We head out to Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the morning of Wednesday, February 19th, 2020, which is/was the first day that Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run offered FastPass+. In an effort to get this post out in a timely manner for once, and considering I have plans to return to Hollywood Studios for a longer visit tomorrow, these pictures are unedited. Usually, I go through every picture I take and edit/crop/etc. it in Lightroom. I took 475 pictures at the Studios over the course of about five hours. If it takes 30 seconds to edit each picture, on average, then you’re looking at about four hours of work before the writing process even begins. We’ll return to our usual low quality images with the next series of updates, but very low quality will have to do for this round. You should be able to more or less make out what’s happening.
In the image above, I’m arriving at 6:07am with the 8am stated opening, and there is no wait for bag check. Last month, I penned a post titled, “A Super Early Arrival at Disney’s Hollywood Studios May No Longer Be Your Best Bet, Plus Updated Hours and Star Wars Rise of the Resistance Strategy.” The main point was that arriving at 6am, only to wait two hours for the Park to open, didn’t necessarily make a whole lot of sense. That was back when Smugglers Run didn’t offer FastPass+, and actual afternoon waits were typically around 45 minutes. Now, Smugglers Run offers FastPass+ and afternoon waits are closer to 90 minutes. The FastPass+ Tiers were also much different prior to February 19th, with all rides other than Star Tours comprising Tier 1. Now, most rides are in Tier 2. It was also before Disney changed the rope drop procedure. Everyone used to be held on Hollywood Boulevard and slowly marched at the same time back to Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land. Now, we’ll be able to get a lot closer to the attraction of our choice after entering the Park. We’ll reassess our plan of attack as we move about our morning, but the early arrival may be back in our good graces, as much as we might prefer to sleep in “on vacation.”
All segments of the Disney Skyliner system currently come online at 7:30am, which may not be early enough to get you inside the Park before 8am during a holiday week like this one, especially if you’re coming from Pop Century/Art of Animation, where the trip is longer and you’ll need to take the time to transfer at Caribbean Beach Resort. If you have a vehicle, then you’ll likely want to drive yourself to Hollywood Studios to have more control over your arrival time. Without a vehicle, I’d strongly recommend considering Uber/Lyft if you’re planning on arriving this early. The cost of that ride should run about $10 from anywhere else on property. The drop-off area is to the right of where I’m standing, almost even with the Skyliner entrance/exit. Bag check is less than a minute away, so it couldn’t be much more convenient. The regular Disney bus stops are somewhere off in the distance. If you’re relying in Disney bus transportation, then you should be able to get over here by 6:30am, but it may be a bit stressful as you either wait at the bus stop with nobody else around, or watch on the app as the bus arrival time gets later and later. You’ll also be behind everyone else who arrived earlier via other modes of transportation.
As far as joining a boarding group for Rise of the Resistance is concerned, there is no benefit to arriving incredibly early, as boarding groups open with the Park. As long as you’ve entered Hollywood Studios before the Park officially opens, you’ll be just as likely as everyone else who has done the same to either be successful in your attempt, or be incredibly disappointed when things don’t work out. I’ll cover some “best practices” for joining a boarding group with the next set of updates, but the best tip is to have everyone in your party actively trying to get the group a boarding pass. That way, app/phone/connectivity issues are less likely to get you shut out, and it’s more likely that you’ll be able to join a lower-number boarding group, which is ideal.
Despite arriving almost two hours before the rides will begin operating, hundreds of people have already arrived before me.
By 6:20am, there are already more people than I think we’ve ever seen waiting for the Studios to open, prior to the arrival of Rise of the Resistance. All of the sets of touchpoints are open and the lines are almost backed up to the ticket booths over an hour-and-a-half before anyone will be riding Slinky Dog Dash or Smugglers Run.
I’m in pretty good shape myself, behind about 15 people at my set of touchpoints far down on the right side. You’ll typically find shorter lines on the ends.
Ten minutes later, at 6:30am, it’s pretty wild how many people have already arrived. The lines are already stretching past the ticket booths and back towards bag check. From here, the pictures from my position near the front will largely look the same as people are backed up farther and farther away from the touchpoints, out of sight.
Here’s 7am, when it’s brighter and the crowds are backed up to who knows where.
If Slinky Dog or Smugglers Run is your first planned stop, then you want to arrive by 6:15am with an 8am opening. If you’re headed elsewhere, including Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Toy Story Mania, then an arrival around 7:15am is smart. That will give you enough time to make it through bag check,and enter the park without arriving unnecessarily early. Making it through bag check can take as much as 15 minutes, and the wait to enter the Park can also amount to 15 or more minutes in line.
Currently, you’ll find construction walls on the far right side of the entrance as you look towards the Park. This caps the length of the lines on this side to far fewer people than what you’ll find on the opposite side, where there isn’t a similar barrier. If you can get over to this side later in the morning, then you’ll wait less than if you were to get in one of the much longer lines in the center or on the other side. This is much easier said than done after 6:30am as there will basically be a wall of people waiting in front of the ticket booths.
