The website has posted quite a bit of coverage about Toy Story Land since the new area opened back on June 30, 2018. Now that the summer is largely behind us and the Land has been open for about 11 weeks, we can probably start to get a better understanding about what the addition means for Hollywood Studios as a Park and Walt Disney World as a whole.
Before we go any further, I will say that I don’t know the answer to the question in the title. For me and you, your average tourists, the expansion is only good news. Slinky Dog Dash is a ton of fun and Alien Swirling Saucers is a fine diversion. Toy Story Mania is mostly the same other than the long walk out of the building, which now offers a nice opportunity to reflect on all of the mistakes you’ve made in your life that have brought you to Hollywood Studios. And if you don’t care about any of that, the additions pull so many people away from Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror that you’re looking at being able to enjoy at least two rides on each first thing in the morning with virtually no waits.
From Disney’s perspective, you have to think that they expected Toy Story Land to move the needle a bit more than it has.
The Studios generously hosted a morning Extra Magic Hour every day for two months after the Land opened that relatively few people attended. I covered that at length, here.
Wait times for the new rides have been surprisingly short. Slinky Dog Dash averages just over an hour’s wait, which is lower than Seven Dwarfs Mine Train over at Magic Kingdom – an attraction that’s pretty similar.
Alien Swirling Saucers’ average wait barely breaks a half hour, which is below average for all attractions property-wide.
On the other hand, Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened with exactly two rides around the same time of year in 2k17. Na’vi River Journey, which is clearly the secondary attraction on the alien planet, still sees higher average wait times than all of the Toy Story Land attractions.
From July 1st, 2018 through yesterday, Flight of Passage’s average wait time is still 110 minutes, which is obviously just shy of two hours. That’s down about 25 minutes from the same time period last year, but that’s still longer than the combined average wait for any two Toy Story Land rides.
From previous entries, most notably “‘Off-Season’ Wait Times at Walt Disney World – January at Disney’s Animal Kingdom,” we know that rides outside of Pandora have seen increasing wait times too since Avatar opened:
This chart represents the average waits of several Animal Kingdom attractions outside of Pandora. Back when I wrote it, the point of the series was basically that “off-season” wait times have risen substantially over the last few years, due in part to more people visiting and in part due to capacity reductions and lower staffing. But with Animal Kingdom’s attendance up about 25% since Pandora opened, it makes sense that other attractions at the Park would see higher wait times.
While there are several reasons why a theme park conglomerate might elect to build new attractions, I think we can all agree that increasing attendance is a big part of the goal. Has Toy Story Land increased waits year over year? The answer is no. Has it increased attendance? The answer is no. We can probably both agree that not everything Disney builds is going to be “the next Pandora;” nor is it trying to be. But after Galaxy’s Edge opens, that’s probably going to be it for the Studios for quite a while. Maybe they’ll go to town on Animation Courtyard, but Star Wars is “literally” all they need to build to push attendance up by several million visitors a year. There aren’t a lot of people that are going to leave the Studios off their itinerary in a post-Star-Wars world until they hear that there’s a two-minute Monsters Inc. roller coaster coming in 2023. If Disney was looking to increase capacity, they wouldn’t have closed Great Movie Ride to make way for an attraction that’s probably going to move through fewer people per hour. If they thought they needed to increase capacity during the Star Wars/Toy Story Land construction, but also wanted to replace attractions in Animation Courtyard, then they could have moved the Disney Jr. Dance Party to Sunset Showcase, added a daytime show in the Fantasmic theater, and added another nighttime show in the Beauty and the Beast theater. But they didn’t do any of that. You would certainly hope that nobody high up in Disney’s chain of command is going to wake up a week after Galaxy’s Edge opens and realize that they probably should have added a couple of more things. Toy Story Land is what we get.
For the sake of today’s discussion, let’s first take a look at posted waits at Toy Story Mania, a ride that is obviously located inside Toy Story Land. If attendance at the Studios was higher, and interest in the 10+ year old attraction was higher, then you’d think we would see longer wait times.
