Huge Hollywood Studios FastPass+ Changes
Walt Disney World has confirmed that new FastPass+ tiers will debut at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on August 29, 2019, which is not-so-coincidentally the date that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open. In this post, we’ll give you a rundown of the new tier breakdown, plus the motivation for the change.
Basically, this will divide Disney’s Hollywood Studios FastPass+ tiers into rides and shows. In tier 1, there will be Slinky Dog Dash, Alien Swirling Saucers, Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Tier 2 will be comprised of the Star Tours plus shows: Frozen Sing-Along, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, MuppetVision 3D, Disney Junior Dance Party!, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Fantasmic, and Beauty and the Beast — Live on Stage. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run will not offer FastPass+ upon its debut (there will be both Single Rider and FastPass+ lines for the attraction, but there’s no word on whether Single Rider will be available right away).
This might not seem like a huge thing, but not being able to secure FastPass+ for multiple popular rides at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a colossal change, and one that’ll dramatically increase time spent waiting in line by those who plan well. This change could mean a couple of additional hours spent waiting in line on an average day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The reason Walt Disney World is doing this is undoubtedly for capacity control and guest redistribution throughout the park once Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens…
This may not make complete sense, so let’s illustrate with some examples. Let’s assume that the capacity of Disney’s Hollywood Studios is 50,000 guests (made up number) with perfect distribution amongst all shows, rides, queues, restaurants, gift shops, and so on. Basically, an ideal distribution of guest attendance, filling in all available space.
That 50,000 number (or whatever it is in actuality) is purely theoretical, and will never be achieved in day to day theme park operations. For one thing, guests don’t naturally distribute themselves in an even manner. Most will flock to popular attractions, leaving less popular spots under-utilized. This isn’t a problem in a park with surplus capacity and space, but Disney’s Hollywood Studios is not such a park.
Right now, you’ll see a ton of people racing to Toy Story Land each morning, while Muppet Courtyard and Grand Avenue are veritable ghost towns at the precise times those lands are most crowded. Likewise, the courtyard around Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy is never going to fill on its own.
Another example we’ve witnessed recently is with Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party–most guests congregate in the hub/Central Plaza for the parade and fireworks, and there are times when these areas feel dangerously congested. Gridlock gets really bad and the areas are barely traversable.
Meanwhile, Adventureland might be almost totally empty at exactly the same time. This is why we’ve seen Walt Disney World increase attraction overlays for these parties. It’s a good way of enticing guests to redistribute their attendance in a more even, safe, and comfortable manner. (It also allows Disney to increase ticket sales while still creating maintaining the impression of lower attendance.)
The exact same idea applies here. When Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge debuts at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, everyone is going to race to that new land. No one is getting up at 5 a.m. to rope drop Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy. Once Star Wars Land hits capacity–and it will–guests will have to fill space elsewhere in the park.
The natural inclination will be turning to ‘consolation prize’ attractions like Star Tours: the Adventures Continue, Tower of Terror, or other high profile rides. Especially for repeat guests, shows like Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage are going to be low (or no) priority.
Distributing FastPasses to those shows will draw at least some guests to them. It may seem like a silly or ineffective way of “tricking” people to see shows, but this is a proven approach. In fact, Walt Disney World has done this before superfluous FastPasses (anyone remember getting the “bonus” FastPass to Carousel of Progress?). There’s a satisfaction in securing a FastPass, even an unnecessary one, to anything. Once guests have those (unnecessary) FastPasses, they are more likely to use them.
This brings us to the second motivation for these FastPass+ changes. From an operational perspective, the “problem” with offering FastPass+ on popular rides is that it allows guests to be in two places at one time. Virtually, you are standing in a queue for one attraction; physically, you can be standing in line for another attraction.
This is why Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run will open as a standby-only attraction. Offering FastPass+ for it would allow people to browse the land’s shops and other offerings, effectively take up double the space in a land that is already low-capacity and high-demand. Having as many people as possible fill that attraction’s (huge) physical queue will allow Walt Disney World to allow more guests to enter Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
An attraction could have zero people in a physical line, but a posted wait time of 120 minutes thanks to a virtual queue, and some guests would not enter the physical queue because that amount of time is longer than they are willing to wait. Everyone has a balking point for each attraction–a posted time too high to justify jumping into line. (Disney also uses inflated posted waits at the end of the night to discourage guests from entering lines.)
