Your intrepid adventurer set out to investigate the new rope drop procedure at Epcot this morning. As you may have heard, as of three days ago the rope drop preshow at the Fountain no longer occurs. There is no family of the day, no Test Track vehicle driving around, and no character greeting. Okay, I know you just read that and you’re probably hyperventilating. You may be on the phone with Disney reservations demanding an upgrade to a Grand Floridian suite and threatening to cancel your vacation at this exact moment. But just calm down for a moment and let’s see what exactly we’re dealing with here.
First of all, the Epcot preshow isn’t (or I should say, wasn’t) very awesome. If you weren’t right up in the front of the mob that formed at the Fountain, you might very well have no idea that characters or a Test Track vehicle even appeared during the preshow. Or that there even was a preshow. I’ve been at plenty of Epcot rope drops where I never saw any characters or the Test Track vehicle and I’m 6’2″ tall (without heels) and have no trouble seeing over most people. The characters quickly retreated to the Character Spot after the rope dropped and the Test Track vehicle was long gone by the time most people passed by the Fountain.
Much like Toy Story Midway Mania at Hollywood Studios, most everyone present at Epcot before 9am is headed to Soarin’. However, unlike Toy Story Mania where you don’t necessarily have to walk down stairs to get to get to it, Soarin’ is on the first floor of the Land Pavilion and you enter on the second floor. This necessitates people to either walk down one of two narrow stairwells or ride a single escalator to the ground floor. When the Land Pavilion originally opened with not much more than a couple of shows featuring animatronic broccoli stalks, this lack of access wasn’t an issue. No one was pushing and shoving to get to Kitchen Kabaret.
Fast forward to May 2005. With Soarin’s immense popularity and several hundred (or more) hurried people vying for space in closed quarters every morning, a serious accident was bound to happen. While that major accident never occurred, there was always a possibility that someone would trip and fall down the stairs or escalator, toppling 25 or more people to the ground. Or perhaps worse, a child would fall down and be crushed. Is there always the possibility for the horrific to occur? Sure, but I think we can agree that steps should be taken to mitigate that possibility whenever they are available.
With that lecture out of the way, let’s see what we can expect from Epcot’s rope drop moving forward.
Here we are looking down at bag check from the monorail ramp at 8:40am. You can see the lines forming in front of the turnstiles at the top of the photo.
A better look at people waiting in line.
Heading to security. I arrived at the bag check at 8:43am and was through at 8:44am.
The lines at the turnstiles on the left are always much longer than further down to the right. Make sure you look to your right to check if lines are shorter. You may also want to do a little profiling – look for people that look like they have legitimate tickets and know what they’re doing.
Right at 8:44am, a voice came over the loudspeaker asking if the crowd was “ready.” I’m pretty sure he asked if we were ready for the best day of our lives. The crowd responded with a whimper. It was 8:45am after all. The voice told us that he couldn’t hear us, which I think was a lie because he probably could hear even if it wasn’t a particularly enthusiastic “yes.” The crowd responded with a second “yes” that was approximately three decibels louder than the first “yes.” This isn’t the Unofficial Guide, so I don’t carry a digital sound level reader on my body at all times. Sorry. The second “yes” was apparently loud enough to satisfy the voice as he didn’t have much more to say and made no further inquires about what we may or may not be ready to experience.
Anyway, after “literally” about 60 seconds of banter, the voice disappeared and colored streamers shot out over people standing in line on the left portion of the turnstiles. Those on the right side don’t have the pleasure of experiencing streamers to the face, but they will also most likely be in the Park before the streamer-people.
The lines to the left. The turnstiles began operating right at 8:45am.
My line. Actually, I’m not even in line here because those people you see directly in front of me were searching for something – tickets probably. So the line is really about eight people long rather than the 25+ over on the left.
People streaming in (no pun intended).
Through the turnstiles in three minutes. No major complications. I didn’t profile very well and someone in front of me had a bum ticket or couldn’t remember which finger to use.
Daisy Duck was available to meet with visitors right at 8:45am.
There are no additional ropes or checkpoints in Future World once you enter. You’re free to go wherever you want.
Here we are sauntering over to the Land Pavilion. This is at 8:53am or so.
Let’s quickly have a look at what rope drop at Epcot used to look like:
The previous holding pen for rope drop near the Fountain.
The rope drop crowd headed over to the Land Pavilion.
Both shots were taken at approximately the same location at approximately the same time. In fact, the pictures of the old rope drop procedure were taken on a Friday in early May, much like today’s were taken on a Friday in September. Which group would you rather be a part of?
Okay, back to today.
A much more relaxed atmosphere at 8:57am. You can still hustle over, but the hustlers will be much more spread out, by virtue of the staggered stream of people entering Epcot through the turnstiles. I arrived at Soarin’ right at 9am and collected a FASTPASS with a return time of 9:36am. I proceeded to the standby line, rode Soarin’, and was back out front of the attraction at exactly 9:20am. No problems whatsoever.
So let’s go over my rope drop experience very quickly:
- I arrived at the Ticket/Transportation Center at 8:25am, boarded the monorail, and arrived at Epcot at 8:40am.
- I exited the monorail and arrived at bag check at 8:43am.
- One minute later, I was through bag check and on my way to line up.
- The “new preshow” began and lasted about one minute – the crowd admitted under duress that they were ready for the best day of their lives and then Disney shot streamers at them.
- The turnstiles opened at 8:45am.
- I was through the turnstiles at 8:48am.
- I arrived at Soarin’ at 9am, collected a FASTPASS with a return time of 9:36am, rode Soarin’, and was back out front at 9:20am, ready to move on to my next attraction.
Crowds are still low here in September. We’ll have to see how crowded rope drops get as we move into a busier October and even busier holiday weeks in November and December. There are a ton of turnstiles at Epcot, so theoretically they could shorten lines by adding additional cast members in the morning to man additional lines. However, rope drop crowds are somewhat static throughout the year as few people are willing or able to make it to the Parks by 8:45am. Just because Epcot is more crowded at 11am doesn’t necessarily mean it will be that much busier in the early morning. While crowds will certainly be larger in the morning when the overall crowd level is a 7 or higher, it may not have as much of an effect on the amount of time it takes to enter Epcot in the morning. We’ll just have to wait and see how Disney reacts – my guess is they will have the right amount of turnstiles running.
While it may be initially disappointing to find out that you will no longer be able to jostle for position with a huge mob of people walking over to Soarin’, I think that the new procedure is better than the previous version. It was a much more relaxing start to the morning and eliminated almost all of the stress that goes along with racing over to Soarin’ to grab FASTPASSes and be among the first to enter the standby queue. I don’t even have kids or anyone to worry about and I still get uncomfortable whenever I have to walk with a mob of hurried adults over to the major attractions in the morning. And half the time I’m not even planning to ride!
It seems like Disney could find a way to work back in the “family of the day.” Perhaps they could push a large red button that shoots the streamers at the crowd and get a picture with all of the Character Spot characters at once to begin their morning. I don’t see why Mickey and Friends can’t be out near the Fountain waving at people as they pass by either. They could push back the start of the Character Spot Meet and Greet to 9:30am and have the characters out in the open posing for pictures and whatnot. Anyway, that’s not my job.