bright dark and early to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to check out what we can expect during Extra Extra Magic Hours, which begin at 6am daily for eligible guests through November 2nd.
Last week, I covered how to go about rope dropping Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. While it wasn’t the worst rope drop experience, it takes about 15 minutes to uncomfortably walk back to the ride from the holding area on Hollywood Boulevard. My expectation was that with nearly everyone heading to Galaxy’s Edge first thing, that it would open up Toy Story Land for the rest of us. We’ll put that hypothesis to the test by heading in that direction first thing. I’ll get in line for Smugglers Run just before the Extra Extra Magic Hours period ends, around 8:50am, to see how long the wait will be then.
(Part of) Galaxy’s Edge has been open for just over two weeks and we’re already seeing a number of operational changes that are in line with the lower than anticipated crowds. During my first visit, more than a dozen bag check lines were open and the inspection process began around 4:30am. This week, just three lines were open and the inspection process didn’t begin until 5:15am. Still, my wait is only going to be about a minute for them to look over my Canon equipment and feel bad for me that I don’t shoot Sony.
To confirm your eligibility for Extra Magic Hours, you’ll first scan your MagicBand/ticket or show your resort ID to the first cast member. After that, you won’t have to scan or do anything else again once inside. It will be interesting to see if the number of cast members scheduled this early decreases given the relative lack of popularity of Extra Extra Magic Hours. 6am is just too early for most people. This is 5:35am on Wednesday, September 11th, 2019. I think I see eight guests and more than 20 cast members. As we’ll see as opening time approaches, there will never be a rush.
It’s a bit strange being inside the Park so early and have it still be “night” out.
Heading inside, there’s fewer people than I saw back on September 1st, the first day of Extra Extra Magic Hours at the Studios.
This is how far I was able to go before I ran into any resistance. There’s enough room in front of a lot of these people that I could slide in even closer to the front without much effort. Back on September 1st, I arrived earlier and was behind more people. At the end of my first visit, I concluded that the crowds were probably about average compared to what we would see over the next two months. But that was probably an above average crowd, considering how few people there were on hand this week. Of course, we’re still waiting on heavier October crowds to descend.
Here’s a look from the side at 5:42am, or 18 minutes before Extra Extra Magic Hours is set to begin. I’m not sure how many people it is…but maybe 300?
Those headed down Sunset Boulevard for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror enjoy their own holding area down here. It looks like six people are headed there first.
My plan is to arrive at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster right around half way through Extra Extra Magic Hours, or 7:30am.
PIXAR TOY S, T REASURES… AND BEYOND!
You’d typically have to wait at least an hour and a half after the Studios closes to get a clear shot down Sunset.
The various stores that line Hollywood Boulevard open right at 6am.
Trolley Car Starbucks is open as soon as people are let inside, which should be right around 5:15am.
This is 5:45am and about two dozen people are grabbing a coffee or bite to eat. The process should be pretty quick should you elect to pick something up.
The sidewalk outside Starbucks remains clear, so you can easily get over there if you’d like.
20 minutes before Extra Extra Magic Hours begins, relatively few people are arriving.
15 minutes before it begins.
The first Disney buses should begin arriving at the resorts around 4:45am, which is plenty of time to get you here by 5:15am for bag check to open. To stay at the very front of the group heading to Smugglers Run first thing, that’s around the time you’d want to get here. Arriving at 5:30am will still result in a good spot. As usual, the earlier you arrive, the better off you’ll be.
I’m purposefully staying behind the crowd to see how “bad” things are in Toy Story Land if you arrive at the Park right at 6am. This is 5:59am, when the Park should open.
Unfortunately, we ran into quite a bit of bad luck and the Park didn’t open as it should. This is 6:03am as people continue to arrive.
The walk down Sunset Boulevard to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror began around 6:05am. Some number of people saw others moving and quickly got out of this mass of humanity and over to where the crowd was moving. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to jump ship so easily. When I get in line for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at 7:30am, only two rows on the roller coaster are going to be occupied with nobody waiting for the next vehicle. There’s no hurry down there.
Five minutes later, at 6:08am, we were still standing there waiting. No announcement was made that a delay would happen or why the Park didn’t open as expected. We should find the culprit momentarily, though.
Finally, at 6:11am, the march began.
The Stormtroopers arrive and will walk guests towards Galaxy’s Edge down to the left.
I was surprised by how many people elected to turn right towards Toy Story Land.
70% of the crowd looked to be headed towards Star Wars.
With about 30% headed towards Toy Story.
