“Another day, another visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios,” as I always say. We’re coming off a pleasant afternoon visit, where I was able to arrive just before 4pm and experience each of the Studios’ six rides, along with both of the new Meet and Greets. You can pull up Part 1 of that visit here with Part 2 following here. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of early and late visits at the conclusion of this series and see which might be the better plan of attack in a variety of situations. We’ll also be returning to the Studios’ version of Disney Early Morning Magic later this week. Breakfast is now served further away from Toy Story Land at Backlot Express rather than ABC Commissary.
It’s 7:51am on the morning of Saturday, February 2, 2019, as we arrive to find all of the entrance tapstiles covered, with the exception of two sets on the far left.
For years and years, Disney has kept guests waiting outside the Park until the lines back up past the ticketing booths.
That was typically between 8:15am and 8:30am.
At that point, guests were able to scan their tickets/MagicBands at the tapstiles and enter the Park, upon which one of two things would happen. The first, and much more likely, was to find ourselves held here just before the turn onto Sunset Boulevard. Sometime between 8:40am and 8:50am, cast members would walk us down Sunset Boulevard towards Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or back towards Toy Story Mania. This process was on the unpleasant side, but at least our time clumped together on Hollywood Boulevard was typically around 25 minutes, either from 8:15am to 8:40am or 8:25am to 8:50am or thereabouts. Prior to being let into the Park, we waited outside in what were typically organized lines with plenty of room in between each.
The current rope drop procedure isn’t a substantial departure to what we’ve experienced for years, but the unpleasant time spent clumped together is now elongated. In the past, these tapstiles down on the left were used for those with pre-opening breakfast reservations, but we’re all headed inside now. It’s 7:53am. Guest relations is open outside the Park in case you have any issues. From where I’m standing in the picture above, you’d head down to the left about a hundred feet. The Guest Relations windows are located on the right.
You can also visit Guest Relations inside if you so choose.
You’ll be able to check in for your breakfast reservation or tour straight ahead at the temporary desk.
Everyone else will be held at the base of Hollywood Boulevard behind the tall Crossroads of the World building.
This is as far as we go…for now.
With my early arrival, I’m right at the front of the “rope,” though there’s easily a hundred people here before me. A family up ahead is headed to breakfast.
Here’s the scene behind me at 8am.
And ten minutes later, at 8:10am, there’s already quite a few more people in attendance.
At 8:15am, we’re heading up Hollywood Boulevard to our next holding area, which we’ll recognize as the same spot as most of our previous rope drops over the last eight-or-so years.
Disney was actively trying to keep people off the raised sidewalks, which really just made it easier for a couple dozen people to jump up on the curb and down in front of everyone waiting in the street once it was time to move.
And here we are.
At 8:17am, there aren’t a ton of people here, but we’re squished together pretty well, to the point where I couldn’t turn all the way around without hitting people with my backpack.
This is just ten minutes later, at 8:27am, and you can see how much further people are backed up and how little room there is between us. It’s pretty uncomfortable. On the plus side, it is February when it’s only 60 degrees out. Come June, we’re going to be talking about a RealFeel pushing 90 degrees at 8:30am.
Trolley Car Cafe Starbucks is open during the run up until rope drop. It’s an easy way to get away from the crowd. Amusingly, cast continued to keep people off the sidewalk, which just made the length of the clump that much longer as it stretched back towards the entrance with less real estate for people to physically stand. Once we started moving, those waiting outside Starbucks were able to jet out onto the curb and push in front of 90% of the crowd waiting given the fact that the curb was clear of people.
Here’s 8:37am. I’m not sure if the back of the clump is visible here or not. It’s a lot of people, all of whom arrived at least 25 minutes before the Park officially opened.
At 8:38am we’re on our way.
The only people that should subject themselves to the rope drop crush are those headed to Slinky Dog Dash. If it’s Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, Alien Swirling Saucers, Toy Story Mania, or anything else that you’re after, then you can very easily stay behind the mass of humanity jostling for position as they march towards Slinky. Maybe 100 people are heading down Sunset Boulevard towards Tower and Aerosmith.
