In this post, we’ll take the Disney Skyliner from the Pop Century/Art of Animation stop to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, in order to try to obtain a boarding group for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Then we’ll head back to the Skyliner to ride it over to Epcot to rope drop Frozen Ever After from the International Gateway. Even if you’re not planning on staying at the resorts connected by the Skyliner, you may still want to begin your day by entering the Studios prior to the time that it opens in order to be eligible to join a Rise of the Resistance boarding group, before heading off to Epcot or another Park. You’re welcome to follow along too.
It’s 7:12am at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort as we head towards the Disney Skyliner stop that it shares with Pop Century, basically in between the two resorts.
The Skyliner station is easy to find.
You may want to scope things out on your arrival day, but the station is basically straight back from the resorts’ respective lobbies, behind their main pools.
It’s worth noting the Disney Skyliner operating hours, which are currently 7:30am to 10pm, regardless of where you’re starting and ending your journey:
Disney’s Hollywood Studios currently opens at 8am, so we’ve only got a half hour to board our gondola here, disembark that gondola and board a different gondola at Caribbean Beach Resort that will take us to Hollywood Studios, make it through bag check, and scan in to the Park. From Caribbean Beach Resort, you eliminate the need to transfer, which will save at least five minutes.
From the Riviera Resort, I’d recommend walking to the Caribbean Beach Resort’s Skyliner station, which will eliminate your need to transfer.
The walk from Riviera Resort to the Caribbean Beach Resort’s Skyliner station is only a few minutes. Above is the Caribbean Beach Resort Skyliner station on the Riviera side with the Joffrey’s Coffee kiosk right there for an early morning jolt.
Back to our morning at Art of Animation, just ahead is the Skyliner station, which is only about two minutes away from the main building.
Here we are along the bridge that connects the two resorts.
It’s always a good sign when the gondola cabins are cycling through, as they were prior to the Skyliner opening at 7:30am. You’ll have to take my word for it since this is a picture.
I was a little concerned that there might be a delay given the morning’s unusually cool 40-degree low, but it didn’t seem to be an issue.
At 7:15am, there was already a line of people stretching back from the station and towards Pop Century.
You’ll be in better shape if you arrive at the station closer to 7am than 7:30am as I fall in line in back. With only 30 minutes from Skyliner open to Studios open, every minute counts, as we’ll come to realize shortly.
Here we are looking towards Pop Century Resort, with the resort’s main pool behind these trees in the middle.
The line quickly built behind me as more and more people arrived.
Three minutes before the Skyliner was scheduled to open, the line stretches back even farther. None of these people will make it to the Studios before it opens.
The Skyliner opened three minutes late, at 7:33am. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t be too concerned about a three minute delay in boarding, but time is critical with the 30-minute window.
The Skyliner is a high-capacity system, so the line will move quickly* if nothing goes wrong.
But that’s a big asterisk.
From where I was in line, it took five minutes to board. From the back of the line, you’d be looking at a ten or twelve minute wait.
Had I been closer to the front, I would have saved that time.
Everyone exits their gondola at the Caribbean Beach Resort station and likely boards a second gondola to their final destination. Signage is clear and there are plenty of cast members to help should you require assistance. There are also bathrooms available straight across, though you will want to try to hold it if you’re trying to make it to the Studios on time. On the other hand, if you’re unlucky enough to get truly stuck, you may be in a world of trouble dangling up there. Fasting prior to your Skyliner trip may not be a bad idea. And it’s very trendy right now.
Heading to the Studios was not an original idea. It’s likely that the gondola line here was delayed by a few minutes as well. Since we’re coming from Pop Century/Art of Animation, we’re going to be behind everyone who is staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort who is trying to head the same way.
I waited six minutes to board the Skyliner to the Studios. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t register as “feeling” like a long wait, but I would again bring up the whole 30-minute window thing.
At 7:50am, I’m headed over.
At 7:52am, the backup at the Studios toll plaza isn’t too bad, but everyone you see in this picture is also going to be too late to make it inside the Studios before 8am.
Despite the cataclysmic crowds that we’re going to encounter upon entering, it certainly doesn’t “feel” crowded from the air.
The Skyliner will drop us off incredibly close to bag check.
We basically couldn’t be any closer.
