It’s been about two months since our last documented rope drop at Hollywood Studios, so I thought it would be prudent to drop by on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend to see what we can accomplish.
It’s 8:10am and things are pretty chill. I had originally gotten in the Annual Passholder line on the far right…because how else will people know that I’m an Annual Passholder? But after some amount of confusion with the ladies in front of me, and whether or not the line should go diagonally, I decided to head to my favorite line on the far left.
Just four minutes later on the opposite side, things are starting to fill in.
It “feels” like I’m pretty far back, but there are a couple of things you want to profile for when choosing a line. First of all, it’s always wise to get in line closest to where they are admitting those with breakfast reservations. Closer to opening, these previously-reserved tapstiles will change over to ones that anyone can use. That means you can either hurry over yourself or wait for about half of the people in front of you to scamper over instead.
Second, there are two sets of tapstiles connected at the front of what we’ll call each individual “station.” In other words, we have a total of four Mickey readers at each station with two individual lines per station. A lot of the time before Park open, only one line will form behind each station. Closer to opening, cast members will come out and instruct the single line to form two individual lines, one in front of each set, which will cut down on the number of people in front of you by about half.
In this instance, I was next to the reservation line and in a single line in front of the station. Disney opened up the breakfast tapstiles to everyone at 8:17am and about half of the people in front of me moved over there.
These people used to be in front of me, but decided to make a lateral move to get as far away from the bloggers as possible. Not a bad idea, really.
At 8:30am, the lines are backed up to the ticket booths, as they are just about every day.
A few minutes later, a cast member arrived and separated our single line into two individual lines. I went from about 30 people back in line to six. A minute after that, the family of the day announced the opening of the Park with the help of Donald and Daisy Duck.
According to the Hollywood Studios Cheat Sheet, this is what we’re expecting from open:
And that should turn out to be accurate.
Jedi Training remains the highest priority at the Studios for those with interest. With Disney allowing guests to enter as early as 8:30am and as far as the Hold Line above, those signing the kids up have about 20 minutes to get through signup and back over to the mass on Hollywood Boulevard before the rope drops for the other attractions. Otherwise, you’ll be at a greater disadvantage at Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, etc. as you’ll still be in line to sign-up. That means you want to be among the first 30ish groups to arrive and ideally among the first 15. Those with no interest in signups have a much easier time.
We were let go at 8:45am, which is earlier than it has been most days in recent memory. They may be trying to get going a little earlier for the summer season.
About 92.3% of the people headed down Sunset Boulevard are going to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, which is the highest rope drop priority at the Studios, as well as the highest FastPass+ priority.
Back in August of last year, I wrote this post, which explains in-depth why Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is a higher priority than Toy Story Mania. But when you consider that Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster’s peak and average waits are higher than Toy Story, there’s less FastPass+ availability, and the thrill ride is less reliable, it becomes a pretty easy choice.
Filing into the narrow queue, somewhat annoyingly, at 8:48am.
At 8:51am, the line is not really backed all the way out there, but it does take some time for everyone to file into the queue. The reason I arrived at 8:10am is so I spend 30 minutes waiting out there rather than 30 minutes of precious morning touring time waiting in here.
At 8:52am, I missed the first pre-show of the day by one person, but was still on the ride before 9am.
And back out front at 9:04am for a total experience time of 16 minutes. The posted wait is already 45 minutes with a considerable number of people in the standby line. The actual wait would be between 30-50 minutes depending on the number of people that arrive with FastPass+ priority.
Looking over Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster wait times in May:
The overall average wait of 62 minutes isn’t too bad in the grand scheme of things, but waits are already prohibitive around 9:30am for the most part given average or above average crowds.
Here’s Toy Story Mania’s posted wait times over the same time period:
But even given Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster’s below average waits in May, Toy Story Mania still comes in considerably lower at 45 minutes. At 9:30am, the average wait for Toy Story is 29 minutes versus 44 minutes at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Toy Story Mania’s average wait time doesn’t look to ever be longer than Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster’s at any of the time stamps.
Next up is Tower of Terror in standby.
If you are set on heading to Toy Story Mania first and then plan to ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster in standby immediately after, then using FP+ for Tower of Terror isn’t a terrible decision.
But riding Tower in standby immediately after Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster will be fine in 99.9% of situations.
You could still book a 9am-10am FastPass+ here to ride a second time if capacity is an issue or to protect yourself against the .1%, but you’ll likely save more time using FP+ at Tower or elsewhere later in the day.
