September 10th’s update is available here.
After a couple days filled with details about the festive seasons fast approaching, we don’t have a tremendous amount of news to impart today. The Operating Hours section does have an opportunity to shine with the release of the Thanksgiving schedule and Epcot not opening until noon during Festival of the Holidays. If I was in charge of operating a glorified food court, I would probably be open for at least lunch or dinner. The Disney Parks Blog didn’t post a single story, which means we can’t even capitalize on a clutch copy/paste. Must be nice to take the day off.
Cinderella’s Royal Table is set to reopen on September 24th without the princesses on hand. As an aging single adult male who is relatively terrified of princess interactions, and in turn terrifies princesses, this may be a good opportunity to see the inside of the restaurant without having to awkwardly pretend that Blair from Milwaukee is actually Princess Aurora for 45 seconds before sending her on her way to a table that is likely much more excited to meet her. The price break isn’t nearly as good as the currently-characterless Chef Mickey’s, where the price just about dropped in half after Mickey and the gang returned to the safety of the kitchen, but you will save a few dollars. The price will be $62/adult and $37/child for both lunch and dinner, down from $75/adult and $45/child when you could expect four college students to meet tableside. Probably not coincidentally, the new pricing matches that of Be Our Guest Restaurant across the way. Neither restaurant currently offers breakfast.
Also like Be Our Guest, the restaurant accepts reservations through 6:55pm with the Park currently closing at 6pm. I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do in between those two times. As always, you can get in line for any operating attraction up to a second before the Park officially closes. You could end the night by getting in line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and then slowly crab walk over to check in to the restaurant after. I would recommend Splash Mountain to close out the day, a longer ride that’s further away, but you may not want to show up to the restaurant in wet shorts, even if Madison from Modesto dressed up like Jasmine isn’t there to judge you for it.
You can pull up the full menu here. Unless you’re headed for that Beef Tenderloin, the price point looks rough. I’m as big of a chickpea enthusiast as the next guy who hasn’t eaten a vegetable in three weeks, but unless the price of Chive Powder has gone up while we weren’t paying attention, it’s hard to justify paying the same price for a vegetarian meal as one with steak as the main course.
We covered the reopening of Narcoosee’s yesterday. Here’s that menu:
There, the vegetarian entree is $20 less than the steak. It’s not unusual for vegetarians to get hosed at fixed price meals, but you can usually justify at least part of the tax on the character interaction. With Blair and Madison at home on the couch, that’s a little less true.
And it looks worse for kids considering the lack of princesses. Thirty-seven dollars for macaroni and cheese is going to be hard for most people to justify. Considering the restaurant’s intrinsic popularity, and what will be limited seating, they’ll likely be able to fill the place up at this price point. You would potentially benefit from a peaceful walk out of the Park after dinner, but you can typically hang out on Main Street until the last guest clears anyway.
Average waits continue to go up at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, though we can attribute today’s rise almost entirely to the longer averages at DINOSAUR and TriceraTop Spin. Ninety minutes of downtime in the afternoon at DINOSAUR is likely part of the reason for the longer waits there, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen anything much longer than five minutes at the Indiana Jones clone on a weekday.
Here’s a look at DINOSAUR’s wait times so far this month with Labor Day Weekend in red:
DINOSAUR saw a similar amount of downtime the day before and had an average wait that was about nine minutes lower. The ride could have simply been posting an exaggerated wait or could have been down to just one loading bay after reopening. But whatever the reason, that’s largely why we see the longer average at Animal Kingdom.
Here’s the daily chart of averages filled in:
Like the Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday that came before it, Friday’s average was either the same or higher than any previous average for that day of the week. That’s shorter hours and higher attendance for you, likely with some amount of staffing reductions. It’s supposed to be a wet weekend, so we may see lower waits than usual on Saturday and Sunday.
Test Track managed to have a great day of operation after a few straight days of being down for 3+ hours. It looks to only go down for a half hour when lightning is in the area around the usual time. Frozen’s 85-minute posted waits are the longest we’ve seen in a while, pulling the overall average up to 43 minutes. Outside of that, and some longer waits at Gran Fiesta Tour, it looks like your typical weekday.