Disney should begin letting guests enter the Studios about an hour before the Park is scheduled to open. It’s 7:02am as the first guests of the day scan in and head inside.
And they are in a hurry. “There’s no turning back now,” as they say. Actually, you could potentially turn back now. While you have to scan your ticket to be eligible to join a boarding group, you don’t have to be inside the Studios to do so. Instead of sticking around here, I could head to any of the other Parks and arrive in plenty of time to rope drop there. Epcot makes the most sense due to its proximity to the Studios, but heading over to Animal Kingdom to rope drop Flight of Passage would also make sense. I’m already awake this early, after all. At 7:30am, I could easily take the Skyliner over to the International Gateway for an early arrival there. I’d even have enough time for a nice sit-down breakfast beforehand if I wanted. If you have Park Hoppers, or the equivalent, then you could theoretically begin the day at the Studios on a couple of different mornings in order to try to obtain a Rise of the Resistance boarding group. Rise of the Resistance boarding groups are not connected to FastPass+, so you can have both a Rise of the Resistance boarding group and pre-selected FastPass+ at another Park.
As we’ll see come 8am, there is absolutely no mercy whatsoever when it comes to trying to join a boarding group. All of the boarding groups, including the backups, will be gone within 90 seconds of official Park open. Yes, seconds. This is the new normal. With the ability to Park Hop, you may consider starting the day at the Studios in order to try to obtain a boarding group before heading to Epcot. We’ll discuss how quickly Disney moves through boarding groups later in this post, but timing your arrival to return to the Studios may not be as difficult or as random as you might suspect.
Disney no longer even tries to contain the immense crowd on or around Hollywood Boulevard, instead allowing guests to head much closer to their intended attraction.
Trolley Car Cafe Starbucks, on the right side of Hollywood Boulevard, will be open as early as you’re able to pass by it. I’d only stop if you’re not headed to Slinky Dog or Smugglers Run. Otherwise, you’ll wait hours for either after you pick up your beverages/snacks and thousands of people have an opportunity to pass you by. Potentially, one person in your party could stop, but one caffeine pill (probably) isn’t going to kill you if you want to go that route. You could also just put some Diet Cokes in your pants or something. With global warming, it will soon be hot enough to boil water outside in the sun in February anyway, so you’ll just be able to brew some coffee out in the street. High temperatures are currently well above 80 degrees, and the humidity was particularly bad for this time of year. But at least we’re together at Hollywood Studios.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror remain much lower priorities than Slinky or Smugglers, but even those rides will see 30+ minute waits virtually from Park open with so many people on-hand at 8am. Still, being here at 7:05am for them is unnecessary, which is why I recommended the later arrival time earlier in the post. Perhaps 5% of the crowd is headed down Sunset Boulevard first thing, if that.
Currently, Smugglers Run and Slinky Dog Dash are the only two Tier 1 FastPass+ opportunities. Beginning March 4th, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway will join them. Touring strategies will change again then as there will be another new ride pulling some number of people away from the other newer attractions. We’ll be back in a couple of weeks to see how that goes, but adding another ride should only be good news for a Park that desperately needs things to occupy people’s time.
You’ll head right for Toy Story Land and Slinky Dog Dash or left for Smugglers Run and Galaxy’s Edge.
With my early arrival, and the touchpoints/finger scans doing a good job of slowing the influx of people, the walk towards Galaxy’s Edge or Toy Story Land isn’t unpleasant.
It looked like about 70% of the people were headed towards Galaxy’s Edge, where they’ll be held on Grand Avenue just outside of the tunnel into Star Wars Land. That mass of humanity is not pretty come 8am. Our experience at Slinky Dog Dash will be much more pleasant. For that reason, I’d suggest not trying to rope drop Smugglers Run if you can help it. It’s certainly doable, but you’re looking at a very congested walk to the attraction first thing.
I’m taking a right towards Toy Story Land, with at least a hundred feet between me and the next group headed in that direction. I could still throw some elbows at this distance, but only because I train hard.
As always, we’re headed through the archway and then to the left.
Then we’re headed towards Walt Disney Presents. Once we pass that, we’ll take a right towards Toy Story Land. At 8:25am, where I’m currently standing will be the end of the line for Slinky Dog Dash.
Mike Wazowski is only expected to meet alongside Sulley through this Saturday, at which point the blue
monster friend will meet by himself. Disney just doesn’t have a lot of money right now. “Onward” is also being promoted with a preview inside the attraction.
Rope drop doesn’t get much easier than this.
And things aren’t any worse behind me. But they will be.
I think I had been pointing to the wrong entryway into the eventual Woody’s Roundup Rodeo BBQ. I had the entrance behind us a little bit, where cast currently enter and exit the Land.
But this should be it, instead.
