You can pull up September 11th’s update here.
There is no critical news to pass along from over the weekend. A couple more kiosks and quick services are beginning to open around property. Hollywood Scoops, as part of Sunset Ranch Market at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, reopened on Sunday, September 13th. I’m taking this picture from right outside the Tower of Terror, with the entrance to the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster courtyard directly to my right. At least, that’s where I think I am based on the angle of the sun. Rosie’s All-American Cafe and Anaheim Produce, also part of Sunset Ranch Market, reopened with the Park. Catalina Eddie’s and Fairfax Fare remain closed. If you’re looking for an open-air seating area, Sunset Ranch Market is a good bet.
Like most outlets that have reopened, the menu at Hollywood Scoops is more limited than what we’ve seen in the past. We don’t see the Apple Crisp a la Mode:
Hopefully your family didn’t take their Christmas card pictures while clutching one of the sundaes every year, or I’ll have to Photoshop the Apple Crisp in for you. That is one of the services I provide. I started taking my Christmas card pictures in front of the wall leading to the Space 220 Restaurant at Epcot, since it seems like a safe bet that it will be up for a while.
It’s slightly curious that Disney would choose to keep closed one of its main ice cream outlets during two of the hottest months of the year in one of the busiest areas of the Park, but the interior of Hollywood Scoops is on the small side. They were likely working out some logistics with getting it going and there’s always the Mickey Ice Cream Bar.
I have a number of lenses in my arsenal.
I brought my zoom pic.twitter.com/4h7eQmDAvd
— josh (@easywdw) May 28, 2016
One of those lenses is this 3.5+ pound monstrosity. The minimum focusing distance is about four feet, which means you have to be standing at least four feet away from whatever you’re trying to take a picture of in order for the lens to focus on the object. Four feet would not ordinarily “feel” like that great of a distance, but it certainly does when you’re holding a camera that big in the middle of a crowded food court taking a picture of a very small sundae somewhere out on the horizon. People are just trying to eat their overcooked hamburgers and collect their tiny ketchup packets in peace. But the quality of the photo does speak for itself. It’s definitely ice cream.
Outside of that, there isn’t much else going on. At the end of this post, I’ll link you over to a look at some of the newly-reopened carnival games and the new plush prizes in DinoLand USA. Hopefully that is enough incentive to scan the following charts, which feature some of the longest wait times that we’ve seen since the Parks reopened.
Here’s Animal Kingdom’s chart from Saturday first:
This past Saturday’s waits were 19% higher than the Saturday that came before it, which you’ll remember was also during Labor Day Weekend. That’s historically the busiest weekend between the beginning of August and Columbus Day Weekend in October.
Here’s Sunday’s chart:
Sunday’s waits were the longest that we’ve seen since the Parks reopened with the 32.6-minute average and the return of triple digit waits at Avatar Flight of Passage. Yes, 150 minutes is 2.5 hours in line. The average for the day was 78 minutes.
Just a couple of days ago, we took a look at Flight of Passage’s average wait since the Park reopened through September 9th:
Unsurprisingly, the longest averages up to that point came over Labor Day Weekend, when Animal Kingdom sold out of Park Pass availability across all ticket segments. This past Saturday’s 60-minute average and Sunday’s 78-minute average obliterate anything that we’ve seen yet. Four Sundays ago, on August 16th, the average “felt” high at 31.9 minutes. Just within the past week or two, the average has been as low as 12 minutes. From August 31st through September 3rd, the daily average was under 14 minutes. That’s considerably less than 78 minutes.
Here’s the the chart of Animal Kingdom’s daily averages since the Park reopened:
Since Disney reduced Animal Kingdom’s operating hours by 20% on Tuesday, September 8th, we’ve seen the longest average wait for each particular day of the week since. In other words, this past Thursday saw longer waits than any previous Thursday. You would expect a bump given shorter hours, but there seemed to be so few people in the Park most days that it didn’t seem like the reduction would have this big of an impact. Saturday’s 31.1-minute average is over twice as long as it was just six Saturdays before. Sunday’s 32.6-minute average is over 40% higher than the holiday Sunday before it.
Back to Sunday’s chart:
It’s likely that Flight of Passage saw technical difficulties throughout the day that closed at least one theater and resulted in the 120+ minute waits that we were accustomed to seeing before the Parks closed in March. Still, the ride hits a 60+ minute wait just a half hour into the day. DINOSAUR, which has consistently been a 5-minute wait since reopening, posts a 55-minute peak wait, despite not going down during the day. That’s at 11am.
We took a look at DINO’s daily average just a couple of days ago too, with Labor Day Weekend highlighted in red:
This weekend’s averages, of 28+ minutes on Saturday and 33+ minutes on Sunday, destroy anything that we’ve previously seen. The average waits are also twice as long as Friday’s average and six times as long as several weekdays earlier in the same month. This is all just in the past two weeks. We’ll have to see if things return to much lower levels during the week, but Labor Day Weekend was certainly not as busy as Walt Disney World can get. Or, at least, wait times can be much higher given shorter operating hours.
