“I am not a smart man.” – Forrest Gump but also easywdw
The Hollywood Studios morning touring plan has not changed much over the years, but I was interested in finding out what, if any, practical implications the various closures have had on actual wait times and how crowded the Park “feels” with so much land behind walls.
So I set out on the morning of Thursday April 21st to see how long it would take to ride the Studios’ five rides in standby in a logical order. While changes to the touring strategies on this site are not made all that often, plenty of different approaches are taken, about half of which I probably cover on this website. To write this post, I have to spend 8am-2pm in the park, in this case taking a rather paltry 383 pictures. Then I come home and edit/crop them all in Lightroom. At 45 seconds an image, that’s another five hours. Then I write the post, which takes another four or five hours. So you’re looking at somewhere between 15 and 20 hours of work to put this together. Which is why anyone whining about a lack of content finds themselves an elite member of the website’s IP deny manager.
I arrived shortly after 8am and was second in line in front of a tapstile just after 8:10am. While Grad Nights are a thing of the distant past, Disney does continue to cater to youth groups of various sizes in a variety of ways. On this particular morning, there were about 1,000 kids in the Park before 8am, which is why you see several tapstiles in the first image completely clear. The kids were using those entrances. Right after I arrived, they switched those tapstiles over to general admission and ordinary guests were allowed to move over, which halved most of the lines.
If you do arrive a little later, the website always recommends checking to see if the breakfast reservation tapstiles are still being used to admit those with early breakfasts. At the Studios, you’ll find them on the far left (until they move them somewhere else). Closer to open, they will allow anyone that wants to to move over and you can scoot into a spot much closer to the tapstiles than you would if you got in the back of another line.
In the first image, there are only about ten people in each line. By 8:20am, we’re closer to 20.
Ten minutes later and just after 8:30am, the line stretches back past the ticket windows. This is an every day occurrence and no real indication of crowd levels later in the day.
Just before 8:40am, we were allowed to enter the Park. While I was second in my line, there are already a lot of people sprinting ahead towards Jedi Training Academy signups, which are located around the corner on the left.
The majority of people already inside the Park are headed down to sign up, while just about ten are headed to one of the other attractions.
This is one minute after entering the Park.
This is easily 30 groups already just two minutes after Park open. The first handful of signups will be on their way in just a couple of minutes, but it will be at least 20 minutes until the last person that you see in this picture signs up, which is too late to make it to Toy Story Mania with a short wait. By 9:15am, you can easily find a 60-minute wait to sign up. It’s serious business.
Disney changes how they sign kids up somewhat frequently. At the moment, they are letting those with early Hollywood & Vine breakfast reservations sign up before breakfast, which is potentially another benefit of an early morning.
Ordinarily, we would be let further into the Park. Those headed to Toy Story would gather to the right of the stage in front of Great Movie Ride or outside Hollywood Brown Derby. Those headed to Star Tours could stand outside 50’s Prime Time. Those headed to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror first would stand on Sunset Boulevard just past Sweet Spells.
But with the kids having the run of the place early, we’re held back here.
The opening procedure isn’t all that important – everybody is in the same boat regardless of where they herd you.
But the longer walk is a little less pleasant as the clump has further to go with more opportunities to throw elbows or run over children with strollers.
You may remember that my advice is to stay a bit to the right and go through the wider opening. Most people will try to bunch together into the narrower opening, which takes longer despite being six or twelve inches closer to Toy Story Mania.
Star Wars Launch Bay remains surprisingly unpopular and shouldn’t be a morning priority for most people. There are maybe five people headed over there. Later in the day, Kylo Ren waits are typically 10-20 minutes while Chewbacca is 30ish.
While I was just second in line at my tapstile, you’ll see that I have fallen behind at least 100 people with my slow pace and picture stops. I always try to paint a realistic picture of where you’ll find yourself with a moderate amount of urgency. I don’t run from attraction to attraction because you are probably not going to run from attraction to attraction.
Cast keep guests from using the stairs.
And into Pixar Place.
I arrived at 8:13am, entered the Park at 8:37am, we were let go at 8:53am, and I’m here at 8:57am. This is obviously the sight in front of me as hundreds of people that were walking four or five abreast are now jammed into a queue that is more or less single file.
The website has long railed against this variety of rope drop procedure because literally nobody enjoys it. Why have the first experience of the day be one of the least pleasant as 1,000+ people jostle their way towards a single destination only to be yelled at the whole time about filling in all available space. All Disney would have to do to rectify this situation is either:
A. Let people enter the Park and get in line at the attraction of their choice at their leisure. Even if you don’t want to pay to staff and operate the attraction beginning at 8:45am instead of 9am, I don’t think you’re going to find a lot of people that would prefer standing outside clumped together in the sun versus waiting in an air-conditioned, organized queue.
B. Just start operating the ride a little earlier and everybody’s happier. 8:40am open. 8:45am the rides start operating. There are only five. Everybody enjoy a nice leisurely walk to their attraction, you walk the queue, and you get on the ride. Turn those smiles upside down Disney!!!! It wouldn’t take much.
B is what they used to do at Animal Kingdom, where you could enter the Park and walk at your leisure without fear of a stroller biting at your heels or a weird blogger holding his camera in the air taking a picture of your children every 30 seconds.
Instead we get crammed through the queue all at once while cast yell at us to keep our parties together.
But of course, I could be wrong and this is another example of easywdw being “mean mean.” All of these people could be so happy that they’re forgetting to show it.
Some sort of queue change is likely ahead of Toy Story Mania’s third track officially opening on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. There’s now a lengthy outdoor queue just past the entrance.
I would assume that guests will wait outside there instead of inside here for a while next month.
Disney has installed some monitors overhead that discuss how the guns are operated. Also, parties of one or two are often fast-tracked to the loading area by heading up the right side of the staircase. If you are in fact a party of that size or don’t mind breaking up into smaller groups, you can save a few minutes in line by identifying yourself as a party of one or two. Note that parties of 3+ that do this will most likely not all ride in the same vehicle.
Even with the number of people that bypassed me earlier, I was at the loading area by 9:08am or an actual wait of just ten minutes. If I was a larger party, I would have waited four or five minutes more.
And I’m back out front at 9:16am for a total experience time of 19 minutes. Who would have guessed that this would be my shortest standby wait of the day?
DUN DUN DUUUUNNNNNNNNNNNNN.
“Just” 45 minutes at this point in the day is short. Here’s a look at wait times over the last month or so:
As you can see, the average posted wait at 9:15am is 77 minutes and it almost immediately nears 100 minutes right after that. With the queue already spilling out into the extended queue, the actual wait if you got in line now would be closer to 90 minutes than 45. As I was whining about how my day was going on Twitter, some number of people commented that they “thought this was a low crowd day.” And it is, relatively speaking, as the average wait at Toy Story is only shorter on three other days over the last 30 or so, even with afternoon downtime.
Another casualty of the current rope drop procedure is that it eliminates the ability to quickly pop into the Toy Story characters and then get in line for Toy Story Mania with a short wait. You’d want to do it the other way around by getting in line for the ride first and then heading over to the characters.
This is what I had to say back in October 2012. Not much has changed other than the fact that the Studios handles crowds even worse with fewer offerings and a large chunk of real estate closed for the next few years.
With longer waits at most attractions for a variety of reasons, it is not so much a rush over to the Disney Jr. characters in Animation Courtyard. They won’t appear for about ten more minutes, but there’s only about eight people total in line for the four characters that meet here – Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Minnie, and Jake.
Most people will want to prioritize a second ride instead. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror makes the most sense, but if you are skipping those it would make sense to ride Great Movie Ride or Star Tours. If one ride via FastPass+ suits you or you otherwise have other plans, then meet and greets make sense. There are the four here, then 6ish characters meet in front of Great Movie Ride, the two in Launch Bay, and Sorcerer Mickey down in between One Man’s Dream and Toy Story Mania.
Those prioritizing the thrill rides may elect to start their morning with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, where you should be able to ride twice in standby before popping over to Tower of Terror for a standby ride. Using FastPass+ for a second ride on Tower would make sense. Then you could ride Toy Story or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster later in the day with FastPass+. The walk over to either ride is more pleasant than the Toy Story rush with fewer people headed in that direction and wider walkways.
Here just after 9:20am Tower of Terror is still ten minutes.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster on the other hand is up to 50 minutes. I have bad luck with rope drops. As I mentioned, there are already a lot of high schoolers in the Park. And what do largely-unsupervised-15-year-olds like to ride? Roller coasters.
So my wait is going to be about 10 minutes longer than it would be otherwise. But the timing here isn’t going to be all that different than the last time I went through the plan in December.
I got in line at 9:25am and made it inside at 9:40am. This is another location where Disney is testing StoryMaker. Your name will show up on posters on these screens sometime in the future.
Everything was going okay until I ran into a 2-hour walking tour of G-Force Records. In related news, it didn’t occur to me until this particular morning why they call it G-Force Records…because it is a roller coaster…I’m so dense.
How long until they tape the Millennium Falcon to the front of this thing and make it a Star Wars ride?
I was back out front at 9:58am for a total experience time of about 33 minutes, which is eight minutes longer than is usually budgeted and eight minutes longer than a conservative estimate of how long it will take with FP+. As a reminder, if you mouse over the various theme park names at the top of this page and click “Attractions” you’ll be taken to a list of……….attractions. Each one that offers FastPass+ will have a section titled, “Total Experience Time with FastPass+” among other things.”
That takes us through the first hour. In Part 2, we’ll wait a very long time for Tower of Terror, Great Movie Ride, and Star Tours.