The opening of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will continue to alter our touring strategy as Disney updates its opening procedures, eventually introduces FastPass+, and also allows people to wait in the standard standby line instead of relying on the virtual queue.
Our first visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the wake of the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opening continues. It’s Friday, December 6th, 2019, at 7:23am. Despite the Studios officially opening at 9am, I’ve already been inside the Park for more than hour, with all of the rides operating during that time. Almost 90 minutes into the Park’s actual operation, Slinky Dog Dash is still posting a 5-minute wait, as are the other two Toy Story Land rides.
To recap, in Part One, our emphasis was on how to sign up for the virtual queue boarding group system that is currently required to have a chance to ride Rise of the Resistance. There is currently no standby line and FastPass+ is not offered. All boarding group passes have been distributed before the Park officially opened on each of the first four days that Rise has been available, necessitating an arrival at least one hour before the Park is officially scheduled to open. Everyone who wants to join a boarding group to ride Rise of the Resistance must scan their ticket/MagicBand in order to be eligible.
In order to secure one of the first boarding groups of the day, and be in the best possible position to rope drop Slinky Dog Dash or Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, an arrival two hours before the Park opens will likely be required. With the Park now opening at 8am, that means an arrival between 6am and 6:30am is likely necessary to acquire one of the first several boarding groups. The later you arrive, the higher your boarding group will be, and the longer you’ll need to bide your time doing other things.
In Part Two, we focused on how quickly Disney moves through boarding groups, what to do once your boarding group is called, what to expect from the wait once you enter the queue, and a whole lot more. As with all past updates, this will be completely spoiler-free. We won’t even take a look inside the queue, let alone discuss what you might see during the ride itself.
With more than 90 minutes until Park open, only the rides and eateries in Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land are currently open, along with a couple of kiosks here and there. All of these meet and greets and shows are not yet available:
With the virtual queue at Rise of the Resistance, we don’t need to prioritize going over there first thing in the morning. Everyone is afforded a full two hours to return to the ride after their boarding group is initially called.
The following chart shows the average boarding group number that has been called so far in 30-minute intervals. I’ll update it later this week with the next series of posts:
For a number of reasons, Rise of the Resistance is least reliable in the morning, which may be why the ride isn’t available during morning Extra Magic Hours at the moment. If anything, a boarding group that will put you arriving after 1pm might be smart, as you’re far less likely to be evacuated, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do other things early in the morning before long wait times take over outside of Galaxy’s Edge. While you can’t choose your boarding group – you’ll be assigned the next one that’s available – unless you’re among the first few hundred people scanning their tickets and signing up for their boarding groups, chances are that you’ll be assigned a group where you can safely arrive around 1pm anyway.
Rise of the Resistance, a ride currently prone to malfunctions, will only become more reliable as time goes on. Once uptime is much closer to 100%, we’ll likely see Disney move away from the virtual queue, and towards the usual FastPass+/standby line situation that we see at most other rides. My expectation is that the virtual queue boarding group process will continue through at least the first week in January. At that point, it seems likely that Smugglers Run and Rise of the Resistance will offer FastPass+. Of course, if things are slower to improve at Rise of the Resistance, then those plans will be delayed. Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway officially opens on March 4th, 2020, and will likely offer FastPass+ when it debuts.
At this point, an early arrival – one to two hours before the Park officially opens – is essential. What happens from there is somewhat irrelevant, but we’ll stay up to date with the opening procedures and what you can expect to be able to see and do. My first morning visit, as detailed below, will not be particularly instructive. Nobody was expecting all of the rides to be operating at 6am with the 9am scheduled open. But you can see what I was able to do and why I made some of the decisions that I made. Being flexible, and understanding crowd flow, will put you in the best possible position to enjoy a fun, relatively stress-free trip to Hollywood Studios over the next couple of months. Reading through these reports will ideally help answer some of the questions that you will inevitably have during your visit. No trip to a Walt Disney World theme park goes exactly to spec.
