You can pull up September 13th’s update here.
Hopefully someone who works for the Disney Parks Blog gets called back into work sooner rather than later. It’s possible that building a business model around copy/pasting Parks Blog stories and reviewing mass-produced cupcakes exclusively available at the All-Star Sports for a total of eight hours was a poor life decision. News has been light since we covered the holiday happenings and discounts last week. By the time the All-Stars reopen, cricket will probably be America’s pastime and Disney will have to switch out Donald playing tennis for The Mandalorian playing FootGolf. You can pull up the full interview about Disney’s new book about monorails here. I’m not sure if I’ll be picking up a copy myself as the authors take a very different approach than this website, whose main goals are to intimidate and baffle. There is also only one question I would be interested in asking when it comes to “Making a Monorail.” When is the last time you made one? Talk about getting dunked on. I think it’s pretty obvious that I also don’t have $33.
Outside of that, DVC members now enjoy the same 30% savings on most Disney merchandise from most Disney-operated stores from now until October 29th, joining Annual Passholders. Florida residents also receive a 30% savings on the same stuff from Monday through Thursday. We covered the specifics of those discounts, and what they exclude, back on September 10th.
Other than that, most of the news should fit into one of the following categories.
All four Parks suffered their longest wait times yet over this past weekend, which was a full week removed from the Labor Day Holiday. Disney reduced Animal Kingdom’s operating hours from the 8am to 6pm that we saw from July 11th through September 7th to 9am to 5pm from September 8th onward about a month ago. Cutting hours, and in turn supply, is a big reason why wait times might go up. But it certainly didn’t explain the triple digit waits for Flight of Passage that seemed to come out of nowhere and other peak waits that were far higher than anything we’ve seen since March. The good news is that waits have come down considerably as we enter the workweek. Or what should be the workweek.
Here’s how the day fits in overall with the daily average for Animal Kingdom each day since reopening:
We could frame this in a couple of different ways. On the positive side of things, waits dropped by more than half from the previous day, which is further evidence that we don’t need to be nearly as concerned about weekday crowds and waits than what we see on the weekends. The average is also a big drop from the holiday Monday a week prior and its 23.8-minute average.
On the opposite side of the coin, the 16.1-minute average looks to be longer than any other weekday that we’ve seen thus far. Two weeks ago, we had a 10.4-minute average. That means in just two weeks, waits have risen 54.8%.
Pulling back up the chart with 1:30pm highlighted:
With the Park now opening at 9am, only one ride on Flight of Passage with a short wait is likely viable to start the day. The later open just gives too many people an opportunity to make it over to the Park and get in line, particularly if the rides aren’t going to start operating until right at 9am. While average waits for Na’vi River Journey continue to be longer than those at Flight of Passage, they also build slower, so getting over there for a shortish wait after Flight should be perfectly fine. That’s what we were used to being able to do in the FastPass+ days before the March closure, so little has changed there.
Even better, afternoon waits drop back down to the levels that we’ve been accustomed to seeing over the last two months. At 1:30pm, Flight is posted at ten minutes, with Na’vi River Journey as the only ride over 15 minutes. With cast only filling each River Journey boat with one party, we see a massive capacity decrease there, resulting in the longer waits. Disney also often adds extra time into the posted wait to account for the lengthy cleaning procedure, even if you won’t necessarily experience that 15 minutes of downtime yourself.
The only other potential touring strategy change that I would mention would be going to Asia or DinoLand after Pandora and save Kilimanjaro Safaris for after lunch. The posted wait there is still 15 minutes at 9:45am, but posted waits usually track about 15 minutes behind reality, so your actual wait if you were to get in line between 9:40am and 10am is probably about a half hour. By 2pm, you should wait less than ten minutes, with 15 or 20 posted to cover cleaning time.
At the risk of people clicking the ‘x’ now instead of after we get to the Operating Schedule Changes section, I’ll mention the single change now, since it’s relevant to Animal Kingdom and our discussion of wait times.
Disney was apparently privy to just how much of a clustercuss Animal Kingdom was on Sunday with its longest wait times yet. I don’t think anybody expected to see the 150-minute wait for Flight of Passage return so soon. They responded by extending the hours next Sunday to 6pm. I was not expecting Disney to budge on the short hours and certainly didn’t expect them to respond this quickly with an extension. So that’s good news. While the other Parks also saw longer wait times over the weekend, none were as big of a leap as Animal Kingdom.
Monday’s waits were half of Saturday’s, which is more good news. Test Track had one of its best days yet, with virtually no downtime and a 30-minute average wait. Soarin’ also returns to the constant 10-minute wait that we’ve seen most weekdays since the Park reopened. Nothing else really sticks out other than Frozen’s ongoing, longer waits. With no nighttime spectacular to pull people away, and the unusually early 7pm close, you do have a lot of people up in World Showcase looking for something to do in the early evening. Frozen is that thing, which is why longer waits persist there. I’d still expect to wait about half of what’s posted from 5pm onward. Part of the longer waits is due to the cleaning process being built in. But you may also find yourself in line during one of those cleaning delays. I’d get in line at 6:59pm if you can swing it. Dinner out at one of the operating Crescent Lake restaurants, like Ale & Compass at the Yacht Club, would be pleasant after.
Onto the Studios:
The Studios has undergone a particularly rough couple of weeks. As I’ve mentioned before, the reduced operating hours elsewhere make some amount of sense given the extreme lack of demand that we saw in July and August, but the Studios routinely sold out of Park Pass availability with the original 10am to 8pm day. Cutting off an hour at the end of the day is only going to frustrate people, cause them to be even more likely to jam up the Park earlier in the day, and allow Rise of the Resistance, a ride that can’t keep up with demand under the best of conditions, one less hour to (ideally) operate.
— BlogMickey.com (@Blog_Mickey) September 14, 2020
Rise has not opened with the Park or has gone down within an hour of the Park opening several days in a row. A different kind of glitch, with the My Disney Experience app not recognizing that people had entered the Park, added to Monday’s confusion. The ride also moved through fewer than 45 boarding groups for the third day in a row, after averaging about 80 groups a day since the Park reopened. The Rise of the Resistance signup is what drives morning attendance so much higher. We all know that you have to scan into the Park in order to be eligible to join a boarding group, let alone actually secure one that will be called over. With just 37 boarding groups getting called over, you’re looking at fewer than 2,000 people being able to board Disney’s most popular ride over the course of the day. That’s fewer people than can ride Expedition Everest in a single hour.
With the late 10am open giving just about anyone enough time to make it over, we see an incredible number of people looking around for something to do from Park open onward. With no major shows, meet and greets, or other entertainment to absorb any of those people, we see extremely long lines right out of the gate. This will continue every day.
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway has also proved to be problematic, with over two hours of downtime on its own, and a 94-minute average for the day. Without the later close, there isn’t much of an opportunity for waits to drop off at the end of the night. The relatively short 9-hour operating day also makes an afternoon break problematic considering the amount of time involved in exiting the Park, making it back to wherever you’re staying, and then eventually returning. You also need to factor in the time that you’ll actually be off your feet. Worse, the waits when you get back at 4:30pm are basically the same as what they were at 12pm.
The only way things are going to improve at the Studios is if Disney moves the opening to 8am. That should be possible given the fact that as recently as last week, Animal Kingdom opened at 8am. It’s possible that Disney doesn’t want to open the Park earlier because they don’t want to be obligated to operate the Skyliner beginning at 7am or 7:30am to transport people from the gondola resorts over.
At this point, I think just about anyone staying at a Skyliner resort would be happier to take a bus to the Park and wait a lot less beginning at 8am, than take a gondola over and go down that list of 11am wait times. We’re talking 90 minutes for Runaway Railway, 90 for Smugglers Run, 80 for Slinky Dog Dash, 50 for Tower of Terror, 45 for Toy Story Mania, 45 for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, 40 for Alien Swirling Saucers, and 35 for Star Tours. What exactly are you supposed to do in that situation? Other than take the 45-minute wait for Toy Story Mania or head to Muppet*Vision, Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy, or Vacation Fun at the Mickey Shorts Theater? There’s only so much time you can kill on anytime attractions when there are basically no anytime attractions at the Park.
