We’ll take a moment away from our Magic Kingdom reopening series to take a quick (lol) look at what we might expect from the reopening of Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Wednesday, July 15th, 2020. If you missed the Magic Kingdom posts, you might start with the most recent update, which links back to the first two parts. It took us about 9,000 words to make it through five rides, which doesn’t seem to bode well for an overview of an entire land.
Like at the other Parks, trams to/from the parking lot won’t be available for some time. With the Studios’ attendance capped at an obscenely low number, you shouldn’t be too far from the entrance. At least vertically. All of these pictures are from the cast member preview on Monday, July 13th, 2020. We parked in the very last spot at the very end of the row, furthest from the entrance. Still, it won’t seem too far away until the end of the day. We also don’t have to travel across or around a large body of water, like we do at Magic Kingdom. Imagine adding more hurdles to experiencing Rise of the Resistance. We’d qualify for the Olympics.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is unique in that it will actually be filled to “capacity” most or every day for the foreseeable future. Disney’s Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Magic Kingdom Park all have excess availability for Disney resort guests and theme park tickets guests via the Disney Park Pass system, which I explain in detail here. Considering how low crowds have been at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom so far, it makes sense to move capacity to people who will actually visit the Parks.
Disney has announced that they’ll reallocate capacity to annual passholders for the Parks that aren’t Hollywood Studios beginning July 16th. Disney has stated that they’re not increasing any of the Parks’ capacities, but simply transferring spots to passholders who are more likely to visit. It’s probable that Disney resort guests and those staying off-site with regular tickets will still enjoy plentiful availability. Since Disney isn’t raising the total capacity for any of the Parks, additional availability shouldn’t materialize for the Studios on Thursday. If you’re an annual passholder looking to reserve a Park Pass for July or August, you’ll want to be ready on Thursday, probably around 7am EST. It’s likely that some passholders will switch their Park Passes away from the Studios once other Parks become available, which would be the thing that could free up spots over the next couple of months.
Of course, this is the same company that insisted they wouldn’t be reinstating the virtual queue system for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. As it turns out, they are doing exactly that. We’ll just have to see what happens. Hollywood Studios may miraculously be much easier to book in the near future.
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway stands tall at the end of Hollywood Boulevard inside the Chinese Theater. The ride operated for less than two weeks before the Studios’ 4-month closure.
It’s hard to say whether the plan was always to go back to the virtual queue system for Rise. The markings that we see on the ground here on the left are for Rise of the Resistance. During the cast preview, Rise of the Resistance was standby only. When we pass by later in the afternoon, the line will extend backstage and through the outdoor portion of the MuppetVision 3D queue, resulting in waits that topped out at more than four hours. Before the March closures, the wait to ride Rise of the Resistance after Disney called your boarding group averaged about 20 minutes. That’s probably about 400 people in front of you in line.
With physical distancing in place, and cast members only seating one party per vehicle, it’s possible that the line will extend outside even with the virtual queue. Before the March closures, I don’t remember ever seeing anyone having to wait outside the building after their boarding group was called.
Even the cart selling $7 Coca-Colas has social distance markers running back about 40 feet.
It’s certainly possible that Disney will need all of the queue, even with the virtual part of it in play.
Unlike the original boarding group system, where Disney released all of the boarding group spots right at Park open, Disney will stagger the release of the virtual queue spots this time around. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, they’ve been opening the parking lot just 30 minutes before official Park open, or 7:30am with the current 8am opens. The Studios is scheduled to open at 10am, which means it’s quite possible that they won’t begin parking guests until 9:30am. That’s what happened with us at the preview. We arrived at the toll plaza around 9:15am and waited until 9:28am before we started moving forward. With the slow speed of the temperature check, and abysmal speed of bag check, it wasn’t until 9:51am that we were ready to head inside the Park.
Earlier this year, the crowd waiting for the Studios to open looked like this at 6:30am. People are waiting 90 minutes just to have an opportunity to secure a boarding group for Rise of the Resistance. This size of a crowd can’t happen in the current environment. Because of that, Disney will be releasing virtual queue spots when the Park opens at 10am, but they’ll be holding back some number of spots to release at 1pm and 4pm as well.
In addition to operating at what will likely be about 40% of its capacity, Rise of the Resistance has one big problem: technical trouble. It goes down for one reason or another a lot. On the second day of cast previews, it was down for over four hours.
Disney has specifically stated that they’re releasing virtual queue spots later in the day so people don’t “need” to arrive early. One issue they’re going to run into is that virtual queue spots reserved at 10am will be more desirable because they’ll likely be lower in number. Simply securing a spot in the virtual queue doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to ride. They’ll still need to get to your group, like they did back from December through March.
Originally, those who signed up for a boarding group first were awarded a lower-number group, which was in turn more likely to be called. Get in early and you might be assigned boarding group 25. Those who pressed the “Join Boarding Group” button in as little as 30 seconds later could be assigned group 90 or higher. If memory serves, Disney typically made it through about a hundred groups a day. If the ride goes down in the morning for an extended period, it’s either unlikely that they’ll release as many spots at 1pm and 4pm, or less likely that they’ll get to the group that you’re assigned to at that time. That fact will incentivize early arrivals.
It’s possible that Disney will reset the system at 1pm and again at 4pm. If your group that you secured at 10am isn’t called by 1pm, you would have to try again. You’re going to have some unhappy people on your hands if they secured a spot at 10am, only for the ride to be down for two of the first three hours, and then got shut out of what is basically a lottery during the 1pm and 4pm releases, when even more people would be vying for a limited number of spots. It may also be a bit of a hassle to be ready to try to sign up for the virtual queue in the middle of the afternoon, when you might be about to board a ride.
We’ll have to see how things end up working. Based on the relatively few six-foot markers that Disney has put down in most queues, it looks like the Studios’ overall capacity will be low. We’ll see that as we move about the Park.
We won’t see a lot of meaningful changes to the queue or pre-shows for Rise of the Resistance. That’s a good thing. You’ll remember that Disney is not running the stretching room at Haunted Mansion. The pre-show in the library at Tower of Terror also won’t be running. We’ll enjoy the full pre-show experience at Rise.
I’m still not entirely sure why Disney chose to put up acrylic barriers in some places and not others, but they look sort of sleek here. That will very much not be the case at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
This is less great.
There aren’t any barriers through here, where we’ll be passing the same people in about the same enclosed space.
Like at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, we enjoy some barriers that have already been installed as part of the queue.
More throughout here.
Some spaces enjoy both types of barriers. You can’t be too careful.
There will be fewer people in the pre-shows, which is probably a good thing. Each group is assigned their own number to stand on. Before, you’d just fill in wherever with about twice as many people in the room.
The spacing works for the most part. Cast watch carefully to make sure people keep their distance as they board the next vehicle. You’ll notice hand sanitizer to the right of the entry door ahead. Safety first.
Previously, you’d be able to stand where you wanted here. I spent most of the day thinking that was a “J,” in back, only to realize some time after that it was a “4.” The system is new to all of us.
The spacing isn’t exactly ideal here as we don’t have a clear view of what’s happening in front or behind us.
The “1” is basically parallel with the action that’s going on up front. If the people on the other side also moved off their number and into the center of the vehicle, they’d be pretty close together.
Part of the reason why the queue outdoors may be longer is due to the low number of people who will fit in this room given physical distancing protocols. We were among the first couple hundred people to ride on the first day of previews, and cast didn’t quite have the timing down yet to clear this room before the next group of people entered. Once you’re here, there’s nowhere to go but through that narrow door ahead. The point of these previews is to iron out some of these problems. Of course, the stakes are a little higher than usual at the moment.
I haven’t actually taken a breath in some number of years, so you don’t have to be too concerned about me. It might be safer if we were all walking around with these helmets. It may yet get to that point.
The plastic barriers seemed to work fine through here. We’re basically being imprisoned right now, so it checks out thematically.
This area before the next pre-show looked to be unchanged.
Only two groups of people should be placed in this room where we see Kylo and General Hux on screen.
While there are eight seats on each vehicle, cast will only place one party in each, regardless of how many people are in it.
It’s somewhat rare that a party is any larger than five people, and you’ll see a lot of parties of two or four. At 50% capacity, Rise of the Resistance is only moving through 600 people per hour, at best. Over the course of the ten hour day, 6,000 people can ride. That assumes no downtime.
It also assumes that this guy doesn’t show up as a party of one, reducing the ride vehicle’s capacity to 12.5%.
Overall, while it will now be harder to get into Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it will likely also be easier to get into the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance. Or, at a minimum, a higher percentage of the guests visiting the Park should be able to ride, even given capacity restrictions. We’ll certainly have a better idea about what to expect in the coming days. With the Studios already filling to capacity throughout July and into August for guests with all ticket types, Disney will have to figure out some way to increase capacity if and when demand rises. That will likely mean striking a deal with the main entertainment union in order to get the shows back up and running. Until then, there’s only a handful of rides to enjoy.
The outdoor “Relaxation Station” in Galaxy’s Edge, which is located to the left of the entrance into the marketplace, just past Rise of the Resistance, didn’t look particularly relaxing. I’m not sure what you would do if a cast member assigned you to one of those sad little red dots in the middle of the area, surrounded by other unmasked guests, in the blazing sun. It may still be a better spot than the Relaxation Station at Star Wars Launch Bay, where I think I breathed in 4-month old air mixed in with things that I’d rather not think about.
The majority of the Marketplace is roped off on this side. There is a set of bathrooms on the left that are free and clear.
The various stores in this alley are limited to one party each, with a total of fewer than 25 people allowed in at any time.
The Marketplace also didn’t open until 11am, or an hour after the Park.
Each store has a line to stand on until the party ahead of you finishes browsing. This is probably not good for business. I would say that you would be in rough shape if only one person could be on this site at once, but in reality, you probably wouldn’t have any trouble being that person.
