We return to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to check out the opening procedure and to see what it takes to ride Slinky Dog Dash in standby first thing. On our last visit, we didn’t have a tremendous amount of success, due in part to the fact that one half of Swirling Saucers was down with technical problems and Toy Story Mania was also running at reduced capacity. Hopefully, we’ll have better luck this time. And if not, you’ll have better luck on your own visit. Of course, we’re still at Hollywood Studios either way.
It’s 7:58am on the morning of Saturday, April 20th, a Peak day on the Disney pricing calendar and the day before Easter. From the website’s magnum opus, “Does It Really Matter Which Day of the Week You Visit Each Walt Disney World Theme Park?” we know that, on average, Saturdays are the busiest day of the week to visit any Park. When it comes to touring plan creation, planning for the worst case scenario is a big part of it.
A little less than three months ago, you might remember that Disney changed up the rope drop procedure here. Instead of waiting outside the touchpoints until 8:15am or 8:30am, everyone is let inside the Park much earlier and held just inside the entrance. That’s why we don’t see more than a couple of people here.
Right at 8am, there’s a decent number of people already here. If you want to be among the first to arrive, you’ll want to arrive closer to 7:45am, but I’m still in pretty good shape.
If you’re headed anywhere other than Slinky Dog Dash, you can safely arrive around 8:30am. Few people will be headed to Alien Swirling Saucers, Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, or anywhere else and you’ll basically be able to walk right on those rides even if you’re in the back of the mass of humanity that we’re about to encounter as opening time approaches.
I’m about five rows of people back on the narrow boulevard heading towards the Chinese Theater.
Ten minutes later, at 8:10am, there’s between five and ten rows behind me depending on where you look.
Just five minutes later, things are packed in a lot tighter. You can see how much of a difference just 15 minutes makes.
These photos are so awkward.
Around 8:15am, you’ll move to the next holding area, which is just before the turn onto Sunset Boulevard and the same spot as the holding area of yesteryear.
Officially, you’re supposed to stay off the sidewalks, but seeing as it’s the best way to jump ahead of the crowd, few people follow the rules.
Here we are at 8:17am. Most days, you’ll be standing here for between 25 and 35 minutes, until sometime after 8:40am.
At 8:20am, the number of people is almost backed up to the Crossroads kiosk with nobody paying any mind to the “no sidewalks” rule.
Starbucks is open. If you manage to get over there, you’re probably not going to be able to manage to get back. On the other hand, it’s a good spot to hang out if you’re not hurrying to Slinky Dog and don’t want to wait at the very end of the street.
At 8:30am, the scene is familiar with a few more people back there.
We’re waiting for representatives from each of the major attractions to arrive to walk the clump towards the attraction of their choice.
At 8:33am, Toy Story Land and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster attendants have arrived.
If you’re headed down Sunset Boulevard for Rock’n’ Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror, then it makes some sense to stay to the right.
If you’re headed anywhere other than Slinky Dog and would like to sign the kids up for Jedi Training, then it makes sense to do so now as sign-ups are open before the rest of the Park. Those with pre-opening breakfast reservations at Hollywood & Vine can typically sign the kids up before breakfast and as early as 7:45am.
Here’s the scene behind me at 8:40am, which is right around the time we’ll be on our way.
And at 8:41am, it’s time to go.
Perhaps 15% of the people at rope drop will head down Sunset Boulevard. Most will head past Tower of Terror and to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, which is typically more-or-less a walk-on for at least the first 30 minutes of operation. When Tower of Terror is under refurbishment later this year and runs at half capacity, it may be more intelligent to stop there first before moving to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. But both rides should continue to see short waits during at least the first half hour. We’ll take a closer look at wait times when we get over there with FastPass+ later in the morning.
It’s a bit perplexing that Disney allows people to use the walkway next to Hollywood Brown Derby.
Typically, they’ll be held until just after the main group passes by.
In this instance, they were released early and a couple hundred people who were previously much further back are able to cut in front. I don’t usually advocate using that path because you never know what’s going to happen, but we may need to look into that strategy more. It certainly would have been beneficial on this particular morning. We’re taking a right towards Animation Courtyard.