When the virtual queue is much or most of what accounts for that wait time, more people will balk at getting into line, which means fewer people in the physical queue. Circling back to the first point, that means under-utilized capacity in the theme park.
Now, this is not to say Walt Disney World’s approach with Disney’s Hollywood Studios FastPass+ tier changes and crowd management for the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is the right one. Personally, I think it’s a big mistake inducing so much demand in a park with so little to do. The easiest fix here would’ve been waiting until both Star Wars attractions were ready to go (ditto Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway). That’s going to be sorely needed attraction capacity come August and beyond.
Moreover, we’ve been talking for a while about how Disney’s Hollywood Studios would have to add temporary shows and entertainment to help soak up Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge crowds. With the exception of the aforementioned Lightning McQueen show, that has not happened. It’s still theoretically possible, but whatever is thrown together at this point will probably be too little, too late.
While we would’ve preferred better planning (land reservations or a virtual queue!) and crowd management, we have to admit that something–even this–is better than nothing. Opening the turnstiles on August 29, 2019 and letting the situation devolve into chaos would’ve been bad, especially in a park that isn’t built to absorb crowds. (While Disneyland has its own unique infrastructure problems, at does have like 10x the number of rides as DHS.)
The other possibility, perhaps even an intended consequence of these changes, is that some guests will be discouraged from visiting or lingering around Disney’s Hollywood Studios. From a planning perspective, this is an unfavorable change, and between it and the potential Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge chaos, it might be enough to push people away from Disney’s Hollywood Studios completely. (If you’re looking for recommendations, consult our Tips for Using FastPass+ at Walt Disney World.)
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What do you think of these FastPass+ changes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? 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!
Not that I doubt you, Tom, but what is your source on this information?
I ask because the only other place I have seen this is on WDWNT – the site that broke the now debunked-by-Disney news that the Land and Seas pavilions at Epcot would be torn down. I saw it also at Chip and Co, quoting WDWNT.
My daughter is a TA, and they usually get breaking news before anyone else, and she hasn’t heard this either. So … ?
It’s currently available to concierge guests via their extended FP+ window (for bonus, purchased FP+), and if you inquire directly with Disney, they will indicate it’s going to be the tier system going forward (once the window opens for all guests).
Thanks! There’s quite a lot of arguing going on, whether it’s accurate or not. WDWNT did themselves a huge disservice by publishing that rumor. Now everything is questioned.
Wondering though, for the special FP for Club level guests, do these new tiers apply? I thought the CL FPs were not subject to the tiers, and could be made in different parks?
Will you still be able to only book one fastpass and then get more when it is done? My family and I are visiting WDW Sept. 8-15. We were trying to avoid SWGE (we even switched from Disneyland to WDW). My kids want to do Slinky dog, Midway Mania, Frozen Sing Along, Disney Jr. Dance Party, Lightning McQueen and Fantasmic. Was hoping to book a fastpass for Slinky (if available), then try to get Midway Mania and do shows in between but I don’t want to be tied to a fastpass for the shows as travel with a toddler makes being tied down hard.
This totally sucks. Crowd control by forcing people to stand in line is not going to work for me. Almost makes me want to cancel our september trip.
We won’t even bother going to Hollywood studios at this point. This makes no sense to me at all. I feel like a lot of people may do the same making the other parks more crowded which really stinks.
I understand what you’re saying about how this will help manage capacity issues (i.e. how it eliminates people being two places at once). The thing that surprises me, though, is that I’ve always assumed Disney was doing everything it could to keep guests out of lines, because they’re not spending money on food, souvenirs, etc. if they’re standing in a line. â€â™‚ï¸
Your assumption is correct. This is the rare exception to that general rule.
To all the people that are commenting to just book one fast pass, scan in and hurry to mde for an additional… yeah good luck with that! It’s almost impossible to secure same day fastpasses! Face it… Disney has really screwed us on this one!
In the big picture, yes, that’s the goal. In the short term, though, there are going to be a LOT of people hanging out in DHS waiting for their turn to enter SWGE, and not a lot of other activities to occupy them while they wait. This (short-term) change will “trick” people into seeing shows they might have otherwise skipped, and fill up more of their time by requiring waits at the other rides.
Once they get past the point of needing to restrict access into SWGE itself (and once RotR and MMRR open), things will go back to normal.
That makes sense. Just surprised me , I guess. I assume MMRR Is Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad – what’s RotR?
