Over the next ten days or so, we’ll be returning to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to reassess the best touring strategies to experience everything that the Park has to offer with the least possible hassle. Since Toy Story Land opened last summer, we’ve covered virtually every technique possible. We started out with a late afternoon arrival, like the one we’re about to embark on, back in early July of last year. We then visited at nighttime on a day with evening Extra Magic Hours to see how that would go, here. We’ve started at Slinky Dog Dash on a day with Morning Extra Magic Hour in this post. We’ve rope dropped the new Land numerous times with regular openings in posts like this, this, and this. We’ve also visited for the various upcharge events with a review of Disney’s Early Morning Magic at Hollywood Studios here. A look at the nighttime event, Disney After Hours, follows here. After we complete this nighttime visit, I’ll also cover a regular Slinky Dog Dash rope drop and we’ll also be reassessing the Early Morning Magic event next week after the breakfast portion moves from ABC Commissary to Backlot Express on February 6th. If I was going to complain about one thing about Early Morning Magic, other than the crowds and the waits, it would be the distance from Toy Story Land to the breakfast location. Now, it will be even further away. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait.
It’s 3:45pm on the afternoon of Wednesday, January 30th, 2019.
With no discernible location of the sun overhead, we can’t judge the time of day by the angle, so I’ve gone ahead and zoomed in on the clock.
Afternoon touring strategy follows a similar basic idea regardless of what you want to do and which theme park you’re visiting. Typically, wait times peak during the late morning and afternoon, typically from 11am through 5pm. Here’s a look at the Studios’ posted wait times on a busy day, in this case, Martin Luther King Jr. Monday on January 21st:
When you first arrive in the afternoon, you’ll want to avoid visiting most major attractions in standby because the waits will be at their highest points of the day. If you’re unfamiliar with which attractions see the highest waits, I have color-coded maps and wait times charts as part of the website’s Cheat Sheets. In just four or five pages per Park, these Cheat Sheets provide just about everything you need to know about touring, and include what to expect at rope drop, which attractions are FastPass+ priorities, advice on seeing the nighttime spectaculars, and a variety of specific touring plans. While a spring update is in the works, the tweaks should prove to be minor compared to what’s currently available.
Instead, it makes sense to visit the high-capacity/low-priority attractions that you’d like to experience, along with intelligent FastPass+ choices that are going to save you the most time in line. You’ll also want to consider which rides, shows, and characters might end early and prioritize those that you’d like to see. Here’s a look at the current character greeting times and show schedule:
For example, we’ll be able to see Voyage of the Little Mermaid through the 8pm Park close with the last show scheduled at 7:40pm, while the last Beauty and the Beast show is at 5pm. Olaf meets through 8pm, while the Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sulley meet ends at 6pm. If we want to do all of that, then it makes sense for us to first see the 5pm Beauty and the Beast and then visit Monsters, Inc. instead of seeing Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Olaf. Once we’re done with Beauty and the Beast and Mike and Sulley, we’ll still have plenty of time to experience the other things. The reverse is probably less true. At Animal Kingdom, the last Finding Nemo the Musical is currently scheduled at 4pm, while the last Festival of the Lion King starts at 6pm or 7pm. If I’m arriving at 3:30pm and want to see both shows, then we’d obviously want to head to Nemo first. You can pull up the week’s Times Guides here with some additional shows listed here.
On this particular afternoon, I’d like to experience all of the Studios’ rides, the two recently-added Meet and Greets, and have dinner.
I scheduled FastPass+ for:
- Tower of Terror: 4:40pm – 5:40pm
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: 5:50pm – 5:50pm
- Alien Swirling Saucers: 6:55pm – 7:55pm
At the time I set it up, I wasn’t planning on adding the meet and greets. Instead, I was going to arrive around 5:30pm and do Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with FastPass+. Next, I’d move on to Star Tours in standby and Swirling Saucers with FP+ before experiencing Toy Story Mania and Slinky Dog Dash in standby to close out the night. With the meet and greets on the itinerary, it would make more sense for me to move my FastPass+ up in time so I ride those attractions shortly after arriving, then visit the Monsters, Inc. meet closer to 5:45pm and Edna Mode closer to 6:15pm, when waits at both will be shorter. In other words, I’d book Tower of Terror for 3:30pm to 4:30pm and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster for 4:30pm to 5:30pm. I could then do Tower of Terror at 4:30pm and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster around 5pm. Star Tours would follow from 5:05pm to 5:25pm and I’d have plenty of time to meet Mike and Sulley around 5:35pm and Edna Mode around 6pm. We’ll see how things go with the characters first.
