Our visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the morning of Wednesday, February 19th, 2020, now comes to its stunning conclusion. On paper, my day has gone great so far. I’ve been able to accomplish:
- Slinky Dog Dash: 8am – 8:06am
- Alien Swirling Saucers: 8:08am – 8:20am
- Star Tours: 8:32am – 9:03am
The picture on the ground is a little less pretty. We continue to see an unprecedented number of people arriving before Park opening with little more than their backpacks and the dream of acquiring a guaranteed boarding group for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. There are typically fewer than 65 such boarding groups, and snagging one will take a combination of quick fingers, sound refreshing, and a little bit of luck as those groups fill in their entirety in about 30 seconds every morning. To see how the boarding group signup process went, see Part One of this series. Part Two continues with a look at the incredible Toy Story Land crowds with a stop at Star Tours, our last hope of sneaking into a ride in standby and not waiting over an hour.
Fortunately, what we see today is not the Studios’ final form.
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway opens on March 4th, and will siphon a couple of thousand people away from the other attractions at any given point during the day. With fewer people in line elsewhere, wait times should go down.
While the Walt Disney Company has never made more money, and prices have never been higher, everyone has a budget. It wouldn’t surprise me if somebody was looking at the numbers, and how much it’s going to cost to operate the Runaway Railway, and had to cut enough things to balance the checkbook given the higher operating costs.
Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that the Railway will match the massive capacity of The Great Movie Ride. I’m not a particularly nostalgic person, but the fact that the Studios’ signature attraction had to close to make way for a new ride with a lower capacity seems relatively preposterous. Supposedly, they have no land out at Disneyland, but they’re still managing to add the same ride, while only closing a couple of secondary attractions to do so. You would think that the Railway building would have fit on the periphery somewhere around the Studios, particularly with the Streets of America demolition that was already underway with the attachment of Galaxy’s Edge to what is now Grand Avenue.
Anyway, the point is that what we’re seeing today is basically the worst case scenario, with heavy crowds from Presidents Day Weekend continuing, truncated operating hours, and a roster of attractions that’s one short of what we’ll end up seeing in just about ten days. The one question that remains is how long the boarding group system for Rise of the Resistance will continue, before Disney runs the guest satisfaction numbers, and realizes that the hundreds of people waiting in line to talk to a Guest Experience Team cast member at 8:01am are not there to compliment them on the pleasant blue tone of their polo shirts.
I don’t expect the Railway to be a significant driver of additional morning crowds. The people are there for Rise of the Resistance, and after being successful or being disappointed during the boarding group signup process, a similar number of people will then look for something else to do.
The theater that will house the Mickey Shorts Theater is also expected to open on March 4th, which will also give us something to do in the morning, assuming that it opens with the Park. Here, you’ll be able to watch a Mickey Mouse cartoon or two in a similar style to the animation at the Railway, including at least one exclusive short titled, “Vacation Fun.” I’m guessing Hollywood Studios will not be their destination.
As we take a moment to put on our ConcreteViewer glasses, there is an awful lot of it as we head towards Sunset Boulevard to use our pre-booked FastPass+ at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. As busy as it is, peak spring break will be worse. Never take a view of the ground for granted. It could very easily be someone else’s shoes instead.
With a 95-minute wait for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and an 85-minute wait for Tower of Terror, we should be able to save a couple of hours in line with our FP+, even this early in the morning.
Of course, the standby waits on Sunset could also be inflated, like what we saw at Star Tours. The posted wait there went up to 50 minutes after I waited just about ten minutes to board my Starspeeder. Still, as it gets later in the day, and more people with FastPass+ priority arrive, actual standby waits will increase. Part of our plan of attack is to beat as many FastPass+ returners as possible, which we were able to do at Slinky Dog, Alien Swirling Saucers, and Star Tours. Come 9am, there aren’t a lot of places to hide. At least the Olaf meet has opened and the Toy Story characters have come out since it’s now 9:07am. You might remember that a number of characters, including Woody, Jessie, Buzz, Olaf, Mickey, and Minnie now come out at 9am, which is a departure from what we’ve seen for years, when those characters first appeared at Park open.