I’m not sure how many people know where they’re going first thing in the morning. Tourists love lines. They love crowds. It makes some amount of sense. If you pass a restaurant that’s empty, it’s probably not very good. If you pass a restaurant that’s full, then chances are it’s pretty good. Likewise, if a lot of people are committed to waiting for something, it stands to reason that it would be better than the thing that doesn’t have a line. On my first visit, only about twelve people headed to Toy Story Land first thing, with a thousand or more heading to Galaxy’s Edge first.
Back on Monday, September 1st, this was about the extent of the crowd heading for Slinky Dog Dash etc. If you didn’t know anything about anything, then you would probably follow the thousand people choosing to do one thing over the six people choosing to do the other.
On the other hand, my visit back on September 1st was over opening day weekend for Galaxy’s Edge. As we know, demand for Star Wars Land in California was minimal, to the point where attendance was actually down this summer compared to last. Yes, you can explain some of that away with passholder blockouts, but if Disney wasn’t expecting a bigger turnout, they wouldn’t have blocked out those dates for so many people who potentially wanted to go. Originally, cast members were to be blocked out of Disneyland all summer, but that restriction was removed before the first day of Galaxy’s Edge operation ended. Here in Florida, cast members were also originally blocked out of Hollywood Studios for months, but that restriction was lifted here as well.
It’s hard to explain away the lack of interest in Star Wars. But for a lot of people, Toy Story Land will be brand new too, having just opened here about 15 months ago. Not everybody is into simulator rides, either, and that’s your only attraction choice in Galaxy’s Edge at the moment. Slinky Dog Dash and Smugglers Run both carry a 38″ height requirement, so it isn’t necessarily that, though Toy Story Mania doesn’t have a height requirement. It’s the only ride in the Park that doesn’t. But at least through December 4th, it looks like about 70% of the people on hand at Park open will be headed to Galaxy’s Edge, with 30% on their way to Slinky Dog Dash first thing.
Before the year is up, Rise of the Resistance will open on December 5th. Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, housed here inside the Chinese Theater, will follow sometime in Spring 2k20 – April might be likely. Those openings will change crowd patterns again. We’ll also see major shifts once FastPass+ is available at the Star Wars rides.
Finally, at 6:13am, I’m making my own way over to Toy Story.
While all of the rides open at 6am, nothing here in Animation Courtyard will come online until 9am.
The next Voyage of the Little Mermaid is scheduled at TE:ST.
Or maybe 9:30am.
Even with more people heading to Toy Story Land than we were expecting, the walk is in no way controlled.
So you’re free to head over at your own pace, which is much more comfortable than inching along, shoulder to shoulder, as would be the case walking to Smugglers Run.
We don’t have to throw elbows at all of the people coming in after us, but you can’t be too careful.
Unfortunately, the fact that the Park opened more than ten minutes late was just the start of our bad luck, as Slinky Dog Dash wasn’t yet operating.
A line that was probably about 150 people long immediately formed in front of the entrance. Considering Slinky Dog’s capacity is around 1,200 an hour, it wouldn’t ordinarily take more than a few minutes for this many people to ride.
Unsure of how long it would be until Slinky opened, we opted to get in line for Toy Story Mania at 6:17am, or almost 20 minutes into the morning. The timing is a bit of a bummer. At Animal Kingdom, you might remember that we weren’t released until 7:02am, which means you wouldn’t be able to get to Flight of Passage until 7:08am. That’s a departure from how Disney usually opens Animal Kingdom, when guests are free to enter the Park about 45 minutes before official Park open. Guests are then typically held on the bridge in front of Pandora and then walked to Flight of Passage about 30 minutes before official open. Officially, the Extra Magic Hour at Animal Kingdom is an hour long, but you’ll only be able to experience the attractions exclusively for about 50 minutes of that. Of course, if the Park opens to everyone else right at 8am, it will take those guests about ten minutes to get to Flight of Passage too, so it kind of works out. But I should be back at Toy Story Mania around 6:05am – not 6:17am, and it’s a bummer to see Slinky closed right off the bat.
During both of my Extra Extra Magic Hours mornings, we bypassed the majority of the queue, including this room in its entirety, supposedly due to a problem with the fire exit.
This area is a little less photogenic.
With just about everyone still waiting for Slinky, we were able to move quickly through the queue:
We got in line at 6:19am and were back out front at 6:41am, for a total experience time of 22 minutes, which is about three minutes less than the ride takes with FastPass+ later in the day.
At this point, it looks like just about everyone who is coming in from the main entrance is here. I see one more person coming our way.