Disney has installed a number of monitors around the Park, each of which shows current wait times, showtimes, and now, the status of Rise of the Resistance:
The My Disney Experience app is helpful(?), but you’ll need to scroll through a number of different screens to glean the same information as what’s provided here over the course of about 20 seconds and zero effort on your part.
Where we left off in Part Two, I was just dumped from the Rise of the Resistance queue due to unexpected downtime. The image above shows me standing outside of the entrance with a different perspective of where you’ll need to go once it’s your turn to ride. Originally, I entered the standby queue from this side, after scanning in for my boarding group. When I return with the paper FASTPASS that I was issued because I wasn’t originally able to ride, I’ll head into the ride from the other side.
There are a couple hundred people hanging around outside Rise, probably waiting for their boarding group to be called. This is at the same time that they could walk on any other attraction at the Park. We thank them for their service.
Crowds are thin elsewhere. There may not have been any other way to plan the attraction layout of the Land, but putting the entrance to Galaxy’s Edge’s most popular ride just inside the main entrance is probably not your best logistical move. At Animal Kingdom, the entrance to Flight of Passage is almost as far away from the Land’s main entrance as possible. At Epcot, it’s a hike to just about anything other than Spaceship Earth from the main entrance. At Magic Kingdom, it’s not a coincidence that Big Thunder, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train are all towards the very back of the Park. Nonetheless, crowd control was friendly and efficient for the most part, though things become more confusing later in the day with so many people hovering around Rise.
Toy Story Land is accessible from the back of Galaxy’s Edge, almost straight back from the entrance to Smugglers Run.
Your walk from Rise of the Resistance to Alien Swirling Saucers is probably about four minutes. It’s closer to two or three minutes from Smugglers Run.
The reverse may not be true as Galaxy’s Edge will likely not be accessible from Toy Story Land early in the morning.
Even with very few people in Galaxy’s Edge, the entrance to Galaxy’s Edge from Toy Story Land is closed. This isn’t uncommon in the morning, but my assumption was that it was due to the fact that the line for Smugglers Run typically stretched all the way back around here first thing. With Rise of the Resistance proving to be the new belle of the ball, it’s unlikely that we’ll see those lines continue to materialize, which should make this blockade here unnecessary. At some point later in the morning, these cast members will disperse, and guests will be able to freely move between Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land in both directions. Walking around to the Galaxy’s Edge entrance on Grand Avenue from here would take about ten minutes, if not more.
Alien Swirling Saucers is a walk-on just after 7:30am.
Just about every alien is flying empty.
They don’t tell you this in school, but it’s much more difficult to land elbows when there’s virtually nobody else around. This guy is about to go down anyway.
My visit comes on the day after Rise of the Resistance officially opened, and nobody was really sure what to expect. I moved on to Slinky Dog Dash at 7:35am to a 25-minute posted wait. I full expected to still be waiting on Hollywood Boulevard for the rides to open at this point.
The wait looked to be under 15 minutes.
People continued to arrive after me in larger and larger numbers.
I was on-board my Slinky in about 13 minutes.
From the air, you can see just how few people are in Toy Story Land.
It may have something to do with the fact that it operates with just two registers, but there are more people waiting to order breakfast at Woody’s Lunch Box than are currently waiting in line for either Alien Swirling Saucers or Toy Story Mania.
It might be even more popular if it was called Woody’s Breakfast Box instead.
I still love Slinky Dog Dash, particularly early in the morning, when there’s a little color in the sky.
And even more when I don’t have to wait very long. Slinky Dog took 17 minutes, which is only about five minutes longer than the ride typically takes with FastPass+ later in the day. Slinky would see 100+ minute peak waits in the afternoon.
While the posted wait went up to 30 minutes, the actual wait should still be right around 20. There’s no FastPass+ to bog down the standby line, since the Park shouldn’t even be open for another hour.
Our standard progression in Toy Story Land is Slinky Dog Dash first, followed by Alien Swirling Saucers, and then Toy Story Mania.
We still can’t enter Galaxy’s Edge from Toy Story Land.
