Our morning visit to Epcot continues after rope dropping Frozen Ever After from the International Gateway in Part One. Before that, we scanned into Disney’s Hollywood Studios in order to be eligible to join a Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding group via the Disney Skyliner, as seen in this post.
It’s 9:15am as we head towards Future World to see if we can sneak into Soarin’ in the standby line without having to wait too long. Crowds heading my way are light as just about everyone heading in from the main entrance for rope drop has already arrived at their first destination. Perhaps 30% of them are headed to Frozen, and it takes eight to ten minutes to walk over there from the main entrance. You might remember that I waited about two minutes for Frozen Ever After, in large part due to the International Gateway advantage, which puts me closer to the attraction. With the current rope drop holding area for guests using the International Gateway, we’re only that much closer to the Norway Pavilion. If I got in line for Frozen right now, just over ten minutes after I arrived myself, my wait would be 75 to 90 minutes. It pays to arrive a little early in order to enjoy such a short wait first thing. My initial short wait is also what puts me in a great position to enjoy short waits at several additional attractions. If I waited over an hour for Frozen first thing, then standby waits in Future World would already have an opportunity to rise significantly. I’d wait over an hour by the time I got to Soarin, instead of the ~5 minute wait that I’m going to experience myself.
If the monorail passes by during Flower and Garden, my camera instinctively takes a picture, just in case.
Pictures of the flower quilts, topiaries, and just about everything else are beautiful on their own, but the key is always to have the monorail in the shot when applicable. That can be a little frustrating as you never know when (or if) they’re going to arrive.
As you may recall, Minnie Mouse has moved here to the Gazebo on the walkway towards Mexico. She also meets along the walkway heading in from International Gateway.
Mickey meets along the same path on the right, in addition to the lobby inside the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival. Goofy meets on the bridge leading to France and at the front of the Park. I’d probably move some of that character budget over to Hollywood Studios, but with more guests than ever before arriving on the Skyliner, it’s fun for guests to see the duo immediately after they arrive. It’s also probably good publicity for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway over at Hollywood Studios.
Crowds are dispersed nicely this early, creating a relatively clear path to our next stop, potentially with the exception of the walls inhibiting some of the paths that we’d normally take.
As you’ll likely remember, the entire middle of section of Future World is walled off, requiring a detour around the construction. Mouse Gear, the old CommuniCore building, the Fountain of Nations, and a lot more are either leveled or approaching that state.
The walls are not a huge deal in my estimation, and a lot of the walls that were up previously have already come down, or additional paths have been carved out for your convenience. I’m taking a left towards the Land Pavilion, which would be a faster route even if the Future World breezeways were accessible.
The weather on the Friday of Mardi Gras week, or February 28th, was considerably nicer than the first day of Flower and Garden, which almost always sees grey morning skies and record high afternoon temperatures.
We’ll be able to shave off a minute of walking by cutting through this area, which used to be home to several merchandise stalls for Festival of the Arts. I’m slightly surprised that they didn’t keep them up for Flower and Garden, but they moved that operation over to where you used to be able to sign up for Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure.
There’s more foot traffic along the main drag into World Showcase.
It doesn’t make any sense to prioritize Journey into Imagination with Figment this early in the morning.
But I’m eventually going to wait 25 minutes for the opportunity to ride in standby later in the morning.
The crowds heading into this side of Future World from the main entrance will all stream through in this direction, first passing by The Seas Pavilion.
That may be one other positive about using the International Gateway to enter/exit the Park.
You won’t have to deal with any of the walls still up in front of the Park, or any of the various bypasses to enter Future World. That will be even more true on May 26th when Spaceship Earth closes for a refurbishment that could last 2+ years. Come May 27th, most guests using the International Gateway won’t have any reason to head any farther than the entrance to The Seas with Nemo/Coral Reef on one side and Mouse Gear/Mission: SPACE on the other. The various walls and bypasses beyond that are of little consequence, since there won’t be anything of interest down there.
This early, The Land Pavilion is largely a ghost town. There are more people eating breakfast than are in line for Living with the Land downstairs or watching Awesome Planet upstairs.
I’m arriving at Soarin’ at 9:25am, which is about 12 minutes after I disembarked Frozen Ever After up in World Showcase. If you’re among the first couple hundred people to ride Test Track, and then come straight over here right after, you’d also be arriving around now. The posted wait is 25 minutes.
It’s on the dark side, but there are only about six people streaming into the queue in front of me.
I ended up being stopped here, about fifty people away from the merge point with FastPass+.
