Hollywood Studios Early Entry: Triple-Digit Trio Triumph

Early Entry is a valuable resort perk for on-site guests of hotels at Walt Disney World, and nowhere is that more true than at Hollywood Studios. This DHS photo report offers a step-by-step look at what we accomplished during the morning Extra Magic Hours replacement in Summer 2022, strategy & tips, what worked well and what went wrong.

This day at DHS was a 7/10 on the crowd calendar, with an average daily wait time of 51 minutes. That’s park-wide, meaning Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Tower of Terror, and Slinky Dog Dash were significantly higher (all peaking above 100 minutes), as they’re offset by short waits at Star Tours, Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy, and the Olaf meet & greet.

Accordingly, my goal was to knock out that triple-digit trio before the “wave” of regular guests arrived for normal park opening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This might seem overzealous, and from a criss-crossing the park perspective, it arguably is. However, I’ve done Early Entry at DHS several times and found that it’s surprisingly easy to accomplish a lot that won’t be possible later in the day. With that, let’s set out for Disney’s Hollywood Studios…

Also notable about this particular Early Entry is that it occurred on a day when Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened at 8:30 am. This is the norm for the start of Summer 2022, and hopefully it’ll continue when Walt Disney World hours in July are inevitably extended.

As we’ve seen in the past, rope drop crowds are worse with later park opening times and better with earlier ones. This is because people like to sleep-in on vacation, or so I’m told. This shrinks the pool of participants for Early Entry as the start time moves earlier.

For this day’s Early Entry at DHS, we stayed at the Swan Reserve and walked from there to the park. With this morning perk being most advantageous at EPCOT and Hollywood Studios and least valuable at Magic Kingdom, the Crescent+ (all of the ones around the lake plus those that can access the area via the Skyliner) resorts have really moved up the rankings for us.

I left our room at around 6:45 am with the goal of beating the first Skyliner guests to DHS. This worked out as planned, as I arrived at 6:57 am, behind only a couple other guests. Security opened at 7 am, and I breezed through that. I was at the entrance touchpoints by 7:02 am. Literally the first guest in line:

I lucked out with this spot, as the guy stationed here was clearly an old school Walt Disney World Cast Member. You can just tell with the way some of them talk and carry themselves. After chatting a bit, he encourage me to take a couple of steps forward and get some clean shots of Disney’s Hollywood Studios getting ready to open.

Honestly, the best part of my morning was talking to this Cast Member and gazing out at the facades of Hollywood Boulevard bathed in warm light. There’s something special about the way the early morning sun kisses the architecture, emphasizing the building contours and drawing out the details. Even with hundreds of visits under my belt, I still notice new things–that’s a huge part of what makes these parks so special to me.

So much of my time at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the last couple of years has been spent trying to strategize to avoid frustrations, which has had the unfortunate byproduct of amplifying the park’s imperfections. So it’s nice to slow down and appreciate what I love about DHS in the first place.

Anyway, the tapstiles opened at exactly 7:30 am, which was an hour before park opening time–or 30 minutes before the official start of Early Entry.

Being the first guest at the tapstile came with an odd bit of pressure. I found myself worrying that there would be a problem with my Park Pass reservation, my fingerprint wouldn’t register, or that another unforeseen error would occur for whatever reason. I could single handedly derail the plans of dozens of guests! Dozens!!!

Fortunately, my reservation and fingerprint “worked.” I was able to breathe a brief sigh of relief before racing around Disney’s Hollywood Studios. My goal at this point was to both capture empty park photos and stay ahead of the crowd.

Power-walking around Walt Disney World while taking photos should really be an Olympic sport. It wouldn’t even be the most niche competition at the summer games.

Wanting to have my cake and eat it too, I took a very quick detour over to Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway for a few photos of that.

Naturally, the vast majority of guests are heading to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Now that the “new ride smell” has worn off Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Toy Story Land is once again the second-most popular destination. Tower of Terror should be a top priority given the current refurbishment, but it doesn’t really register. It takes time for trends to shift, and most guests probably haven’t gotten the memo.

I arrived at Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at 7:34 am to find a very small gathering of guests waiting for the ride to open. That happened less than one minute later.

Being less than a dozen guests from the front of the line, the wait time was how long it took to walk through the lengthy queue, plus the duration of the pre-shows and ride time. I was off the attraction by 7:55 am.

Still a few minutes to spare before the official start of Early Entry at Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

This is worth noting because Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is one of the few attractions (assuming it’s not experiencing technical difficulties) that opens before that official start time. Over in Toy Story Land, lines were being held outside attractions–including a confounding crowd that had arrived at the crack of dawn for Alien Swirling Saucers. Guess some Walt Disney World fans just love dat A.S.S.

Tempted as I might be to fulfill the prophecy of Kramer’s license plate, my focus was on Slinky Dog Dash.

The line already stretched back to here, but the queue had literally just opened. It’s an extremely fast-moving standby line when not slowed down by the Lightning Lane–I was off by around 8:20 am.

