Our visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios continues after a successful early morning, where we were let into the Park just before 9:15am with the official 10am open. In Part One, we discussed the only way to guarantee that you’ll be among the first people inside the Park. That simply boils down to walking over from the BoardWalk. The easiest way to do that is to book breakfast at Trattoria al Forno or Ale & Compass Restaurant at the Yacht Club. You can also be dropped off at the Swan or Dolphin Resorts, or as others reported, the Speedway Gas Station across the street, or even the Fantasia Gardens Mini Golf parking lot. Part Two followed with stops at Slinky Dog Dash and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.
There is no theme park where early touring is as vital as the Studios, particularly now that Disney has increased capacity by 40% without opening much of consequence. Combined with the lack of shows, the limited number of attractions, and the shortest operating hours of any of the theme parks, wait times build quickly. I waited five minutes for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at 9:15am. As I disembarked at 9:30am, the wait would have been 45 to 65+ minutes. I waited 22 minutes for Slinky Dog Dash when I arrived at 9:36am. When I exited, the line backed up to Animation Courtyard and the wait would have been 80 minutes. I waited 23 minutes for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run after arriving at 10:06am. The wait as I left would be at least 50 minutes.
But now we have a problem, and it’s only 10:42am, or 42 minutes after the Park officially opened.
Here’s the wait time chart for the day with 10:45am highlighted:
At this point, we’ve basically run out of options where we’ll be able to do much of anything without waiting at least a half hour. Across the attractions, the overall average wait comes in at 47 minutes. Even if those times are exaggerated by 30%, you’re still looking at 40+ minutes in line for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Tower of Terror. Even Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy is down, taking that option off the table. The only attraction posting a wait of less than 35 minutes is Muppet*Vision, and even that climbs to a 45-minute posted wait by 11:30am. The Studios does not have a lot of filler with so many shows dark. That both means we can’t see them ourselves, but it also means that several thousand people won’t be immersed in Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Fantasmic, all of the character meets, etc. for some time to come.
If you had told me back in February that we would need to do Muppet*Vision before 11am or actually wait 30+ minutes to see the show later in the day, I would have laughed and then cried. But I have been stuck in this winding outdoor queue in the afternoon too many times to do it again. And since we don’t want to get in a 60+ minute line for a ride right now, this is it.
It was not an original idea as there were only spots for about five more groups after I arrived.
And it was still over seven minutes until the next show, so it’s not like I got particularly lucky and snuck in at the last minute. If I got in line about two minutes later, I’d need to wait for the current show to finish, then for the next show to run, and then potentially a cleaning cycle. That would push my actual wait from about twelve minutes to more than thirty.
I arrived at 10:43am and the show began at 10:55am. It’s not exactly the most photogenic spectacle with the whole 3D thing, but we have a few:
At 11:10am, the extended queue to the right of Muppet*Vision, which was empty a half hour ago, is now completely full. This is the end of the line on the other side as it backs up towards the show’s exit ramp.
You’d have to stand in place during the current show, then wait for an additional show to conclude, and then hope that you’re close enough to the front to get into the third show.
That’s probably nearing an hour in line.
Despite the show’s popularity, Disney still closes the attraction an hour before the rest of the Park. Granted, Muppet*Vision is probably not where you want to be at 6:30pm if you can virtually walk on the Runaway Railway, but it would give those who do want to see it and don’t want to wait 45+ minutes the opportunity. Even during Thanksgiving Week we saw a 6pm close.
At 11:14am, or just under 75 minutes into the day, the entire queue for Star Tours is full.
And the extended queue sign is out.
There are markers backing up past Tatooine Traders, so Disney is well aware that this many people will be waiting here virtually every day. Even so, the 35 minutes posted is probably about accurate. I’ll wait about half that when I return to ride a little after 3pm.
Vacation Fun in the Mickey Shorts Theater is our next stop. We don’t have much of a choice unless we want to wait 50+ minutes for something else.
That’s another extended queue sign. For Vacation Fun. At 11:15am.
Even the queue for Vacation Fun winds around in new directions, towards the Olaf Meet and back again.
This early, I was still able to make it into the next show. I got in line at 11:16am, found my seat in the theater at 11:21am, and was back out front at 11:34am.
Looking over wait times, we don’t have a lot of options unless we’re prepared to wait at least 30 minutes for something:
That is Muppet*Vision with a wait that’s within ten minutes of some of the headlining rides.
I also checked the boarding group status on the app:
With 18 groups to go, they’re estimating that we’ll be called right around 1pm.
Oasis Canteen may be open on weekends or during whatever Disney deems to be a “busy day,” despite just about every day running out of Park Passes. Now in December, it should be open every day, likely in part to push alcoholic holiday beverages.
Epic Eats, home to the funnel cakes, remains closed.
Soon, we can hope.
I took the opportunity to snap some pictures of the decorations around Echo Lake:
It’s a festive area that we’ll return to when it’s lit up at night.
Keystone Clothiers opened much later than the rest of the Park, but you can now shop so long as you head down to the entrance on the left. Ahead is exit only.
