We return to Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the morning of Tuesday, February 25th, 2020, for one last rope drop before Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway opens on March 4th. It’s 5:57am in the picture above, and bag check is about three minutes away from opening, as guests line up in front of the tables and metal detectors.
The Disney Skyliner won’t come online until 7:30am, which is more than 90 minutes away. The gondola system would get you to Hollywood Studios just in time for the 8am opening if all goes smoothly, but any guest looking to arrive before 6:15am should drive their own vehicle if they have one, or strongly consider taking advantage of Uber/Lyft. Disney buses should begin dropping guests off before 6:30am, but service is typically spottier that early in the morning. If you’re staying at a Disney resort, you can always check the My Disney Experience app for the estimated bus arrival times. Should it say that a bus is approaching soon, you might head out to the bus stop first to see, and if it doesn’t materialize, then pull up the Uber/Lyft app. The cost of the rideshare should be under ten dollars from anywhere on property, which is a worthy investment for some peace of mind.
Bag check opened at 6am with about 150 people already on hand and in a hurry to get to the touchpoints.
All of this is the easy part, so don’t stress out too much if your designated line is on the slower side of things, as mine was on this particular morning. Even if you’re the last of those in line at 6am to have your bag checked, you’re still in fantastic position to head to Smugglers Run, Slinky Dog Dash, and eventually, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, first thing.
Virtually all of the lines in font of the tapstiles/touchpoints will be open to help distribute the incredible morning crowds. My personal preference is to head down to the far right, to one of the two farthest sets of uncovered tapstiles. To the right of those tapstiles, you may notice that there are two more touchpoints that are covered. These will likely be uncovered and opened closer to 7am, when guests are initially let into the Park. You’ll want to be wary of getting into one of those lines on the very, very far right side, because each of those lines only has one touchpoint, whereas all of the other lines have two, one after the other. If you’re in the line with just one touchpoint, where only one guest can scan in at a time, then you’ll likely wait longer than some of the other lines, even if the line is shorter. So make sure that the line you eventually get in has two touchpoints.
This is what I’m talking about, though our friend in front of me is standing in front of the second touchpoint on this side. To my right, there are two lines, each with just one touchpoint available. That is not ideal.
It’s hard to tell, but these arrows point to those two lines with just one touchpoint each.
The crowd at 6:04am is modest after the initial run over here from bag check, which is why we weren’t in a huge hurry. It’s almost two hours before the Park officially opens and the rides begin operating. It will be just under an hour until we’re first let inside.
Here I am in line with one of the covered touchpoints to my right. Even better, once cast members open the two lines with the single touchpoints, they’ll move some of the guests in front of me over, so I’ll be even closer to the front.
The crowd will not be small for long. This is just five minutes later, at 6:10am, and hundreds more people have arrived.
And the line that has formed behind me, which is still shorter than the lines in the center.
At 6:30am, a full 90 minutes before the Park officially opens, all of the lines are backed up past the ticket windows and towards bag check.
From here on out, things will look similar from up front. This is 6:35am. A couple thousand people are already here.
Taking these pictures does not get any less awkward as we look behind us at the crowd at 6:40am. The people who are now on my right, or on the left in this picture, do not know how bad they have it, given the fact that there is only one touchpoint at the front of their lines.
At 6:50am, the sun is coming up, and we have a little better look at the crowd in front of the ticket booths.
The walls that used to be up on this side are now down, so we don’t have anything blocking this area off. With our early arrival, it doesn’t necessarily matter how many people are behind us, but that line stretches back well over a hundred deep.
Disney will begin letting guests enter the Park right around 7am, or an hour before the Park officially opens.
Right at 7:01am, we were on our way inside.
The walk inside the Park is actually a pleasant one.
As I say every time, an arrival this early is only necessary if you’re heading to Slinky Dog Dash or Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, with the potential that Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway will be added to that list after it opens next week. If you’re headed anywhere else, including Toy Story Mania or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, then you can safely arrive much closer to 7:15am and still be ahead of the game.
As far as joining a Rise of the Resistance boarding group is concerned, Disney makes no differentiation between those who scanned into the Park at 7:01am, and those who scanned in at 7:58am.
There are simply too many people to hold everyone remotely close to Hollywood Boulevard, so Disney now allows guests to get much closer to their desired first stop of the day. Last time, we rope dropped Slinky Dog Dash, and you can pull up that set of posts with Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. Despite the chaos of the Presidents Day holiday crowds continuing into the week, I was still relatively successful on paper, accomplishing:
- 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)
In that set of posts, I said that Smugglers Run would be the last of the “big three” that I would rope drop, behind Slinky Dog and eventually the Runaway Railway. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is the closest attraction to the entrance, and doesn’t carry a height requirement, which may make it an attractive first stop. It’s also the newest ride, though Smugglers Run, which opened in August 2019, will be new to most guests, as will Rise of the Resistance, which opened in December 2019. You would think that Toy Story Land, which opened in June 2018, would also be new to the majority of guests, though that’s likely true to a lesser extent than Galaxy’s Edge.
I’m not sure where they will hold those headed to the Runaway Railway first thing. We were able to get close to the entrance to Slinky Dog Dash, but they didn’t let us into the physical queue until right at 8am. For Smugglers Run, we’ll be held on Grand Avenue, a good distance away from the ride and outside of Star Wars Land. There is not a whole lot of room to hold guests in front of the Chinese Theater if they don’t let anyone into the Railway queue, so we’ll have to see how that goes. At least for now, I think rope dropping Slinky Dog Dash first makes the most sense, but we’ll see what Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway looks like come March 4th, and during its first week of operation.
Touring strategies and crowd distribution will change with the opening of the Railway. Adding another priority will also make it easier to be closer to the front of the group headed to each priority attraction. If we’ve got 5,000 people headed in two directions, then about 2,500 people will arrive in both places. If we’ve got 5,000 people headed in three directions, then it’s closer to 1,667 people in each place. The real life distribution will not be that even, but the opening of the Railway should only be good news. I don’t think the ride will make anyone roll out of bed at 5am who wasn’t already on their way over for Rise of the Resistance and one of the other super priorities.
It usually looks like about 35% of the rope drop crowd is headed to Slinky Dog, with more than half headed to Galaxy’s Edge. My guess is that after the Runaway Railway opens, we’ll see about 45% of the crowd headed to Galaxy’s Edge, 30% to Slinky Dog, 20% to the Railway, and 5% elsewhere. Hopefully that adds up to 100%.
It makes sense to move quickly to your first destination, but we’re in good shape with the ticket/finger scanning slowing the influx of people headed inside.
I dare say that it’s downright pleasant as we take a left towards Galaxy’s Edge.
The sun is just coming up, and this time of year, there’s a little bit of coolness in the air. Sometimes, there’s a lot of coolness as we’re experiencing 40-degree lows this weekend.
We’re passing by the future home of the Mickey Shorts Theater, which is apparently the real name of the location that will show a variety of Mickey Mouse cartoons. The sign on the right was recently painted in the typical red/black/yellow colors that represent Mickey.
You can see how much space there is around me as we continue walking towards Star Tours.
We’ll take a right at Star Tours.
And then a left after passing Tatooine Traders. Everyone will be headed to the same place. Unless they’re really lost.
The holding area for Galaxy’s Edge is just in front of the tunnel leading into Star Wars Land.
It’s 7:06am, which means it takes about five minutes to walk from the main entrance to the holding area for Smugglers Run. Ahead is where we’ll spend the next 54 minutes.
Behind me, people are strolling in at a comfortable pace.
By 7:15am, or just about ten minutes later, most of the people who were waiting outside with us have had a chance to make it over. Back in the day, which was just over seven months ago before Galaxy’s Edge opened, there would have been fewer people on hand at 8:45am for a 9am rope drop than what we see here. And this is nowhere close to the total number of people who will be in the Park come 8am. And it doesn’t take into account the couple thousand people who are waiting for Slinky Dog Dash or the other attractions.
