We return to Disney’s Animal Kingdom to rope drop Pandora – The World of Avatar. We’ve arrived with similar ambitions a number of times since the Land opened back in May of last year. We started out shortly after Pandora opened with a Flight of Passage rope drop in this post. When that didn’t go so well, we tried again a week later in this post. After Animal Kingdom moved from 8am opens to 9am opens, we returned to see how things changed here. Since those all focused on the unpleasant situation that is rope dropping Flight of Passage, we visited Na’vi River Journey first thing instead in this post. We last considered Flight of Passage in this post, when we tried riding last thing at night with hopes of finding less stress than rope drop and lower waits than the afternoon.
I’ll mix things up again this time around as we’ll be visiting on a presumably busy spring break day with an 8am regular open. The plan is to visit Na’vi River Journey first thing, which should be easy. I’ll then use an 8am-9am Flight of Passage FastPass+ that I was able to acquire shortly after Disney moved Animal Kingdom’s open from 9am to 8am. When Disney extends hours, they release FastPass+ experiences for each available attraction during the new operating hours as well. Because those changes are typically made within 30 days of a given date, it’s possible for anyone with a ticket attached to their My Disney Experience to snag one of those newly-available FP+.
This is 7:02am and a total of about 150 people are waiting in three separate lines in front of the ticket booths. Disney is not allowing anyone any closer.
I trotted around to the side to see what things looked like in front of the tapstiles. A security guard was standing right around where I snapped this and asked if I was headed to the bathroom, which is off to the right. He looked disgruntled when I said that I wasn’t and asked if I could take a picture. He said, “I guess, but I’m not sure it will come out.” He probably shoots Nikon.
As someone that typically rolls out of bed around noon, I had no idea that it was still dark at this hour, but we were on our way forward at 7:08am.
We then filled in all of the available space in one large clump in front of the tapstiles.
Knowing I was headed to Na’vi River Journey, and thus, in no hurry whatsoever, I got in line in the middle for a better view of everything in front of me. This is the worst place to be.
You want to be in the far right line as you look towards the Park entrance so you can move over to any additional lines that end up opening.
For Flight of Passage, you need to arrive at least 75 minutes before Park open and have the ability to move quickly to the holding area next to Tiffins and in front of the main entrance to Pandora. Above is 7:22am and the lines for each tapstile are backed up well past the ticket booths.
This is the number of people in front of me with my 6:57am arrival at bag check. Almost all of them are headed to Flight of Passage.
At 7:23am, the tapstiles opened and everyone was allowed to enter the Park. It took me seven minutes to arrive just inside of the entrance.
I have an 8am Flight of Passage FP. I’ve never walked anywhere more smugly in my life pic.twitter.com/HAAibXEZNX
— josh (@easywdw) March 15, 2018
On a whim, I shot a video of my walk in (direct link), which turned out to be far more popular than I was expecting with more than 19,000 views and 750+ likes. You’ll notice that virtually everyone runs and there are no cast members to stop them. Even kids bouncing along on shoulders are passing me left and right. My favorite moment is the girl that looks towards me and says, “I’m with this guy,” only to see what I look like, cough, and keep hurrying along.
It’s not the first time that’s happened to me.
There they go.
There was no rope up in the other direction, so the few guests heading to DinoLand or Asia were free to do so at their leisure.
If I had arrived here ten minutes sooner, there would have been more color in the sky.
The website reiterates that you’re only in a hurry if you’re headed to Flight of Passage. If you’re headed elsewhere and don’t want to deal with the initial rush, but still want to maximize your early morning time, first hang back at the main entrance behind all of the people pushing forward. They’ll clear out in ten minutes and you can saunter up to the ticket scanner of your choice. Then take the right path through the Oasis and continue on. You’ll only run into a handful of people that way, even if your first attraction is Na’vi River Journey.
This is 7:34am or one minute before the masses were let go towards Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey.
The mass of humanity was originally backed up past where I’m currently strolling along.
Those headed to Flight of Passage will file in to the right.
Na’vi River Journey is pretty much reserved for those that are lost or have kids too short to ride Flight of Passage. And even then, you might try to stand them up one on top of the other and put a long trench coat around them to try to avoid going to Na’vi River Journey.
This is 7:38am and if I was going to get in line for Flight of Passage now, I’d probably wait 70 to 100 minutes depending on theater downtime and how many FastPass+ returners arrive. With an 8am open, that isn’t the absolute worst thing in the world considering I’d be on my way around 9:15am, but it’s far from ideal either.