Just four minutes later, I was past the merge point and on my way to a much longer wait in front of the pre-show. For whatever reason, it always seems like the wait along this hallway takes forever, perhaps because it “feels” like you’re in some sort of desolate warehouse. At least the curvy lines set us up for what we’re about to see on-ride. It would be a little jarring to see straight lines and then a horseshoe for the Eiffel Tower on-ride.
I spent about eight minutes in the hallway, which isn’t too bad in the grand scheme of things. It “felt” like at least 15 minutes.
I was back out front at 9:54am, for a total experience time of 29 minutes, which is about four minutes longer than the ride typically takes with FastPass+. Soarin’s average wait at 10am is 33 minutes, so we’re a bit below average as things probably start to heat up crowd-wise.
Living with the Land makes the most sense as my next stop, unless I’m planning to come back to the Pavilion later for lunch or dinner at Sunshine Seasons, or to see Awesome Planet upstairs.
I arrived at 9:56am and was on-board at 9:58am:
I was back out front at 10:15am, for a total experience time of 19 minutes, which is just about as short as it gets. The wait for Soarin’ has since doubled to 50 minutes with an actual wait that’s probably closer to 35 or 40. After suffering through more 60+ minute waits at the Studios than I’d like over the last few months, we won’t take the opportunity to test this particular hypothesis. You’ll be in the best shape if you arrive at Soarin’ by 9:30am.
If you’re interested in seeing Awesome Planet, then it makes a lot more sense to visit later in the day, at least if you’re planning on making more stops in Future World for the various rides. Wait times will only rise between now and when you’re done with the biome show in about 25 minutes.
Things remained refreshingly calm in the Land Pavilion, with a wait at Living with the Land that shouldn’t be any longer than ten minutes. There are still far more people eating breakfast than in line for the greenhouse attraction.
But there are a lot more people heading into the Land Pavilion than heading out.
You should have a pretty good idea about how best to avoid the walls by the time you’re ready to leave Epcot. Until then, it can be a little confusing. At least they will be up for a couple of years, so you’ll have plenty of time to practice.
The walls won’t affect our route to The Seas with Nemo and Friends.
But the walls do affect the number of people who pass by The Seas first thing. Before all of the walls and bypasses went up, The Seas was sort of off in its own corner of the Park, and only accessible to those guests who spent the time to walk all the way over there. Now, everyone who enters the Park on this side walks right past the building before moving on.
Other than standing in the longest line possible, there are few things tourists enjoy doing more than heading straight for the first thing that they see inside of a theme park. Hence, more people at The Seas in the morning.
The Seas with Nemo was posting a 25-minute wait at 10:20am. Living with the Land was also posting a 20-minute wait when I got in that line, and I only waited two minutes, so you never really know what to expect. At least with Living with the Land, you can see the entire length of the line from outside of the queue. It then doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense to post a 20-minute wait when there are only five people visibly in line.
At The Seas, we have no idea how many people are in line until we go through the sliding doors.
And even at this point, we still have no idea how many people are actually ahead of us.
Because it depends entirely on how many switchbacks are open inside the queue. Fortunately for us, it wasn’t all of them.
But it was some of them.
Perhaps they could put up some posters discussing the use of CGI along the walls in the Soarin’ walkways, so we could learn a little bit about the world that Disney is about to present to us.
The Nemo queue is probably underrated, but it’s still the sort of thing that we’d rather briskly walk through than be stuck inside for an extended period of time. It’s also so dark in there that you can’t see much of anything anyway.
I ended up waiting just over 20 minutes for Nemo.
FastPass+ for Nemo was completely booked through the early afternoon, which means the maximum number of FastPass+ returners were arriving with priority boarding.
In turn pushing my wait up by about ten minutes.
Disney continues to update signage inside The Seas.
Off to the left, you’ve got what is now “Bruce’s Shark World” – a reference to the friendly shark from Finding Nemo. Off to the right is “Ocean Life.”
With a number of things at Epcot either now closed or on the verge of closing, Disney would probably like more people to be engaged in what’s still standing. Clearer signage should help push more people to head upstairs and check out the other things happening around the pavilion, instead of making for a hasty exit towards something that may no longer exist. You can even go on a (free) self-led scavenger hunt around the pavilion with a Finding Nemo activity booklet full of stickers, puns, and games. Those booklets are available on the first floor, just out of frame on the right.