Crowds and wait times are going to end up being really rough today, but you’d have no idea based on these pictures.
In the past, our rope drops to Slinky Dog Dash have looked like this, with Disney previously holding everyone on Hollywood Boulevard until they’re ready to open the rides for the day.
I think everyone agrees that this current approach is more comfortable.
I’m back here in Toy Story Land at 7:08am, or 52 minutes before the Park is scheduled to open, and Rise of the Resistance boarding groups will become available to join.
We could always do Alien Swirling Saucers first thing instead. It might be kind of awkward standing there for 50 minutes though.
Instead, we’ll wait here, outside of the queue for Slinky Dog Dash. I’m guessing that Disney wants to make it clear that we’re not imminently going to be able to ride, which is why we’re not inside the physical queue. There’s also the possibility that the ride won’t open with the Park due to technical trouble. That’s much more common when morning temperatures are in the 40s or 50s.
20 minutes later, at 7:30am, you can get a good idea about how many people are now behind me in line, as it stretches, four or five across, all the way back outside the Land, and towards Walt Disney Presents and Animation Courtyard. The end of the line is not visible in this picture. Still, we have a greater foe to defeat, and that’s the Rise of the Resistance boarding group situation.
Theoretically I know what I’m doing and still got boarding group 92 today, which just got called over with a 1 hour return window. Only 47 guaranteed groups over the course of the day. I’m not sure how much longer this boarding group thing can go on without 7am opens. It’s a mess pic.twitter.com/yLS54dr6KQ
— josh (@easywdw) February 19, 2020
Which is a complete mess at the moment. On the day of my visit, there were only 47 guaranteed boarding groups offered over the course of the 12-hour day. Those boarding groups were completely filled in less than 30 seconds, with backup groups lasting less than a minute and a half. If you were at all unfamiliar with the boarding group process, you would likely be shut out completely. In fact, even knowing exactly what to do, I was almost shut out myself.
On this particular morning, my app failed to refresh:
It’s 8am, which means that the “Join Boarding Group” button should be illuminated in an orange-ish red, which means it’s clickable. Instead, it remained grey, no matter how many times I clicked the back arrow, swiped downward, and then clicked back into this page, which you’ll see after you click the “Find Out More” button on the My Disney Experience home screen. Sometimes, the app can take up to a minute to register that it’s time to allow you to join a boarding group. This would not be a very big deal if the loss of a minute meant that I would be assigned boarding group 24 instead of 23, or even 47 instead of 32. But you don’t even have a whole minute to join a boarding group before they’re potentially filled. Since the app wasn’t registering the time, I had to immediately quit out of it completely and then immediately reopen it. That’s what you want to do should you run into this issue as it should be faster than waiting for the app to refresh and realize that it should be allowing you to join. It’s also why you want as many people in your party actively trying to book everyone a boarding group.
You can see here that it’s still exactly 8am, and I have been assigned to boarding group 92:
That’s almost double the last guaranteed boarding group.
On a good day, Rise of the Resistance moves through about 11 boarding groups per hour. To get to boarding group 92, it would take a little over eight hours at that pace. With the 8am open, that means I should be called over around 4pm. Unfortunately, over the last week, Rise of the Resistance is averaging just seven boarding groups per hour, and hadn’t made it up to boarding group 92 on the previous Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. At a rate of seven boarding groups per hour, it would take over 13 hours to get to me, and Hollywood Studios is only open from 8am to 8pm this week, despite the lingering Presidents Day Weekend crowds, and the incredible popularity of Rise of the Resistance.
Over 70% of the time in the last week, I would not have had an opportunity to ride Rise of the Resistance given my boarding group position, despite arriving before 6:15am and immediately attempting to join a boarding group. I even successfully joined a boarding group right at 8am, and Disney still wouldn’t have called my boarding group if I had visited on a day when Rise of the Resistance went down for technical trouble.
Back to the task at hand, we started moving towards Slinky Dog Dash’s queue right at 8am. We have a 90-minute posted wait to start.
To get those of us near the front of the line on-board more quickly, they sent us through the shorter FastPass+ queue.
And I was going for a ride in under five minutes.
While the wait for Slinky Dog Dash is currently more than two hours, Alien Swirling Saucers is wide open down below. I think I also count two registers at Woody’s Lunch Box with nobody waiting in front of them. What an opportunity.
As we dive, we can take a look at the length of the queue, which stretches far outside of the Land.
Despite being five or six people across in places.
The short wait and easy walk over to Slinky made me feel a little better about my early arrival.
Particularly given the current length of the line and how difficult it would end up being to obtain additional FastPass+ experiences later in the day.
I was off the ride at 8:06am with the queue filling in and a 120-minute posted wait.
3,171 words to make it through one ride and this is the short version.
We’ll quickly take a look at what else I was able to accomplish before taking a more in-depth look at how best to attack the whole Rise of the Resistance boarding group situation as we prepare for the opening of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.