Sorry. RotR is Rise of the Resistance, i.e. the other Star Wars ride. Generally expected to open late this year/early next year, but nobody nows for sure.
Hey Tom! Thanks for the posts! I am confused a little though and maybe you can help… we are coming to WDW in November, can I get a fastpass to enter SWGE in advance like I do my other fastpasses? Or do I have to wait until I get there that day? We are staying on property. Thanks!
When SWGE first opens, FPs will not be available for Smuggler’s Run. Disney hasn’t announced for how long this will be the case though. I would imagine it will be like this until Rise of the Resistance opens, at the earliest. If they aren’t offering FPs when you do visit in November, then you’ll have to wait it out with the crowds.
Remember when you used to physically go to the rides and get your paper fast passes at the start of the day? Before the App? Sometimes i wonder if that was better….
I just started planning only my second trip to WDW with my husband who will be a first timer, and the first time I went this is how it was and I loved it! Picking fast passes early and all that still has me a bit confused! But I am determined to get it down before we go!
I remember that. I remember arriving in the first hour and running to Toy Story Mania to get a fast pass with a return time around 6pm or later. Then having to wait 2 more hours to be able to get another FP. My husband would then run to Rock n Rollercoaster and get a FP for him and my daughter. We might have gotten a Star Tours FP somewhere in the mix or maybe we just went through the line. I felt lucky to get those fast passes back then.
“In tier 1, there will be Slinky Dog Dash, Alien Swirling Saucers, Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Tier 2 will be comprised of the Star Tours plus shows: Frozen Sing-Along, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, MuppetVision 3D, Disney Junior Dance Party!, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Fantasmic, and Beauty and the Beast — Live on Stage.”
Tom, what were the tiers before?
Currently, Tier 1 is the 3 Toy Story Land rides (Slinky Dash, Midway Mania, Alien Saucers), and Tier 2 is everything else. The big change on Aug 29 is that Tower of Terror and Rock & Rollercoaster are moving up to Tier 1.
Tower of Terror and Rock n Rollercoaster used to be tier 1 before Toy Story Land opened. That along with Toy Story Mania and I think Great Movie Ride were all tier 1. I remember getting Toy Story Mania, standing in line for the Movie Ride and my husband using single rider line for Rock n Rollercoaster. It was not that big of a deal.
I was livid about this at first, and still kind of am, even though my trip this year is (thankfully) in June. For me, it comes down to this – is this a temporary solution to a potential GE crowd control problem, or will this be in place two years from now when I get around to visiting DHS again? Our trip this June will be our last until June 2021, and if similar tiers are still in place by then, I will likely be irked…at best. For me if the tiers are permanently in place it’s a blind money grab by Disney to encourage people to stay longer, or to pay extra for a hard ticket event. If these tiers a necessary evil for a few months, or even a year, then so be it. It might not be my favorite crowd control idea, but I don’t make the decisions.
“Our trip this June will be our last until June 2021, and if similar tiers are still in place by then, I will likely be irked…at best.”
My guess is that this is a temporary thing until Rise of the Resistance and Runaway Railway open. I’d expect another big shuffle then–and one that’s more favorable to guests.
Maybe the reason Smuggler’s Run doesn’t have a fast pass is because it will be a “by reservation only” ride like in Disneyland. That way you use your fast pass on the other rides and go ahead and book the shows so you don’t have the urge to hang out around the entrance of the Star Wars land. I would rather assume that this is all part of a “magical” master plan, than that Disney is a bunch of idiots. I don’t think anyone should be too upset by this unless they couldn’t care less about Star Wars and only visit HS for Toy Story and the older attractions.
Well, disney succeeded in their goal because I will just avoid HS. I don’ t have an interest in SWGE and very little in Toy Story Land . In fact, I only go for ToT, RnRC and maybe SDD. After that, I leave. It’s not even a half day park for me any more. I will not stand 2 hours for the older rides so, if i have to waste a whole days fast pass planning on one ride and two shows that I won’t see, then I just wont go to HS at all. It’s not worth going. I’ll happily give my money to MK or Epcot and let someone else have my spot in the park that day
It’s funny how fastpass+ was introduced to get people out of lines and into other areas of the park, like restaurants and shops, in order to spend more money, but now is being tweaked in order to get more people into lines since the rest of the park is now being overcrowded and space isn’t being utilized properly. I think this also demonstrates how fastpass+ has artificially increased wait times for rides that would have minimal waits without it.
