See this post for what you can expect to see on easywdw.com over the coming weeks.
Our afternoon at Disney’s Hollywood Studios continues as we consider the best approach to tackle a Park that houses seven or eight rides that you probably want to experience, but will also carry multi-hour waits throughout the day. Part One of this afternoon-arrival plan covered FastPass+ priority after the opening of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, how you might plan on structuring your day, and got the ball rolling with visits to high-capacity shows in The Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.
Of course, there are reasons to descend on the Studios much earlier in the morning, including the ever-important Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding group signup, which requires an arrival inside the theme park no later than the Park officially opens. Signing the kids up for Jedi Training Academy, a process which takes place between the entrance to Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and 50’s Prime Time Cafe, is another priority. With so many guests focused on positioning themselves for a priority attraction first thing, Jedi Training signups are a lower priority than they were prior to Toy Story Land’s opening, but you still want to be there before 10am if you can swing it.
Here just after 4pm, the sign says that alternate spots are available, which either means that enough people have canceled that they can add the kids to an upcoming show, or there’s room on the stand-by list in case kids who had previously signed up don’t return. Disney asks kids and their parents to return to the signup location a half hour before showtime to go over a few things, like not swinging the plastic lightsaber in a manner that could injure poor Darth Vader. Imagine getting swarmed by hundreds of kids every day who would like nothing more than to hit you over the head with a plastic wand. That may not be unlike my daily routine on Twitter.
Depending on your Park Hopper situation, and what you want to do with your overall itinerary, most people will want to plan on arriving before the Studios opens on at least one of their days. Those staying in the Studios after it opens will want to consider trying to ride one or two attractions in standby before beginning to use FastPass+. The previous Part in this series described some of the overwhelming wait times that you’ll run into shortly after the Studios opens.
The date of our visit is Monday, March 9th, 2020, which now “feels” like an eternity ago given how much has happened over the last week. What we see in this post is now probably the “old normal,” when crowds and wait times were heavier. We’ll eventually return to the redundancy of the “regular normal,” but it’s likely that crowds and wait times will ease for a time after the Parks reopen as prospective visitors map out and plan new trips. We’ll reassess things after the Parks reopen, but planning for the worst, and being happy when things turn out better, will put us in the best possible position to enjoy our day at the theme parks. After all, if you get to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at 9:30am and the wait is 15 minutes instead of 80 minutes, it just means that you’ll be able to enjoy the ride a second or third time. That doesn’t seem like a bad deal.
Getting back to the visit at hand, it’s 5:21pm as I march down Hollywood Boulevard.
This is how I’ve organized my FastPass+:
It took an incredible amount of refreshing on the couple of days leading up to my visit to secure these FastPass+. Since I spend the majority of my time in front of the computer, I often have the FastPass+ page up for the day that I’m planning to head out in a tab next to whatever post I’m endlessly writing, and will refresh availability throughout the day. Then when I am watching television, walking the dog, or whatever else, I’ll often also find myself refreshing FastPass+. I’m sure I’m not the only person semi-addicted to doing this. There are few feelings better than getting those FastPass+ to line up just right.
For my tier two FastPass+ selections, I’ve chosen two of the top three priorities from my list. Visiting Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror earlier in the evening with FP+ means that I won’t have to try to get over there later when the Fantasmic crowds make it a little less pleasant. My third FastPass+ is at Slinky Dog Dash, and I’ll try to ride the other two nearby Toy Story Land rides in standby after, since wait times should be shorter as closing time approaches. I could also plan on using FastPass+ closer to my arrival time, but with day-of availability so limited, it will take a lot of refreshing to acquire additional FP+ priorities. For these sorts of “one size fits all” posts, I also can’t rely on getting additional FastPass+ that you won’t have access to in order to make the plan work. I could easily say, “Just get there at 1pm with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway FastPass+ booked for your arrival, and then just refresh the app and book everything else lol.” That might work if you’re a small party and don’t mind spending the entire day clicking a button on your phone, but it doesn’t do those of us who are part of a larger party, or would prefer to spend less time on the phone, much good.
As usual, I’ve tried to book my first two FastPass+ at attractions that are physically near each other, with plans to visit the first attraction towards the end of the return window, so that I can conveniently use FastPass+ at the second attraction right after. My return window for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is officially 4:15pm to 5:15pm, but I can return up to five minutes before, and up to fifteen minutes after, that return window, so the “real” return time is 4:10pm to 5:30pm. At 5:23pm, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is posting a 95-minute wait.
It would have been funny if “Please fill in all of the available space” had turned into, “Please practice safe social distancing,” but that was not a thing that happened leading up to the Parks’ closures. I’m holding my breath and hoping for the best.
It wouldn’t surprise me if this looked like Disney’s command center leading up to the closure announcement. It’s a mixture of shock, disgust, nervous laughter, and “let’s bet the house that we won’t get in trouble for staying open too long.” I don’t think history will be kind to Disney’s delay in closing their Parks and Resorts.
The view of the Hollywood Tower Hotel right outside the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster exit ramp is one of my favorites, but the picture never seems to come out looking particularly interesting. Since we all have a little extra time at the moment, I’ve decided to include it for once.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster only took 17 minutes with FastPass+, which is six or seven minutes below average. While we were on-board, the posted wait had also dropped by 25 minutes. The single rider stuck sitting next to me said he had waited about an hour in the single rider line. I usually discourage using the single rider line at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster because you have no idea how many people are in line in front of you until you’ve already committed, and the seat configuration makes placing single riders less likely. At Test Track, a party of two will be placed with a single rider, since there are three seats in each row. A group of four at Test Track will be placed with two single riders, with one joining a pair in front, and another joining the second pair in back. Groups of two and four are the most common group sizes, and at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, with two seats per row, both groups would be seated with no single riders being placed.
