Star Wars Weekends have come and gone. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays will be returning to normal at Hollywood Studios beginning next week. No more Zam Wessel, Ashley Eckstein, Darth Vader, or Hyperspace Hoopla to attract and entertain additional crowds. Overall, the event is a lot of fun. You’ve got your Star Wars character meet and greets, celebrity autographs and shows, Star Wars Motorcade Parade, and of course George Lucas and the big Star Tours unveiling specific to this year. It certainly has its fair share of hangups, including long waits in the blistering sun to meet Chewbacca and the Star Wars Parade, but no one said a Disney World vacation was easy. Despite what the name of this website may or may not be.
The crowds for Star Wars Weekends are no doubt larger than a “regular day.” Despite what “other” websites might tell you about wait times, we saw a substantial increase in wait times versus recommended days during the week. On average, Star Tours’ wait times were 55% higher on Star Wars Weekend days. That makes sense since it’s a Star Wars related event, but we also saw waits at Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster that were 60% higher, Toy Story Mania waits that were 30% higher, and Tower of Terror waits that were 45% higher than recommended days during the week. Even compared to non-recommended, non-Star Wars Weekend dates during the week (like a Monday with Fantasmic and evening Extra Magic Hours), Star Tours’ waits were 35% higher, Toy Story Mania waits were 20% higher, and Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster waits were 35% higher. In other words, the much heavier crowds have a discernible and absolute effect on overall wait times throughout the Park. Could I skew the “statistics” to say anything I want them to say? Certainly. But that’s half the fun of stats.
I spent this past Friday and Sunday in Hollywood Studios, taking in the spectacle and checking in on crowds. Let’s reminisce together one last time.
Here we are at the Studios on Friday at 8:10am. The Studios “unexpectedly” opened at 8am on many Star Wars Weekend dates to move those of us “planners” through the major attractions before the general population arrived. Speaking of statistics, this is one of the reasons why wait times might “skew lower” at first glace. For example, let’s say I inputted 30 wait times at Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster between 8am and 9am when wait times were 5-15 minutes. Then I inputted a 60 minute wait time at 10am, a 70 minute wait time at 11am, a 90 minute wait time at 4pm, a 70 minute wait time at 6pm, a 50 minute wait time at 8pm, and three 30 minute wait times at 11pm. If we were to “average” these wait times out, we would get an average wait of 15 or so minutes. While this would technically be “true,” it doesn’t account for the insane crowds between 10am and 9pm, when wait times were actually 70+ minutes. Were wait times low from 8am – 9am and 10pm to 12am? Sure, but that doesn’t prove anything other than our usual advice, “tour early or tour very late because the crowds are lower.” Anyone who tells you wait times were in the bottom 10% on a Star Wars Weekend date (especially May 20th) is either lying to you or was never at Star Wars Weekend in 2011, or both.
The FASTPASS return time at 8:35am was 10:20 to 11:20. Remember this picture because it plays a big part in our upcoming story.
Here’s something you don’t see every day – a 15 minute wait at Toy Story Mania.
But by 9am the line was out the door. A solid 50-60 minute wait. FASTPASS return was up from 10:30am to 12:30pm in just the 26 minutes it took me to ride Toy Story Mania.
This is the line at Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster at 9:35am from the Single Rider line. The posted wait time was 90 minutes, but it looked more like a 40-50 minute wait. My total wait/ride time in the Singles line was 28 minutes. The actual standby wait was 53 minutes. By the time we got off the posted wait time was 40 minutes, until it went back up to 60 minutes at 10:10am.
This is the crowd at the 10:15am Beauty and the Beast show – larger than you would expect for the first show of the day, but there were still some seats in the back.
Wait times at 10:20am. The posted wait time at Toy Story Mania was 100 minutes with an actual wait time of 78 minutes for the person that got in line at 10:15am. Pretty ugly.
This is the line for the Phineas and Ferb meet and greet at 10:40am. The boys were running a little late today as they were supposed to come out at 10:30am. Wait times at Phineas and Ferb have been decently long. The wait here is about 60 minutes if the line is completely full, but it can vary immensely depending on how many groups there actually are in line and how much time they take with the characters. I recommend arriving at 10:10am if you want to meet them with a short wait and still take advantage of low morning crowds. You might also consider visiting them after 4:15pm on non-Fantasmic days when lines are also lower. The main problem is the fact that the meet and greet is right across from the exit to Muppt Vision 3D. A ton of people that have no idea this meet and greet exists exit Muppet Vision constantly throughout the day, keeping lines long.