Onto Hollywood Studios:
It’s probably always a rough day at Hollywood Studios, but it was on several different fronts today.
Smells like smoke at Smugglers Run and the fire alarm went off pic.twitter.com/hery1b6slC
— Nick Simmons (@nisimmo) September 11, 2020
Apparently, Disney evacuated Smugglers Run due to a fire alarm going off. The ride continued to post a wait time and guests were basically allowed to get right back in line, so it wasn’t anything serious. There is some inherent danger in stealing coaxium on behalf of a character you’ve never heard of. The average wait for Smugglers ended up being just two minutes longer than the day before.
At least as far as operations are concerned, things were worse at Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, which was down for an hour at Park open, then for about 45 minutes in the afternoon and again in the early evening. But even then, the average wait was just two minutes longer than the day before. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Slinky Dog Dash, and Tower of Terror also went down. And Rise of the Resistance didn’t open until 50 minutes after the Park opened and went down multiple times throughout the day, eventually making it through a below-average number of boarding groups.
Here’s the chart of daily averages:
Ultimately, the Studios saw its longest waits of any Friday yet and were about 20% above-average. They were also longer than any day over Labor Day Weekend.
And Magic Kingdom:
Waits were relatively high at Magic Kingdom too with its 19.4-minute average wait 23% higher than the day before.
Here are the daily averages since the Park reopened:
Waits were the longest of any Friday yet and longer than the first four Saturdays and first six Sundays. That’s not ideal considering you would expect waits to be shorter now that we’re not headed into a holiday weekend. But with shorter operating hours and the likelihood that Disney has increased the Park’s capacity, waits rise. Somebody may need to remind Disney that their Parks aren’t a limited edition Star Wars figurine of a character who never actually appeared on-screen. You can raise supply as demand increases. Instead, we’ve got shorter hours and more people.
The fact that it’s September may be irrelevant considering people’s propensity to visit during the traditional summer months was even lower than usual. We’ll still have to see how things look next week as we’ll be a full week removed from the holiday weekend, but the fact that each of the past seven days saw the highest average wait for that day of the week doesn’t bode well. You’ll remember that the same was true at Animal Kingdom. Waits do remain short, but if you run down the list at noon, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to wait less than 20 minutes. Pirates of the Caribbean is hitting a 50-minute wait at 10:45am. The Barnstormer and Dumbo might be five minutes all day, but you can only go around and around for 32 to 90 seconds so many times. The upwards trend isn’t a positive one when you’re the person in a 40-minute line for it’s a small world at 12pm. “Disney is a business” though. An astute observation indeed.
It’s probably not a coincidence that waits are rising the same week that Disney cut the operating hours by 20% at Animal Kingdom and Epcot and 10% at Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom. We’ll continue to keep a close eye on things.
Current Disney Park Pass System Availability
Theme Park Tickets Guests and Disney Resort Guests can book any Park on any date with the exception of the Monday of Thanksgiving Week, which is currently showing no availability for Hollywood Studios more than two months in advance. Passholders also enjoy more availability than we’ve seen before. Considering Park Pass availability is greater at the same time that wait times are higher seems to point conclusively to elevated Park capacities.
Disney isn’t opening Gaston’s Tavern, Cinderella’s Royal Table, and more without also increasing the number of people allowed to enter. The whole point of opening those things is to increase the number of people that can “safely” be in the Park. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be much of a reason to open them considering the short lines at quick services and the amount of same-day reservations for the restaurants that are already open.
Disney also further unblocked cast member entry from Sundays through Fridays at the Parks that aren’t Hollywood Studios, which will only push attendance higher. Tens of thousands of cast members are still furloughed. I might visit a Park in between looking for another job too.
Operating Hour Changes
Yesterday we guessed that Disney would release operating hours for the week of Thanksgiving and that turned out to be the case.
