According to the January 2011 Disney World Crowd Calendar, we’re on our third day in a row of “level 1” crowds. A couple of days ago, I made a post titled What A Disney World Crowd Calendar Rating Of “1″ Really Means, where I listed the wait times compared to a Saturday earlier in the month that was rated a “6.” According to that post and the Crowd Calendar, Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom are supposed to be busier today, while Epcot should be less crowded and Animal Kingdom should only be slightly more crowded.
Let’s have a look at wait times today, compared with wait times on January 25th. Both days are rated a “1” on the Crowd Calendar. All wait times are taken between 4:00pm and 4:15pm.
The first number is the wait time on January 27th and the second number is the wait time on Tuesday January 25th.
Animal Kingdom (#2 Best Park to Visit on January 27th, #1 Best Park to Visit January 25th):
Dinosaur: 10 minutes 5 minutes
Expedition Everest: 10 minutes 10 minutes
Kilimanjaro Safaris: 30 minutes 15 minutes
Epcot (#1 Best Park to Visit on January 27th and Only Park to Avoid on January 25th):
Maelstrom: 10 minutes 15 minutes
Soarin’: 30 minutes 35 minutes
Spaceship Earth: 5 minutes 5 minutes
Test Track: 15 minutes 25 minutes
Hollywood Studios (Only Recommended If You Want to See Fantasmic on January 27th and #2 Best Park on January 25th):
Great Movie Ride: 15 minutes 10 minutes
Tower of Terror: 20 minutes 10 minutes
Toy Story Mania: 120 minutes 30 minutes
Magic Kingdom (Park to Avoid January 27th, #3 Best Park on January 25th):
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: 30 minutes 20 minutes
Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin: 10 minutes 10 minutes
Haunted Mansion: 20 minutes 10 minutes
Pirates of the Caribbean: 10 minutes 5 minutes
Space Mountain: 20 minutes 15 minutes
To quote myself just one more time from the January Crowd Calendar, “We will be enjoying the lowest crowds of the year this week up until the 1st of February. Even my least recommended Park will be much less busy than the most recommended Park during Peak or Holiday Season, simply because there are so few people in Disney World at this point in January. Still, 10 minute waits are better than 20 minute waits and three people in front of us at the counter services is better than six, so we’ll still want to avoid the busier Parks each day. Nonetheless, if you do end up at the “worst” Park one day, it won’t be anywhere near as damaging as it would be in the middle of July.”
It looks like that has held true, though the Toy Story Mania wait is daunting. There’s a reason every Hollywood Studios touring plan visits it first thing in the morning, no matter the crowd level or what you have planned during the day. The 30 minute wait on January 25th is also unusual. Toy Story Mania almost always sees 60+ minute waits around 4pm.
Fantasmic is such a crowd magnet that Hollywood Studios is much, much more crowded on days when it’s shown (like today), regardless of how many people are somewhere in Disney World. It’s the reason why Hollywood Studios when it’s hosting Fantasmic goes from “green, only if you want to see Fantasmic” to “red, please reconsider” when the crowds pick up in the second half of February moving forward. From my previous metaphor, Fantasmic is “literally” Disney’s version of handing out free money in the kitchen. People flock to it because it’s so rare and so popular. No matter what it costs to produce, Disney needs to figure out how to either offer it more often or figure out some other less expensive show on other nights. We know they’re capable of shooting off fireworks at Hollywood Studios because they’ve done it in past years and they feature fireworks on July 4th and December 31st. There’s no excuse for letting wait times balloon to 70+ minutes at Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster and 150+ minutes at Toy Story Mania on Fantasmic nights, simply because Disney is too concerned about margins and costs. And that’s coming from a stock holder.
Finally, one other thing to consider when looking at wait times is that many attractions have a “variable capacity,” meaning ride vehicles can be added and subtracted based on need. Kilimanjaro Safaris, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Great Movie Ride are all examples of attractions that can add or remove vehicles. Other attractions, like Soarin’, Dumbo, Peter Pan’s Flight, and others have fixed capacities, meaning Disney can’t add vehicles (unless they build a second Dual-Dumbo, like they’re currently planning). Adding vehicles can help bring down attraction wait times, even when the Park is more crowded. Looking at attractions with fixed capacities, or attractions that are always running at full capacity, is a better indicator of overall crowds.
I’ll be doing these wait time comparisons from time to time to better show the differences between “recommended” and “not recommended” days and a “crowd level 3” and a “crowd level 7.” This will better illustrate what the numbers mean and how much more crowded the theme parks can be just days apart. It really can be surprising.