As usual, I’m falling further and further behind as I politely take my pictures. One of the more frustrating aspects of the experience is that the ruder you are, and the less you follow the cast members’ instructions, the closer to the front of the pack that you’ll probably be. We’re taking a right towards the arches.
Some number of people will try to cut through down near Hollywood Brown Derby.
They’re held until we’ve caught up.
If Disney is trying to keep people off the curbs to reduce tripping and falling, then it doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense that they then let people walk right into each other at this merge point just a few feet away, but here we are with a lot more people.
You’ll want to head through the much wider, taller arch. The narrower entryway will slow you down as a ton of people try to push through.
Here we are about three minutes after getting started as a couple of hundred people have managed to push past me. Part of that is because I’m slow and part of it is purposefully falling back to give you a better idea about what you can expect to experience if you’re a family trying to push a stroller or don’t want to risk your life elbowing your way in front of ECVs.
We’ll make the right towards Toy Story Land just past Walt Disney Presents, the home of the Mike and Sulley Monsters, Inc. Meet and Greet.
A good opportunity to mull your Disney Vacation Club point add-on options with the kiosk on our right.
And here we are at 8:42am, five minutes after the walk back began. In the past, cast have done a good job of keeping those headed to Slinky Dog to the right with guests headed to Toy Story Mania and Alien Swirling Saucers occupying the available space on the left. That’s much less the case here.
We’re going from about 20-people wide down to about 5-people-wide.
At 8:46am, the first guests of the day are riding. If you’re nimble and stay ahead of the pack, it may very well be you.
While a lot of people have managed to pass me, it’s nothing compared to the number that remain behind. This is 8:43am, or a full 17 minutes before the Park officially opens, and the line for Slinky Dog Dash stretches back beyond the entrance to the Land. That goes back to one of our favorite sayings: “If you’re not an hour early, then you’re an hour late.” All of these people were also at the Park at least 25 minutes before it officially opened, and they’re all going to wait more than another hour to ride Slinky Dog Dash.
As previously mentioned, there is no rush to Alien Swirling Saucers or Toy Story Mania. You’ll still want to casually follow the pack back here to get over there before too many people disembark Slinky Dog Dash and arrive themselves, but both attractions will be walk-ons before 9am.
In the last round of updates, I pointed out that Disability Access had moved outside Toy Story Land in front of the entrance to Municiberg and the Incredible Celebration. That’s still true, but you’ll find a duplicate station here on the bridge to and from the entrance/exit to the ride. Use whichever is convenient at the time.
I’m passing underneath the Slinky Dog Dash entrance sign at 7:49am, or 12 minutes after making my first movement towards Toy Story Land from Hollywood Boulevard. The posted wait is 80 minutes. That isn’t going to end up being accurate for us, but it’s certainly accurate for those waiting in the back of the line. There’s typically a lot of confusion surrounding that fact early in the morning. If you’re towards the front of the pack, as I still am, don’t let a long posted wait deter you. Over at Epcot, Test Track almost always posts a 30-minute wait in front of the very first person who arrives. That won’t be accurate, of course, but it will be for those arriving just a minute or two later and it would be awkward if the posted wait went from 5 minutes…to 10 minutes…to 15 minutes…to 20 minutes… with an increase every 15 seconds as more and more people arrive and see the wait time for the first time.
Part of the long backup is due to the amount of time that it takes for people to fill in all of the available space. We’re going from 1,000+ people spanning the length of a street to the same number of people narrowing into a single-file queue. As I enter the queue, at least half of it remains empty, despite the long backup behind me.
12 minutes later, at 9:01am, I’m past the regular merge with FastPass+.
And I was on-board six minutes later, at 9:07am, or exactly 30 minutes after the walk back to Toy Story Land began. And just seven minutes after the Park officially opened.
Here at 9:11am, I’m off the ride and the Slinky Dog queue is completely full.
And then some, with it stretching back past the attraction entrance towards the entrance to the Land itself.
