31 minutes, which is only about ten minutes longer than the ride would take with FastPass+. Our gamble paid off as Star Tours was our last hope for a short wait.
There’s certainly a healthy number of people headed towards Galaxy’s Edge. It’s hard to say where they’re going once they arrive, but hopefully their destination is not a 2.5-hour wait for Smugglers Run. Imagine arriving at a theme park at 8:30am only to be able to do one ride before lunch.
You’ll find another Guest Experience Team umbrella over here, across from Sci-Fi, and to the right of the entrance to the Mickey/Minnie meet. It’s your second best choice behind Sunset Boulevard, despite its proximity to Galaxy’s Edge. I’d also advise against trying to use these new-ish restrooms unless there’s obviously no line. The bathrooms attached to PizzeRizzo are much larger. The restrooms on the other side of this building, with the entrance to the left of the Olaf meet, are also much larger. It’s not uncommon to see 15 or more people in line here when there would be no wait elsewhere.
In the next Part, we’ll head over to Sunset Boulevard to use our FastPass+ at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. Then we’ll see what using FastPass+ is like at Smugglers Run.
Despite “some issues,” things have gone relatively well for me personally. Not in like the grand scheme of things, but at least as far as touring the Studios on this particular morning. I’ve accomplished:
- Slinky Dog Dash: 8am – 8:06am
- Alien Swirling Saucers: 8:08am – 8:20am
- Star Tours: 8:32am – 9:03am
If I was less whiny, that would probably sound like a great start.
FastPass+ should keep my waits under ten minutes at both Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror, so I’m pretty set on that front. I have a feeling that we’re going to see some very long standby lines on Sunset Boulevard, though.