We’re back at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for more Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance on the morning of Monday, December 9th, 2019.
In Part One of this series, I covered all of the operational changes that we’ve seen at the Studios since Rise of the Resistance opened back on Thursday, December 5th. The number of changes that we’ve seen in just one week’s time is almost unbelievable, but none of it necessarily alters how we’ll end up going about our morning. Over the next month, I’d expect the Studios to officially open at either 7am or 8am, and actually open between 6am and 7am most days. At the moment, we can expect the actual Park opening to be right around 6:30am, but that will likely move closer to 6am during the busy week of Christmas and into the New Year. Actual opens closer to 7am should be more common beginning the second week in January, when crowds are lower than they are now or over Christmas.
Eventually, Disney should do away with the virtual queue boarding system that we’re currently seeing, and move to the standard FastPass+/standby line situation that we see elsewhere. My guess is that we will see that change once Rise of the Resistance proves to be more reliable, with uptime that’s close to 100%. Currently, the attraction is probably operational during about 80% of the day, which is pretty good given the complexity of the ride system and all of the moving parts. The consensus seems to be that the ride opened before it probably should have.
In this post, we won’t be focusing much on Rise of the Resistance, and instead we’ll take a look at everything else that you can do at the Studios with the early opens. Yes, joining an early boarding group, and being able to guarantee an early ride on Rise of the Resistance is a prize in and of itself, but we’re also going to be able to enjoy a couple hours of short wait times on some of Disney World’s best attractions (and Alien Swirling Saucers.)
One quick update on the opening procedure and timing. Thursday, December 12th, was the first day that Disney moved the official open to 7am, and the Park still opened right around 6:30am. That bolsters our confidence in the fact that the Park will open around then given average-size crowds. Fast forward ten days, and I assume they’ll have to move the actual opening a half hour earlier with even more people arriving before 6am.
The time when all boarding groups are filled also continues to inch earlier and earlier, with Thursday seeing the earliest fulfillment time yet. You’ll want to be inside the Park no later than 7am in order to join a boarding group. That time may continue to creep earlier as more people arrive early and are aware that they want to book their boarding groups as quickly as possible. I’d try for a 6:30am arrival at the latest, with 5:45am a good arrival time if you’d like to be closer to the front.
Entering the Studios under the cover of darkness is something that we’ve been able to do a lot over the last few months, with the Park opening at 6am for Extra Extra Magic Hours every day in September and October. Still, it’s a little strange not being able to figure out whether it’s 10pm or 6:30am without the angle of the sun to go on.
We were let into the Park at 6:30am, and all of the rides, with the exception of Rise of the Resistance, are operating. These guests will be able to ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror as many times as they want, without a wait of more than a minute or two, for an entire hour if they want. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster will be my fifth stop, and at the risk of spoiling this entire post, I’ll wait about 15 minutes at that time.
At the moment, one big touring question remains, and that’s whether to begin the morning at Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, or Slinky Dog Dash in Toy Story Land.
From a wait time perspective, it’s largely a wash this early, but one big issue is the potential inability to walk into Galaxy’s Edge from Toy Story Land early in the morning. You’ll typically find the walkway blocked off on the Toy Story Land side so Disney can control crowds from the main entrance into Star Wars Land on Grand Avenue. The main issue here before Rise of the Resistance opened was that the line for Smugglers Run typically stretched back all throughout Galaxy’s Edge, including around this area, first thing in the morning. Those long lines for Smugglers Run no longer materialize, as there aren’t enough people to fill the queue with the early open and all attention on Rise of the Resistance. This means that the cast member barricade in Toy Story Land that blocks access to Galaxy’s Edge is unnecessary.
Disney has come to the same conclusion and taken down the human shield earlier and earlier in the morning. Here at 7:30am, we’re free to head into Galaxy’s Edge. If the barricade was still up, and Smugglers Run is what we wanted to do next, then we’d have to exit Toy Story Land and walk a considerable distance to the entrance to Galaxy’s Edge on Grand Avenue, and then continue walking all the way to the very back of the Land. That’s going to take at least ten minutes, and probably closer to fifteen.