With the queue now full, the Slinky Dog line still stretches back past the entrance to the Land. On the right, we see the line for Woody and Jessie backed up.
Here’s a better look at the line for the characters that used to meet in Frontierland. At 9:10am, it looks like the Woody/Jessie wait is about 25 minutes, which is better than average as most people remain consumed by Slinky Dog.
One more look towards the Land’s entrance.
And towards the attraction entrance.
While that part of the Land is swamped, there’s relatively few people loitering outside the entrance to Alien Swirling Saucers at 9:11am.
Unfortunately, technical trouble closed one of the two turntables, in turn reducing the ride’s capacity by half. The posted wait is 55 minutes, which is more than twice what you’d normally see at this time of day. Ordinarily, more than half of the ride’s capacity would go to standby this early in the morning, with relatively few people with FastPass+ returning to ride in the first half hour of Park operation. With only half of the ride vehicles operating, less than 20% of the ride’s capacity is going to standby, which means only five or six people from standby will ride every two minutes. That’s not good. I’ll be returning in the afternoon with FastPass+.
Back during our late arrival touring strategy post, I mentioned that even though Toy Story Mania’s wait times are longer and FP+ are typically harder to get, that I still prefer to book FastPass+ for Alien Swirling Saucers to protect myself from unexpected downtime and mechanical trouble. That’s going to come into play here as I head towards Toy Story Mania to ride standby. I have a FastPass+ for Swirling Saucers to use later in the day.
At 9:13am, Toy Story Mania is posted at 30 minutes. I’m backed up a pretty good amount, but still inside the building with room to spare.
This early, the line should move relatively quickly, assuming all three tracks are online and the ride is operating at full capacity.
That was actually not the case, as one of the three tracks had been down from Park open. Fortunately, it was ready to go shortly after I got in line and I was past the merge point with FastPass+ at 9:40am, or 27 minutes after getting in line.
I was back out front at 9:59am for a total experience time of 46 minutes, which is pretty rough considering that I was in line before 9:15am.
Part of the reason for that long wait was due to technical problems, but that sort of thing isn’t uncommon and we do need to adapt when it happens.
As always, the worst place you can be between 9am and 10am is in a long standby line. Here at 10am, the line for Slinky Dog is almost contained inside the attraction queue and is much shorter than what we saw at 9:15am. The 80-minute wait is also much lower than the 100-minute waits we saw earlier. If for some reason you’re running late, then you’ll likely want to abort any plans to head to the Park’s top-priority attraction first thing. If I arrived at the Studios at 8:35am instead of the 7:45am that I intended, then I’m much better off heading to Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania first, where I’ll experience relatively short waits. At 10am, if I want to, I can then get in a shorter line for Slinky Dog. If I waited for Slinky Dog first thing, I wouldn’t be done riding until 10:30am and I’d have no hope of experiencing Toy Story Mania or Alien Swirling Saucers with short waits.
At 10:03am, the area in front of Swirling Saucers remains tame.
But the wait has actually gone up, now at 75 minutes at 10:07am. You can see the mass of people there waiting beyond the entrance.
At least we can enjoy the Army Men.
One side remains closed.
Here’s a look at posted wait times over the last few weeks:
Our visit is on February 2, 2019, which happens to have the highest waits of the last few weeks when we checked in at 9:15am and again at 10am. Even so, look at the waits come 7:15pm, when they drop to 20 minutes, then 10 minutes, and finally 5 minutes to close out the night. That’s good news for anyone planning an evening visit to Toy Story Land, as we did earlier in the week. Some more potential good news – out of the 24 days represented in this chart, 14 of them see a wait of 15 minutes or less at 9:15am and the average is just 20 minutes at that point in the morning. That means riding Alien Swirling Saucers immediately after Slinky Dog Dash remains viable in the majority of situations. I’m having some particularly bad luck, but as we move through the morning, we’ll see that I’m still able to experience all of the Studios’ rides without a tremendous amount of trouble.
In Part 2, we’ll see about riding Star Tours in standby before moving on to Sunset Boulevard for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror.