We all make fun of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, sort of like we might tease that goofy little cousin growing up. Of course, some day that goofy little cousin might grow up to become Elon Musk or Beyoncé, much like Hollywood Studios will mature into the theme park that we will eventually grow to love ourselves come 2029 or 2035 or whenever we can actually get within ten miles of Galaxy’s Edge. And one does wonder if we had just been a little nicer to the-theme-park-with-four-rides that maybe it would have gifted us an early FastPass+ to the Millennium Falcon ride or something. So you might consider what you say about it over the next 18 months.
And so we embark on Hollywood Studios or: How I Learned to Stop Caring What I Was Doing and Love Voyage of the Little Mermaid.
Many people have characterized Disney’s Hollywood Studios as a “half-day park” over the years. But I suppose a lot of things could be considered half-day experiences if we were to quickly cross off the majority of the things that they offer. If we only wanted to visit the napkin art that is the Mona Lisa and grab a ham sandwich at the cafe then The Louvre is probably a half-day museum. If we bet $45,000 on the coin toss at the Super Bowl and then left, then attending the third biggest sporting event of the year might not even qualify as a half-day experience. Heck, if you could somehow pull yourself away from this post a quarter of the way in, then you probably have a half-day experience on your hands too.
In an attempt to dispel the notion that the Studios is a “half-day Park,” and to celebrate its 29th anniversary, Tom and I decided that we’d try to do what nobody had ever tried to do before. Do a whole day there with the following stipulations:
- No repeating attractions – obviously standing outside Toy Story Mania while constantly refreshing FastPass+ availability to book the headlining attractions so that tourists don’t even have an opportunity to ride once is fun, but that doesn’t really prove our point. Neither does riding Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster seventeen times in single rider.
- No unnecessary lingering – while I think we can all agree that it’s important to scientifically prove that all of the draft beers at BaseLine Tap House taste the same in the 22-ounce size as they do in the 16-ounce size, we can do that another day.
- If we’re going to do Disney Jr. Live on Stage, then we’re going to need to find a kid.
So here we are at 7:58am with just a handful of people here this early.
8:10am. Once Galaxy’s Edge opens, you’ll need to arrive this early if you’re planning on being able to get onto a Star Wars ride three days in the future. “Now queuing for next Tuesday.”
Here’s 8:15am when there’s probably now a couple of hundred people in line. We’re only a couple of weeks off of our last Studios rope drop, when I declared 8:10am as the sweet spot between arriving unnecessarily early and early enough that it should be smooth sailing for your first couple hours of touring. That should be true until Toy Story Land opens on June 30th. After that, your arrival will probably need to be pushed up to 7:45am if you’re heading to the Slinky Dog Coaster first thing. We’ll see.
8:25am with the lines for each tapstile backed up to the ticket booths. As I mention with every rope drop post, the above is an everyday occurrence and what you’ll see throughout the day should be one of the least crowded days of the year.
8:30am. Amusingly, I was minding my own business standing there when a woman from the back of the line came up and asked the two guests waiting at the front of the line if “this was the Annual Passholder line or if that is the Annual Passholder line,” while pointing to the adjacent line. Of course, this early, none of the lines are dedicated to Annual Passholders. They just don’t want to have to move the sign back and forth. The two guys shrugged and said that it probably was the Annual Passholder line despite the fact that, as it would turn out, they were not Annual Passholders. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t interject with a correction. After all, if you see a tourist sprinting head first towards a brick wall, who’s to say that’s not exactly what they want?
On this particular morning, probably because the excitement of visiting Hollywood Studios got the best of me, I mumbled that there were no Annual Passholder lines this early and that she would be fine. Several minutes later, the opening team cast members started arriving at the tapstiles and the same woman came up and asked the cast member at the front of our line if it was, in fact, dedicated to Annual Passholders. The cast member nodded that she thought it was and the woman glared at me for a moment before heading back and probably changing lines. Of course, the cast member at the front of our line was not actually part of the opening team, and was just there to let her two friends in with her main gate pass. After the Park opened, the cast member, along with her two non-Annual-Passholder friends, went on their merry way.
I considered spinning around and around, throwing up my hands, and loudly lamenting the fact that I was surrounded by idiots. But we were already at Hollywood Studios and I didn’t want to spoil the surprise.
At 8:30am the tapstiles opened and we were allowed to progress up to just before the turn on to Sunset Boulevard.
Looking towards Jedi Training signups.
And the crowd behind me at 8:50am is nothing but smiles, just like always. It’s like they don’t know the best part of their day is going to be watching The Path of the Jedi in the old Sounds Dangerous building.
And at 8:52am, we’re off to Toy Story Mania with a reminder that you want to go through the wide archway.