That’s the Studios’ biggest problem, other than all of the problems with Rise of the Resistance, which now include loading only one of the two possible vehicles. With each vehicle limited to one party, a honeymooning couple basically takes what should be 16 available seats, cutting the ride’s capacity to 12.5%. Add downtime at the Park’s newest attraction in the Runaway Railway and things aren’t great to say the least.
Here’s the chart with Monday’s average added:
Monday’s waits were the longest yet. Even with Rise operating optimally and the Runaway Railway managing to get through an entire day without going down, things aren’t going to get better without extended hours. With so many people showing up before 10am, and giving them nothing to do but get in 60+ minute lines, you have a recipe for a bad day.
Seeing Disney extend the hours at the Studios now would be relatively shocking given the fact that they pulled things back so much to start the year, when times were never better. There were an unprecedented amount of people inside the Park before 8am from January through the March closure, but Disney still cut character hours and never added any earlier showtimes for the likes of Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular or Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage. They could still make a move if the number of complaints pile up.
Onto Magic Kingdom:
Magic Kingdom offers us the best look into crowds and wait times with its wide assortment of attractions and the fact that problems at one ride won’t necessarily affect others as substantially. At Epcot, it’s game over if Test Track doesn’t open with the Park. At Magic Kingdom, we have a late start at Mine Train, which has been Magic Kingdom’s most popular attraction for some time, but morning wait times don’t look to be affected.
The short waits in the morning probably have more to do with the delays in getting across or around the water from the Transportation and Ticket Center and Magic Kingdom area resorts than a lack of demand. Or, at least, if everyone who intended to be inside Magic Kingdom at 9am was inside Magic Kingdom at 9am, waits in the morning would be higher. We highlighted that, along with how best to get over there first thing, in Magic Kingdom Morning Touring with a Transportation and Ticket Center Start earlier this week.
If you’re really looking for a surprise, check out how the average wait for Pirates of the Caribbean is the highest at the Park. Part of that is due to about 45 minutes of downtime in the morning, but we’re still talking about an average that’s over three times as long as Space Mountain.
Here’s where Monday’s wait falls in with the averages that we’ve seen so far:
The story is a similar one to Animal Kingdom. Waits have come down since the weekend, and they’re shorter than last Monday, which was a holiday, but the 18.2-minute wait is a 67% increase over the same day two weeks ago. It’s also longer than any other weekday that we’ve seen outside of the Friday leading into last weekend, and 24.7% higher than Monday’s overall average, which is already pushed higher with last week’s high holiday wait.
Monday, September 7th, was the last day that Magic Kingdom closed at 7pm. Every day since, it’s closed an hour earlier, at 6pm. That’s the obvious culprit for why waits are now higher. But a 10% reduction in the operating hours doesn’t explain a 67% increase in wait times over the course of two weeks. The only thing that does is substantially more people in the Park. That’s likely due in part to an increase in demand, and in part to an increase in the number of people Disney is letting in.
Potentially, the other explanation is that Disney is now posting waits that are artificially higher by a much larger percentage than they were before. That doesn’t seem to make a tremendous amount of sense. Anyone can pull up the My Disney Experience app and check wait times during the day. If they look high, you may reevaluate whether you want to make the concessions required to visit Walt Disney World at the moment. That obviously includes the elimination of all nighttime spectaculars, traditional meet and greets, and major stage shows, in addition to any discomfort from the whole face covering outdoors in Florida thing. So if Disney was to all of a sudden decide that they’re going to systematically post inflated wait times to a much greater extent than they were before, at the same time they’re increasing advertising and discounting to incentivize visiting, you’d have to ask yourself why.
As I’ve said time and time again, the one thing Disney World potentially has going for it is short waits and low crowds. Anyone who has been to the Parks over the last week will tell you that wait times really are longer and crowd “feel” really is higher than at any point since the Parks reopened in July. That was expected over Labor Day Weekend. I don’t think anybody prophesied that the following weekend would prove much busier, and wait times from then on would be significantly longer. This is all still happening in September, which is historically the least crowded month of the year at Walt Disney World.