It’s 7:56am, which means I have just over three minutes to make it through bag check and enter the Park. So far, this is how my time has been accounted for:
- 7:15am – 7:38am – In line for the Skyliner at Pop/Art of Animation
- 7:39am – 7:42am – On Skyliner to Caribbean Beach Resort
- 7:43am – 7:49am – In line for the Skyliner at Caribbean Beach
- 7:50am – 7:55am – On Skyliner to Hollywood Studios
I ran into some amount of bad luck, with the slightly late start, and a couple of complete stops while in the air, but neither of those things is particularly uncommon. You’ll typically find the shortest bag check lines on the far right side, which is where I went. The lines towards the middle are two or three times as long.
I managed to get through bag check in three minutes, which meant my last hurdle was scanning my ticket/MagicBand so I’m eligible to join a Rise of the Resistance boarding group. You’ll remember that everyone in your party who wants to sign up for a boarding group must scan their ticket/MagicBand to be eligible. That’s why we’re here.
I made it inside at 8:01am, or exactly two minutes later than I needed to be here.
With a whole heck of a lot of people trying to do the same thing.
The process to join a boarding group is the same as it has been:
You should see the “Find Out More” button on the home screen of the My Disney Experience app. If for some reason that button doesn’t show up, you can click the button on the bottom right and hit “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge,” which will take you to the same screen as selecting “Find Out More.”
Recently, I’ve had more luck with clicking the “My Status” Screen than trying to refresh the app for the “Join Boarding Group” button to become illuminated:
The alternate option is to open the app fresh right at 7:59:50 with the 8am open, or ten seconds before 8am. By the time the app loads and you’re able to click “Find Out More,” the “Join Boarding Group” button should be properly illuminated. The “My Status” Button will take you to the same screen as the “Join Boarding Group” button. On the next screen, you’ll select the members of your party that you would like to join you. This screen basically looks and functions the same as the FastPass+ signup screen, so as long as the members of your party are properly connected, and you can book them FastPass+ experiences, you’ll also be able to include them in your boarding group for Rise of the Resistance. After selecting the members of your party as quickly as you can, click through to the next screen by hitting “Join A Boarding Group” at the bottom of the screen. If the app tells you that one or more of the members of your party haven’t scanned in to the Park, and you know that they have, click the “remove from party” button and click “Join A Boarding Group” again. If you try to go back to the previous screen, or look around dumbfounded as you try to figure out what’s wrong, you run the risk of being shut out entirely. After successfully joining a boarding group, you can visit Guest Services or a Guest Experience Team member and they can add those people who the app initially said were ineligible to join you.
Ideally, you’ll be assigned a low-number boarding group without any errors. With my late arrival, I was awarded boarding group 110:
Even though I was in a backup boarding group, which means I’m not guaranteed to ride, I ended up getting called over right at 7:30pm. That was just about the last group of the day that got to ride.
A couple of things on using the Skyliner for a Rise of the Resistance boarding group:
- The timeline is tight. Unless something changes, you have a maximum of a half hour to complete the steps. Arriving at the Pop/Art of Animation Skyliner station 30 minutes before the gondolas are scheduled to begin operating will put you in a better position than arriving later.
- You’re in better shape if you’re staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort, as you won’t have to transfer. Guests staying at the Riviera Resort will want to consider walking over to the Caribbean Beach Resort station to cut out any technical difficulties that may arise. You can also arrive at the Caribbean Beach Resort station earlier by walking than by waiting for the Skyliner to come online at 7:30am. I’d advise arriving around 7:15am at the Caribbean Beach Resort station, keeping in mind that arriving earlier will just put you closer to the front, and minimize the chances of running into lengthy delays.
- An 8am arrival is too late to rope drop the super headlining attractions as you’ll be behind 10+ thousand other people who arrived before you.
Remember, this was the crowd behind us at Smugglers Run. The mass of humanity extends out of view and around the corner, past Star Tours. If you joined them at 8am, you’d wait over two hours to ride.
Likewise, the line for Slinky Dog Dash extends into Animation Courtyard, and the wait there would be 2+ hours. The actual end of the line is nowhere close to what’s visible here.
Of course, this doesn’t take Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway into account. We’ll have to see how crowd flow changes later this week, but we’re not going to see fewer people arriving early to the Studios with more new rides open. The new ride may reduce the number of people headed to Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge first thing, but those crowds and wait times will remain insurmountable for those arriving at, or just shortly before, 8am.
