We’re rope dropping Frozen Ever After at Epcot from the International Gateway, which is the entrance that you’ll use if you’re taking the Disney Skyliner to Epcot. Historically, it’s also the entrance used by guests staying at the Beach Club, Yacht Club, BoardWalk, Swan, and Dolphin Resorts, as well as anyone walking or taking the boat from Hollywood Studios. In this instance, I’ll be taking the Skyliner from Hollywood Studios over to Epcot after first obtaining a boarding group for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. You can read about that process in this post, which includes a look at taking the Skyliner from Pop Century/Art of Animation, to the Caribbean Beach Resort hub, and then to the Studios.
By scanning my ticket/MagicBand at the Studios, I’m eligible to join a Rise of the Resistance boarding group. With guaranteed boarding groups typically gone in a matter of 30 seconds, having more than one shot at joining a low-number group will increase your chances of being able to ride. Boarding groups are independent of FastPass+, so I have both a boarding group for Rise of the Resistance and pre-booked FastPass+ at Epcot. If you have Park Hopper, or another mechanism to visit more than one Park per day, then you may want to begin your morning by scanning in at the Studios before heading elsewhere. While Hollywood Studios currently opens at 8am, guests are admitted inside beginning around 7am. Theoretically, you could scan in at the Studios and successfully make it over to Animal Kingdom in time to rope drop Flight of Passage, or over to Magic Kingdom to rope drop Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Since I’m relying on Disney transportation, it makes the most logistical sense to visit Epcot via the Skyliner.
You don’t need to physically be inside Hollywood Studios in order to join a boarding group for Rise of the Resistance after you’ve scanned into the Park. It is not a location-based system. In fact, you can even scan in at another Park, or click the “join boarding group” button back at your resort, or as far away from Hollywood Studios as you can get. Typically, you won’t have an opportunity to scan into a second Park before the Studios opens at 8am. With our visit to Epcot, we’ll scan in at 8:30am with the 9am open. All boarding groups for Rise of the Resistance will be long gone by then.
Taking the Skyliner from the Studios couldn’t be much easier. The station is just outside the entrance. Here at 8:05am, there’s only a handful of other people headed in this direction.
After taking the Skyliner from the Studios to Caribbean Beach, we have to transfer, which means disembarking our original gondola and getting on the other line to go to Epcot. This early, there are about twelve other people interested in doing the same thing.
The ride is a scenic one, particularly in the morning glow.
We’ll eventually pass through the Riviera Resort station, where we won’t have to transfer gondolas, on our way to Epcot.
The International Gateway is not a hot spot at the moment. In fact, it (probably) puts us at a slight disadvantage to Test Track or Soarin’ because those attractions are (probably) farther away from the International Gateway holding area than the main entrance. The International Gateway’s popularity could change this summer, when Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opens in the France Pavilion in World Showcase. The International Gateway sits adjacent to the France Pavilion and the ride will be just around the corner from the entrance. And a great, great distance from the main entrance. We’ll obviously have to see how things play out, but it’s likely that Epcot’s newest ride will also be its most popular, just like Frozen Ever After saw triple-digit waits during much of its first year or two of operation. Things there have calmed down considerably, though the ride remains the second highest priority at Epcot, behind Test Track.
The Skyliner is convenient to the International Gateway, dropping us off just about a minute away from the entrance.
Despite the Skyliner potentially dropping off thousands of rooms’ worth of guests at the International Gateway, things are far from nutty over here.
It looks like we’re dropping in on no wait at bag check.
It’s 8:27am with Epcot’s standard 9am to 9pm day. There are a few other people streaming down the ramp, though the family stuck in the cabin with me was heading to Trattoria al Forno for the Bon Voyage breakfast. Without Park Hopper privileges, or simply because you’re in the mood, you could begin the day by scanning into the Studios before heading to the BoardWalk for breakfast. You can pull up my review of Trattoria, with Rapunzel, Flynn, Ariel, and Eric here, and breakfast at Ale & Compass, which includes a buffet option, here.
There was basically no wait for bag check.
At 8:28am, or 32 minutes before Epcot officially opens, this is the entirety of the crowd waiting for the tapstiles/touchpoints to open. With only four or five identifiable lines, there might be two hundred people waiting, if that. The crowd probably looks larger in the picture than it is in reality.
Right around 8:30am, they should begin admitting guests inside.
And I’m inside at 8:34am.
Things over here are particularly calm early in the morning with the music from the France pavilion wafting over.
If I needed to rent an ECV or wheelchair, I could do so ahead on the left.
Prior to the Skyliner opening, guests entering via the International Gateway were held at the top of the hill leading up to the United Kingdom Pavilion, basically in front of Yorkshire Fish Shop.
With more guests potentially arriving, you’ll now find the holding area much closer to Canada.
With the Skyliner currently opening all routes at 7:30am, you have plenty of time to get over here for a 9am regular rope drop, or just in time for an 8am morning Extra Magic Hour. I’m going to be tailoring my plan to work best with the International Gateway as my starting point, but you could also take the bus from one of the Disney Skyliner resorts to the main entrance in the morning, and join the much heavier crowds up there. The main entrance is best if you’re planning on rope dropping Test Track. I’ll be using FastPass+ there, which is smart, because there’s a much higher probability that the vehicle design/testing attraction will be down at Park open than the other priorities. Using FastPass+ at Test Track will protect me from downtime, because if the ride is closed during my return window, I’ll be granted a Multiple Experiences FastPass+, which will allow me to return to Test Track at any point later in the day after it reopens.
With my cool vibes and meandering stroll, I ended up right here, two hundred or so people back from the front of the line, which is about even with the stairs up into the higher echelons of the Canada pavilion.