By 7:25am, the crowd stretches back past Star Tours.
From here, the pictures will all basically look the same. It’s good to be at the front, even if it means not being able to see the back.
More and more people will start looking at their phones as Park open approaches. This is four minutes before the Rise of the Resistance boarding groups open at the same time as the Park officially opens. While I didn’t run into this problem myself, apparently the following day, the app didn’t require guests to actually scan into the Park in order to sign up for a boarding group. Ordinarily, only those who have scanned their tickets/MagicBands at the entrance are eligible to join a boarding group. Otherwise, there would probably be more people in Michigan with boarding groups than people inside the Park. I doubt that we’ll see that glitch happen again. Not only did a lot of the boarding group spots go to those who were not actually in the Park, but the ride also had one of its worst performing days of all time (of all time) on February 26th, the day following my visit. Disney doesn’t distribute a whole lot of “guaranteed” boarding groups – there’s anywhere from 46 to around 65 such groups on your average day – because if they don’t make it to those groups, they automatically give those guests a free 1-day ticket to return to the Park, in addition to a digital FastPass+ to return to the ride without needing to acquire a new boarding group the following day. So not only did some number of people who were nowhere close to Walt Disney World join a boarding group, but they also came away with free tickets out of it. You’d think that at some point during the day, Disney would have at least been able to figure out who was actually in Florida and not hand out free tickets to the Tremblay family of nine in Saskatchewan. But congrats, Tremblays.
At 8:01am, the slow march towards Smugglers Run begins.
While there are a couple thousand people participating, it wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable as some of my past rope drops, potentially because at least half of the people were still trying to figure out how to join a boarding group, or wondering why the app wasn’t refreshing properly.
It also helps to be closer to the front.
The walk to Smugglers Run takes about ten minutes, which is twice as long as it took to cover a lot more ground on our walk over to the holding area.
Rise of the Resistance is just inside Galaxy’s Edge on the left. We’re passing by the entrance now. If you do end up lucking into a very low boarding group, you’ll either have one or two hours to make it over to the ride once Disney calls your group. It seems like a one-hour return window is now standard, regardless of what time of day you’re called over, potentially in an effort to keep people inside the Park. With two hours to return, you could make it back to Hollywood Studios from basically anywhere on property, even if you got stuck on the Skyliner for a half hour on the way.
Should your boarding group be called at a particularly inconvenient time, then you shouldn’t have any trouble arriving late with any sort of excuse that borders on reasonable. A dining reservation going long is a solid bet, as is being in line elsewhere. By the time we make it over to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror, the waits there are both going to be in the triple digits. Heck, Alien Swirling Saucers is going to be posting 75 minutes at 10am. Nobody is expecting you to be 80 minutes into a 130 minute wait for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, only to then have to leave the line in order to make your arbitrary return window. You may want to keep an eye on what boarding group they’re on by clicking the “Find Out More” screen on the app. If group 37 was just called, and you’re group 38, then it doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense to get in a 165-minute line for Slinky Dog Dash. Not that it ever really does.
Anyway, my point here is that you don’t want to be the family that was in front of me at Smugglers Run who rushed out of the line because their boarding group was called almost immediately after the Park opened. I’m guessing the 95-minute posted wait that we saw as we entered the Smugglers queue spooked them, but I can’t imagine waiting over two hours for the Park to open to ride Smugglers Run, only to rush out of line for Rise of the Resistance. You obviously don’t want to miss your return window if you can help it, but this is Disney World. They’ll work with you if you have a conflict.
We’re continuing on.
And going the long way to the right, around the Marketplace.
As usual, a considerable number of people have managed to get around me as I take my pictures and walk at a snail’s pace.
But it doesn’t really matter.
We’re coming up on the Droid Depot on the left.
For a while, Stormtroopers walked the crowd back to Galaxy’s Edge first thing in the morning, which was fun. You won’t see any such thing these days. In the past, Stormtroopers had also appeared on what is actually a stage to the right. It’s unlikely that you’ll see any such characters now either, which is a shame. Seeing them added so much energy. I don’t think anybody walked by without a smile on their faces.