Here’s Epcot on Saturday:
We were just coming off a good day at Test Track on Friday. On Saturday, it was down at Park open and only briefly came up before going back down for another hour. It also goes down for almost two hours in the late afternoon and evening. Test Track not opening with the Park explains the higher morning waits at Frozen and Mission: SPACE. Most of the people entering on that side of the Park would bypass the sim track and continue up to Norway. Soarin’ also hits an hour-wait at 1:30pm, which is just about as long as it’s gotten since the Park reopened. With the early 7pm close, Mission: SPACE doesn’t look to recover after some brief downtime, posting 30+ minutes for most of the night. Around 1pm, Gran Fiesta Tour posts a 40-minute wait. That may be the definition of “come back later.”
Sunday looks considerably better with Test Track operating throughout the day outside of a brief shutdown for lightning in the area during the usual time. Still, we see considerably longer waits at Frozen and Soarin’ than we have over the past several weeks. Even with a lower average than Saturday, the peaks aren’t that far off what we saw in the FastPass+ days before the March closure. We see 85 minutes at Test Track, 75 minutes at Frozen, 65 at Mission: SPACE, 50 at Soarin’, and even 30 minutes at Spaceship Earth. That’s all without FastPass+ bogging anything down.
Onto the Studios:
The 39.8-minute average is far and away the longest that we’ve seen since the Park reopened. It eclipses last Saturday’s holiday average by 58%. We see 45 minutes at Alien Swirling Saucers just 45 minutes into operation. Less than an hour into the day, Runaway Railway is at 90 minutes, Smugglers Run is at 80 minutes, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is at 45 minutes, Slinky Dog Dash is at 70 minutes, Star Tours is at 30 minutes, Tower of Terror is at 45 minutes, and Toy Story Mania is at 40 minutes. Those long waits persist for most of the day, with a 40-minute overall average continuing through 4:45pm, or just about two hours before close.
Rise of the Resistance had an abysmal weekend, averaging fewer than 40 boarding groups each day, or less than half of the average throughput.
This is in the midst of Disney reducing the operating hours, despite the Studios routinely selling out of Park Pass availability, particularly on weekends.
The 36-minute average is shorter than Saturday, but still longer than any other date since the Studios reopened. The 60-minute peak wait at Alien Swirling Saucers is almost certainly due to them going down to just one side, but the 90-minute peak at Runaway Railway, 80 minutes at Smugglers Run, 80 minutes at Slinky, 60 minutes at Star Tours, 50 minutes at Tower of Terror, and 45 minutes at Toy Story Mania aren’t that far removed from the beginning of the year when FastPass+ was in play and the Park’s attendance wasn’t capped at a number that it could actually hit.
Here’s the chart of daily average waits at the Studios with this past weekend highlighted in red at the end:
With Disney replenishing Park Pass availability for all three ticket segments for dates throughout the rest of September, and unblocking cast members every day but Saturday, it’s hard to imagine that the number of people Disney is letting into the Parks hasn’t increased this week. The Studios is open for one hour less, but seeing the average wait go from 25.2 minutes on a sold-out Saturday of a holiday weekend, to almost 40 minutes the following Saturday, certainly points to more people in line somewhere. They’re also arriving earlier with even longer waits that persist later into the evening.
If they’re not letting more people in, then either staffing was greatly reduced midweek, or posted waits are now exaggerated even more on a systematic basis. The latter sounds counter-intuitive considering you probably want to try to reassure people that things are going to be okay even if they are at Hollywood Studios. One way you can do that is with short posted waits. A bad way to do it would be to tell people that they’re about to wait 45 minutes for Alien Swirling Saucers.
Magic Kingdom, with the most attractions, offers the best glimpse into wait times, crowds, and staffing.
Saturday’s 27.7-minute average is the longest the Park has yet realized, and 19.9% higher than the holiday Saturday before it. The shorter hours certainly aren’t helping operations with “it’s a small world” posting a 55-minute peak wait and 40+ minutes almost all day from 11:15am onward. Things don’t get much better as you go down the list. We’ve got 60 minutes at Haunted Mansion, 45 at Buzz, 55 at Jungle Cruise, 55 at Peter Pan’s Flight, 45 at The Barnstormer, 40 at The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and 40 minutes for the Little Mermaid Ride, among other highs.
Sunday’s waits were actually higher.
Here’s a look at the chart of Magic Kingdom’s daily average waits since the Park reopened. You’ll have to use your imagination and pretend like the last two days are highlighted in red. The website’s art department quit mid-post:
Again, the weekend averages are the highest yet, with Saturday’s average going up 19.9% and Sunday’s average going up 10.2% versus the prior holiday weekend. Whether we chalk that up to the 10% reduction in hours, staffing cuts, or higher attendance, there’s no doubt that wait times are on the rise. On Tuesday, the first day with shorter hours, the average wait went up 55% compared to the week before. This is probably not a coincidence.
A lot of what the general public knows about Walt Disney World is probably still based on the national media reports from opening weekend, and the first couple of weekdays that the Parks reopened. Since that first week of reopening, Magic Kingdom’s wait times have more than doubled, on average, from 10.1 minutes to 20.7 minutes.