Much like Pablo Picasso, the website goes through its artistic stages, currently finding itself in its seasonal sunburst phase.
This will change as summertime approaches and I get madder at the sun, instead of embracing its warm glow.
Above is the crowd behind me at 8:55am, or just a moment before we’ll be released on the way to the attraction of our choice. The backup may “feel” sort of long, but we’re spaced out considerably more than we would be at any other Park, and the area is also on the narrower side. A number of people are so unconcerned that they’re lounging against the railing on the left, probably trying to get through one of these posts. It’s not going to be a problem whatsoever to get to Frozen in short order.
The exact time that you’ll be released from the holding area can vary, as it depends largely on the ability of the cast members back here to communicate with the cast members in charge of the crowds at the main entrance. Theoretically, we should all be released at the same time, but that doesn’t always happen. That makes the main entrance a “safer bet,” as the number of people coming in from the International Gateway is so insignificant that even if every single one of them arrives at one of the priority rides before anyone from the main entrance, the actual wait might rise by five minutes. If everyone from the main entrance arrives before those coming in from the International Gateway, the wait for Frozen or Test Track could easily be 60 to 90 minutes right off the bat. For that reason, I don’t recommend going out of your way to come in through the International Gateway, even if crowds are so much lower. Potentially, an exception could be made if you’re absolutely headed to Frozen Ever After first thing.
Even though Frozen is the only attraction where we currently enjoy an advantage, about 80% of the crowd will be headed left towards Future World.
As usual, I’m falling behind. This is slightly on purpose, slightly because I am actually that slow, and slightly because it takes some time to snap all of these photos.
We also have the ability to be among the first in line at Temporary Starbucks as we watch the wait times rise at the attractions.
Right around here, people will begin to break off to the left. If you’re heading to Soarin’, I’d take the first path heading towards Future World.
While we’re farther away from the hang gliding simulator than those heading in from the main entrance, the third theater’s extra capacity helps keep waits lower in the morning. At the risk of spoiling this entire operation, I’m going to be heading to Soarin’ after Frozen to ride in standby, and I’m only going to wait a handful of minutes before I’m past the merge point with FastPass+.
As we press forward towards Norway, I’d stay on this path a little longer if you’re electing to head to Test Track first.
That’s the path that you’ll be taking.
And the length of the walk is the reason why I don’t recommend trying to do it. There is a high likelihood that you’ll arrive at Test Track after most or all of those coming in from the main entrance. At that point, the actual standby wait could easily be over an hour long, which defeats the purpose of trying to rope drop it.
Everyone ahead of me is either headed to Norway or lost. Potentially, those headed to Test Track could continue this way and use the walkway ahead to go to Test Track, but I don’t think it would be demonstrably faster.
The fastest walkers are already passing the Mexico Pavilion ahead.
All of these people are passing me. It’s sort of sad to see, really.
You would think I would be better at this after doing it for ten years.
Both the Anna and Elsa Meet and Greet and Frozen Ever After ride open with the Park, along with Kringla Bakeri and the stores. Everything beyond Norway, and beginning with China, opens at 11am with the rest of World Showcase. This still surprises thousands of people every day.
I’m taking a left towards Frozen Ever After…after the majority of the people who were beside me at the International Gateway have already arrived. Nobody from the main entrance is even close to Norway at this point. We have a major advantage.
I arrived at 9:03am, or just three minutes after the Park officially opened, and about six minutes after we were released from Canada.
A minute later, I’m well past the merge point with FastPass+. You can see that the crowd on the other side of the wall hasn’t increased much behind me. If you got in line now, you’d wait about five minutes.
I was on-board about two minutes later:
I was off the ride at 9:12am, and you can see that the entire indoor queue is now full of guests who arrived from the main entrance. If you’re heading in from the main entrance, then it makes much more sense to rope drop Test Track and, to a lesser extent, Soarin’. Unless it’s one of the four or five busiest weeks of the year, or there’s an issue at Soarin’ which has closed one or more of the theaters, then you’ll be able to ride Soarin’ in standby after Test Track with a short wait. You can then use FastPass+ at Frozen later in the day, when it’s more convenient to continue on with World Showcase. To rope drop Frozen from the main entrance, you’d have to walk all the way back here, arrive later than everyone coming in from the International Gateway, and then haul yourself all the way back to Future World to do anything else.
At 9:13am, the majority of Frozen’s external queue has also filled. I purposefully tried to visit on a busier day to see how well we could do given above-average crowds and wait times. The actual wait now would be 75 to 90 minutes.
The length of the line for the Anna and Elsa Meet and Greet at the Royal Sommerhus depends on the morning capacity, but it’s usually better to return here around noon than it is to get in line now. Wait times at 9:15am range from five minutes to 45 minutes, so it may be a game-time decision about whether you want to stop now or later. In most cases, I’d elect to skip it in favor of getting over to Future World as quickly as possible, as wait times will only rise there. Amusingly, the longest wait of my day is probably going to be at Journey into Imagination with Figment. That’s not something you would historically expect, but I’m sure we’ve all come to understand that FastPass+ is great when you have it, and sucks when you don’t.
While I was initially disappointed in arriving a minute late at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and coming away with boarding group 110, I didn’t have any trouble getting over to Epcot early enough to take advantage of rope drop there. You can pull up my initial Skyliner ride to the Studios from Pop Century/Art of Animation here. Whether or not you’re starting your day at the Studios, the Skyliner will get you to the International Gateway in plenty of time to get to Frozen first thing. We’ll have to see if that’s still true after Ratatouille comes online in a few months.