Admittedly, your narrator does not get to morning Extra Magic Hour very often, particularly during summer/peak/holiday seasons. The minimum cost to stay at a Disney resort at the moment is around $130 with tax, even with the Passholder discount. I can certainly show up for the 9am opening, but it sort of feels like I’m the homicide squad showing up after a major crime. Since I was staying on property for a night to cover the State of the Monorail, I thought I would “take advantage” of Hollywood Studios’ morning Extra Magic Hour this past Saturday.
The weather was just miserable. 96% humidity coupled with temperatures that were already in the low 80s at 7:30am. By 10:30am, the “RealFeel” was 115 degrees.
Here’s something I have never had the pleasure of experiencing – for lack of a better word, “lens condensation,” making my already poor quality photos look even worse. I guess it just looks a little foggy.
Here we are lined up at 7:40am, 20 minutes before morning Extra Magic Hour is set to begin. There are already several hundred people here. Disney begins allowing guests through the turnstiles promptly at 7:45am, where you’ll be allowed to march up to the end of Hollywood Boulevard in two places.
Here are the two rope drop locations – the first image depicts the usual spot in front of Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat. To the left, you can line up to next to Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner, which is to the left of Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat and closer to American Idol Experience. If you’re headed to Jedi Training Academy, you may want to head over here because it’s closer to where you’ll sign up (which is currently taking place inside Sounds Dangerous). It may also get you to Toy Story Mania quicker, depending on how many people are in front of you on this side. The area next to Min and Bill’s is less popular than the area in front of Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat, meaning you can more easily get to the front. The two pictures above were taken right after each other and you can see that people are already five or six deep in front of Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat, but there are only 15 people total in front of us at Min and Bill’s. In other words, if you can get to the front of the crowd at Min and Bill’s, you would likely be able to cut across and get in front of where you would be if you were lined up a few people back in the other rope drop section. However, the very front of the area in front of Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat would be best because it’s closer to the walkway to Toy Story Mania.
The “Toy Story Midway Mania Dash” as some people call it. Basically everyone in line at rope drop will be headed to Toy Story Mania. It can be a somewhat unpleasant experience as you’ve got people running on both sides, “enemy strollers” as I call them, and just generally people in more of a hurry than they should be. To make you feel better, it’s really not that bad. It’s just a lot of people in a hurry to get to a specific location in a confined area. Amusingly, you’ll hear cast members yelling, “Don’t run, it won’t get you there any faster!” Of course, anyone who has ever run anywhere knows that running is actually faster.
Can’t beat getting photo-bombed by a 10-year-old can you? This isn’t the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, so I’m not going to bore you with a 150 page section telling you how to raise your kids, but I will say that if your child is “flipping the birds” at people at Disney World, you may have some work to do. Actually I’m kidding, he’s just giving us a couple of thumbs up. It’s funnier in my version though.
More people incoming behind us.
FASTPASSes are available at the beginning of morning Extra Magic Hour at all attractions that are operating. The first FASTPASS return times are 8:40am. You can see that FASTPASSes are currently being distributed with a return window of 8:50am – 9:50am as I stand in line. Like with FASTPASSes pulled during regular hours, you’ll be able to collect another set of FASTPASSes when the return window opens (8:50am in this example) or after two hours if the return window is more than two hours out.
The FASTPASS return window creeps up quickly at Toy Story Mania – faster than any attraction at Walt Disney World.
My FASTPASS collected at 8:09am (actually 8:07am according to my watch, but their printed times are off) with a return time of 9:30am. Not bad. Although I was near the front of the crowd at Min and Bill’s, I wasn’t in a big hurry to get to Toy Story Mania and took a couple of brief breaks to snap the photos you see.
Just like during regular Park hours, there is one line to collect FASTPASSes. This is it. Once you get closer to the front of the line, you will break off into several shorter lines with a FASTPASS machine and cast member in the front of it. You hand your Park tickets to the cast member and they put your tickets through. This is a much faster process than waiting for people to figure out how to work a FASTPASS machine themselves. I think we’ve all been behind the person that didn’t quite “get it.”
The line out the door at 8:11am. A posted wait time of 35 minutes is pretty accurate and may actually be a little low.
A better look.
A look at people incoming at 8:15am. It’s pretty quiet on Hollywood Boulevard from 8:15am – 8:55am. The same is true during regular Park opening. Most of the people that arrive for rope drop are there by 9am and there’s a lull in arrivals between 9:15am and 9:50am. Arrivals pick up around 10am and a steady stream of people arrive through noon. Crowds and waits generally peak from 11am – 4pm.
My preferred way of keeping track of time – pictures of clocks. We’re headed down Sunset Boulevard to check on Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at 8:17am.
Just like a normal day, FASTPASSes at Tower of Terror are plentiful and relatively easy to get through the early afternoon and for most of the day when crowds are lower and the Studios is recommended. On a more crowded day like this, Tower of Terror FASTPASSes will go quicker because standby waits will be 40+ minutes for most of the day.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster had a posted standby wait of 10 minutes. It was relatively accurate – I was off by 8:40am or about 20 minutes of total wait/ride time.
