This post was originally part of this general Hollywood Studios update, but appears separately for the sake of relative brevity.
If you took a look at the updated Hollywood Studios Cheat Sheet published last month, you might have noticed that Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is now considered to be the website’s highest Tier 1 Priority FastPass+ experience: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/hs_cheatsheet_summer16_full.pdf:
In assessing FastPass+ priority, the website generally considers the following criteria from most important to least important:
- How much time using FastPass+ will save
- Location of an attraction and how easy/convenient it is to experience in standby
- How unpleasant the standby queue is and what you miss using FastPass+
How Much Time You’ll Save
The list should be fairly self-explanatory. In most situations, you’ll want to use FastPass+ where it’s going to save you the most time. With Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster’s average and peak waits now considerably higher than Toy Story Mania’s, the argument that Toy Story should still be prioritized first seems like antiquated advice at first blush. We’ll take a look at wait times charts later.
Point: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
Scarcity basically comes down to how many FastPass+ experiences are distributed for a certain attraction, how many FP+ return times will be available on the day-of, and the likelihood that said attraction will be available later in the day as a 4th selection. At the Studios, we know that we can pick up a Great Movie Ride FastPass+ as a 4th selection in the afternoon because the ride distributes a lot of experiences and most people are choosing Toy Story or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster in advance. That combined with the fact that Movie Ride average and peak waits are considerably lower than either of the top two priorities makes it easy to drop it out of contention for a top two placement.
With Disney adding a third track to Toy Story Mania, it increased the capacity from just under 1,000 riders/hour to just under 1,500 riders/hour. While Disney didn’t increase the number of FastPass+ experiences distributed per hour by a number anywhere close to that increase, it does appear that either the numbers were increased slightly or demand has decreased slightly. That translates to more Toy Story FP+ availability later in the day, which in turn makes Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, with less availability, a better choice.
Point: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster’s location, at the very end of Sunset Boulevard, is going to be less convenient and a longer walk than Toy Story Mania from most other attractions. But location doesn’t come into play as much at the Studios and you might find that using FastPass+ at Toy Story makes more logistical sense. That’s particularly true if you plan to start your morning on Sunset Boulevard with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror and then ride Toy Story Mania later in the day. On the other hand, if you plan to start with Toy Story Mania and visit Sunset Boulevard later in the morning when it’s convenient to see Beauty and the Beast and have lunch at Sunset Ranch Market then RnR/ToT are better FP+ selections.
Point: .6 points to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and .4 points to Toy Story Mania
The Toy Story queue is going to be a lot more pleasant in most situations. It’s indoors, air-conditioned, and there’s a variety of things to look at while you wait. At Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, 90%+ of the standby queue is outdoors with the extended portion uncovered with precious little to look at other than your phone and concrete. Most of us would probably take the air-conditioning. Thus, the nod again goes to using FastPsas+ at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and if you have to, enduring standby at Toy Story at some point during the day.
Reliability (and wait times)
Historically, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is less reliable than Toy Story Mania and goes down more often. If a ride goes down during your FastPass+ window, you (should) receive an email/notification in the app that you can then return to that attraction or a selection of other attractions at any point later in the day so long as the ride begins operating again. Rides that go down for an extended period of time typically see much higher standby waits once they reopen because so much more capacity is given to all those FP+ users returning later. Using FastPass+ protects you from those longer-than-anticipated standby waits, in addition to being locked out of an attraction that is unexpectedly closed.
Here’s a look at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster waits over the last month or so. Each blank space represents about 15 minutes of Disney closing the standby queue for downtime:
Uptime here is actually pretty good with the ride going down on “just” 7 of 25 days. The 48-minute average wait at 9:30am is one of the reasons why the website’s touring plan was reconfigured to not rely on standby after first riding Toy Story Mania. But with so many instances of 70+ minute posted waits and the 65-minute overall average, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is pretty clearly a ride that you don’t want to experience in standby unless you’re going first or last thing. At 10:30am, the wait is 70 minutes or higher over half the time.
Since we’ll be comparing Toy Story Mania’s wait times to last year, here’s Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster over the same dates in 2015:
While the ride experienced downtime on 11 of 25 dates last year, the overall average wait comes in exactly the same at 65 minutes. This is still a relatively small sample size even though it’s a lot of numbers in a chart, but it does seem to indicate that posted wait times are similar year over year.
Now for 2016 Toy Story over the same dates:
The overall wait at Toy Story Mania is 18 minutes shorter than Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at “just” 47 minutes and there are just three instances of the overall average being over 60 minutes and none over 65. At Roller Coaster, the overall average wait is 60 or more minutes in 41 boxes, or more than ten hours out of a 12.5 hour day. So just based on wait times, using FP+ at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster will save you more time at virtually any part of the day.
One interesting thing is the spike in wait times towards the end of the day, which is due to Disney closing the third track at 6pm. Waits do drop at the very end of the night as most people are interested in seeing Fantasmic or the Star Wars Fireworks. Those interested in riding Toy Story as many times as possible will want to look at that last hour when actual waits should be even shorter than indicated.
And one interesting phenomenon is how often the ride shuts down completely, indicating that it doesn’t quite operate as independently as Soarin’, where one of the theaters will sometimes close for one reason or another while the attraction continues admitting standby riders.
Compare this year’s 47-minute overall average with last year’s over the same dates:
With a 50% increase in overall capacity and only a slight uptick in the number of FastPass+ experiences distributed each hour, much more capacity is now given to standby. And thus, wait times are down 34 minutes this year or 41.9%.
So as to not ignore it completely, here’s a look at Great Movie Ride wait times from July 15th – August 8th 2016, the same dates as the other charts. The 24-minute average wait by 10am and 30-minute wait at 10:30am might be surprising, particularly when waits are shorter later in the day when you might assume that higher crowds lead to higher waits. But with Disney running the ride at a reduced capacity early and late in the day, we see longer waits even with lower demand. But it is somewhat shocking to see 30+ minute waits from 6:15pm to 8:15pm, which are some of the longest of the day, thanks to Disney reducing the number of vehicles on the track so severely.
So at this time last year, Toy Story Mania was pretty clearly the best Tier 1 FastPass+ choice with an 81-minute average wait compared to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster’s 65-minute average. This year, it’s 65 minutes at RnR versus 47 minutes at Toy Story versus 27 minutes at Movie Ride. And with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster being less likely to have availability as a 4th FastPass+ and offering a less pleasant standby experience, there seems to be a pretty obvious shift in priority.
Point: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
One other thing worth mentioning is the single rider line at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, which the website does not typically endorse using. The main reason is that you don’t know how many people are going to be in front of you in line until after walking the entire queue, seeing the pre-show, and then waiting in the load area. The wait could be anywhere from a handful of minutes to longer than the posted standby wait. And the more attractive getting in single rider is, the more attractive it’s going to be to everybody else, particularly when posted waits are 60+ minutes. The website does typically recommend single rider at Everest because waits are typically short and you can gauge how many people are in line before committing. And it also recommends single rider at Test Track because the seating configuration benefits single riders as parties of two and four are both placed alongside one or two single riders.
So you may or may not want to reconsider your Tier 1 FastPass+ choice. Toy Story Mania still makes sense in some situations and will still save you a considerable amount of time in the afternoon. But with Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster FP+ saving more time and with the attraction offering a less pleasant experience in standby, it should be the clear priority.