Unless you’re at the very front of the pack, heading through the middle, wider archway is smartest. The archway on the left is too narrow for the number of people that will try to go through it, slowing you down.
You might even try the far right archway.
Now we’re headed left down what was once Mickey Avenue.
We’ll pass by Walt Disney Presents, which doesn’t open until 10am.
Then it’s a right towards Toy Story Land.
And into the Land.
For Slinky Dog Dash, you’ll want to stay to the right to eventually file into the line.
Along with several thousand of our new best friends.
Virtually nobody will be headed to Toy Story Mania first thing as we pass by the entrance at 8:46am. You could ride at least twice without realizing a wait of more than a minute or two. By 9:15am, the actual wait is going to approach 20 minutes most days.
We’re not lucky enough to be headed in that direction.
Here we are being herded into the line.
Woody and Jessie don’t arrive on-scene until right around 9am, so if they’re a priority, you may want to quickly ride Alien Swirling Saucers or potentially Toy Story Mania before getting in line. By 9:15am, there will be at least 20 groups in line, making the wait time to meet them around 30 minutes. So unless you’re among the first 150 people to arrive at Slinky Dog Dash, it won’t be viable to get in line for the characters after experiencing the roller coaster and find a short wait.
The first riders of the day haven’t quite boarded.
If you’re headed to Alien Swirling Saucers first, you can keep to the left and bypass all of the people waiting to funnel into Slinky.
While I’m a decent ways back from the entrance, there are far, far more people in line behind me. As always, somebody inside the Park before it officially opens will walk right onto Slinky Dog as the first handful of guests of the day. Somebody else, also in the Park before it officially opens, will wait more than an hour.
It looks like about 20 people are headed for Saucers, compared to more than a thousand for Slinky.
While the line currently spills outside of the entrance, it’s only because there’s a delay in people making their groups narrow enough to fit inside the queue.
Efficiency is probably not helped by the fact that only the second half of this ride vehicle has been loaded.
If you have a Disability Access Services card, you can visit this cast member on the walkway towards the ride.
Later in the day, there’s also a cast member outside the land who can assign you a return time.
At 8:52am, I’m nearing the entrance with a 60-minute posted wait.
Given the number of people in front of me, I’m hoping that the actual wait is closer to 20 minutes. The person at the end of the line is probably going to wait closer to 75.
At 8:53am, the first riders of the day are already on their way elsewhere as they exit to the left.
Quite a bit of the queue was full ahead of me.
But far more would find themselves filling in behind.
I was past the merge point with FastPass+ at 9:07am, or just seven minutes after the Park officially opened and about 20 minutes after I first arrived in Toy Story Land.
There’s no sunburst I can’t capture.
At 9:13am, the Slinky Dog line stretches back outside the Land and out towards Walt Disney Presents and Voyage of the Little Mermaid. This happens just about every day. As always, finding yourself at the end of this line is the worst place you could be at this hour as every other ride in the Park is a walk-on, versus the two hours you’d be waiting for Slinky first thing in the morning. If you’re originally planning on heading to Slinky Dog first, but find yourself running behind schedule, then you’ll most likely want to scrap that plan. You could ride Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania in about a half hour from 8:50am to 9:20am. At 9:20am, the wait to ride Slinky won’t be any longer. On the other hand, if you wait two hours for Slinky first thing, you’re going to find 45+ minute waits for both Toy Story and Saucers by the time you’re finished riding Slinky. On this particular day, it will be closer to 75 minutes for Saucers and 90 for Toy Story Mania.
It’s worth requesting the back row for the wildest ride. It’s also easier to watch Slinky do his thing throughout the ride.
I arrived in Toy Story Land around 8:45am, was on-board Slinky at 9:13am, and back out front at 9:16am, for a total experience time around 31 minutes. Still, I’m in pretty reasonable shape given the fact that we’re just 16 minutes into Park operation. At this point, the entire queue is full.
The line stretches well past the bridge over to the ride.
Around the corner.
And back outside the Land. The end of the line is not visible in this picture.