When we passed by Toy Story Mania before 8:30am, I mentioned that the 60-minute posted wait might be optimistic, given the fact that the “End of Line” sign was already out and the extended outdoor queue was filling. We now see 105 minutes posted there. Slinky’s wait has actually dropped by 15 minutes, to a mere 2.5 hours, so we have that going for us. While arriving at the Studios at 6:15am is not where anyone wants to be on a Wednesday morning, I saved more time than I waited for the Park to open after just one attraction. If I arrived at 7:15am instead, my first stop would have to be a lower priority, like Toy Story Mania or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. There would be no opportunity to experience Smugglers Run or Slinky Dog with a wait shorter than a couple of hours, plus however long you’re also waiting for the Park to open, should you arrive after 7am with an 8am open.
While I was never the world’s biggest fan of the “Star Wars: A Galaxy, Far, Far Away” show, it was a nice opportunity to see a dozen Star Wars characters without having to wait more than a minute or two near the stage. It was also fun to catch the characters walking to and from the stage via the walkway to Animation Courtyard. The show also occupied the time of a couple hundred people, which is always good on a busy day like today. Unfortunately, that show has also been canceled for the foreseeable future. We lost the March of the First Order, led by Captain Phasma, back when Galaxy’s Edge opened. Considering we’re on the brink of spring break, it doesn’t make sense to cancel the show now, only to bring it back in a month for the Easter crowds. You might remember that the Muppets Present show at Magic Kingdom was closed last year, only for Disney to bring it back during Christmas and Presidents Day Weekend. That show requires far fewer cast members than the Star Wars show here. We’ll see what the future holds.
The Guest Experience Team takes a divide and conquer approach to trying to fix people’s problems, probably in an effort to minimize cross-contamination. They don’t want you to know what other people are getting for their troubles or you may make similar demands after you hear someone got Park Hoppers added for the day so they can go wait two for Frozen Ever After instead. We would all potentially also prefer a little privacy instead of having to tell our story to an expanded audience. There are so many people in line that this walkway has to be roped off as security, uniformed and not, watches the progression intently.
We’ll take a left on Sunset Boulevard up ahead. In unrelated news, you’ll want to be sure that you can pick up your significant other before trying to do so in front of thousands of people at the PhotoPass station.
What is now known as the Legends of Hollywood is getting a face lift. This is a good spot to check out the Pandora charms, along with some of Disney’s other “high end” merchandise.
Things aren’t unreasonable on Sunset Boulevard. Typically, if you see a crush of people here, it’s because a Beauty and the Beast show just let out, or Fantasmic! is nearing.
Imagine if you too had a vehicle inside Hollywood Studios so you could leave that much faster. *honk honk*
While the wait time at Star Tours was inflated, it isn’t at Tower of Terror, where the line stretches back outside the queue and around the FastPass+ kiosks.
There’s the least popular Guest Experience Team umbrella as we head to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. I see at least three pleasantly-toned blue polos aiding guests, compared to the four that were out at Hollywood Boulevard. If you do run into an issue, it’s worth seeking out one of the less popular umbrellas. The line is about three groups long, compared to the 25+ that are currently waiting on Hollywood Boulevard. You may even want to time one of your FastPass+ experiences so that you’re passing by here early in the morning. Make the whole thing that much more convenient.
Despite carrying the world’s widest rectilinear zoom lens, I’m still not able to capture both the entrance and the end of the line for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
Well, maybe if we zoom out.
That’s a 110-minute wait at 9:20am, which is just ten minutes shy of two hours, despite the hour and ten minutes that you’ll hear people quoting.
The woman who had the misfortune of being paired with me from the single rider line quoted her wait as being around an hour. That’s better than two hours.
With FastPass+, I was in the pre-show in eight minutes, despite arriving hours after those still struggling in standby.
That’s why their wait is so long.
Things will not get any better out here anytime soon. With FastPass+, my total experience time was less than 19 minutes, which is below average. They were definitely filling the pre-show and ride vehicles with a high ratio of FP+ returners to standby, despite the long line. Hence, the long line.
Even at 7:45pm, with just 15 minutes to Park close, the posted wait for Aerosmith was still 60 minutes, though the actual wait should be less than half of that if you get in line at the very end of the night. Back to what’s happening now, Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy used to open with the Park, but the first show is now after 10am. About 20 people were waiting to rope drop it over there on the right at 9:40am. There’s another attraction that could seat a few hundred people right now that isn’t open.
As expected, things had gotten even worse at Tower of Terror, as people are in line for the ride on our left.
I’ve timed things so that I can head over here to use FastPass+ immediately after Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
The 95-minute posted wait might be optimistic. I’d be surprised if these people don’t wait over two hours.
The line for FastPass+ was backed up a bit due to some guest confusion closer to the front.
The steady stream of FP+ returners, arriving long after all of these standby riders, will keep posted waits high all day.