I arrived at Tower of Terror at 9:06am, was in the library at 9:10am, on-ride at 9:15am, and back out front at 9:22am, for a total experience time of 16 minutes.
Sunset Boulevard “crowds” at 9:24am.
It was wall to wall crowds all weekend! I was scared for the lives of my unborn children!
The Great Movie is mostly a walk-on before 9:30am. A look over May wait times:
Wait times here are also reasonable. Since Movie Ride is a Tier 1 FastPass+, the vast majority of guests pick Toy Story Mania or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster as their initial selection. That’s actually good news, as it makes it easy to secure the 22-minute Ultimate Celebration of Classic Movies as a 4th selection. This early, most people will want to take care of other priorities and look up Movie Ride FP+ availability during lunch. Return times should be available almost immediately.
I checked www.easywdw.com/waits to see what the posted wait for Toy Story Mania was and it said 65 minutes, but I decided to go check on the actual length of the line, which ended up being backed up to the entrance. That indicates an actual wait of 50-70 minutes.
At least there are hula-hooping kids in the middle of the walkway.
Star-Lord began greeting guests in One Man’s Dream a couple of weeks ago alongside a toy Baby Groot. Moana no longer ordinarily meets at Disney World, though there are constant rumblings that plans may be in the works to move her to Adventureland. The Veranda there would be an easy choice.
The entrance is located straight back.
At 9:34am, there was nobody in line.
It’s a pretty cute meet as Star-Lord has a lot of personality and Baby Groot has even more to say. He asked me where Drax was and I said, “On a screen in a warehouse somewhere in California.” Wait times here typically max out around 30 minutes in the afternoon and should hit 15 minutes by 10:30am. I was in and out in seven minutes.
A Cars 3 preview has taken over for the Pirates of the Caribbean clip in The Walt Disney Theater.
I didn’t have plans to see it, but since it started in just 14 seconds, I took a short rest and enjoyed the show. The movie looks charming – I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen so far.
I like visiting Star Wars Launch Bay in the late afternoon or early evening, since it’s nicely air-conditioned and waits for the characters are usually in the 10-20 minute range. This is posted at 9:53am.
Here’s BB-8 waits over the last month:
By 4pm, actual waits should be under 15 minutes 90% of the time.
And it’s a pretty cute meet.
Here’s Kylo Ren:
You might not tell him that there’s nobody else outside waiting for him.
Chewbacca is also best met after 6pm, though waits average just 15 minutes at 4pm. You could certainly meet the characters around 10am if you don’t have a lot of other priorities.
Actual waits at Voyage of the Little Mermaid are typically 15-30 minutes in the afternoon as the 17-minute show often fills to capacity.
Here at 1pm, these people outside will likely need to wait for the current show to end, plus one more complete show, before they’re admitted. That could be 35 minutes. It’s a really easy 4th or subsequent FP+ experience to acquire if you don’t want to see it earlier in the day.
But with just five minutes to showtime, I took the opportunity to drop in:
The waiting room has a lot of interesting stuff to look at, but it’s typically so jam-packed that you won’t have an opportunity to see much of it.
I don’t usually have my zoom lens with me, but I thought I might need it for the Pixar Live! show, so I brought it along.
I never realized how terrifying the puppeteers are back there.
A few more:
Ariel always seems to make a face when she picks up her book, so I was curious what it was that she was reading. It turns out that it’s, “Principles of Fishery Science,” which is pretty funny.
My face watching Pandora wait times this weekend.
The show let out at 10:17am and Great Movie Ride is starting to see an extended queue with a 25-minute posted wait.
The Frozen Sing-Along is my favorite daytime show at Walt Disney World.
Occasionally someone will say, “Josh, I can never tell if you’re being sarcastic or when you really like something.”
But I’m a thousand percent serious.
The show is constantly refreshed with new jokes and it legitimately “feels” like the characters have no idea what the other one is going to say next.
The grownup comedy is enough to keep the adults entertained.
And the singing and characters enthrall the kids.
I’m telling you…#nosarcasm….even if you don’t have kids and “hate” Frozen, you will enjoy this show.
This particular duo is my favorite. You’re in for a real treat if you get them.
This was my FastPass+ lineup:
My plan was to visit Star Tours towards the end of the window, so I could do some other things in standby first, then see Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, then ride Toy Story Mania with FastPass+, and then visit Tower of Terror with FastPass+ before lunch.