Swirling Saucers was still posting a 5-minute wait and we were able to head through the FastPass+ line to reach our alien even quicker. Sometimes you’ll see Disney sending people through FP+ when a standby line hasn’t yet had an opportunity to form. That helps the attraction move through even more people as we’re able to board sooner. There’s no ride that I’d rather be on-board five seconds sooner than Alien Swirling Saucers, either.
There might be eight other people on the ride.
Rise of the resistance who? This is the only space ship I’m interested in riding pic.twitter.com/HM5qU4qmpY
— josh (@easywdw) December 6, 2019
You can join the ten thousand other people who have watched me twirl around.
I arrived at 7:54am, and was back out front at 8am, for a total experience time of six minutes, which is as short as it gets. I could have stayed on for a couple more rides if I wanted, but I didn’t want to spoil my trip into space on Rise of the Resistance with too many superior experiences so early in the morning.
Hopefully next year is the year that we see a giant Hamm sugar cookie available to eat. This one tastes like plastic.
At 8am, or a full hour before the Park is scheduled to open, Slinky Dog is still posting a 30-minute wait. At 9am, the wait time will double to 60 minutes, and 30 minutes later, at 9:30am, it will be up to 90 minutes.
One nice thing about Disney moving the official opening to 8am most days over the next month, is the fact that the characters and a lot of the other entertainment will start earlier, too. Woody, Bo Peep, Jessie, and Buzz all meet in Toy Story Land from Park open through close. Since the Park doesn’t open until 9am on the day of my visit, none of those characters will appear for another hour. With the 8am regular opens that begin on Monday, December 9th, we’ll see these characters appear at 8am too. The Star Wars characters in Star Wars Launch Bay, Mickey and Minnie at Red Carpet Dreams, and Olaf at Celebrity Spotlight will also all begin greeting at official Park open.
Bo Peep and Woody remain the second highest priority in Toy Story Land, behind Slinky Dog Dash. You’ll usually see the line backed up into Toy Story Mania’s exit, as it is here later in the afternoon.
Toy Story Mania is our next stop, with a 5-minute posted wait both two hours after the Park actually opened, and 58 minutes before it’s supposed to open.
With so few people around, we were sent through FastPass+ here too.
By 9am, the wait would be up to 40 minutes, before hitting a full 75 minutes at 10:30am.
I arrived at 8:02am, and was back out front at 8:16am, for a total experience time of just 14 minutes. That’s at least ten minutes less than the ride would take with FastPass+ later in the day.
As I left Toy Story Land at 8:20am, I saw my first sign apologizing for the fact that Rise of the Resistance boarding groups had already filled for the day.
The boarding groups had filled completely just after 8am, or a full hour before the Park was even supposed to open for the day. That had to be frustrating for an awful lot of guests, particularly considering the fact that Disney never mentioned the fact that a virtual queuing system for Rise of the Resistance would be in place, and there would be no mechanism to simply wait your turn, like just about every other theme park attraction on earth. The virtual queue also makes a late arrival impossible for those who want to experience the new ride. Currently, there is no way to ride Rise of the Resistance unless you’re willing to arrive at least an hour before the Park opens and then quickly join a boarding group via the My Disney Experience app or a cast member with the ability to sign your group up.
For the sake of guest satisfaction and recovery, you’d think that Disney would organize things so that the boarding group system works as quasi-FP+. Those who secure a boarding group enjoy priority access, while those who are willing to wait are allowed to do so. Over at Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom, people still happily wait three to four hours during peak times to ride, and still disembark saying that the wait was worth it. Rise of the Resistance is (arguably, maybe, but probably not) better, so you’d think people would have a similar reaction if they were allowed to get in a line that said it was probably going to take five hours.
So far, our very strange day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios has gone relatively well. The Park somehow opened three hours before it was supposed to, resulting in short waits at every attraction that actually accepts standby guests. I tried to ride Rise of the Resistance, only for it to go down while I was in line. I got to ride Smugglers Run alone. I enjoyed some of the shortest waits that I’ve ever experienced in Toy Story Land.
We’ll see what happens as the actual Park opening time approaches and Rise of the Resistance reopens.