Obviously, things are very different this year. But if you had told me two weeks ago that wait times would now be up over 60%, I’d tell you that Disney better reopen the other side of Space Mountain. But any reductions in staffing don’t seem to be that big of an issue so far. And a single-hour reduction in the operating hours also doesn’t account for such a large increase in wait times. Increases in demand and capacity do.
I’ve referred to what we’ve seen since Walt Disney World reopened as the “current normal,” because whatever we’re currently seeing isn’t “normal” at all. It’s obviously not the “new normal.” Or, if the first eight weeks since Disney reopened were the “new normal,” we’re now onto the worse, “newer normal.”
But I think we can say with some certainty that the nonexistent crowds and wait times of July and August are behind us. September 14th’s wait times were 40% higher than the Saturday Magic Kingdom reopened. And you remember how much fanfare there was with that. The 18.2-minute average is also longer than the following Saturday and within a minute of the next two Saturdays. It’s also longer than the first six Sundays and almost 50% higher than the average that we’ve seen so far on Wednesdays.
Somebody on Twitter did say I should be more positive about wait times going up. We would certainly have some time to discuss it from the back of a 55-minute wait for Pirates of the Caribbean at 10:30am.
Current Disney Park Pass System Availability
In what seems like a strange twist, Saturday, September 19th, was showing no availability for any Park for Theme Park Tickets Guests or Disney Resort Guests as recently as September 13th. September 19th now shows availability at all four Parks for both visitor types. Animal Kingdom on September 20th is somehow the one Park on the one day with no availability.
It also looks like Park Pass availability for Disney Resort Guests and Theme Park Tickets Guests tracks together.
Here’s Tickets Guests in October:
And Disney Resort Guests:
The Studios is evidently already filling up during a popular travel week with some schools in the south on break.
We also see the Studios as unavailable on the three days running up to Thanksgiving in November. Every day in December remains available.
Here’s Passholder availability in September:
Passholders don’t enjoy quite the same replenishment, but availability remains better than it has been. This Sunday is currently showing no availability at Animal Kingdom as well. It’s a bit peculiar.
You can pull always pull up the live, but not entirely accurate, version of this calendar here.
Operating Hour Changes
It’s just the extension on Sunday at Animal Kingdom. Now seeing the lack of Park Pass availability, the extension makes more sense. It will be interesting to see if Disney extends the hours on more sold out days and whether wait times on that Sunday with longer hours are lower than other days, even if there are more people in the Park.
Interesting Things From Around the Internet
If you find something of value that you’d like to see included in one of these roundups, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ideally, this would not be your own content unless you know I like you. And if you don’t like me, I’m happy to remove any content that may be linked or embedded. Of course, that’s with the exception of TouringPlans. Either email me or make a public stink about it on Twitter.
Just in case you need any more evidence that Hollywood Studios is a complete mess in the morning, you can pull up WDWNT’s weekend report. We’ll confirm the same thing again on this website later this week.
If you’re looking for a post that comes to the same conclusions as this one, DisneyTouristBlog.com has you covered in Disney World Crowds Continue Rising.
TouringPlans does not bring us anything about the high weekend crowds, operating hour changes, or anything else, but they do compare Pumpkin Coffee Drinks, with the conclusion that the one you prefer will be based on the flavors that you prefer. It’s hard to argue with that.
Dave’s wish is granted with his review of Regal Eagle Barbecue. My conclusion would be similar – it’s a solid quick service choice at Epcot, particularly at the moment with mobile order and indoor/outdoor seating, but I wouldn’t go too far out of my way to try anything in particular. Hopefully the Morocco Pavilion sees the higher wait times and reopens Tangierine Cafe sooner rather than later.
Blog Mickey also brings us more on Monday’s struggles at Rise of the Resistance. Looking over the Star Wars arc, we can probably both agree that the Empire should have won. The Rebels had a pretty lousy setup. Rise of the Resistance, and the morning experience at Hollywood Studios, may be their revenge. Somewhere out there in the multiverse, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is the least popular ride in a Star Trek theme park. That’s a simulation that I might be interested in experiencing.
And as the third part of the podcast that the FCC shut down for “lewd and mischievous conduct unbefitting of America,” Bret takes us around Hollywood Studios to try Halloween-themed treats so we don’t have to.
That should get you caught up.