These days, FastPass+ availability is pretty bleak. This is what you can expect to see the day before a prospective Studios visit, even if you’re searching for availability for just one person:
I booked my FastPass+ the night before and after refreshing for about an hour, was able to set up decent selections. These days, Slinky Dog Dash is typically unavailable 61 or 62 days out and may be unavailable or limited at the 63- and 64-day mark. Guests staying on-site can book FastPass+ for their stay beginning 60 days from their arrival date. So if they’re staying for a week, they can book FastPass+ for their arrival day and each day of their stay at that same time.
Currently, the three hardest FastPass+ to acquire are Slinky Dog Dash, Avatar Flight of Passage, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, in that order. If booking Slinky Dog Dash is important, it would behoove you to plan your Studios visit on the fourth or fifth day of your trip, when possible. Flight of Passage and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FP+ should still be plentiful 61+ days out, but likely won’t be available 58 or 59 days out. While I was refreshing Studios’ FP+ availability on the evening of January 29th, I saw Slinky Dog Dash pop up as being available once at 4:20pm and once at 6:10pm as people canceled or changed their plans. But it is rare. Either time would have helped my day, but it wouldn’t do much to further the narrative of this post, which is what to do when you can’t secure Slinky Dog FP+ and need to figure out a way to minimize the wait in standby. Once we arrive in Toy Story Land as part of this series, I’ll offer some tips for those that are able to acquire FastPass+ for Slinky and only want to ride it the one time.
It’s 3:53pm as we head towards Star Tours. An Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular show ended about ten minutes ago, so this area is busier than it would be otherwise.
At 3:54pm, the posted wait is just 15 minutes, which actually doesn’t work in our favor. Short posted waits cause people to get in line and with well over a thousand people in this vicinity following Indiana Jones, a number of them have probably entered the queue in front of me before the posted wait has had an opportunity to change. As someone that frequents theme parks, I see a number of amusing things over and over. One of my favorites is the person that sees a short wait and screams and begs for the rest of their party to hurry over, as if entering the queue and passing underneath the wait time sign is somehow locking in the promise of that short time. If anything, giving the wait time sign an opportunity to catch up is probably smarter. You could sprint from Sunset Boulevard and pass under this sign as it continues to say 15 minutes, only for it to jump to 60 minutes immediately after. In other words, unless you’re rope dropping and you need grandma’s elbows to help clear the way, let the poor woman walk.
Fortunately, things aren’t too bad as I’m just about ten people away from the merge with FastPass+ on the left before I run into any resistance.
Things are filling in behind me, though – more people taking advantage of that “15 minute wait.”
I was standing in front of the boarding area for my intergalactic flight at 4:04pm, or just ten minutes after getting in line. That’s pretty good.
Here’s a look at Star Tours waits over the last few weeks. With the 21-minute overall average wait, as seen in the lower right hand corner, the 17-minute average wait on the day of my visit was below average. The 15-minute posted wait that I experienced at 3:45pm is also below the 22-minute average for that time slot, as highlighted in light blue. On a busier day, I’d want to ride standby later in the afternoon. 5pm is typically fine – the posted wait was only above 20 minutes on five days, but if you’re visiting on an Orange or Red Day as noted below, you might want to put it off until 6pm or later:
For more information on what this chart means, and when the best times to visit in 2019 might be, see this post: A Look Back at 2018 Walt Disney World Wait Times and What It Might Mean for the Future.
I was back out front at 4:16pm for a total experience time of 22 minutes, which is four or five minutes longer than it would take when using FastPass+, on average. There’s nothing wrong with that.
As expected, things have cleared out quite a bit at 4:17pm.
I’m heading towards the old Pixar Place area to meet Edna Mode and check out “An Incredible Celebration.” I could just as easily be heading to the 4:20m Jedi Training, 4:30pm Galaxy Far Far Away show, 4:30pm Frozen Sing-Along, 4:45pm Indiana Jones, 5pm Beauty and the Beast, or what have you.
We’re heading down what may soon be called Pixar Corridor with Municiberg/An Incredible Celebration straight ahead. Toy Story Land is past Walt Disney Presents on the right. And Mike and Sulley now greet inside Walt Disney Presents near the back. We’ll return to the Monsters shortly.