I’m most concerned about the EEMH hours ending in early November. As of now they haven’t announced any extra days for regular EMH or extended operating hours for HS past early November.
It is bad enough that ticket prices have gone up,but now you want too make more difficult for us too enjoy our vacation. Or do you even care? Apparently not.
It is bad enough that ticket prices have gone up,but now you want too make more difficult for us too enjoy our vacation. Or do you even care? Apparently not.
i don’t even know anymore. it just continues to be more upsetting. i simply don’t understand why they aren’t doing a reservation system or virtual queue for SWGE, but the more time passes, the more it looks like they are just going to allow overnight campouts and risk people being trampled when they rope drop as they stamped to SWGE and shoot up the wait times for the entire day. it makes no sense. they just don’t care about guest satisfaction and enjoyment anymore. if they did, they’d have announced a real plan instead of this EEMH and tiered fp farce. my only consoltion at this point is actually hoping all the people aying they are skipping HS do actually stay away so we haev a fighting chance of getting in. we haven’t seen TSL yet, and we do have other things at HS we like to see, but if they aren’t implementing reservations for HS, i don’t see how we’ll even get a chance to see it, which after seeing all the posts from the DL opening it makes me sad because it does look cool, but not cool enough to wait for hours to just step foot in and not actually enjoy anything. honestly, does disney not understand the lashing people will give on social media once these fake crowd plans actually materialize? disneyland had golden PR for their opening- DHS is setting up for massive failure.
I totally agree!
I 100% agree with you. It is terribly upsetting to book a trip to avoid the opening, purchase plane tickets, my daughter gets the time off work and suddenly “surprise “ we’re opening early. Now this. We have been doing an adult mother daughter trip every year for 10 years. I have a feeling this might be our very last until we have grandchildren. Disney is setting up for a PR nightmare.
i’m so glad people see what i see and agree.
we are in the exact same boat. booked a trip january 2nd when they announced free dining. all free dining and room discounts ended october 1st, disney was promoting “late fall 2019”, all signs pointed to an october star wars opening. our airfare and halloween party tickets for labor day week were booked, nonrefundable, and BOOM, hey, we’re opening SWGE MONTHS earlier than announced. i almost canceled but would have lost the money we’ve already paid. it sucks, i’m not enjoying our planning for this trip at all, and every announcement that comes out is only serving to make me more upset and frustrated. and then on top of that, everything coming out of california is perfect, low crowds, the reservations are working, but DHS is saying screw the guests, we just want bodies spending money, not provide a good experience. everywhere i see keeps saying september will be the best month to visit for the foreseeable future, and i hope that’s right. i just want to have a good time, but it’s so hard right now.
I agree Jill. I too am doing a mother daughter trip. I purposely booked at the beginning of September to avoid the opening of Star Wars! The surprise of it opening up early was not a magical one! If we hadn’t had our airfare booked I would have changed the dates, now we feel we are stuck. Poor planning Disney .
Just wondering if/when the second ride in Galaxy’s Edge is scheduled to open to the public?
Not yet scheduled, nobody knows. Disney will only say “later this year,” and CMs working on ride testing in Anaheim have said they wouldn’t be surprised if it slips to next year.
So any news on when the second ride in Galaxy’s Edge will be opened?
Sure makes those expensive, hard ticket events seem attractive, doesn’t it? I’m sure that’s no coincidence. Don’t get me wrong, I like that they offer those events. But when an Annual Passholder has to spend more money to actually ride the rides they already paid for, that’s just wrong. And that’s how it is starting to look. Only having 1 fp selection for all rides is going to make families have to split up in order to ride their favorite rides. I won’t stand in line for hours to go on Tower of Terror while my kids that are too small to ride wait for me. This is a terrible idea.
I hope someone at Disney is reading these comments. I won’t waste a days worth of fast passes for 1 ride. I won’t stand in line for 60 minutes either. HS has always been my favorite park BC of TOT but this will be my last trip for awhile. I’m def not renewing our AP…just too hard now. All the magic is slipping away. I may make a day trip for MK anniversary in 2021 for nostalgia. Remember the good ole days?
I was expecting Alien Saucers or Toy Story Mania would drop to Tier 2 with TOT and RnR once SWL opened. Oh well. This change doesnt bother me too much since none of those Tier 1 Rides are must dos for me on WDW trips like the rides at MK, Epcot, or AK.
I keep hoping by March they’ll add an EMM event for Star Wars Land. Wishful thinking?