It turns out that the reason Slinky Dog wasn’t running was because of some promotional filming and not wanting the background noise of the vehicles running. A lot of Disney’s promotional materials annoy me because they typically present situations that “literally” never happen. Buzz Lightyear has never met guests on the bridge over to Slinky Dog Dash before. He also doesn’t meet with Woody or the Green Army Men, who also joined the scene from time to time. Initially, I thought Disney had brought the characters out because the ride was down and they wanted to entertain guests who might otherwise be disappointed. But the 30 or so people back behind the camera are part of the production crew. The only person who will ever meet Buzz over here is this kid. But everyone will see it happening in the commercial and assume that they can.
Slinky was running only intermittently, probably based on the production schedule.
We decided to head to Swirling Saucers instead.
As a reminder, the entrance to/exit from Galaxy’s Edge will almost certainly be exit only in the morning, regardless of when you try to head in that direction. So if you’re starting with Toy Story Land, you’ll have to walk around to the Grand Avenue entrance to enter Star Wars Land. This is less of a big deal since our plan is to head to Sunset Boulevard for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror next, but you’ll want to keep that in mind. You can exit into Toy Story Land from Galaxy’s Edge all day. You might remember that last time, I went to Smugglers Run first and then quickly and easily entered Toy Story Land after. That’s one nice thing about the placement of Galaxy’s Edge.
Alien Swirling Saucers will be a walk-on for the duration of Extra Extra Magic Hours.
That means we’ll have to come back to spend more than a moment pressing the “interactive” button.
We arrived at 6:44am.
And were on-board just three minutes later. About two-thirds of the aliens were occupied.
Things haven’t really picked up, but you’ll start to see a few people from Galaxy’s Edge start to stream in to Toy Story Land as early as 6:45am.
We opted to get in line for Slinky Dog Dash at 6:51am, which is exactly the same time that I got in line after riding Smugglers Run first on my first visit. On that day, the posted wait was 30 minutes and the actual ended up being 16 minutes. This time the posted wait is 40 minutes.
It looked like the actual wait was about half the posted time again. You can make the same determination if the line looks to be about this long.
We may or may not make the sunrise.
It’s not the most interesting queue, but there are some fun details to enjoy.
We were past the merge with what will be FastPass+ later in the day at 7:06am, or 15 minutes after getting in line. As always, one of the nice thing about (Extra) Extra Magic Hours is that FastPass+ is not in use, so all of an attraction’s capacity goes to standby, which keeps the line moving.
We boarded right at 7:11am, for a wait of exactly 20 minutes:
I was back out front at 7:13am for a total experience time of 22 minutes.
And what should now be a completed awning over the previously-uncovered portion of the all-outdoor queue.
The standby queue looked to be shorter than when we got in line, due largely to the fact that the ride is actually operating.
The standby wait dropped to 30 minutes and was probably about half that. I could have gotten back in line.
Crowds are beginning to pick up a little. You might remember that Jessie begins meeting guests at 7am across from Woody’s Lunch Box, which operates during the entire Extra Extra Magic Hours period with two registers.
We opted to continue on with Sunset Boulevard, but a second ride on Slinky would have been viable with a total experience time of about 20 minutes.
Woody and Bo Peep also appear first at 7am to the right of Toy Story Mania.
If you’re interested in meeting them, I’d get in line by 6:55am, because it quickly backs up. It looks like there’s about 15 groups in line, which translates to a wait of 20 to 25 minutes. That’s the longest in the Park with the exception of Smugglers Run. And in reality, the wait for Smugglers Run might even be shorter.
Most people who disembark Slinky Dog Dash are heading to Toy Story Mania next, which operates with two of its three tracks during Extra Extra Magic Hours. I would guess the actual wait is half of what’s posted.
Buzz meets outside of Toy Story Land to the shortest waits. You could meet him in about five minutes.
Overall, my time in Toy Story Land to start the day was disappointing. We were released over ten minutes late, which would have been enough time to add another ride. Slinky Dog opening late, and then sending vehicles only occasionally for another half hour, also impacted what we were able to do. If everything had happened as it should, and the Park opened at 6am with Slinky Dog running at full capacity from the get-go, I probably could have added a second ride on Slinky Dog. and Toy Story Mania or Alien Swirling Saucers. in about the same amount of time.
Moving forward, it appears like Toy Story Land will be a bigger draw than I was originally expecting, given the few people who went there on the first day of Extra Extra Magic Hours. Still, I was able to experience all three Toy Story Land rides in an hour, which isn’t terrible. I could also ride Swirling Saucers again in about ten minutes, Slinky Dog Dash in about twenty minutes, and Toy Story Mania in closer to thirty minutes. With over an hour and a half of Extra Extra Magic Hours left, I should find short waits at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours. The plan is still to get in line for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run around 8:50am.
We’ll see how all of that goes.