This gave me enough time to get back to Sunset Boulevard before regular park opening.

Here, I was greeted by a standby line for Tower of Terror that spilled out past Carthay Circle Theater. However, none of the overflow queue was in use, so I figured it was probably not going to be as long of a wait as the 55 minute posted time suggested.

If I were a normal guest, I would’ve called an audible at this point, as many other headliners still had short lines.

Toy Story Mania and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster both had 5 minute posted wait times, and I watched only a slow trickle of guests heading towards the latter. I could’ve easily knocked out Toy Story Mania immediately after Slinky Dog Dash, followed by Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and then this as near walk-ons. I might’ve even been able to do Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster twice with no wait.

But the whole point of this morning was “proving” that I could triumph over the top trio at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

I don’t know why I was so stubbornly fixated on this plan. Not that you’ll be impressed by any of this one way or another, but if you were, it would probably be the version of the morning with a higher ride count. (Especially since Tower of Terror doesn’t have a reputation as being one of the worst waits at Walt Disney World, even though it is right now.)

In any case, I stuck it out in line for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The excruciatingly slow standby line got even worse shortly after park opening due to Lightning Lane guests.

My actual wait for Tower of Terror ended up being 44 minutes.

Okay, still better than the posted wait time, so maybe I’m just a tad impatient. In my defense, it felt like an eternity–especially after breezing through the lines for the park’s actual two headliners.

At this point, Disney’s Hollywood Studios had been open for 20 minutes to the general public. The posted wait time for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster was still only 25 minutes, and I was tempted to give it a spin.

Until I saw the line, and figured the posted wait just hadn’t caught up with the growing crowd. I decided to bail and take more photos instead. Within minutes, the posted wait time was 45 minutes.

Turning to strategy, the big thing is to arrive well in advance if you want to take full advantage of Early Theme Park Hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There are no guarantees as to when it’ll officially start–it could begin right on time–but it usually begins almost 30 minutes early. Additionally, not all attractions start running simultaneously; assuming it has no downtime issues, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will most likely start running before everything else.

Speaking of which, if you intend on doing Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance plus another headliner or two, it’s imperative that you’re at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at least an hour before official park opening time–ideally 75-90 minutes.

The goal should be finish Rise of the Resistance by the time Early Entry officially begins. That puts you in position to do your second attraction before most on-site guests have even entered the park for the perk.

In a perfect world, you’ll then be done with your second ride (hopefully Slinky Dog Dash) before official park opening time. That puts you in a position to queue up for your third attraction of the day before rope drop.

Going into this morning, my expectation was that the obvious best order for Early Entry and rope drop would be:

  1. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
  2. Slinky Dog Dash
  3. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  4. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster

In hindsight, I’m not so confident of that. This will require more testing, but I think the superior approach might be:

  1. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
  2. Slinky Dog Dash
  3. Toy Story Mania
  4. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
  5. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster

Then again, maybe I just got unlucky with Tower of Terror. Even at half-capacity, the line shouldn’t have moved quite as slowly as it did.

Ultimately, it was an efficient morning for attractions and a photographically fruitful golden hour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Although Tower of Terror wasn’t as easy as expected, I did knock out the park’s two most popular rides with ease. That alone saved me nearly 4 hours as compared to peak midday waits.

This strategy is savvy for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance alone. Not just because of the time-savings, but because of the way it mitigates risk. If the Galaxy’s Edge headliner is operational first thing, it’s unlikely–or at least far less likely–to break down. (By contrast, end-of-evening downtime isn’t uncommon.) If it’s not up and running, you simply keep walking towards Toy Story Land and effectively take the “long route” to Slinky Dog Dash. Doing Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance first is the low-risk, high-reward move.

Even if you only accomplish that and one other headliner, you’re set up well for the last few hours–and you should be able to accomplish pretty much everything else then. (See our recent Disney’s Hollywood Studios Afternoon Arrival Strategy.) As explained there, DHS is really only bad during the middle of the day, and is much more pleasant during the morning or evening.

Finally, this DHS Early Entry report should illustrate is the importance of calling an audible if things aren’t going according to plan. If one thing is certain about Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it’s that nothing is certain. That park has seen more operational and strategy changes in the last few years than all of the others combined. For now, if you want additional preliminary strategy for the other three parks, check out our Guide to Early Theme Park Entry at Walt Disney World.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Thoughts on Early Theme Park Entry at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Have you experienced this jumpstart to the day at DHS? If so, what time did you arrive and what time did attractions start operating? Think I made the right move sticking with Tower of Terror, or would knocking out several lower wait rides have been the better way to go? What’s your preferred approach to Early Entry? How would you have done things differently? Any other feedback on arriving early to the Walt Disney World theme parks? Agree or disagree with our advice or approach? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

41 Responses to “Hollywood Studios Early Entry: Triple-Digit Trio Triumph”
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