Over the last few weeks, Disney has quietly been making changes to the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. These have made the process smoother, which has been further aided by a lack of off-season demand on both coasts.
Today, the company has dropped some bombshell news that should come as a welcome change to many of you who: Disney’s Hollywood Studios will pause the use of the virtual queue for the flagship Galaxy’s Edge attraction.
Here’s the full announcement via Disney Parks Blog:
From bright suns to rising moons, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge continues to call travelers to the magic of Batuu, especially with the excitement of Walt Disney World Resort’s 18-month anniversary celebration getting closer and closer. As we ramp up to “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” honoring our 50th anniversary, we’re continuing to enhance experiences thanks to the feedback from our guests.
We know our guests love choice and flexibility when planning their time in a theme park—which is why, starting Sept. 23, we will pause the use of virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, and guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios may experience this incredible attraction using a traditional standby queue for the first time since it opened in 2019.
Virtual queues continue to be helpful with attraction access, merchandise launches, grand openings and more, and guests should continue to check the My Disney Experience app for the latest on how we’re using virtual queues across Walt Disney World Resort including its potential use at Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at a later date, or from time to time.
In addition to virtual queues, we’ve been investing a lot into the guest experience in other ways, including exciting new attractions on the horizon like Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opening soon at EPCOT, and coming this fall, the new Disney Genie complimentary and convenient digital planning service designed to create your best Disney Day.
While we’ve been defenders of the virtual queue system for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, we’re tepidly on board with this change. Seeing so many first-time visitors and others who don’t understand the ins and outs of scoring spots in the virtual queue lose is undeniably sad.
It shouldn’t take reading our thousand-plus word Ride Guide & FAQ for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance to “successfully” ride the attraction. Some readers who have been shut out of the virtual queue have indicated that they would’ve preferred the opportunity to wait in the standby line for a few hours to be able to experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
As we’ve noted previously, Walt Disney World did not start using a virtual queue with the Galaxy’s Edge headliner due to its popularity. That’s a misconception. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance debuted with a virtual queue during normal operations because it was (and still is) unreliable and prone to prolonged breakdowns.
At that time, the normal FastPass system was thus not viable because it was not sufficiently dynamic to handle the aforementioned downtime without a backlog of guests in the hours after the ride returned.
Beyond that, the switch to the 7 am virtual queue last summer offered another benefit–it discouraged some guests from arriving at or before park opening. With several shows still on “temporary hiatus,” Disney’s Hollywood Studios is again a half-day park.
With this move to a standby line, the bulk of guests will once again arrive for rope drop. This changes the crowd dynamic at DHS, and means more people will leave early after being frustrating by long lines early in the morning. (The silver lining is that Park Hopping to DHS for the last two hours of the day should once again be a great option if you don’t mind not having a real nighttime spectacular.)
The downside to having a standby line is that it entails guests waiting for several hours, potentially enduring one or more ride breakdowns and resets. In the past, our perspective has thus been that the virtual queue and boarding pass system is imperfect, but the best option under the circumstances.
When it comes to a standby line, the grass is arguably greener on the other side. With an unreliable attraction like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, a virtual queue is the ‘lemonade out of lemons’ approach that causes the fewest headaches for guests.
However, we do wonder whether that’s still the case–and there’s definitely cause for some degree of (cautious) optimism around this announcement that the virtual queue is being “paused.”
(Note: Walt Disney World did not indicate the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue is being retired, as would normally be the case in an announcement like this. Instead, they’re leaving the door open for its return “from time to time” if this experiment doesn’t go well.)
As we’ve shared previously, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance’s reliability improved pretty significantly in mid-December of last year. The attraction has been processing more boarding groups per day on average, so we’re confident it’s an actual upgrade/fix for problems plaguing the attraction. (See above, via Thrill-Data.com.)
Further corroborating that is data showing shorter and fewer breakdowns per day for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. That coupled with the “new ride smell” starting to wear off might mean that experiencing Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance becomes slightly less competitive going forward.
Moreover, the virtual queue entry at 1 pm has gotten considerably easier over the last couple of months. On some days at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, boarding groups being available well into the afternoon has become an increasingly common occurrence. We’ve seen the virtual queue open after 5 pm on several occasions, and it usually takes minutes or hours to fill.
While that has been a positive development, that trend probably wouldn’t last much longer even if the virtual queue stuck around. There’s pent-up demand among new Annual Passholders and crowds are expected to start arriving for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary by late September 2021.
However, there is also the reality that many Annual Passholders and other repeat visitors may have honed their skills at joining the virtual queue, but would not even consider waiting 90 to 120 minutes for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Those guests thus will become less likely to attempt doing Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, leaving more hourly ride capacity to first timers and infrequent guests.
I think this is a likely scenario, because it’s our personal perspective. We have zero issues successfully joining the virtual queue every time we visit the parks, but wouldn’t wait more than 45 minutes for it (the wait time will definitely be higher than that, even during the off-season).
As some readers have cynically pointed out, it’s also possible that this move could be motivated by the launch of Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Walt Disney World in mid-October 2021 (tentatively). The company has already announced that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will be an individual attraction purchase (what we’re calling Magic Carpet Access) via that system.
This means that some portion of the current free ride capacity will be reallocated to that pay-to-play system. With the second virtual queue drop at 1 pm, many guests might’ve been inclined to wait and roll the dice on that second distribution time rather than buying their way to the front of the line at 7 am if they were shut out on the first try.
That’s entirely possible. Seeing a 180 minute posted wait shortly after Disney’s Hollywood Studios opens for the day might “incentivize” many guests to drop $24 per person (or whatever the amount) so they don’t miss out on Walt Disney World’s flagship attraction.
However, my strong suspicion is that if the goal were simply to nudge guests towards buying Magic Carpet Access for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, the company would simply drop the 1 pm virtual queue time. That’s an easier and cleaner solution that pushes even more guests towards Magic Carpet Access since it encourages purchases starting even earlier (7 am v. shortly after park opening when the line gets long).
I’m pretty cynical, but my gut says this change is actually about guest satisfaction. Enough Walt Disney World visitors are already upset about the virtual queue for this, another virtual queue coming to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (for totally different reasons), and Lightning Lanes & Genie+ on top of that. The systems were getting too complex and convoluted, especially for first-timers and infrequent visitors. This is one way to scale back on that. But I could be completely wrong–it wouldn’t be the first time.
Ultimately, it’ll be interesting to see what happens next with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Walt Disney World. Even though we’re on board with the shift to standby (or at least taking a “wait and see” approach), it is surprising to see this happen right before the World’s Most Magical Celebration kicks off and crowds surge. Testing this out back at the end of August or even early this month would’ve been a much more pragmatic approach. Suffice to say, we’ll be watching closely to see how all of this shakes out. Hopefully it goes well!
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What do you think of this news that Walt Disney World will pause use of the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue? Do you agree or disagree with this change? 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!