As I mentioned before, the line to meet Woody and Jessie builds quickly. Here at 9:17am, you’re looking at a 30ish minute wait, which is what it will be most of the day.
Your second stop in Toy Story Land could go one of two ways as we still have Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania on the docket. I think it’s more intelligent to visit Toy Story Mania in standby second and ride Alien Swirling Saucers with FastPass+ after. Your other option would obviously be to ride Saucers in standby and then use FastPass+ at Toy Story Mania. Swirling Saucers is prone to running at half capacity, particularly early in the morning and late at night. Using FastPass+ will protect you against that as virtually no standby riders will board when only one of the two turntables is operating. Toy Story Mania can see mechanical trouble as well, but the overall capacity is higher, even if only two of the three tracks are operating, and downtime is less common.
Comfort also probably comes into play if we’re going to end up waiting about the same amount of time for either ride at this point in the day. Historically, I’d probably give the nod to Toy Story Mania with its air-conditioning. But after suffering through several very loud, very miserable experiences inching along in there, I might prefer the open-air. Of course, that’s easier to say from October – April than it will be from May – September.
Here’s a look at Toy Story Mania wait times so far in April:
The month’s average wait so far, as seen in the lower right hand corner of the chart, is 54 minutes. The majority of the wait times that you see over 75 minutes are probably due to capacity issues. Empty spaces indicate about 15 minutes of downtime each and there’s a somewhat surprising amount of it given the fact that the ride is typically reliable, in addition to the fact that they will continue running it even with one or two tracks down. On the day of my visit, the ride managed to operate at full capacity all day with a 59-minute average for the day. By 9:15am, the average posted wait is already up to 42 minutes and by 9:30am, you’re looking at 47 minutes. That’s still better than the 60+ minute average that you’ll see from 10am through 3:45pm. During the last 30 to 60 minutes of operation, actual waits are typically 20 minutes or less and drop as closing time approaches.
These days, it’s not viable to ride all three Toy Story Land rides in standby first thing unless you’re among the first 150 or so people to arrive at Slinky Dog.
I prefer the late night visit to Toy Story Land, the strategy for which is explained in this post. You eliminate all of the morning hassle and should find waits similar to or shorter than the early morning with Slinky Dog’s actual wait typically under a half hour if you get in line at the very end of the night. Of course, some guests may not be able stay out that late and others will want to do other things, like see Fantasmic! or the Star Wars Fireworks, neither of which will be possible if you spend that time in Toy Story Land instead. Of course, in five months time, everything changes anyway. Please continue reading though.
Woody’s Lunch Box continues to operate with two cash registers. If you’d actually like to sit down, then breakfast is your best bet. I review everything on the menu here, along with some thoughts on timing and touring strategy.
We’re heading to Alien Swirling Saucers in standby to see how that goes. You might remember that my assumption is that this is the worse strategy, but it’s always important to continue to check that sort of thing out.
Fortunately, both sides were operating. If they’re not, you probably want to abort and head to Toy Story Mania in standby instead. Swirling Saucers will be available as a late day FP+ as people inevitably cancel and change their plans.
At 9:20am, the line is already backed up outside the entrance with a 30-minute posted wait.
Since the purpose of this visit is largely research, I decided to bite the bullet and get in line.
With few FastPass+ returners this early, the line actually moved fairly quickly.
I was past the merge with FP+ at 9:38am, or 18 minutes after getting in line.
And I was on-board at 9:46am.
What a life pic.twitter.com/lU9Spdghrn
— josh (@easywdw) April 20, 2019
I was back out front at 9:50am for a total experience time of exactly 30 minutes.
As expected, the line is even longer now with the extended queue in use, in addition to more of the queue inside the entrance now open. The posted wait is 50 minutes, which is probably about accurate and far longer than any of us want to wait out there.
Here’s a look at posted wait times in April:
Swirling Saucers’ wait times are considerably lower than Toy Story Mania. The 35-minute overall average is 19 minutes shorter than Toy Story Mania and at 9:30am, you’re looking at a 33-minute wait on average compared to 47 minutes at Toy Story Mania. Saucers’ propensity to drop to half capacity still worries me, though. It does look like things have gotten a lot better, though.