Just to make sure, I went through the narrow archway. Not smart.
And this is what happens.
Hopefully somebody will comment about how impossibly quickly I move and how nice it must be that all of these pictures take themselves. I’m actually here for just a moment before I fly ahead of the pack.
The rush over to Toy Story Mania is not particularly pleasant, but it pales in comparison to the discomfort that is Flight of Passage. Everyone will eventually have to push over into the narrow queue on the right.
Passing by what was once the entrance at 9am to a 65-minute posted wait.
In red is the actual route of the queue – only part of which I’ll have the pleasure of passing through. See if you can follow along below.
We’re over here.
But we’re going to end up being over there.
Now we’re over here, but we’re about to be back over there.
Now we’re back over here. The people ahead of us might be over here, but they’re still going to have to go over there and then come back over here.
While all of those people are currently over there, they’re first going to have to come over here, then go back over there, and then come back over here.
And there’s a lot of people lined up all the way back to Walt Disney Presents and the Voyage of the Little Mermaid.
It took 18 minutes for us to arrive inside the building where there’s only about seven minutes worth of queue. 98% of the people in line wait outside. In case you missed the announcement, the newsletter, the fax, and the phone call, Toy Story Mania is currently operating with just the newest of its three total tracks while the queue is reconfigured and the entrance is switched to the other side of the building in what will be Toy Story Land.
That means the hourly capacity is around 500 riders per hour and FastPass+ is currently not offered.
So on average, only about 6,000 people can ride Toy Story over the course of a standard 12-hour day.
Fortunately, cast members have new consoles that identify where in the queue people are not filling in all of the available space. Once the entire screen turns green, the standby wait should drop to just five minutes.
Or it shows where the ride vehicles are on the track, among other things. Maybe someday Disney will focus on what really matters.
Despite falling behind a couple hundred people, we boarded at 9:28am, or about a half hour after arriving in the queue.
Getting back to the mainland requires some waiting as guests in line cross from one side of the street to the other and back again.
It starts back here and winds around.
And then goes down there. Around and around.
Here’s a look at wait times over the last few weeks:
Like with most super-headliners, the worst time to get in line is any time between after the initial rush and about 90 minutes after Park open. Those that got in line for Toy Story between 9:15am and 10am are going to wait longer than those that get in line at any other part of the day. Furthermore, the first hour of operation is the worst time to be stuck in line because waits at most other attractions remain short. If you don’t want to deal with the rope drop madness, get in line as late in the day as possible. And if you can’t ride after 8pm, get in line around 11am. Two hours is about as long as it takes to move the people that arrived between 9am-9:45am through and the long posted waits will deter many people from getting in line between 9:30am-11am.
We had a 9am-10am FastPass+ for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and a 10am-11am FastPass+ for Tower of Terror, so we opted to meet Chewbacca in Star Wars Launch Bay next.
This early, waits are minimal.
You may also have an opportunity to take a picture with the Stormtroopers that patrol the area.
Kylo Ren’s wait is around five minutes as well. We got in line for Chewie at 9:45am and were done at 9:53am.
Sunset Boulevard at 9:57am.
Pay attention to what the sky looks like just in case you decide to tweet me about it.
Tower of Terror is still posting 15 minutes. We’ve learned from previous rope drops that the actual wait may be much longer, particularly if there are technical problems with one of the shafts. Never a good thing. We’ll revisit with FastPass+ shortly.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is posted at just 40 minutes at 10am.
That’s probably pretty accurate, though it depends on how many FastPass+ users show up. The range is probably 35-50 minutes.
We were in the pre-show seven minutes later.
And back out front at 10:19am for a total experience time of 18 minutes.
I know you’re not supposed to shame people and blah blah BUT THEY ARE USING THEIR TIER ONE FP+ AT BEAUTY AND THE BEAST WITH FORTY MINUTES TO SHOW TIME pic.twitter.com/Wy6haE18h3
— josh (@easywdw) May 1, 2018
I was a bit taken aback when I saw people using their Tier 1 FastPass+ selection at Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage with 40 minutes to showtime. But with Toy Story Mania not distributing any FP+, your other choices are Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with the height requirement and Fantasmic, which is late at night and may scare youngsters. So using your Tier 1 FP+ at a stage show and arriving 40 minutes early is at least a guarantee that you won’t be sitting next to any bloggers.
Tower of Terror was posted at 40 minutes at 10:21am, which is probably about as long as we would have waited if we had gotten in line in standby at 10am:
We walked right into the pre-show with FastPass+ and were back out front at 10:42am for a total experience time of 21 minutes.
So far it’s been a normal day. But that’s about to change.