Here we are at 11:05am, which is five minutes after my FastPass+ window officially ends. You may remember that you can use FP+ for a ride up to five minutes before the return window and up to 15 minutes after. In other words, the actual return window with my 10am-11am FP+ is 9:55am-11:15am. I don’t usually recommend to plan on using the FastPass+ during the grace period because that’s when you may actually run into problems, but I should be okay here.
When the droid announced that all flights to Alderaan had been canceled, I had a bit of an anxiety attack thinking I had accidentally gotten in the line for a United flight.
The 50-minute posted wait was probably close to accurate as the standby queue extended outdoors. I arrived at 11:05am and was back out front at 11:27am.
I hadn’t seen Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular in a while, so I moseyed over at 11:30am for the 12pm show.
While outdoors, the queue is surprisingly comfortable with the foliage, netting, and misting fans.
FastPass+ for most shows is relatively useless. Or, if you arrive early enough to take advantage of a better seat with FP+, then you could arrive at the same time in standby and find a similar seat.
But FastPass+ does guarantee a seat at the show provided you arrive within the return window. And even if you’re a minute or two late, they should have space saved. Indiana Jones still fills seats and most shows are standing-room-only by showtime.
A few pictures:
The show blends action, humor, and a little bit of behind-the-scenes insight into a 30-minute production that’s thoroughly entertaining. I only catch it every 12-18 months or so, which is why I always miss the money shots when I try to photograph it, but it’s worth seeing if you never have or it’s been a while.
Walking over to use FastPass+ at Toy Story Mania, I noticed that cast members were quoting much higher actual waits than the posted signs indicated. The Mickey/Minnie Meet is posted at 15 minutes, but cast were saying to expect 25.
Star Tours was posted at 25 minutes at 12:35pm, but the standby queue was longer than it was when the wait was posted at 50 minutes.
I arrived at 1pm for my 11:50am-12:50pm FastPass+ after taking some menu/construction/atmosphere pictures. As it often is, FP+ return was backed up outside the building.
With a 105-minute posted wait, which is well above average these days. Downtime earlier in the day is to blame.
With the standby line filling the entire indoor queue, 105 minutes is likely accurate.
And I was back out front at 1:23pm, for a total experience time of 22 minutes. According to the attraction page, we were expecting 25 minutes, so it’s right around there. The standby wait had dropped to 90 minutes.
Tower of Terror with FastPass+ is up next with Sunset Boulevard pictured here at 1:30pm. It’s relatively crowded.
As I mentioned before, there seemed to be a disconnect between posted and actual wait times.
A lot of the time, short posted waits aren’t necessarily your friend as they cause people to get in line. “Hey, it says ten minutes, hurry!”
Cast were letting prospective riders know that the actual wait would be closer to 60 minutes as the line is backed up outside and down the pathway.
With FastPass+ reservations in-hand, I’ll be able to walk right in.
I arrived at 1:35pm, was in the library pre-show at 1:39pm, was on-ride at 1:45pm, and was back out front at 1:52pm, for a total experience time of 17 minutes. Not bad at all.
At that point, it was time for lunch at Mama Melrose’s and then the Pixar LIVE! symphony show, which I reviewed here.
Overall, it was a pretty easy day. I:
- Arrived at the entrance at 8:10am, was let in at 8:30am, and was on my way towards Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at 8:45am
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: 8:48am – 9:04am
- Tower of Terror: 9:06am – 9:22am
- Guardians of the Galaxy Meet: 9:32am – 9:40am
- Cars 3 Preview: 9:40am – 9:52am
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid: 9:54am – 10:17am.
- Frozen Sing-Along: 10:20am – 11:02am
- Star Tours with FastPass+: 11:05am – 11:27am
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular: 11:30am – 12:30pm
- Artsy photography and wall photos: 12:30pm – 1pm
- Toy Story Mania with FastPass+: 1pm – 1:21pm
- Tower of Terror: 1:36pm – 1:53pm
That’s five rides, three shows, the movie preview, a meet and greet, and too many sunburst photos over the course of about 5.5 hours. I waited about 30 minutes for the Stunt Spectacular, but most ride waits weren’t much longer than it took to walk the queue and experience the pre-show. Star Tours seems to be taking a few extra minutes, though.
Here’s a look at wait times over the course of the day, Friday May 26, 2017:
Overall, a good day. I don’t think I would have changed anything.