Tower of Terror’s posted wait was 50 minutes, but with the entire regular standby queue filled, and now stretching out back towards Sunset Boulevard, you’d have to think that it would be closer to 80 or 90 minutes.
That’s a lot of people in line.
But there weren’t a lot of people with FastPass+ coming in behind me.
We even have some time to enjoy the flowers…in front of going on something called the Tower of Terror.
Hopefully Disney World won’t be closed so long that the check-in desk of All-Star Sports looks like this when everyone is called back to work.
Maybe we will see this rug for sale one day. You can buy Hollywood Tower Hotel robes, bellhop hats, and a lot more if you survive your ride.
I found myself in the pre-show lobby in less than five minutes, and inside my elevator less than five minutes after that:
With FastPass+, I arrived at 4:43pm, and was back out front at 5:02pm, for a total experience time of just 19 minutes, which is also a few minutes better than average. That may have something to do with the long length of the standby queues both here and at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Sixty minutes still “feels” optimistic, but we’ll hope for the best for them. At a minimum, it’s better than the 130-minute peak posted wait earlier in the day.
Crowds aren’t terrible on Sunset Boulevard, though there are certainly a good number of people hanging around. You might remember that I recommended an arrival time around 5:30pm if you’re ride-focused and don’t care about seeing any of the various shows. I’m going to get in the standby line for Star Tours just before 6:30pm and we’ll see how that goes momentarily.
The Legends of Hollywood facade overhaul continues with these tarps up over the front of the building. You might remember that half of this used to be Planet Hollywood merchandise, with the other half comprising the movie-tie-in-merchandise du jour. That was typically Star Wars.
Now, you’ll find some of Disney’s higher-end purses, dresses, jewelry, and the like, along with a large Pandora store. It will be interesting to see how much work Disney completes during the theme park closures, considering they’ll now have an extra 12 hours to theoretically complete some projects without any concern that the noise or debris will disrupt guests’ days. Ordinarily, anything to divert my attention away from the fact that I’m at Hollywood Studios would be welcome, but I have a feeling that even I’m going to miss this place.
I like the posters hanging outside the store:
Checking on the angle of the sun, it looks to be 6:06pm as we look back at Sunset Boulevard and then turn around to head towards Echo Lake.
The line for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway looked to be even longer than the last time we passed, with most of the extended queue that’s available full of guests. These umbrellas in the foreground are actually used to help shade all of the guests who wait for the ride in an even longer queue first thing in the morning. With the Flower and Garden Festival opening on the same day as the Runaway Railway, and being busy with some other obligations, I didn’t have an opportunity to rope drop the Railway myself over the last ten days. I was strongly considering going out on the last day that the Parks were open, but ultimately decided not to risk it. We’ll use my good health and the fact that things will probably look a lot different once the Parks reopen as excuses.
Do not worry. We will get on the Railway before the evening is up.
In addition to the Runaway Railway, the Mickey Shorts Theater has also opened in place of what was once The Path of the Jedi and whatever that Drew Carey thing was called. I actually liked “Sounds Dangerous” more than most from what I recall. But I’m also big on lounging.
“Vacation Fun” is a collection of clips from several existing Mickey shorts, in addition to new animation exclusive to the show. This Disney Parks Blog post actually links directly to most of the full shorts on YouTube, including Potatoland. They should also be on Disney+.
The theater is not only precious, with the Mickey pants detail on the back of the seats…
But there are also plenty of those seats and they’re pretty comfortable, if not a bit on the narrow side.
There’s a timer outside the theater that counts down to the next showtime. There probably isn’t cause to arrive more than a minute or two before the next “Vacation Fun” starts if you can help it. This is just about the entirety of the crowd for this particular showing at 6:12pm.
It’s possible that I am getting old, but I’m always surprised by the amount of violence in these cartoons. I’m guessing that it’s not so bad that you wouldn’t want your kids to see it, since they’re obviously Disney-produced cartoons, but the characters are not particularly responsible on-screen. Of course, it’s all in good “vacation fun.”
“Vacation Fun” is about ten minutes long. I arrived just before they closed the doors for the show, at 6:12pm, and was back outside at 6:25pm.
You’ll find a number of photo-ops at the exit, including the most popular, which is the picture with the Potatoland potato there near the end on the left. After a show concludes, it usually takes a few minutes for this area to clear out. If you arrive, and there’s five or six minutes until showtime, then you can theoretically head through the sliding doors to the right of the entrance into the theater and see if you can quickly take photos with the backdrops before watching the shorts. It will all make sense after you’ve seen “Vacation Fun,” or if you’ve previously seen some of the shorts.
So far, my afternoon has gone well. I’ve been able to do:
- Star Wars Launch Bay: 3:40pm – 3:50pm
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid: 3:52pm – 4:18pm
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular: 4:25pm – 5:15pm
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with FastPass+: 5:25pm – 5:41pm
- Tower of Terror with FastPass+: 5:43pm – 6:02pm
- Mickey Shorts Theater: 6:12pm – 6:25pm
That leaves me with a little more than two hours until the Park closes at 8:30pm. In that time, I’m hoping to be able to do Star Tours, Smugglers Run (single rider), Slinky Dog Dash (with FastPass+), Toy Story Mania, and Alien Swirling Saucers, followed by getting in line for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway to close out the night. We’ll see if that plan isn’t a little too ambitious.