Disney has moved Disability Access for Toy Story Land out here, which makes it a lot more convenient and less chaotic for those that are eligible. If you are entitled, you can scan your MagicBands/tickets and receive your return time here instead of having to go all the way back to the ride.
I’ll cover some quick service changes separately.
But this “MARKET” now serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks along with Mickey Pretzels and Churros.
The theming might be a little lazy unless you were really hoping that all of the brick in Disney Springs would leak out.
Municiberg opened in the old Pixar Place area where the Toy Story Mania entrance used to be located back on January 18th.
Currently open from 10:30am through 6:30pm, there isn’t necessarily a whole lot to it. The area is currently slotted to be available to guests through September 30th. Depending on when Galaxy’s Edge opens, we may see that extended.
If you’re familiar with the old Pixar Place space, then you’ll probably recognize most of these re-purposed areas. Municiberg Gifts is the first thing that you’ll see on your left with some generic Incredibles merchandise, along with some generic Pixar merchandise, some generic Disney merchandise, some generic candy, and Dasani.
On the right is the first of a couple of photo opportunities.
“Neighborhood Bakery” takes over for the Hey Howdy Hey Takeaway. RIP.
The menu is pretty similar to what Woody offered.
A couple of desserts are also available.
Another photo-op is located across the way, this time with props and a PhotoPass photographer.
In the back of the area is where you’ll find an interactive dance party hosted by Mr. Incredible, Mrs. Incredible, and Frozone.
I would guess the news scrolling across the bottom has something to do with whether the TouringPlans crowd calendar is any more accurate today than it was five years ago.
Mr. Incredible is currently being interviewed. Most of the questions probably lean towards the yes or no variety.
With just a handful of kids typically taking part, it’s a fun opportunity for them to interact with the characters in a low-pressure environment without any of the usual waiting. There’s all kinds of games they play throughout the day.
The star of the show is undoubtedly Edna Mode, who meets in the building where Woody and Buzz used to greet guests.
The queue is fun with some costumes and the stories behind them on display.
Occasionally, a little too graphic, perhaps:
Wait times have been in the 10 to 20 minute range for the most part, with the longest waits from 11:30am to 3pm. I got in line at 4:27pm and met her at 4:35pm for a wait of about eight minutes, which isn’t bad at all. She meets through 6:30pm, which typically means that you can get in line up until that time and meet her. If you’d be devastated to arrive, only for the line to be cut off, then I’d plan on being here by 6:15pm at the latest.
“A Super Fun Time!” might be a bit of a stretch (get it?), but in my advanced age, I have trouble coming down too hard on a temporary addition like this one. Kids love dance parties and it’s nice to move this one over here from Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom. I’m not a big character person, but I’ve been wanting to meet Edna Mode for years and her meet and greet offers a fun setup. The majority of guests may have no reason to set foot in Municiberg, but at a minimum, those that do aren’t in line for Slinky Dog or BaseLine Tap House, and that’s only a positive.
Back to Walt Disney Presents, the Monsters, Inc. Meet and Greet with Mike and Sulley also opened on January 18th.
They meet in the very back of the building, where Star-Lord met previously. The line typically starts outside the official queue next to the Galaxy’s Edge model.
Currently, the duo meets from 10am to 6pm with waits ranging from 20 to 40 minutes for the most part. You should be able to get in line just before 6pm and meet the characters, but if you’ll be devastated to find the line cut early, I’d be here no later than 5:30pm.
The queue features some artwork:
The narrow queue winds around a few times. The art is sort of fun to look at, but it’s a pretty boring, solitary experience overall.
Fortunately, you’ll only spend about 15 minutes in that portion of the queue before it opens up to a large room where one party waits before heading through the door.
The props are a nice touch.
Both characters meet in their classic garb in front of a door that may belong to Boo.
I arrived at 4:39pm and met the characters at 5:07pm for a wait of 28 minutes.
Each group typically takes a couple of minutes to meet the characters, which is on the long side. That’s part of why wait times are above average. If you’d like to meet them, but they’re not necessarily a must do, then I’d try to get in line as close to 6pm as possible. Typically, about ten groups are already waiting outside the building for their 10am start, which means you’re looking at a 15ish minute wait if you arrive right before 10am.
The Monsters, Inc. merchandise continues to sell well.
The wait will continue to drop as 6pm approaches. Here at 5:09pm, the wait is down to just under 20 minutes, which isn’t too bad.
That’s a bit of a slow burn before we get over to Sunset Boulevard for Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Then we’ll move on to see what we can expect from Toy Story Land at night.