Against my better judgment, we head out to Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the morning of February 9, 2018.
This is the scene at 8:05am, which is around the time that you want to arrive for a regular 9am open if you’d like your choice of tapstile and/or plan to sign the kids up for Jedi Training Academy.
I selected the far right open tapstile and was fifth in line. You can ignore the Annual Passholder sign at this point in the morning. Whatever direction it appears to be pointing, it’s not enforced.
Ten minutes later, at 8:15am, there’s probably about 15 people in each line.
Things are filling in by 8:20am, but this is a relatively light crowd.
By 8:25am, we’re almost backed up to the ticket booths.
8:30am is when Disney typically begins letting guests enter the Park – there’s probably 30ish people in each line.
If you want to be absolutely first at a tapstile, a 7:45am arrival should be plenty early. If you’re running closer to 8:15am or 8:20am, head to the far left bank of tapstiles where Disney is admitting those with pre-opening breakfast reservations for Hollywood & Vine. Those tapstiles will transfer over to general admission closer to 8:30am. If you’re unfamiliar with how that works or missed our last rope drop that went to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster first, see this post, where you’ll find an explanation near the top. On this particular morning, our line benefited from the fact that Disney opened up another pair of tapstiles around 8:25am, which allowed our long line to split into two shorter lines. So the far sides are usually your best bet as far as choosing a line is concerned. It’s also 100% more likely that I’ll be eerily standing behind you taking pictures with my phone in the air every five minutes. And if you’re standing directly in front of or behind me, then you’re guaranteed to not be in them.
Disney opened the tapstiles right at 8:30am, which is customary. It’s sometimes a little earlier if lines are considerably backed up or can be later if there’s an issue.
Assuming an early arrival, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re let in at 8:15am or 8:45am; you’ll be near the front of the pack headed to the attraction of your choice either way.
Everyone you see in this picture is running towards Jedi Training Academy signups.
Which you’ll find on the left past Hollywood & Vine and 50’s Prime Time. Signing the kids up for Jedi Training Academy remains the highest priority in the Park. The child must be present to sign up, but a parent can hurry ahead and save a spot. The first couple of groups to arrive at the signup location will be on their way within a couple of minutes, but waits typically hit 30 to 45 minutes before Park open and stay that long through around 10am when the spots are completely filled. The website does not typically recommend trying to visit an attraction before signing up if Jedi Training is a “must do.” Toy Story and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster aren’t going anywhere, but when the shows are full, that’s typically it other than the wait list. Scheduling a late morning or early afternoon show is usually smartest. That way, you can take advantage of short waits and relatively light crowds during the first couple of hours of operation. Be mindful of the weather report as shows are canceled due to rain. The kids need to arrive back near the sign-up location 30 minutes before showtime for instruction.
Those with reservations at Hollywood & Vine prior to Park open can typically sign their kids up for Jedi Training before breakfast, which is a distinct advantage. A pre-opening breakfast otherwise affords no touring advantage and will probably put you behind the majority of the early-arriving rope drop crowd.
The scene behind me at 8:31am.
At this point, you’ll be able to go as far as what is almost the end of Hollywood Boulevard and just before the right turn down Sunset Boulevard. Cast members will guide those heading to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror to stay towards the right of the humanity mass with those heading to Toy Story Mania keeping to the left.
It shouldn’t be a big surprise when it’s time to go. Cast members from Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Toy Story Mania will arrive and then a cast member will make a brief introduction into the importance of walking to said attraction.
This is the scene behind me at 8:48am, which is about two minutes before we’ll be on our way. It’s a below-average amount of people, but you probably still don’t want to find yourself back there unless you’re heading somewhere other than Toy Story or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster first. If for some reason you’re heading elsewhere, including Tower of Terror, the Star Wars Launch Bay Meet and Greets, Star Tours, the Toy Story Mania Buzz/Woody meet, or what have you, then you probably don’t need to worry about rushing anywhere.
At 8:50am, our march begins.
We’ll take a right before arriving at the Star Wars stage.
And towards Animation Courtyard with Star Wars Launch Bay in the distance.
It’s somewhat of a wash between trying to head through the narrow or wide arch. Usually, I’ve found an advantage to the narrower walkway as it’s a tighter turn towards Pixar Place. But we ended up being held for a moment while the wide arch people could move through. Note that West Virginia Hat Guy is standing right in front of me.
If you’re visiting between now and the opening of Toy Story Land, which will likely be the end of May, then this is where you’ll be dropping off your stroller should you find yourself pushing one. Be ready for that as there’s nowhere to drop the wheels off further up.
Toy Story Mania is currently operating with just two of its three tracks. Disney is reconfiguring the attraction’s queue so that the ride’s entrance will be on the opposite side of the building inside of what will become Toy Story Land.
As usual, I am on the slow and polite side of the spectrum, which puts me behind where I could be if I was keeping up with my elbow throwing regimen.
Toy Story’s main entrance is not in use right now and likely won’t be again.