As is typical, the area closest to Alien Swirling Saucers is the least congested area in Toy Story Land. That may change depending on the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge exiting situation. Supposedly, this will be the only exit.
Considering this is what the Land already looks like in the afternoon without Star Wars open, you’d have to hope that we’re going to do something else.
Slinky is posting a 115-minute wait, making my 20ish minute wait earlier in the day look a lot better. Arriving early also allowed me to ride Saucers with a 20ish minute wait instead of the 50 that you’ll see now.
The line to meet Woody and Jessie stretches back past the ball and into the Toy Story Mania exit. You can’t see the end in this frame.
You can here though.
It looks like the line for Slinky is now contained inside the Land at least. Here’s a look at wait times there:
Obviously, there aren’t many opportunities to get over here to experience a wait resembling anything that’s reasonable. Of course, once Galaxy’s Edge opens, an 85-minute wait will probably feel like five seconds. The wait does typically go down the later in the evening that you visit. With the 8:30pm close, those that get in line around 8:25pm should wait 25 to 35 minutes, even on the busiest days of the year. As you can also see, my visit is on one of the busiest days of the month with the 101-minute average wait for the day longer than all but one.
We’re headed over to Toy Story Mania to use FastPass+.
When you elect to use FastPass+ at a Toy Story attraction could go one of two ways. With wait times that typically increase as the day progresses, it makes some sense to bypass the third Toy Story Land ride and return sometime later in the morning or afternoon, when wait times have peaked elsewhere. On the other hand, Toy Story Land is inconvenient from most other areas of the Park. You’re looking at a walk that’s about 15 minutes from Star Tours or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster one way. So if you’re not planning on returning to Toy Story Land or would like to try to score an additional attraction as a 4th FastPass+, then it makes some sense to ride now.
At 9:54am, the posted wait is 50 minutes and considering the queue is backed up to here outside, that’s probably about right.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the actual wait were closer to 65 minutes.
With FastPass+, it’s a straight shot to the merge point.
Even so, it’s going to be about ten minutes before I board since I’ve been sent to the new track. Those heading up the stairs to the original set of tracks will probably only wait about five minutes to board.
Such is life when you’re bad at the game. I arrived at 9:54am and was back out front at 10:17am for a total experience time of 23 minutes, which is probably a minute longer than average. Not bad for Easter Week.
They’re going to need a lot more members of the military to keep people from rushing Star Wars from this side of the Park. They can’t catch all of us.
The area in front of Swirling Saucers remains relatively chill. That’s a 55-minute standby wait at 10:19am.
The wait for Woody and Jessie remains similarly-long.
Slink’s queue continues to extend out towards the entrance to the Land.
But it’s closer than it has been all morning. “That’s progress” as they say. The ride would be posted at 85 or more minutes from 9am through 5:30pm and then again from 5:45pm to 7:45pm.
Toy Story Mania is up to 70 minutes, making my use of FastPass+ smart. There just isn’t enough opportunity to ride all three in standby with short waits unless you move incredibly quickly to start the day.
Buzz, who meets just about parallel to the sign welcoming guests to Toy Story Land, usually sports the shortest line of any major Toy Story Land attraction, including the Lunch Box.
The wait is probably just 15ish minutes. Buzz moves inside the Land later in the day, after the line for Slinky Dog is contained within the physical queue.
Overall, my morning went okay as it took me about 90 minutes to move through the three Toy Story Land attractions. The rope drop procedure is a frustrating one as those that don’t follow the rules have the edge. We also ran into some bad luck with those that took the alternate path outside Brown Derby getting the jump. But my waits for Slinky and Saucers were in the vicinity of 20 minutes each, which isn’t terrible. Toy Story Mania was a breeze with FastPass+, even if I waited a few extra minutes after the merge.
But our day is just beginning as we’ll head over to Star Tours to see how long the wait in standby is over there, before moving on to use FastPass+ at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror, along with a stop at Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy.