Beginning November 3rd, it looks like Disney will take part of the advice that the website offered four days ago and had been pushing forward for some number of months:
It would be nice if Disney would run the Rise of the Resistance signup at some point before the day of your visit, sort of like FastPass+ signups. That would eliminate a lot of the morning stress, eliminate the need for people to arrive before Park open, and give you more clarity about how your day may stack up. Of course, a lot of people who don’t get a boarding group would then cancel their reservation. Maybe Disney could put some clause in there, and if you don’t show up even after being refused a boarding group, giant Chip and Dale will come seize you in your home and drag you over.
While that last part probably isn’t happening (Chip & Dale can’t be everywhere), Disney is “piloting [a] new approach” to the Rise of the Resistance boarding group signups. Here’s the full release:
Guests will need tickets and a valid Park Pass for the day, just as before, but the boarding group signup process for those eligible guests will begin at 7am, regardless of when the Park opens, or where that guest happens to be at that time. It could be on an airplane. It could be in a Club-Level-Less suite at the Grand Floridian. It could be on Highway-192. This will be the first time that guests can officially sign up for Rise of the Resistance before physically scanning their ticket at the theme park.
The move is an interesting one. As we know, Hollywood Studios is currently never busier than it is first thing in the morning, due to the number of people who know they need to be scanned into the Park for a shot at a Rise boarding group. They show up early, at least in part, because they have to.
This is yesterday’s wait time distribution:
This is a relatively bad example of how nutty the Studios gets because this week has been the least crowded since the middle of September, but you can still see how the longer waits of 35+ minutes in red are concentrated in the morning.
Here’s a look at the Studios on a day with its average wait over the last month:
The waits are both higher and also front-loaded.
Ostensibly, Disney is moving the Rise signup to 7am so guests won’t be required to arrive before Park open, and that will help spread crowds out more evenly across the day.
They will continue with a second distribution of boarding groups at 2pm, but that sign-up requires guests scan their tickets at the Park to be eligible, just as before. It’s a clever way to off-set some of the Park Pass cancellations and switcheroos that will inevitably arise with people getting shut out of the initial 7am signup from the comfort of their Pirate Room beds at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. You may be planning on going to Hollywood Studios on one day, and Epcot on two other days, but you might book three straight days of Hollywood Studios Park Passes in advance since it’s the most in-demand Park with the least Park Pass availability. If you get shut out of the 7am signup, you can switch that first Studios day over to Epcot, which has much more Park Pass availability. You can then try again the next day. If you get it, that’s your Studios day. If not, it’s back to Epcot, or another Park with availability.
Of course, depending on when you’re going, and how few Park Passes are available, that will be easier on some days than others. Over Thanksgiving or Christmas, you may be largely stuck as people aren’t changing their plans to attend Magic Kingdom just because you didn’t get Rise. Disney dangling the promise of that 2pm drop is a good way to get people to stick with their original plans and visit the Park even if they were initially shut out of the boarding group signup at 7am
One major reason why Disney had historically waited until Park open to begin Rise signups was so that they would have the staff to answer questions, fix problems, and shut people down face-to-face. Guest services should be available by phone at 7am with signups going off then, but you wonder how many angry dads in funny pajama bottoms there are going to be yelling in the lobby of the All-Star Movies come 7:04am next February. Once every couple of months, Disney runs into a major technical problem that ends up shutting out hundreds or thousands of guests from the boarding groups and the problem is entirely on Disney’s side. I’m assuming guest recovery on that will quite the clustercuss. It does make for good blogging as we are known for stoking the flames whenever possible.
So what does it mean starting November 3rd?
- Rise of the Resistance boarding group signups will open at 7am for guests with admission and Park Passes for Hollywood Studios on that date. At least someone in your party will need to be up and ready to go at that time. Disney only likes one person per party to try to sign the group up because it’s then less likely to overload their system. My recommendation has always been to have as many people as possible trying to sign the entire group up. With different phones, settings, operating systems, app versions, variance in manual dexterity, etc. it’s possible that the one person who Disney recommends you delegate will be unable to sign the group up for whatever reason. You’ll be best off with as many people in the party as possible trying to send that request through. It’s possible that the 7am signups will offer more leeway and be open for longer, which would reduce the stress of immediately joining a group. Over the last several months, the 10am release of Rise boarding groups has filled within about ten seconds.
- Come November 3rd, the signup screen will look different than this, but it should be the same idea:
The trick will remain to hit the “Join” button as soon as it illuminates in blue, now right at 7am. I’ve had the most luck by forcing the app to refresh by clicking the “Check Status” Button. I go over a number of the previous “best practices” in this post, including one that I think is key, in turning off location services access to the Disney World app during the signup process. That post goes on to take a look at morning crowd levels and waits.
We’ll reassess what seems to work best come November 3rd.
It will be interesting to see if the move does anything to alleviate morning crowding at the Studios. My estimation is that it will have little effect other than confusing people and now requiring some to wake up at 7am to start the day on their phones for a theme park that doesn’t currently open until 10am.
This is Epcot on a weekday before official Park open and you can see how many people have turned up early for Test Track. The line stretches back to Temporary Mouse Gear. And that’s at a Park that has no boarding group requirement and I’m fairly certain hasn’t installed a new ride system in 15 or more years. It doesn’t take much to get the people out of bed for a 10am, 11am, or 12pm rope drop. They’ve paid the money and made the trip.
With the relatively late start, several of Disney World’s newest rides, and short operating hours, there’s still a big incentive for guests to arrive early and try to beat the crowds.
Certainly, some number of people were here this early specifically for the 10am Rise drop, but everyone in this Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway queue knows how important it is to get here early in order to be in front of as many people as possible. I don’t think basically moving the Rise signup “off-site” is going to do much to keep the people away early.
We’ve seen the people return to Flight of Passage over the last six weeks, increasing wait times there in the morning more than 400% compared to August. Other priority attractions have seen a similar resurgence as the “more educated” theme park visitor returns in the fall.
So I don’t see a lot of people getting a boarding group at 7am in their hotel rooms and then holding off until 12pm to arrive at the Park. If anything, it may get people going that much earlier. If I was rope dropping the Studios with Rise signups at Park open, I’d get up around 8am to begin mobilizing over. Now with alarms going off and a shot of adrenaline at 6:58am for the 7am signup, it’s either try to get back to sleep for an hour or get moving to see what the limited edition cupcake situation in the food court happens to be.
It will be interesting to see how many Park Passes for the Studios open up shortly after 7am as people inevitably get shut out of a boarding group and switch their Parks around. The promise of the 2pm drop may be enough to get most people to stick to their original plans. But if I had one day at the Studios, I’d try to make it one where I could guarantee I could get on Rise. And apparently, the way to do that will be at 7am either at home or at your hotel. On the other hand, this may be Disney’s play to open up day-of availability at the Studios. They do turn hundreds of people away from the ticket booths some days. If those people without Rise groups now cancel, Disney may be able to sell those tickets and let the good people in.
The other key piece from Disney’s announcement is their acknowledgement that they installed plastic barriers in between the two rows on the ride vehicles:
To try to maximize the number of boarding groups we’re able to accommodate while adhering to current health and safety guidelines, we recently added a clear barrier between the two rows of seats on each First Order Fleet Transport vehicle inside the attraction.
That will improve capacity by potentially doubling the number of groups who can board each vehicle, in turn nearly doubling the number of boarding groups Disney can call over. You can see what that plastic divider looks like here. I think I would request the first row whenever possible, but it does look like a better installation than the plastic flaps we’ve seen on rides like Kilimanjaro Safaris. You’d think they would have tried this about two days after the Studios reopened, instead of 3.5 months. But here we are.
We’ll see what happens come November 3rd. The tourists are programmed to arrive early, so I don’t think moving the Rise signup to 7am will cause too many people to arrive later. On the other hand, if you knew 2pm was your only shot at getting Rise, you may elect to sit out the morning rush. That would be a luxury for most guests who don’t have two days to spend at the Studios. It takes at least six hours, and usually closer to eight hours, to get through every attraction at the Studios that posts a wait. With less interest in about half of the attractions, a 1pm arrival would be viable if you’re willing to bet that the 2pm signup goes in your favor. After the 7am signup did not. Optimism is an important character trait. Wait times from 3pm to 7pm would be shorter than from 10am to 2pm. Or, at least, they are now. We’ll see if Disney’s change makes a difference in wait times and how many people show up early in just a few days.
They haven’t had a lot of luck messing with Rise of the Resistance so far. When you’ve got 35,000 marbles and a jar that holds 8,000, there’s only so much you can do. That’s basically Rise of the Resistance. If only they had made the ride really, really bad, but not to bad that it’s campy and you want to ride. Just unpleasant all around. It would still be a step up from most of what Hollywood Studios has going on.