I’ll be inside the pre-show in eight minutes, which is a little longer than usual. Still, considering I was originally backed up to here, that’s pretty good. And another indication that the vast majority of the ride’s capacity is going to FastPass+.
I arrived at 9:45am, and was back out front at 10:08am, for a total experience time of 23 minutes, which isn’t bad at all. It looks like the FastPass+ return line is legitimately backed up near the entrance now. Things will only get worse.
And the ride is now sporting the 2-hour wait that we speculated was the reality of the situation.
It’s 10:10am, which means I have 15 minutes until my Smugglers Run FastPass+ opens:
With most attractions, you can arrive up to five minutes before, and up to fifteen minutes after, the FastPass+ return time. The FastPass+ touchpoint will light up green, exactly like it would if you had arrived within the stated hour-long return window. Should you ever show up later than that, have a screenshot of your FastPass+ selections ready, or your app out, and show it to the cast member at the front of the return line. In most scenarios, they’ll let you on. If they don’t, a Guest Experience Team or Guest Services cast member should be able to assist you by adding a FP+ back to your account. Good excuses for why you might be late include transportation issues, an unexpectedly long wait at your previous attraction, being seated at a table service restaurant late, needing to return a child who isn’t feeling well to the resort, and that sort of thing. You can also tell them that you were reading an easywdw.com post that said it would take about ten minutes to read, but was so boring and included so many of the same pictures that it actually took you three days to get through.
We may see this snack cart move back over to what will become the exit to Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway after the ride opens. I’m not sure which location provides more visibility.
Both Slinky Dog Dash and Toy Story Mania were down for periods of time throughout the morning, which is increasing pressure on other attractions, and probably part of the reason why we saw so many people using FastPass+ at Tower of Terror.
Despite being 80+ degrees, it was not a particularly sunny day. There might be a little blue sky up there.
We’re heading back towards Star Tours with a lot more people than what we saw before 9am.
The posted wait for Star Tours is up 20 minutes from what we saw earlier, to 65 minutes.
With the extended queue much fuller, and far more guests arriving with FastPass+ priority, they’re looking at 45+ minutes in line, with the likelihood that the actual wait will approach that hour-plus.
You don’t have to tell your kids that this isn’t Rise of the Resistance.
I’m heading into Galaxy’s Edge to use my Smugglers Run FastPass+.
The standby line for Muppet*Vision was backed up outside the attraction as guests circle around the extended outdoor queue on the right.
They are using the extended outdoor queue for muppet*vision before 1030am which seems bad pic.twitter.com/DcYruQufY0
— josh (@easywdw) February 19, 2020
If the show had opened before 10am, hundreds or thousands of people would have been able to enjoy it already. Instead, those at the back of the line may need to wait through a full show before it’s their turn to even go inside to the indoor pre-show area.
Operations have improved at Rise of the Resistance over the last couple of days, with the ride averaging closer to 13 boarding groups per hour. Last week, they were making it through about seven boarding groups per hour, on average. Downtime is what causes fewer boarding groups to be called.
Despite heavy crowds and long lines elsewhere, traversing Galaxy’s Edge isn’t difficult with these wide walkways.
The Droid Depot was threatening a 2-hour wait. The experience is relatively quick, but considering they also take reservations, the standby wait may actually approach that. You can make a reservation for the Droid Depot in advance online here. Rise of the Resistance has increased the popularity of all of the experiences inside Galaxy’s Edge. Before Rise opened, it wasn’t uncommon to see Droid Depot empty. Reservations for Savi’s Workshop are available here and Oga’s Cantina reservations may be booked here. If you know you want to do any of those, make a reservation.
A lot of people appeared to think that Kylo Ren was about to come out. This is basically the last Star Wars “show” in the Park.
There seemed to be some “unofficial” switchbacks in the Smugglers Run queue, probably in an attempt to keep the line from running back past Oga’s Cantina and towards Toy Story Land.
The posted wait time was 125 minutes at 10:31am. Potentially, the good news is that it’s unlikely that Disney is currently releasing the maximum number of FastPass+ experiences for Smugglers Run. Instead, we’re seeing fewer FP+ distributed per hour, so Disney can get a real world look at how it affects waits and hourly throughput. At some point, Disney will likely release more Smugglers Run FastPass+, even for days that are coming up in the near future. We saw that at Frozen Ever After and Flight of Passage, among others.
The FastPass+ line runs to the left of standby to start. I’ve scanned my MagicBand on the right touchpoint here.