Here’s a look at posted wait times from July 1st through September 16th, 2017:
I chose this time period because July 1st is the day after Toy Story Land opened in 2018 and then September 16th is right around now. You are also in some amount of luck this time around because I won’t be posting these large charts for each attraction. But last year, during this 11ish-week period, Toy Story Mania averaged a respectable 49-minute wait.
Here’s the same dates in 2018:
This year’s average is lower by four minutes, or a drop of 8.2%. If I included the lower wait times during the morning EMH, from 7am to 8am, the 8am-9am hour of operation that 2017 didn’t enjoy, and the later closes that we didn’t see last year, then 2018’s average wait for Toy Story Mania would be even lower – just 40 minutes, or a drop of 18.4%.
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have expected Toy Story Mania’s wait time to drop so substantially given the fact that you would think a lot more people would be interested in Toy-Story-related stuff. On the other hand, those only planning on spending a limited amount of time at the Studios might skip Toy Story Mania after having already experienced it a number of times during past trips.
Let’s move over to the attraction that enjoyed the Park’s longest average wait prior to Toy Story Land’s opening in Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster:
It may or may not make any sense to represent the data in this very dark chart, but it shows the average wait at the roller coaster each day from July 1st, 2017 through September 16th, 2017, just like our Toy Story Mania chart. The overall average wait, as seen on the far right bar, is 60 minutes.
Here’s 2018, where the average wait for the same period is down again – three minutes or 5%. And it would be a bigger drop if I included the lower wait times earlier and later in the day in 2018.
While we’re at it, here’s Star Tours in 2017 with its 29-minute average wait.
There’s a much bigger drop here – nine minutes or 31% from 2017 to 2018.
Waits at Tower of Terror are almost identical year-over year. 2017’s average was 37 minutes. 2018’s average is 38 minutes.
So is Toy Story Land a dud? From the company’s perspective, you’d have to think that it is. Disney has spent a lot of money advertising the new additions – you can see these trucks driving around the city blasting music every night. There’s been thousands of television spots and commercials, massive media events, dozens of billboards, and whatever other sorts of guerrilla marketing is going on these days. Just on Disney’s YouTube page, Toy Story Land related videos have over six million views, so it isn’t like people are unaware that this thing exists. Everybody has seen that bouncing ball fly across the countryside on their TVs. But it certainly doesn’t seem like anyone cares – wait times are down, sometimes significantly, at the older attractions. And wait times for the new attractions are short.
Swirling Saucers’ hourly capacity is terrible and it still almost never posts a wait time over 50 minutes. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, which has a higher hourly capacity and has been open for almost 20 years, sees higher waits in a Magic Kingdom Park with far more attractions.
Slinky Dog, bless his precious little heart, posts a 55-minute wait for the majority of the day. That’s 20 minutes less than Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, an attraction that’s been open almost four and a half years.
If you can’t ride Slinky first thing, as described in our rope drop strategy post, then you’ll want to wait until the very end of the night if you can. With the Studios’ now closing at 8:30pm instead of the 10pm that we saw during the peak summer months, the actual wait has still been 25-35 minutes for those that get in line a couple of minutes before close.
From the perspective of your average guest, Toy Story Land is the opposite of a dud. It adds two fun attractions, a quick service with two registers that is great if you like eating hot sandwiches while standing up in Florida outdoors in July, in addition to the retooled Toy Story Mania. But you’d have a hard time convincing me that this is what Disney was expecting from the expansion.
Of course, whether or not Toy Story Land moves the needle is of virtually no consequence. Galaxy’s Edge is coming and there isn’t anything any of us can do about it. I feel like I might retire half way through my first blog post about it.
I sure hope this concludes Hollywood Studios coverage for at least a couple of days. Check out this look at the construction around the Park along with the state of the gondolas and temporary bus stops, just in case you missed it.