The early afternoon/late morning is the least-crowded time to shop, which means you’ll have fewer people quickly jetting across the store and pushing you aside to pick up something that they really have no intention of buying. In the evening, the physical-distancing markers will have people standing on them as the store is at capacity.
The Frozen Sing-Along is the one show that Disney recently brought back:
We’ll return for a mid-afternoon show.
With ABC Commissary open for lunch from 10:30am to 4:30pm, and Disney requiring anyone with a mobile order to stand outside the quick service until their order is prepared, this pathway is a lot more congested.
The Guest Experience Team will see another influx of people complaining at exactly 2:00:11pm, after the second and final set of boarding groups for Rise of the Resistance are all distributed. Now that the ride’s capacity has basically doubled with Disney filling both rows of each vehicle, far fewer people should leave disappointed in not being able to join a group. They’ve gone from calling about eight groups an hour to about fifteen.
The A-Frame signs warning guests that they’ll be asked to leave for not properly wearing their masks are prominently displayed. I’ve yet to see that conversation happen, though occasionally a cast member will ask someone to pull their mask over their nose or whatnot. Face covering compliance goes down as it gets later in the day, likely for a number of reasons. People get tired of wearing them. They think they’re more likely to get away with it in the dark. People are drunker. At 12pm, probably ~90% of people are doing their part. By 6pm, it drops closer to 75% and probably goes down from there.
Officially, you’re no longer allowed to eat or drink in queues, since you won’t be adequately spaced away from other people. But it seemed like that “rule” only applied once guests reached the actual entrance to the attraction. I was in line for Slinky Dog Dash later in the evening and a group of four off-duty cast members were drinking beers in line a couple groups in front of me as we waited to enter the regular queue. By the time they arrived at the front, the working cast member cheered them on as they chugged the beers before being allowed to move on. At Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, three people behind me were all drinking beers as we walked back and forth outside that extended queue, only to be told to chug them before passing underneath the wait time sign a few minutes later.
I continue to find this annoying. If you see someone not following the rules out in the open, it’s typically easy enough to avoid them. Potentially, you could also wait for a minute or two to get in line should you notice that the people that would be in front of you in line will be maskless as they sip their Bud Lights. Unfortunately in my case, others in those groups delivered the beers to those who had already gotten in line some time after. With the queues extending so far at most attractions, it’s typically easy to rejoin the group out in the open. When I get in line for Tower of Terror at 5pm, I’m going to be closer to Fantasmic than the entrance to the ride. At 6pm, the line for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster will extend outside of the courtyard and back to Fairfax Fare on Sunset Boulevard.
Lucky guests with low-number boarding groups continued to stream in to Rise of the Resistance.
Disney recently introduced a number of new items in Galaxy’s Edge. With the Marketplace holding about eight people at a time, the line to look through the various stalls extended back several dozen people.
At 12pm, this is the back of the line for Smugglers Run. The back entrance to Toy Story Land is about ten feet away, while the entrance to the ride is hundreds of feet of winding people and queue in the opposite direction. The 50 minutes posted is probably a little optimistic. I was happy to wait less than half that about two hours earlier.
The queue for Alien Swirling Saucers extended back outside the queue and into this alleyway next door.
Time to put in another order for more physical-distancing stickers.
The 30 minutes posted also seemed optimistic. As always, the lines look longer than they are with physical-distancing, but it still takes a lot of people to fill this thing up. I’ll wait about 12 minutes later in the afternoon.
I don’t think we’ll be able to see the end of the line for Slinky Dog Dash from inside the Land until the very end of the night.
Toy Story Mania is best saved for after 3pm, but it offers a good bang for your buck with 30 minutes posted just after noon. I’ll wait about ten minutes when I get in line later.
If I’m remembering correctly, this is our first opportunity to investigate the actual end of the line for Slinky Dog Dash. You may note that there is not a whole lot of physical-distancing going on here in the Slinky line on the left, in the Toy Story Mania line on the right, or trying to cut through the middle to exit the Land.
The lines for both rides stretch outside the entrance to the Land.
Disney is using every inch they’ve got as the markers for Slinky wind around this alleyway as a number of people pull their masks down.
It’s worse earlier in the morning. Toy Story Mania is “only” backed up to the red line as the markers extend back even further. The ropes then funnel people towards the area in the next picture.
They open up these doors to the old Pixar Place/Municiberg area when the line for Toy Story Mania necessitates it.
There really isn’t anywhere else to put them. If they extended the line down to the left, in the same direction as Slinky, you’d be cutting off access to Joffrey’s and the M A R K E T, along with the ramp to and from the Chinese Theater courtyard.
While we don’t yet have eyes on the back of the Slinky line, we’re now looking in the right direction.
We do see the sign indicating that we’re close directly underneath the Voyage of the Little Mermaid marquee.