You won’t be quite as close to the Millennium Falcon as standby, or spend nearly as much time circling it, but you’ll still have a good view. And personally, I’m willing to give up the best view of an element that I can also see from outside the queue in order to save a couple of hours in line.
The ramp up to the pre-show is similar to the one that you’ll find in standby.
You’ll get a few glimpses of what’s being worked on inside Ohnaka Transport Solutions.
The indoor queue for Smugglers is neat, but not wait-in-line-two-plus-hours neat. It is potentially worth seeing over the Slinky Dog queue, but it still wouldn’t be the driving force in my decision to rope drop it instead of using FastPass+.
FastPass+ users merge with standby just before the pre-show with Hondo. As you can see ahead, only two people are waiting to turn the corner into the pre-show, versus the thousands who are currently waiting in standby. Single rider remains an option here, with waits that are typically under 15 minutes, but you do miss all of the pre-shows and there’s a high probability that you’ll be placed in the engineer role, which is arguably the lamest position. Ideally, you’d be able to walk the full standby queue and ride with a short wait, but that will only be possible if you arrive by 6:15am and hurry over to the holding area on Grand Avenue, or get in line last thing at night, when the actual wait should be around a half hour. Of course, if you get in line last thing here, it means that you can’t also do that at Slinky Dog Dash, where actual waits are also usually under a half hour. You’d also be giving up the opportunity to see Fantasmic! or the Star Wars Fireworks on that evening.
With FastPass+, Smugglers Run should take about 25 minutes, regardless of how long the standby queue/wait is.
I had to hurry over to the Regal Eagle Smokehouse opening at Epcot. The first phase of Galaxy’s Edge opened on the same day that the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot started. Now, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway opens on the first day of the Flower and Garden Festival. Regal Eagle opened on the same day that Smugglers Run added FastPass+. The world would be much worse off with two of me, but sometimes it would be nice to send myself to the first day of two things at two different Parks. New things or not, the posted wait just to enter Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities is 120 minutes. I’m not sure why – the wait shouldn’t be longer than a handful of minutes with 25 people in line. They probably just want you to go buy a $9 Blue Milk instead. Still, this may be the first time that Disney has actively dissuaded guests from heading into a gift shop.
At 10:45am, things remain calm outside Galaxy’s Edge. Despite the popularity of Rise of the Resistance, and the 2+ hour waits at Smugglers Run, the Land has still not closed to capacity since opening day.
We’re passing by the Mickey Shorts Theater on our left before we arrive at the Hyperion Theater where the Frozen Sing-Along is staged.
If you’re interested in signing up the kids for Jedi Training, then I’d try to get over to the signup location in between 50’s Prime Time Cafe and the entrance to Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular before 9:30am. Here at 10:45am, all spots are filled. It’s rare that spots fill up so early these days, but it’s possible that people are prioritizing it again given a lack of other things to do with manageable waits.
Incoming crowds are light as waits have peaked around the Park.
Cast members could basically be in place holding these signs at 8:00am, count to 30, and then drop them. That’s all the time you’ve got with the 8am opens and 10+ thousand people in the Park vying for a very limited number of boarding groups. Disney continues to close the Park at 8pm despite it. We also haven’t seen a 7am open in a month with none currently scheduled in the future. Some of the heaviest crowds of the year are on their way next month and into April.
Look at all of these empty parking spaces. It can always be worse. In a few weeks, I’ll probably be talking about how nice Presidents Day Weekend was and how the waits for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror were a mere two hours at 9:15am.
That’s a lot of cars too, plus all of the people who are arriving on the boats, gondolas, buses, and walkways. I get shot over in a catapult.
Overall, my short day ended up going well. I was able to accomplish:
- Slinky Dog Dash: 8am – 8:06am
- Alien Swirling Saucers: 8:08am – 8:20am
- Star Tours: 8:32am – 9:03am
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with FastPass+: 9:21am – 9:39am
- Tower of Terror with FastPass+: 9:45am – 10:08am
- Smugglers Run: 10:31am – 11am (theoretical)
The only ride I haven’t done is Toy Story Mania. I would either need to refresh FastPass+ availability now to try to poach someone else’s cancelled/changed FastPass+, or return after 7pm, when waits have had an opportunity to drop. My Rise of the Resistance boarding group was called at 3:50pm, which isn’t bad either.
We’ll have some more insight into Hollywood Studios as we rope drop Smugglers Run in front of the Runaway Railway opening.