Looks like it’s time for lunch back at Studio Catering Company. I had thoroughly enjoyed my last meal here when I ordered the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. And while I would have preferred to order that again, I wouldn’t be much of an amateur Disney World blogger if I didn’t opt for another entree and then blog about it instead. So today we’re “enjoying” the Pressed Tuscan Deli – Shaved smoked ham, smoked breast of turkey, provolone, Caesar dressing and pesto-marinated vine ripe tomatoes, and a Tuscan roll served with apple slices or french fries: $8.49 sans tomatoes since your author doesn’t like them.
There really wasn’t much to this sandwich, especially for the price. It was a couple of slices of cheap turkey served with melted cheese on a roll. I was looking forward to upping my recommendation on Studio Catering, but it isn’t going to happen after this performance. I’ll give them one more shot with the Pressed Turkey, but it’s going to have to be pretty good!
Okay, so here’s a funny story. Note that the current time is 11:23am and the FASTPASS return time is 10:40 to 11:30. People were ecstatic that the return time for Toy Story Mania was RIGHT NOW. Unfortunately, there was a cast member in front of the FASTPASS machines pointing out that this was PM, meaning 10:40-11:40 TONIGHT. People weren’t so happy then.
Disney was only operating a single FASTPASS machine at this point, making sure everyone knew they wouldn’t be riding for a good 11 hours.
Here the crowds are at 11:45am.
We’re skipping ahead a couple of days. This is 9:20am on Sunday June 12th.
A little different view on Hollywood Boulevard at 9:30am on Sunday compared to 8:30am on Friday. As the Crowd Calendars state, Friday is the best day of the Star Wars Weekend to visit. Saturday and Sunday are even more crowded.
This is probably my favorite Disney World sign because it makes it look like Toy Story Mania is next to Magic of Disney Animation. So many people ask where “Toy Story” is.
They even had FASTPASS at Voyage of the Little Mermaid running, which is rare these days. I have the FASTPASS left over to prove it.
Sunset Boulevard crowds at 10:20am.
And at 10:45am.
My favorite part of Star Wars Weekend was the shows in the Premier Theater, hosted by Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, and the special celebrity guests. This is Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, and Tom Kane onstage showing the audience how voice work is done on The Clone Wars animated series. I’ve never seen an episode of the Clone Wars, but I still found the presentations fascinating. Tom Kane has done over 20,000 voice jobs over the years, including “voice overs” for Morgan Freeman and William Shatner. He was also the announcer for the Oscars three times. Very entertaining shows and a very comfortable, air-conditioned theater. Don’t overlook these shows if you’re planning to visit Star Wars Weekend in the future. In fact, make a point of seeing as many as possible.
A solid 95 minute wait at Toy Story Mania at 11:50am. Actual standby wait time was 78 minutes had you gotten in line at 11:40am.
The crowds waiting for the Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade Parade at 12:00pm on the dot. I hope Disney figures out a better Parade route next year. The Parade is “literally” from the Park entrance to Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat. In the past, it has continued to Star Tours, which gives people a ton of room to line up in front of American Idol, Sounds Dangerous, Indiana Jones, Star Tours, etc. The short route requires people to arrive two hours early to get front row seats. Seriously, two hours in 90+ degree heat and very little shade.
Another example of TouringPlans.com’s definition of “low crowds” or low wait times or whatever a 3.4 on the “per park crowd calendar” translates to. My definition is “Please avoid unless you want to focus on the Star Wars Weekend festivities.”
Today we’re having lunch at Fairfax Fare, the barbecue joint that’s part of Sunset Ranch Market on Sunset Boulevard, right across the street from the entrance to Beauty and the Beast and Fantasmic. The Chicken/Rib combo at Cosmic Ray’s in Magic Kingdom gets a lot of attention, especially for those on the Disney Dining Plan because of its high cost. Well, Fairfax Fare offers a similar combination, only they throw in baked beans and coleslaw instead. For those paying out of pocket, this is a hefty meal with a pricetag of $14.19. It’s a lot of food and a nice variety, but the price is steep out of pocket and I’m not sure I would recommend it unless you’ve got money to spare. $14 would buy you a lunch entree at sit-down restaurants Sci-Fi Dine-In or 50’s Prime Time. Plus, you could bask in the enjoyment of air-conditioning rather than trying to navigate 100 tables being held by one person without any food.
Here are the crowds waiting for the Star Wars Motorcade Parade about three minutes before it starts. Most of these people have been waiting 60 or more minutes. It’s a fun Parade, but it’s a lot of heat and a lot of discomfort.
That’s a wrap on Star Wars Weekend. Until next year, may the Force be with you.