For future reference, Toy Story Land is that way.
The line for Smugglers Run will stretch back this far through about 9:30am most days, with the possibility that the end of the line will be here later into the day on busier mornings.
From here, we’ll head around and to the left.
A couple of thousand people are behind me. This is why my stupid early arrival is so important.
Should have gotten here at 5:56am, suckers!
You can make out the very front of the line ahead on the left with about six blue-vested cast members leading the way.
You will probably be able to keep up with things a little better than me, but my current spot in line is closer to where I’d be with a 6:15am arrival at the main entrance.
Something tells me Bob Iger’s severance isn’t going to be paid in Blue Milk. But even if he walks away with another 20 million, he’d only be able to afford three or four drinks at Oga’s.
Once you get to this point, it would ordinarily be just about a straight shot to the entrance to Smugglers Run as we look back at the line, which may still stretch back to the Marketplace area.
It’s nice that the walk is so controlled for about 75% of the jaunt over.
Once you’re in this area, things are pretty much set as we move forward, two by two.
For Star Wars fans, the big Millennium Falcon reveal may match that of walking underneath the train station at Magic Kingdom and then seeing Cinderella Castle’s (golden) majesty in the distance.
The first guests of the day are headed inside.
Despite falling back during the walk over, my wait once I arrive inside the entrance will be just about ten minutes.
By the time I’m done, the entire queue will be filled, and the end of the line will stretch back to the Marketplace.
And we’re circling.
And just about there.
Like most attractions, don’t let the posted wait concern you if you’re near the front of the line. They can’t change this sign to reflect the actual wait as people pass underneath it. My actual wait won’t even be 10% of the 95 minutes currently posted. Note the time, which is 8:12am. It took about 11 minutes to make it back here, which also means that I’m going to be done with the attraction later than if I started with Slinky Dog, which takes a total of five to ten minutes first thing. When I rope dropped that last week, I was done with the ride at 8:06am. The fact that Smugglers Run takes so much longer will put me at a disadvantage at other attractions as I’l be arriving later, after waits have had an opportunity to rise more. Just wait until you see the extended queue for Alien Swirling Saucers. When I rope dropped Slinky, I was able to immediately ride Saucers with a wait of about three minutes. By the time I was done, the wait was up to 40 minutes. By the time I get over to Saucers today, the wait will be 60 minutes, which is way too long.
I had arrived early enough that they sent us through the FastPass+ line, which is a common tactic to get as many guests on the ride as quickly as possible, since the FP+ line is shorter and there’s less to see. It’s the same thing as what we see at Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where you’ll miss walking the standby queue if you arrive at the ride quickly enough. It’s a bit of a bummer because there’s a lot to see in the queue, and it helps set the stage for the ride.
Since there’s nobody streaming into standby, we do enjoy an unadulterated view of the backside of Falcon.
And you’ll be able to see the majority of the standby queue through the openings.
It’s hard to tell in this picture, but Disney was already sending guests through standby a minute later, since the FP+ queue had filled.
The walk to Smugglers started at 8:01am, I arrived at the attraction entrance at 8:12am, and was learning about the importance of coaxium from Hondo at 8:18am.
Five minutes later, I was inside the cockpit with a group of five people who couldn’t quite figure out how to activate “Chewie Mode.”
Even by the end of the ride, our pilot wasn’t sure if pulling down on the lever made the Falcon go up or down. It makes it go up. We spent a lot of time scraping the ground.
I was back out front at 8:30am, for a total experience time that was either 18 minutes, 30 minutes, or over 2.5 hours depending on when you want to start the clock. With FastPass+, Smugglers Run takes about 25 minutes, so the fact that it’s 8:30am, or 30 minutes after the Park officially opened, is pretty good.
Things will get demonstrably worse as we move through the morning. But you will want to stay tuned as we see a variety of rare “Line Starts Here” signs, including a particularly small one for Voyage of the Little Mermaid. If that doesn’t get you back here, I don’t know what will.