We’ll start with what’s obviously the most exciting topic here, and that’s parking. Disneyland has announced that the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure will open at midnight on May 31, 2019. Disney has stressed that they don’t want guests arriving prior to then, nor do they want people hovering around the surface streets of Anaheim.
Beginning June 1, Disneyland will open the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure no later than 5:30 a.m. each morning, for an unspecified duration (we’re going to assume at least the duration of the summer). This is despite the park opening at 8 a.m. each morning, or 7 a.m. some days with Extra Magic Hours. It’s also despite Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge operating on a reservations system with no standby line…
Disneyland has also stressed that there is no need to even arrive early thanks to this time slot system. Everyone with a reservation will be admitted to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and no one without a reservation will gain access. Pretty cut and dry.
Second, even though 5:30 a.m. seems really early, getting to the parking structure around 6 a.m. isn’t the worst idea in the world. It allows guests to beat rush hour traffic on I-5, as well as the surges at the parking toll booths, bag check lines, and be among the first at the turnstiles.
Arriving to Mickey & Friends at 7 a.m. for an 8 a.m. opening time is potentially too late–the lines for everything could very well take over an hour by that point.
Finally, there’s the practical reality that Disneyland fans are an obsessive bunch. Disneyland diehards love to wait in lines overnight and/or for unnecessarily long amounts of time. If Mickey & Friends is not open when fans want to start waiting in line, they will simply drive in circles around the surface streets of Anaheim, or outside the parking structure.
Disney’s relationship with Anaheim is already strained, and having fans “loiter” around town causing congestion and headaches certainly wouldn’t help with that. Kudos to Disney for recognizing this and opting to open Mickey & Friends earlier than truly necessary.
As for how Disneyland plans on limiting guests to only their 4-hour reservation slot in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, that’ll be accomplished via colored wristbands. Each time slot will have a different color wristband, and Cast Members will do a slow sweep of guests whose time slots have ended, similarly to how the parks do this for hard ticket events like the Halloween party.
Following each four-hour time slot, Disneyland Cast Members will turn away guests with expired wristbands attempting to enter the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run line, buy drinks at Oga’s Cantina, dine at Docking Bay 7 counter service restaurant, and build items at Savi’s Workshop or Droid Depot. Beyond that, Disney has suggested that they won’t allow guests to jump into line as the clock expires on their time slot (a common end-of-night practice), but no specifics have been provided there.
Disneyland expects that four hours will be enough time for most visitors to explore Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and they’ll leave of their own accord towards the end of their time slot. When I first read this, I chuckled. When it comes to parking, Disneyland management “knows” its local audience’s tenacity…but they’ve seem to have forgotten about that here.
In fairness, the Star Wars Land reservation system has been designed to manage crowds and minimize wait times while keeping Galaxy’s Edge below normal capacity. Disney hopes to manage crowd flow and have guests explore other areas of the land first rather than darting straight to the Smugglers Run attraction.
The goal is to keep the wait times for Smugglers Run under two hours by persuading guests to postpone their rides on the attraction until the second or third hour of their visit when wait times will be lower. No word on how this will be accomplished, but we’re guessing either via inflated wait times at the start.
As part of those sweeps for guests who overstay their welcome, there will be ‘show’ element, consisting of a squadron of Stormtroopers who act as enforcement. These Stormtroopers will attempt to escort guests out of the land, which should be on theme, amusing, but perhaps ineffective. (Should guests somehow elude them or refuse to leave, security will get involved at some point.)
Overall, there’s still a lot on the operational front that Disneyland needs to figure out before Star Wars Land officially opens. Cast Member previews are currently underway, and some of the lessons learned during those will likely be applied to the first month of operations. Of course, that’s an entirely different, more limited and controlled scenario. Even with the best laid plans, much of the opening will be trial by fire. Expect real time adjustments made as Disneyland learns what does and does not work with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Stay tuned.
If you’re planning on visiting the new land, you’ll also want to read our Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Guide. This covers a range of topics from basics about the land and its location, to strategically choosing a hotel for your stay, recommended strategy for the land, and how early to arrive to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to beat the crowds. It’s a good primer for this huge addition.
What do you think of Disney’s plans to address operational logistics in Star Wars Land? Do you think the wristbands and Stormtroopers will be an effective way to facilitate crowd flow and minimize waits? Any questions? 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!