Tower of Terror still at 10 minutes around 8:45am.
Sunset Boulevard not too busy.
Going on 8:50am.
This is the second wave of people coming in at 9am – the “non-Disney-resort guests” that have picked the absolutely worst place to be at 9am today. Instead of being the first people to arrive in an empty Park (like they would be at Epcot, Magic Kingdom, or Animal Kingdom) with plentiful FASTPASSes and no lines, they’ll find that a few thousand people have already arrived in front of them. As it gets later and more and more Disney resort guests decide to show up, lines will be longer than recommended days during the week.
FASTPASSes for Toy Story Mania are already at 1:20pm and the standby wait is 40 minutes at 8:53.
The non-Disney-resort-crowd will be let in beginning at 9am. There’s no opening show or “pre-rope-drop area” like there is with a regular opening. They’re held at the gate until 9am and then Disney begins operating the turnstiles. If you arrive and there are already 15 people at every turnstile, it just means more time before you enter. On a “regular day,” Disney would begin operating the turnstiles about 15 minutes prior to Park opening, ensuring everyone present the opportunity to enter the Park and line up at the end of Hollywood Boulevard (just like they did today for Disney resort guests). If you show up around 8:45am for morning Extra Magic Hour and you’re a resort guest, look for the signs above the turnstiles that indicate which ones are being operated for Disney resort guests (usually the two furthest to the left). You don’t need to wait in line with the non-resort crowd.
There was still availability for Jedi Training Academy. With the 10pm closing time, Disney has added additional Jedi Training shows, which means more happy kids get to participate. Signups are currently inside here at Sounds Dangerous.
There was basically no wait at Star Tours at 9:10am. I walked right on with a wait of maybe seven minutes, including the time it took to actually board the Starspeeder.
No one waiting for Phineas and Ferb at 9:20am.
Not a lot of people on the Streets of America either – probably because there’s no reason to be here.
We’ve already got a 60 minute wait with FASTPASS return times of 3:25pm before 9:30am. Assuming you collected a FASTPASS for Toy Story Mania now, you wouldn’t be able to collect another until 11:27am. At that point, your next priority, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, would have a return time that’s also around 4pm.
This is the theater for Walt Disney One Man’s Dream. It’s one of the most comfortable places to rest at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and there is very rarely a crowd. I think the definition of a “crowd” here would be about 25% of the seats being full. It was just so hot and humid that I needed an air-conditioned break. You might too. The nice thing about One Man’s Dream is that there’s a timer outside the theater with a countdown of when the next film begins. Check it when you arrive and plan your viewing of the exhibit around the start of the film so you don’t have to wait for it. It’s a very pleasant film about Walt Disney’s life and I highly recommend taking the time to see it.
Up to a 70 minute wait at 9:57am with a FASTPASS return time of 4:50pm.
This is a lot of people in line for Phineas and Ferb right at 10am. Phineas and Ferb have not yet come out, but the “director” is out making a scene (to a mostly unenthusiastic audience). One other problem with morning Extra Magic Hour is that it gives people enough time to tour the major headliners before the characters start coming out. On a “regular day” without morning Extra Magic Hour, the line for Phineas and Ferb is much shorter at 10am because people are still trying to get through Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours. You also have to keep in mind that people who actually arrive by 7:40am for morning Extra Magic Hour are among the smartest Disney vacationers. They know where to go first, they know when characters appear and which are the most popular, and they visit sites like these.
Star Tours beginning to get busy around 10am as more and more people get through the other headliners and move over to Echo Lake from Pixar Place and Sunset Boulevard. On a regular day, Star Tours doesn’t get this busy until 10:30am – 11:00am.
10:10am on Sunset Boulevard.
This is a lot of people for 10am.
Already a 40 minute wait for Tower of Terror.
FASTPASSes still have return times of about 40 minutes in the future, but that’s going to change here shortly as return times will become further and further into the future. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster had a 40 minute wait time as well.
Here we are on our way out at 10:30am. As you can see, even more people are arriving.
These people are going to find 90 minute waits at Toy Story Mania, 60 minute waits at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, 50 minute waits at Tower of Terror, and 30 minute waits at Star Tours.
We’re less concerned about Hollywood Studios’ morning Extra Magic Hour when Fantasmic is scheduled less often (and not on morning Extra Magic Hour day). When morning Extra Magic Hour is scheduled with Fantasmic, Hollywood Studios is significantly more crowded, as we see today. While you could certainly have success if you arrive by 7:40am, it’s going to be a busy day from 11am onward. If you do arrive early and get through Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours, you’ll be in good shape for the rest of the day. It will put you in a great position to move on to the Studios’ less popular and high capacity attractions. However, it certainly isn’t ideal for those arriving any time after 9am and ultimately why this website does not often recommend the Park with morning Extra Magic Hour.