Sorry if I’m being a little bit of a jerk as a whine about “having” to go to Hollywood Studios tomorrow for the big Star Tours unveiling. I’m sure most of you would trade spots with me in a heartbeat, but I would simply remind you that they are expecting the Studios to close to capacity well before 10am, it’s going to be 93 degrees out with an afternoon thunderstorm, they’re preparing a queue for Star Tours that runs down the entirety of the Streets of America, I’ll be arriving at 6:30am, and Hyperspace Hoopla isn’t until 8:45pm. As of 12pm today, there were people lined up for merchandise and autographs for tomorrow’s opening. And no, there won’t be any refrigerators or plasma televisions on sale at big discounts.
In a bit of good news, my new camera lens is in the mail so hopefully I won’t have to use my feet to zoom in and out next week.
I decided to head out to the Studios this morning to do a little reconnaissance for this weekend’s festivities. Since Star Tours has already stolen the rebel spy storyline, I guess that makes us the Dark Side of the Force. I’m okay with that if you are.
Hollywood Studios is probably the most stressful of the Disney World rope drops. Most everyone is headed to Toy Story Mania. For good reason, because it routinely runs out of FASTPASSes by 11am and standby waits in the afternoon are almost always 60 or more minutes. According to the May Crowd Calendar, Hollywood Studios is by far the most recommended Park, with the overall crowd level building as we head into the weekend. In a word, the Studios is going to be “nuts” this weekend, especially on Friday and Saturday. Today would have been your best opportunity to visit the Studios until the middle of next week. Let’s see how we did.
Doesn’t look too bad. Those of us in “the know” know that Star Tours should be operating sometime today. It’s sort of a shame that Disney states Star Tours won’t be operating because a lot of casual visitors were sad as they walked by. Hopefully they checked later in the day and had an opportunity to ride. Star Tours operated between about 9:30am and 3pm today. Over the last few days, it had been operating from around noon to around closing.
It doesn’t take long to find the crowds. To be the near the front of the rope drop crowd, you’ll need to arrive at the Studios by 8:15am or so, earlier if you want to be near the absolute front. Believe it or not, this actually isn’t a big rope drop crowd. I’ve seen it 3.7 to 4.3 times more crowded.
These guys run a little pre-show prior to the opening. Their main task is instructing the crowd to walk slowly to Toy Story Mania in a humorous fashion.
Not everyone is headed to Toy Story Mania. In a similar vein to Spaceship Earth, an unfortunate amount of people head to Hollywood Studios’ most iconic attraction, Tower of Terror, first. Unlike Spaceship Earth, the Tower of Terror can see long afternoon waits, but they are almost always less than Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster or Toy Story Mania and build much slower in the morning. For example, at 10:30am, the wait at Toy Story Mania was 50 minutes, the wait at Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster was 30 minutes, and the wait at Tower of Terror was still 13 minutes. Tower of Terror should really be your third or fourth morning priority and it’s easy to collect FASTPASSes late into the afternoon as well. The same can’t always be said about Toy Story Mania and Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster. However, if you want to get away from the rush to Toy Story Mania then Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror on Sunset Boulevard would be good choices. Just keep in mind that you will want Toy Story Mania FASTPASSes as soon as you’re comfortable making your way over there (and before 10:30am).
These people are either lost or headed to Star Tours. Unfortunately, Star Tours hadn’t been opening until around noon the last few days. It did open around 9:30 today and stayed open until about 3pm. Word is they are getting it in tip-top shape for tomorrow’s figurative launch.
This is the line to get to the FASTPASS machines at Toy Story Mania at 9:06am. The man in red there is instructing people where to go.
As you may be aware, people have a lot of problems with FASTPASS machines, even if the only thing you need to do is stick your ticket in the slot and take your FASTPASS. This is one attraction where Disney is smart enough not to trust people to collect their own FASTPASSes. There will be a cast member at every machine taking guests’ tickets and sticking them through the slots.
My Toy Story Mania FASTPASS collected at 9:12am had a return time of 10:55am.
30 minute wait at 9:16am.
If you’re looking to get away from the crowds, hit up the Backlot and Streets of America areas before 11am. It’s a ghost town when there isn’t an early Light, Motors, Action! Show.
Look out for these tent-like structures that house characters from the Empire.
Rebel Alliance characters will be located in friendlier surroundings.
This is the entrance to the Premier Theater. It’s located across from Muppet Vision 3D and Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano.
This is the view looking directly away from the Premier Theater toward Mama Melrose. A variety of shows are scheduled here throughout the day. Check out the guide map for more information. Note that the show scheduled is expected to change after Friday May 20th. For all dates after Friday, the schedule of shows should be:
Behind the Force With Ashley Eckstein: 11am and 1:45pm
Stars of the Saga Star Wars Celebrity Talk Show: 3:15pm
Inside the Saga Starring Anthony Daniels: 4:45pm
Obi Wan and Beyond Starring James Arnold Taylor and A Galaxy of Voices: 6pm
Disney has set up their main stage in front of Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat for several of the biggest shows, including the once-nightly Hyperspace Hoopla and twice-daily Padawan Mind Challenge. This is a welcome move because there’s much more room in front of this stage than there is at the Jedi Training Academy Stage, where they used to hold these extremely popular shows.
One other thing to note is that the Star Wars Motorcade Parade will begin at 12:40pm on each Star Wars Weekend Day other than May 20th (when no Parade will occur). The Parade will begin near the entrance to the Park and only run to the base of the stage at Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat. It will not continue to Star Tours as it has in the past.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming. Here we are with a 40 minute wait at Toy Story Mania around 10:30am. Not bad at all.
Note that the FASTPASS return time is already up to 4:15pm. With a 7pm, close they’ll be running out soon.
Wait times board at 11am. Pretty decent wait times at the biggies.
Incoming crowds at 11am.
All in all, not a bad day at all at the Studios. Tomorrow is going to be INSANE and Saturday likely won’t be much better. I’ll be there along with the rest of the Disney World blogosphere. You can “follow” my notes and pictures “live” at twitter.com/easywdw