With the 8am scheduled opens, and the 6:30am actual opens, it gave us 90 minutes to enjoy short waits in standby before FastPass+ crept into our morning. Disney only distributes FastPass+ during regular operating hours. With the 7am scheduled opens, it means that Disney will begin distributing FastPass+ for all eligible attractions a full hour earlier. With 60- to 70-percent of an attraction’s capacity going to FastPass+ priority, standby lines are inevitably going to get bogged down earlier in the day.
Slinky Dog Dash offers FastPass+, while Smugglers Run does not, which is a big reason why Slinky’s standby waits are often longer than the space simulator. That makes it more important to get to Slinky Dog early – we want to get there before FastPass+ comes online, or at a minimum, when the fewest people with FastPass+ are going to return, skipping ahead of us even if we arrived first. That’s a good argument for why it makes sense to ride Slinky Dog first thing.
If the Studios continues to open at 6:30am, with a 7am official open, then we should still be able to ride Smugglers Run first and get over to Slinky Dog Dash before a wait that exceeds 20 minutes has an opportunity to develop. That way, we don’t have to worry about whether we can walk into Galaxy’s Edge from Toy Story Land, or if we’ll have to go all the way around to Grand Avenue. After Smugglers Run and Slinky Dog, riding Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania should be easy. If we were to start in Toy Story Land and ride all three rides there, and then go to Smugglers Run, then more people would also have an opportunity to arrive there, pushing the wait time up.
At this point, I think it makes the most sense to ride Smugglers Run first and then hurry over to Slinky Dog Dash after. If you’d like to prioritize Toy Story Land, and potentially ride those attractions more than once each, then you can certainly still start there instead. Posted waits for Smugglers Run rarely eclipse an hour, with actual waits are typically in the 30- to 50-minute range. You can also get in line for Smugglers Run at the very end of the night, when the actual wait should be less than 20 minutes. Single rider is also an option, though I wouldn’t recommend it for a first ride, as you’ll bypass the queue and the majority of the pre-show, which detracts from the story.
On our first visit, you might remember that nobody seemed quite sure how much, if any, of the Park was actually open, after we entered at 6:15am with the Park officially scheduled to open at 9am. That led to a lot of people hanging out on Hollywood Boulevard for a while before moving on. A few days later, people are moving a lot more quickly to their first attraction since we’re all aware that we can. While it doesn’t make any sense from a touring efficiency perspective, you could make Star Tours your first stop and likely have the simulator to yourself. I’ve done that myself and it’s a lot of fun.
We’re passing by Star Tours on our way to the main entrance into Galaxy’s Edge on Grand Avenue. This is a good time to check the opening time for BaseLine Tap House on the right. It should be 10:30am, with the likelihood that they’ll open their doors a few minutes early, since they love us.
The time that Rise of the Resistance begins calling boarding groups varies, but it’s usually a little after 7am.
We’re passing by.
And keeping right.
While I typically walk through the Marketplace on my way to Smugglers Run, because it “feels” faster and I like the atmosphere, there is one benefit to taking the long way with the path on the right.
Stormtroopers high above should help “greet” you. It’s a fun first interaction.
We’ll continue through here.
We’ll pass by Oga’s Cantina up here on the right, which will be open this early.
And here we are at Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.
On our first visit on December 6th, there was nobody back here.
Today, we see quite a few more people, in addition to a 30-minute posted wait. There was no way 800 people had beaten us back here, so we decided to get in line.
And they actually sent us through the FastPass+ line.
Disney will typically do this very early in the morning when the ride is “literally” a walk-on.
The FastPass+ queue is shorter, which means more people will arrive at load earlier, in turn increasing throughput.
If it had been my first ride, I would have been a bit bummed as the standby queue is pretty neat. If it is your first ride and they try to send you through the FastPass+ line, then you might ask if you can walk the standby line instead. You’ll eventually end up at the same place as those who walked through the shorter FastPass+ line.
We arrived at 6:42am and were in the pre-show with Hondo less than five minutes later.
You’ll have a great opportunity to get a coveted picture around the chess table with so few people around.
Then it’s time to fly.
I’m back out front at 6:57am for a total experience time of just 15 minutes, which is just about as little time as the ride takes.
You might take a moment to snap a picture with the Falcon as your backdrop. There will be a lot more people buzzing about in a couple of hours.
Our next stop is Toy Story Land.