The guest limit may mean a more pleasant shopping experience. These stores are incredibly small. Previously, people basically piled on top of each other looking for porg plush. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll be constantly looking back to see if you’re holding anyone else up who actually might want to buy something.
The exit from the Marketplace is down to the right.
It’s likely that they will only let you through straight across if you have a confirmed mobile order for Ronto Roasters that’s ready for pickup.
Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities is another store where you may need to wait to get in. On one hand, there was often a wait to go into the store before Park capacity was limited. On the other hand, Park capacity is now limited. Those two things may help offset each other.
You’ll find most of the high-end Star Wars stuff in here. This is across from Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, the land’s main quick service.
These uncovered tables may not be where you want to spend much time outdoors in July. They are spaced out nicely, at least.
Droid Depot is open for custom droids and accessories. Savi’s Workshop on the left doesn’t currently offer the full Lightsaber crafting experience, but you now have the opportunity to walk through it and check things out. Before, it cost $200 just to get through the door. Of course, that included the Lightsaber.
The physically-distanced end of the line for Smugglers Run is about there, I think. It can be difficult to figure out where the various lines are leading.
This one on the right merely leads to another $7 Coca-Cola stand.
As with the other Parks, there are no traditional meet and greets. In the case of Galaxy’s Edge, there weren’t any to begin with. The characters no longer come down from their various perches and mingle with the crowd.
But the Stormtroopers still appear just out of reach. I would guess social distancing doesn’t improve their aim.
Rey appears up high.
Along with Chewbacca, who sort of blends in with the rocks.
They occasionally appear below as well. This is across from the Droid Depot and basically on the right as you would head up to Toy Story Land.
The Milk Stand remains operating.
The $8 cups haven’t gotten any larger. It was nice to get some practice in taking photos before the next Epcot Festival gets underway.
We’re probably in line for Smugglers Run here, though Oga’s Cantina is also open with an extraordinarily limited capacity ahead on the right. The line for the bar probably starts at the umbrellas, though you’ll still need a reservation to get in most of the time. There is no such thing as very early in the morning at Hollywood Studios with the 10am opens, but you’ll have the best luck walking up without a reservation if you head over first thing. Back in December, the Park opened as early as 6am.
Assuming you can actually get in, the overall experience inside the Cantina is a lot more pleasant. We had a table to ourselves.
On my previous visits, I’ve always been assigned one of these thin tables that we end up sharing with another party. There was barely enough room to put your drink down.
Now, nobody stands at the bar, and you won’t be placed near others.
The lack of people does remove some of the energy from the place, but I’ll take it over having to elbow someone out of the way just to get to my beer.
Smugglers Run is probably like ninth best thing in Galaxy’s Edge. I would put it somewhere behind my third favorite $7 Coca-Cola stand.
Like a lot of attractions, the current setup is both the same and different than it was before.
We’ll wind our way through the same queue, six feet at a time.
Again, I’m not entirely sure why some walkways have plastic barriers and others don’t. The caution tape here is probably supposed to keep people on the opposite side of it, but virtually every party has someone squarely up against the ropes.
On Smugglers Run, you can apparently opt in or out of the pre-show with Hondo.
He’s up there doing his thing, but you’re probably going to catch him in the middle of his spiel, and the ride will make even less sense. I don’t think anybody grew up on Star Wars dreaming about the day that they could go after some coaxium. I could be wrong.
Previously, you’d be assigned to either the pilot, gunner, or engineer role. A cast member would hand you a card explaining your job, which is typically to either press a button or pull a lever. There are no such cards because Disney doesn’t want you touching anything. Someone may be able to explain the roles in the few seconds you have before boarding.
Potentially on the plus side, the physically-distanced queue goes by the chess table, where you can still sit and take a picture with some civility.
There are six seats in each cockpit and your party won’t be seated with others, so you can divide up the roles as you see fit. This way, if you crash into the bottom the entire time, it will at least be your own kids’ fault. If you’re unfamiliar with the ride, you can read my full review, which probably explains it. It’s certainly long enough that you would think there would be an explanation in there.
Potentially, the good news is that Smugglers Run will…run…at a higher percentage of its capacity. Parties of four will fill approximately 66.7% of the vehicle, instead of the 50% they’ll fill on Rise of the Resistance.
Disney might not want you touching anything, and you may not want to touch anything, but you’ll have to if you don’t want to crash and burn. If you don’t have the full six people, the cast member can put the other positions on auto mode. If you really don’t want to touch anything, you can probably request that they put your position on automatic as well. It may make sense to make a list of the ickiest rides at Walt Disney World. Smugglers Run, with the tight quarters and required touching, is probably high up on that list. I almost always dream of being hosed down when I’m at Disney World in the summer, but I definitely felt like I could use it after manhandling the Falcon via this button. I would imagine some amount of sanitizing goes on after each cycle, but it’s probably not enough to really clean things out.
We’ll take a walk around the rest of Disney’s Hollywood Studios and then see what we can expect to do once the Park officially reopens…basically today.