I checked in on the standby line for Turtle Talk with Crush at 10:51am, where the holding area in front of the show was completely full, and the extended standby queue was in use. The cast member said there were about 15 more spots for the next show, with five minutes until showtime, and they’d likely be filled with FastPass+ returners. I didn’t really want to wait five minutes before the current show was over, and then the full 15 minutes for the next show to conclude, before it would be my turn to see it.
The ideal Epcot touring plan sends you up to World Showcase right at 11am when it opens, and then has you return to Future World after 5pm, when wait times there have an opportunity to drop because so many people head up to World Showcase for dinner, shopping, and the nighttime spectacular. The Seas with Nemo and Turtle Talk with Crush operate through Park close, and the wait for Nemo will be nonexistent after 5pm, and you’ll easily be able to walk into the next Turtle Talk show. The later you arrive, the fewer people that you’ll see. We usually take a “more realistic” approach that most guests actually follow, which is to take care of Future World before moving up to World Showcase for the rest of the day. The main issue with doing Future World to World Showcase to Future World and then probably back to World Showcase is the amount of walking, which also needs to be factored into the equation. I might have waited ten minutes longer than I would have liked at Nemo, but I also didn’t have to walk all the way from the Japan Pavilion back to The Seas to do so.
As I mentioned earlier, every single FastPass+ for The Seas with Nemo and Friends was taken through at least 2pm, which means you have the maximum number of FastPass+ returners arriving with priority boarding.
All of these people in line on the left are returning with FastPass+ as the line stretches back a good distance from the entrance, and is actually full in front of them. Inside the queue, the FP+ merge point with standby is actually pretty far away from the loading platform. While I waited 21 minutes, seven of that was after the merge point with FastPass+, making for a 22-minute total experience time. With FastPass+, the total experience time right now would be about 15 minutes. So I’m still doing pretty well for myself.
It’s usually not a good sign when the standby line for Journey into Imagination with Figment stretches outside the building and winds around.
But it’s not an uncommon sight with all of the FastPass+ availability for the ride completely taken through the early afternoon. We’ve got 25 minutes posted.
At least we’ll be able to enjoy a stroll through the queue….once we make it inside the building:
I arrived at 10:57am, boarded at 11:22am, and was off the ride at 11:30am. The 25 minutes in line was longer than I waited for Frozen and Soarin’….combined.
With FastPass+ availability so limited these days, and all FastPass+ experiences for Figment accounted for until the early afternoon, the fact is that I’m either going to have to wait, refresh the app a lot to try to get a 4th FP+ at some point later in the day, or return in the evening when waits decline. I’d rather wait a little extra now in order to not have to backtrack, and then search for a higher-demand attraction as my 4th or subsequent FP+ when the time comes.
The line to meet Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope looked healthy with a wait that’s probably about 25 minutes.
The line to meet Joy looked to only be about ten minutes, but she was also on break, so it’s hard to say how much longer you’d need to wait before her return.
Since I had been on my feet for most of the day, and the countdown clock for Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival read just three minutes, I decided to head inside.
Mickey meets just inside the lobby in his sorcerer’s robe, typically to short waits as very few people realize he’s in here. The line looks to be three or four groups long, if that.
The show was popular as wait times in Future World began to peak. If your choice is between waiting 30 minutes at Journey into Imagination next door, or three minutes for whatever this is, then you’re more likely to pick the theater show. That was always a major goal of FastPass+ – to leverage the attractions already available and send people to less-popular attractions.
I like the Film Festival a lot. It’s a low-key way to relax for a bit in a comfortable theater. I always let everyone else file into the middle of the rows, and then sit as far away off to the side as possible.
So far, my day has gone well.
I’ve been able to accomplish:
- Frozen Ever After: 9:03am – 9:13am
- Soarin’ Around the World: 9:26am – 9:55am
- Living with the Land: 9:56am – 10:15am
- The Seas with Nemo: 10:20am – 10:50am
- Journey into Imagination with Figment: 10:57am – 11:30am
- Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival: 11:33am – 12:05pm
With my arrival at the International Gateway at 8:28am, this is a pretty solid morning, with very short waits for two Tier 1 FastPass+ attractions, followed by a short wait at Living with the Land, which will see 25+ minute actual waits in the late morning and early afternoon. I waited 15 minutes longer than I would have liked for Nemo and Figment, but my only alternatives would have been to skip them in favor of refreshing FastPass+ a lot later in the afternoon, and then having to walk back to the other side of Future World to use them, or to return to the Imagination and Seas Pavilions after spending some time in World Showcase.
In the next Part, we’ll use FastPass+ at Mission: SPACE, Test Track, and Spaceship Earth, and see what else is happening around the Park.