If you were basing how Magic Kingdom “felt” on that first Wednesday, with the 7.6-minute average wait, you can be sure that it would be a lot different than your takeaways based on this past Saturday or Sunday, when wait times were almost four times as long.
As I mentioned in the September 11th update, we were expecting some tropical rain to come in. That did not end up happening with little precipitation during Park hours. It looks like Saturday and Sunday nearly got away with no weather downtime.
Hopefully waits go down over the course of the week. As I’ve mentioned before, short waits are the one thing Walt Disney World has to offer at the moment with so much entertainment off the table. You could get me to Animal Kingdom at current pricing if I could ride Flight of Passage back to back without waiting more than a couple minutes. I’m much less likely to go if I’m going to have to wait 100 minutes to ride once and then not be able to see Festival of the Lion King or Finding Nemo the Musical after.
Here’s the Magic Kingdom chart from Sunday, September 13th, with 12pm highlighted:
There aren’t a lot of places to hide. That’s 50 minutes at it’s a small world. Astro Orbiter is down. Big Thunder is 75 minutes. The list goes on.
Things certainly aren’t trending positively at the moment with wait times that were considerably longer this weekend than last. Weekdays also saw the longest waits yet, despite it being September and getting further and further away from the holiday.
Considering the Parks were all “sell outs” last weekend, there are only a couple of explanations for why we’re now seeing higher waits. The shorter operating schedule is an obvious culprit. You’re basically trying to fit the same number of people into a smaller box. But it’s likely that Disney is also quietly increasing the number of people they let in. Weeks ago, when Disney first began reallocating Park Pass availability to Annual Passholders, they said that they weren’t increasing capacity at the same time. Someone might want to ask them again.
It’s hard to imagine that Disney would reopen Gaston’s Tavern and Cinderella’s Royal Table within a couple weeks of each other and not also increase the number of Park Passes that it distributes. Obviously, the opening of Hollywood Scoops at Hollywood Studios isn’t greatly increasing the Park’s actual capacity, but it would be an excuse to up the number of people they let inside.
It’s likely that the interim shows that Disney has already installed, like the Society Orchestra and Disney Junior bounce around, are also intended as a mechanism for Disney to increase capacity and the number of Park Passes it distributes each day. There might only be 25 people at a Society Orchestra show, but if the theater holds 300, even with physical distancing, you have a much higher theoretical Park capacity. Hollywood & Vine, the popular seasonal character meal, opens in a little more than a week. What are the chances that a hundred or more people will be dining there every hour, at the same time the number of people let into the Park is kept exactly the same?
Disney could even deny that capacity has been increased if they’re strictly talking about it in percentage-terms. If my restaurant holds 100 people, and I let 50 people in, then I’m operating at 50% capacity. If I open a new room, and my restaurant now holds 150 people, I can let 75 people in and still maintain the same 50% capacity. Thus, I haven’t technically increased capacity, even if there are now 25 more people dining around you. The problem comes when those extra 25 people aren’t interested in the new room and instead want to sit in the main dining room, just like they’re not interested in seeing the Disney Society Orchestra show and get in line for Slinky Dog Dash instead. If Disney wasn’t letting more guests in at the same time they were opening more things, wait times should go down as those things siphon people off.
Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that wait times are trending up. This Monday and Tuesday should offer insight into how the rest of the month will go with no holiday demand and what you would expect to be lean weekday crowds. We’ll see what happens.
Current Disney Park Pass System Availability
It looks to be another busy Saturday with the calendar currently showing no Park Pass availability for Theme Park Tickets Guests on Saturday the 19th. Theme Park Tickets Guests can book any Park on any other date in September or October.
Looking ahead to November, Hollywood Studios is already filling to capacity over the week of Thanksgiving.
Disney Park Pass availability for Disney Resort Guests is exactly the same as it is for Theme Park Tickets Guests. This Saturday is sold out and everything else is available outside of the Studios around Thanksgiving.
Here’s Passholder availability in September:
Weekends continue to look rough, but there is weekday availability across the ticket segments. Cast members are also unblocked outside of Saturdays and Hollywood Studios through the end of September.
You can pull up the live version of this calendar here. If you’re ready to actually book a Park Pass, then you’re better off attempting to do so through the reservation portal at DisneyWorld.com here. Disney’s version of the calendar does not update in real time and may only show availability if a large number of spots are open.
Operating Hour Changes
We have no changes to report since Disney released the operating schedule for the week of Thanksgiving last Friday. You can pull up the official hours on DisneyWorld.com here.
Interesting Things From Around the Internet
While we don’t have anything quite as exciting as linear regression models with conclusions that are exactly the opposite of what the data suggests, WDW News Today does bring us pictures of all the new prizes you can win at the two carnival games that just reopened in Dino-Rama.
Hopefully we’ll see wait times during the week drop to lower levels. You would expect demand to be lower with school back in session, the oppressive Florida heat, the ongoing health crisis, etc. Somebody on Twitter said that I should be more positive about higher wait times, so I guess I will take this opportunity to also say that it’s just great. You might not join me in my enthusiasm at the end of a 50-minute line for it’s a small world. But Disney is a business! High-res thinking indeed.
That should get you caught up with the day.