The entrance to Andy’s Backyard is in the back of Galaxy’s Edge.
There aren’t a ton of people doing the same thing this early.
For the sake of not having to backtrack, you could ride Alien Swirling Saucers as you pass it. The ride will only take about six minutes total. I still bypass it for Slinky Dog Dash and then come back.
This is just about as chill as things are going to be back here. We’re certainly taking advantage of some light early morning crowds.
The Toy Story Land characters meet beginning at official Park open, which is now 7am. There was nobody in line to meet Jessie, so I took the opportunity to grab a firm handshake.
Slinky Dog Dash is our highest priority in Toy Story Land.
We’re arriving at 7:04am to a 45-minute wait.
The line was definitely longer than what we saw on our Friday morning visit.
But even so, the actual wait looks to be about 20 minutes.
And it ended up being less than that.
The timing actually worked out really nicely for a sunrise photo over Batuu.
It’s hard to beat the morning glow. You might also notice the crane there.
It’s probably for the Roundup Rodeo Barbecue restaurant that’s opening sometime next year.
In the time we were on, the line didn’t look to grow in length.
I was back out front at 7:26am, for a total experience time of 22 minutes. The posted wait has actually dropped by five minutes.
if you’re visiting hollywood studios over the next ten days and want an early slinky dog dash fastpass, check availability now. adding fp+ to 7am to 8am with the earlier open has also opened up fp+ availability later in the day as people switch around their plans pic.twitter.com/qQROIEN45E
— josh (@easywdw) December 12, 2019
With the Park now officially opening at 7am, you may end up waiting an extra ten minutes or so for Slinky Dog Dash, considering FastPass+ will come online right at 7am. If you ever see Park hours get extended for your dates, check FastPass+ availability again, because Disney will release FastPass+ during those additional time frames. You might not initially be able to get a Slinky Dog Dash or Flight of Passage FastPass+, but you may be able to snag one after Disney updates the hours. If you were to use a 7:45am to 8:45am Slinky Dog Dash FastPass+ around 8:45am, you’d save about 75 minutes in line. So it’s still quite valuable early in the day.
Things are picking up in Toy Story Land.
But not at Alien Swirling Saucers, where the wait is still posted at five minutes.
At least 80% of the aliens were flying empty.
I would follow you anywhere.
Including walking the queue, and heading back out to the front of the ride, the entire experience took exactly six minutes. You may not love Saucers quite as much as Rise of the Resistance, but six minutes isn’t a tremendous time investment.
Things remain more than manageable as we head towards Toy Story Mania.
Woody and Bo Peep, with the line to my right, remain the second highest priority in Toy Story Land. You’ll want to head over here after Slinky Dog Dash if you’re interested in meeting them. If the line for the characters is just a couple of groups long as you pass by, then you may want to get in line before going over to Slinky.
Toy Story Mania is our next stop, with a 10-minute posted wait at 7:38am.
This time, we were routed through standby instead of FastPass+.
Which is fine with me.
As we’ll have an opportunity to see how Mr. Potato Head is doing.
I arrived at 7:38am, and was back out front at 7:54am, for a total experience time of 16 minutes. That’s about as short as it gets.
The posted wait for Slinky Dog Dash has already climbed to 70 minutes just before 8am. That’s why we made it our top Toy Story Land priority. Alien Swirling Saucers is still going to see an actual wait of under ten minutes at this point.
The line for Woody and Bo Peep is up to about a half hour.
Toy Story Mania is posting a 20-minute wait at 7:56am, with an actual wait that’s probably about half that.
And it looks like we’ve got more people leaving Toy Story Land than heading towards it, though Galaxy’s Edge is sending a lot of people through Andy’s Backyard as well.
So far, my day has gone swimmingly. I’ve made it through:
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run: 6:41am – 6:57am
- Jessie Meet: 7:01am – 7:03am
- Slinky Dog Dash: 7:04am – 7:26am
- Alien Swirling Saucers: 7:29am – 7:35am
- Toy Story Mania: 7:38am – 7:54am
I’ve also got a boarding pass to take care of Rise of the Resistance, so that base is covered. In the next part, we’ll head down Sunset Boulevard to see what we can expect to find there, and then head off to Rise of the Resistance.