Here it is roped off.
It remains to be seen what the meet and greet situation inside Toy Story Mania looks like. There doesn’t look to be a dedicated building where Buzz, Woody, and others might meet guests, but it could be an outdoor affair. Pixar Place is expected to close with the opening of Toy Story Land, which would mean the current meet and greet building would shutter with it.
Toy Story Mania is already posted at 20 minutes as I pass by the sign at 8:55am, but it shouldn’t be that bad just yet.
Here’s a lousy picture of the makeshift entrance, which you’ll find inside these nondescript black doors.
Inside is a short, narrow path.
Lined with construction walls on one side.
Before opening back up to where we’d ordinarily grab our 3D glasses.
Toy Story’s current capacity reduction isn’t going to have a major effect on most people’s Park touring at the moment.
If you arrive early like I did, you’ll still virtually walk on the ride. I’m just about ready to load at 9am or just five minutes after I walked past the main entrance outside. But Toy Story will be far less forgiving for those arriving a little later in the morning given that the ride’s capacity is now under a thousand riders per hour. A year ago, you could have arrived around 9:15am and waited around 20 minutes most days. Now, you’d be looking at an hour or more with the same arrival time. That also makes riding with a short wait after experiencing another attraction first virtually impossible unless there’s a tsunami or something keeping people back at their resorts. Maybe an easywdw.com blog post will keep people busy, though that’s probably unlikely to happen on the day of your visit.
This is the end of the line when I emerged at 9:10am.
It’s posted as 55 minutes, which is probably about right. It’ll be 130 minutes when we circle back later in the afternoon. And again, that’s two hours and ten minutes. Not one hour and thirty minutes.
If you have FastPass+, look for this sign before arriving at what used to be the main entrance.
One of the reasons why we’re here is that Toy Story Mania is expected to be “standby only” from April 9th through May 7th, when it’s expected that only one track will be in operation. That puts Toy Story Mania’s hourly capacity under 500 riders per hour and also eliminates about 1,000 Tier 1 FastPass+ experiences per hour. That means only 6,000 people will be able to experience Toy Story Mania over the course of your average 12-hour day. Hollywood Studios averages more than 30,000 visitors a day, meaning only about a fifth of those entering the Park will be able to ride on days that only one track is in operation. That’s “better” than the ride being closed down completely for a month, but it also means that the only viable time to guarantee a short wait will be absolutely first thing in the morning. Last thing at night will be the second best time, but you may be giving up Fantasmic and/or the Star Wars Fireworks to do that. Come April 9th, we’ll see if Disney opens Toy Story Mania earlier in the morning to move through more guests.
If you’re running behind schedule, you may want to abort plans to head to Toy Story first thing. On the other hand, there aren’t a ton of things to do at Hollywood Studios these days and waits are going to increase significantly later in the afternoon. At Magic Kingdom, I typically say that getting in line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at 9:15am is about the worst thing you could do given short waits at so many other attractions. But if you have FastPass+ for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Star Tours, and Tower of Terror (or other priorities), then you may want to bite the bullet and wait the hour from 9:15am to 10:15am. Of course, everything changes once Toy Story Land opens.
Strollers lined up and a lot of people heading towards a 60+ minute wait at Toy Story.
I wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do at this point either.
Here’s a look at wait times over the course of the day:
Most other attractions are viable at 9:30am – the Toy Story characters were already up to a 30 minute wait.
I had FastPass+ scheduled for the other three rides.
I could have gone over to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster in standby and experienced a wait of around a half hour and then a half hour wait for Tower of Terror after that. By that time, I could have used my FP+ for both attractions. There won’t be a better time to ride those headliners in standby until after 7pm, and even then, posted waits will be 50+ minutes at 7:30pm.
I wasn’t really in the mood for that, so I went over to Launch Bay to find Chewbacca out on a mission. He would ordinarily be meeting to a 10ish minute wait.
BB-8 looked to be around 15 minutes – higher than usual given Chewie’s absence.
I considered the 9:30am Voyage of the Little Mermaid. These shows do fill to capacity beginning around 11am, making it a higher priority than you might expect. But late afternoon FP+ are easy to acquire.
Things aren’t particularly nutty at 9:18am with relatively few people arriving between 9:15am and 10am.
I opted to check out Star Tours with what looks like about six other people.
A 10-minute posted wait at 9:21am or about ten minutes after I was on my way from Toy Story.
Two minutes later, I was past the FP+ merge point.
Three simulators were operating, which is plenty for this time of morning.
With a 40-minute posted wait at 10:30am and a 70-minute wait at 12:15pm, capacity probably could have been ratcheted up a little earlier.
I arrived at 9:21am and was back out front at 9:38am for a total experience time of 17 minutes. That’s a minute less than the ride will take with FP+ when I return later in the afternoon.
In Part 2, we’ll continue on with the morning and discuss some strategies, wait times, and the various decisions that you’ll need to make if you’ll be visiting prior to Toy Story Land’s opening.