One wonders what Pandora would look like if Disney had been able to create two rides that people wanted to ride relatively equally.
Nobody from the Flight of Passage queue is running towards me screaming that they accidentally got in the wrong line.
A 5-minute posted wait for Na’vi at 7:39am.
That seems doable.
I walked the queue and was on the boat three minutes later.
Because it was 50 degrees outside and considerably warmer inside, my lens had fogged up.
This post will largely contain images from the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens that I picked up last week.
I shot just about everything at f1.4.
That means just about everything is going to be “more zoomed in” than either of us would like.
With a shallow depth of field.
Just outside the exit to River Journey, the queue for Flight of Passage is visible outside as it winds around the Valley of Mo’ara.
At least they have some time to enjoy the morning glow of the sun on the mountaintops.
On my first ride through, my total experience time was 12 minutes.
Without a whole lot of people coming towards the attraction entrance.
So I got back in line with the 5-minute posted wait.
And I was on-board again in three minutes.
The shaman has an incredible amount of detail.
Pirates of the Caribbean has over 120 Audio-Animatronics while River Journey has exactly one. I guess you can pay a lot more attention when that’s the case.
I was back out front at 8:03am for a total experience time of 12 minutes again.
It’s 8:04am, which means the Park has “officially” been open four minutes and I’ve ridden River Journey twice already.
And the posted wait is now 10 minutes.
My Flight of Passage FastPass+ was for 8am so I could head over there now and use it.
But I was interested in what the actual wait would now be.
Especially because this is around the time you could hope to arrive if you were to ride Flight of Passage first thing in standby.
And also around the same time that you might get in line a second time if you’re running a little late or choose to stay well behind the crowds.
I got in line at 8:04am and would have been back out front at 8:26am if I hadn’t taken a couple of extra pictures.
It’s 8:27am and Na’vi River Journey is up to a 45-minute posted wait, which is probably about accurate.
The backup at Flight of Passage is stupid. That’s it to the left, but it’s not even close to the back of the line.
It might be hard to see, but there are two cast members holding up ropes in front of us. That’s because the Flight of Passage queue, including the extended portion outside of the entrance, isn’t long enough to contain all of the people waiting to ride. They’re backed up across the way way out of frame to the right.
At 8:28am, or 28 minutes after official Park open, the posted wait for Flight of Passage is 180 minutes. That’s forty minutes longer than one hour and eighty minutes.
Flight of Passage joins Mission: SPACE as one of the two attractions where a cast member will hand you a warning card before riding:
This started about two weeks ago.
The CAUTION and WARNINGS probably detract a little from the immersive quality of the experience, but some number of complaints probably piled up from riders that weren’t sure what to expect.
I arrived with FastPass+ in hand at 8:28am and was past the merge point with standby just five minutes later.
And in the first pre-show room less than five minutes after that.
I was back out front at 8:58am for a total experience time of just 20 minutes, which is around eight minutes less than average.
People are still filing in from across the way somewhere. The people you see in line here have a 2-hour wait in front of them.
The line goes all the way back towards the bridge that connects Pandora with Africa. And that’s still not even the end of it. Remember that the entire regular and extended queues are full.
Even where that guy is standing near the entrance to Pandora is not exactly the end of the line since there are people backed up behind him. Forever out of frame. And even with the guy quoting a 3-hour wait, people still continue getting in line.
Here’s a look at wait times over the course of the day in question, Thursday March 15, 2018:
If you have to wait the three hours for Flight of Passage, it’s much smarter to do so later in the day when waits are prohibitive elsewhere.
If you were to wait three hours at 9am and disembark the ride around 12:15pm, you’d be looking at a wait of 70 minutes for DINOSAUR, 75 for Safaris, 40 for Primeval Whirl, and 60 for Expedition Everest. You could walk on any of those other than Everest by getting in line for them at 9am instead. Na’vi River Journey’s average wait for the day is 94 minutes. Over my three rides first thing, I waited a total of about 15 minutes. If I were to ride three times later in the day, I’d wait a total of 4.7 hours. The peak wait was two hours and ten minutes at 11:15am. For River Journey. One time.
Despite oppressive afternoon crowds – above is the scene outside Kilimanjaro Safaris at 1:45pm – the rest of my morning is going to continue to go swimmingly.
We’ll continue with Part 2.