Here are the new hours and changes at Magic Kingdom:
You may remember a couple of days ago when Disney announced that holiday-themed projections would replace the Dream Lights on Cinderella Castle this year beginning on November 6th. Since it’s difficult to see projections in daylight, it makes sense that Disney would extend the close to accommodate the show beginning on the 6th.
The hours during Thanksgiving Week, from November 22nd to 28th, are unprecedentedly short. That’s not necessarily a big surprise considering there’s a “safe” number of guests that can be inside the Park at any given time. Unless Disney is going to stagger when guests are allowed to enter the Park, and then potentially force them to leave at some point later, there is no way to raise that “safe” number compared to a day that would naturally have much less demand. Potentially, longer hours would mean more capacity, but you’ll still have a similar peak number of people present in the early afternoon, whether the close is 7pm or 1am. There would just be very few people there after 10pm. Disney knows this, which is why they’ve shortened hours so much in recent years.
Really, the only way I could see longer hours working would be to basically cut the day into two seven or eight hour halves and clear it in between. Half of the people would be eligible to visit from 7am to 3pm, and the other half from 4pm to 12am. But that would be a logistical nightmare and one that likely wouldn’t appeal to most people. Disney also isn’t going to open the resorts that are currently shuttered, which includes the All-Stars, Port Orleans, and a host of Deluxes, for just one busy week. So 9am to 7pm may well be it.
While we don’t have any updates to the Epcot hours that Disney released, it looks like the Park will be open from 12pm to 8pm once the Festival of the Holidays starts on November 27th:
Currently, Saturday, November 28th is as far out as the hours go. Considering Epcot has operated from 9am to 9pm for 99.9% of this website’s lifetime, seeing the 11am to 7pm hours take over was strange enough. Seeing the Park open just in time for lunch is even weirder. I would expect those 12pm to 8pm hours to continue from November 28th through the end of the year. The New Year’s Eve festivities are likely off, but a lot can obviously happen in 3.5 months, as we’ve already seen a couple of times this year.
At Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, the current hours continue through the week of Thanksgiving. That puts Animal Kingdom open from 9am to 5pm and Hollywood Studios from 10am to 7pm. All of these hours are very much subject to change, but that may only happen if the Parks’ capacities can be raised an appreciable amount. There’s certainly room to do so considering the number of stores, restaurants, quick services, shows, etc. currently shuttered. If the Studios was running Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Frozen Sing-Along, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, and other things, then you could theoretically “fit” thousands more people inside. The same is true with Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo the Musical in the lineup.
But demand and safety will come into play on all fronts. Disney isn’t going to hire people, rework shows, or prepare theaters for a week’s worth of performances. Remember, they are a business! What we have now is likely what we’ll get for at least the rest of the year.
You can pull up Disney’s official list of hours for the month of November here.
Interesting Things From Around the Internet
Making fun of TouringPlans is almost like shooting fish in a bathtub. I almost feel bad about it. Here’s part of their “deep data dive:”
It doesn’t seem to matter how fast a Park sells out of reservations in regards to crowds or wait times. If you’re going to an Elton John concert at Madison Square Garden, whether they sell all 20,789 tickets in three seconds or three months doesn’t really matter so long as all the tickets are sold. Every seat is still going to be filled. Likewise, if Magic Kingdom distributes 25,000 Park Passes per day, it doesn’t matter if those spots are reserved well in advance or the day before. You’ve still got the same 25,000 people in the Park. A sell out is a sell out. Nonetheless, that’s the conclusion, even if the coefficient of determination numbers are apparently .000 for half the charts that start off their own examples.
They also have every Park on every day as a “1” during this two-week stretch in October:
Considering how much variance in wait times that we’ve seen from day to day in our own analysis, this does not seem to be particularly useful information. At Magic Kingdom, wait times on Saturdays are more than 58% higher than Wednesdays, on average. You would think that you would want to relay this information to your paying customers rather than classifying every day as being the same. But they are more intelligent than I am, so I guess we have to defer to the experts in Smart Travel. You can pull up their full “data dive” here. Just be prepared to have your resort towel on hand to dry off after. At least we know what to expect from the quality going in.
That should get you caught up with the day.