And there it is with the physical-distancing markers in the Voyage of the Little Mermaid queue. The 70 minutes posted may be somewhat accurate. Once you enter the actual Slinky queue, your wait from there is only about 20 minutes, if that. Back in early March, the line in the morning would still extend this far back, but thousands more people would have been crowded together, and FastPass+ would basically keep the line at a standstill as only about 2.8 people from standby would ride for every 7.2 FastPass+ users. The wait would be closer to 160 minutes in that instance. From that perspective, 70 minutes is better. This is 12:15pm.
The line is not going to get much shorter later in the afternoon. Above is the line still stretching around the corner for Slinky at 2pm. But there is no longer a backup at Toy Story Mania on the right.
At 5:11pm, it’s hard to tell, but the people in the back of the Slinky line can almost see the Land’s entrance from the back.
That’s the extended queue sign being held up there. At least everyone has an opportunity to peruse the Disney Vacation Club catalog as they pass by the kiosk. Slinky’s posted wait was above an hour up until right around this point, where it officially drops to 50 minutes. That may still be on the optimistic side.
It’s always fun to catch one of the sporadic character cavalcades:
I had to go wide-angle on the iPhone to capture the queue for the Railway. While the line now moves twice as fast with every row loaded, the lower posted waits also cause more people to get in line.
There were no day-of reservations available for any of the Studios’ restaurants. This is what we were seeing at noon for a party of two:
Outside of Epcot, you’ve got one option at the sizable Skipper Canteen at Magic Kingdom and the pricy Tiffins at Animal Kingdom. You always want a reservation if you’re planning on a sit-down meal. Lunch at Brown Derby would be my choice for a relaxing time that will get you off your feet and recharged.
With menus continuing to be limited, a couple of my past favorites are absent:
But you can’t do much better than that Burger for $24 and the Cobb Salad is always great. I also don’t see any names of the food in quotations, which is always a good sign. “Plant-based Salisbury Steak” may be deserving of some.
But alas, we all know what the Brown Derby Cobb and Burger look like, so ABC Commissary is where we’re headed:
Disney now uses arrival windows at quick services to make sure they can keep up with demand. Typically, quick services have immediate availability, but Docking Bay 7 in particular can have a return window that’s an hour or more in the future. So if you pull up the app when you’re ready to eat at 12pm, you may not be able to pick up your food until after 1pm. ABC Commissary would be ready to start a potential order in about 15 minutes. You may want to periodically check the app for quick service return times as lunch or dinner time approaches so you don’t risk becoming hangry when you can’t pick up your Ronto Wrap for another half hour.
ABC Commissary reopened back on October 8th with a largely-new menu:
There is probably a reason why outlets like ABC Commissary constantly change their menus. Nobody ever orders anything twice. But the current menu is relatively solid.
This is the $11 “Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich – Grilled Sourdough toasted with Buffalo Chicken, Monterey, Provolone, Cheddar, and Cream Cheese served with a side of Buffalo Sauce and your choice of Side.” It was actually pretty good. The bread was grilled up nice and crispy with a little bit of butter for flavor and comfort. The chicken inside the sandwich comes in chunks – almost like it’s pulled – and is smothered in the four cheeses. There may have been a bit more of the Cream Cheese than I would add myself – it makes for a slightly goopier situation without adding a lot of flavor. There’s a good amount of heat going on and they include an extra cup of buffalo sauce should you wish to increase the heat level.
The Arugula-Farro Salad sounded like a light and refreshing accompaniment, and it ended up being just that, with bright, crispy greens, nutty farro, and the surprise addition of some apples for a fruity crunch, cranberries for a little bit of a sour bite against the acidity of the vinaigrette, and a bit of pecan, which brought out the sweet, buttery flavor of the farro even more, while adding a little bit of crunch itself.
The Commissary is usually about 50/50 on what’s good and bad. They used to serve a very random, very good chicken curry, and someone was apparently smart enough to bring it back. I’m a bit surprised that Chicken isn’t an option, since they obviously have it and Chicken Curry is one of the more popular ways to order it.
Here we have the $12 “Curry Rice Bowl with Tofu – Crispy Pineapple-marinated Tofu and Sautéed Vegetables tossed in Red Curry Sauce served with Jasmine Coconut Rice.” This was really good too. The Tofu is crispy and plentiful and does a nice job of soaking up the spice from the curry. If “Pineapple-marinated” wasn’t in the title, I’m not sure I would have picked up on it, but the subtle fruitiness helps cut a bit of the spiciness of the chili pepper.
The Commissary also figured out rice, which is nice and fluffy with a subtle coconut flavor. It all comes together really nicely for not an unfair amount of money.
Seating inside was ample as they won’t let you in without a confirmed mobile order that’s ready for pickup. I would have preferred to sit outside, but all of those tables seemed to be occupied by people waiting for their order to be ready.
Disney arranged the tables cleverly enough so that each person potentially facing another person from a different party would be six feet away. Back in March, these tables would have been turned the opposite way for bench seating.
An unfortunate crop.
The new menu at ABC Commissary is a strong one that you may want to consider if you’re looking for more flexibility than a dining reservation offers. Docking Bay 7 in Galaxy’s Edge is probably still better, but the food is more expensive and that area tends to be much busier.
We’ll move on to a modified Rise of the Resistance next.