In other words, if you’re planning on taking the Skyliner and staying at the Studios after joining a boarding group, you’ll either need to start using FastPass+ immediately, or go to a lower priority attraction, like Star Tours, Alien Swirling Saucers, Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, or Toy Story Mania first thing. Those attractions are in order of popularity/wait time, from lowest to highest. You may well end up waiting 20 to 30 minutes for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster right at 8am, and then end up waiting an hour or more at Tower of Terror immediately after given the overwhelming morning crowds.
The line for Guest Services wrapped around the entrance to the building several times with 25+ groups already waiting to talk to someone at 8:03am. This is not how you want to start your day.
The shortest wait to talk to a cast member who can do something about your boarding group situation is on Sunset Boulevard.
Leaving Hollywood Studios after either finding success or disappointment with the boarding group process was not an original idea, either. I filed out with a hundred or more people in front of me.
As hundreds more people stream in.
They don’t know it yet…
But none of them will be joining a boarding group low enough to be called over to Rise of the Resistance today.
That’s the difference one, two, or three minutes can make. It’s paramount that you arrive and scan your ticket/MagicBand before the Park opens. As long as you do that, you’re just as likely to score a low-number boarding group as those who scanned into the Park much earlier in the morning. The Studios typically begins letting guests enter the Park at 7am with an 8am open. To see what the rope drop process looks like in detail, see this post, which chronicles how quickly crowds build in the morning and how many people you can expect to see alongside you at Smugglers Run.
If you’ve stayed at a Skyliner resort over the last month, then you’re more than welcome to add a comment about your experience. I chatted with the guests around me in line for the Skyliner, and it sounded like the waits for the bus early in the morning were substantial, with buses to the Studios rarely arriving. The family behind me had given up on the bus that morning and resigned themselves to the Skyliner. Hopefully they were able to get in.
If you’re staying on property and would like a little more control over your arrival time, then I’d suggest considering Uber/Lyft:
The cost should be under ten dollars and the trip takes about ten minutes. In the morning, you might pull up the app to check on availability and cost. If there aren’t many vehicles around, then you’ll want to request a ride earlier, as it may take the driver longer to arrive. If availability is particularly bad, then you may run into “surge” pricing, where the cost is higher than usual. The cost shouldn’t be more than $20 even under dire circumstances, but the extra $12 may make Disney transportation “feel” more attractive. I’d still shrug it off and consider the extra cost a particularly generous tip for someone who is willing to show up at 6:50am and drive you to Hollywood Studios for not a whole lot of money. You never know, it could be me just trying to make five bucks before heading in myself.
As far as the Skyliner is concerned, it would certainly be nice if Disney would commit to opening it up 15 minutes earlier, in order to increase the likelihood that guests staying at those resorts are able to make it to Hollywood Studios in time. The fact is that overall demand for the gondolas that early is relatively low, and the number of people transported isn’t high enough for Disney to consider earlier service “worth it.” After the initial rush, there’s only going to be a trickle of people boarding at Pop/Art of Animation.
The hassle of getting to the Studios on the Skyliner is something to consider if you’re deciding which resort to stay at, with both Pop Century and Art of Animation being more expensive than the All-Stars. The 1,000+ Family Suites at Art of Animation are more expensive than any of the Moderate Resorts, and more expensive than some Deluxe Resorts, so it isn’t like Disney would intentionally punish guests for staying there. If anything, you’d think that they would want to entice guests to spend an extra $50 per night for a standard room at Art of Animation over All-Star Movies. On this particular evening, a Finding Nemo Suite at Art of Animation would have cost $634 with tax. I could have stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge for $554, or $80 less. Rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge are also more likely to be discounted, so the actual cost that I’d pay to stay at a much nicer resort would be even less.
If you are relying on the gondolas, then be aware of the time constraints and where you’ll be in relation to other guests once you arrive at the Studios. With an earlier arrival at the Pop/Art of Animation station, I would have made it in time, with about three minutes to spare. With no slowdowns/stops, I would have made it with eight or nine minutes to spare. But you never know what’s going to happen, and there really isn’t much wiggle room in the morning for unexpected delays.
Good luck out there.