It’s time for another ride report on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Hollywood Studios. This Walt Disney World update details our success scoring boarding passes, tweaks to how the virtual queue works, and a serious drop in demand due to the low crowds of last month and September 2021.
If all you care about is strategy, consult our Ride Guide & FAQ for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance for the ins and outs of the virtual queue–including tips to improve your speed–rather than reading this report. There have not been any recent major changes since that ride guide was updated late last month. The strategy is still 100% accurate.
The good news is that, for now at least, the “fast finger” strategy in that ride guide is not even remotely necessary. For the last few weeks, attendance has dropped and vacation cancellations have increased. We cover what’s happening in Walt Disney World’s Lowest Crowd Week of the Last Year, but that title tells much of the story–last week was the least busy the parks have been in the last year. At least until this week dethrones it…
As we’ve mentioned elsewhere, the virtual queue entry at 1 pm has gotten considerably easier over the last couple of weeks. We first noticed this on August 13 or 14, right after Osceola and Orange County schools had gone back into session. It began with the afternoon boarding groups remaining available shortly after 1 pm, which has been unprecedented in the last several months–they’re normally gone within seconds.
Things got really weird on August 16. The virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance remained open until 7 pm. The virtual queue didn’t close then because the ride ran out of boarding groups–the attraction began accepting guests on a walk-up basis, using the standby line. For roughly the last hour Disney’s Hollywood Studios was open, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance had no wait!
In the couple of weeks since, 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, including after 6 pm on weekends.
We decided to take advantage of that on a recent afternoon visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios…
We arrived to Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 1:15 pm to find, unsurprisingly, low crowds throughout the park.
Our plan was to show up a bit later, but Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance wasn’t having the most efficient day up until that point, so we opted to move our arrival time forward so as to not miss out on the virtual queue. (A wise move, as it closed by 1:30 pm that day.)
This is also a good time to highlight how joining the virtual queue has changed slightly as of late.
The first portion of the process–clicking the hamburger button and virtual queue icon–is unchanged. It’s once you get to the above screen and tap “Join Virtual Queue” that things are different.
Instead of proceeding to a screen to review your party, select additional members (or unselect someone), and continuing to the next screen, that’s been consolidated into a single step.
Any of your My Disney Experience friends and family with Disney’s Hollywood Studios reservations should appear in “Your Party,” and you can simply tap “Join Virtual Queue” from here. This is an incremental improvement that may not seem like much, but it is–especially for larger parties. It shaves off a few milliseconds from the process, which doesn’t matter at all right now–but it will.
We ended up scoring boarding group 125, with an estimated return in 6 hours.
It ended up being exactly that, as we were called back at 7:16 pm.
We headed back to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance shortly after sunset.
There was a long line just to enter the physical queue, which itself was backed up almost to the attraction marquee.
There had been a couple of afternoon showers that cleared out the crowds, making Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance the attraction with the longest standby wait time, effectively. Thought that was mildly amusing given that it’s using only a virtual queue.
For what it’s worth, this is not a normal occurrence, but it does happen–seemingly with greater frequency at the end of the day. The last time we had encountered this long of a line was January of last year, so it’s been a while. It all depends on breakdowns and how many boarding groups are left to process at the end of the night.
The only other “new to us” change with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is that face masks are now required once you enter the enclosed portion of the queue.
That’s technically right here under the waterfalls, I guess.
In practice, most guests put on their face masks when entering the actual building.
Other than that, no material changes to the experience of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance since our last update. Plexiglass barriers are still up in the queue, but that’s really the last vestige of the modifications.
We do have another update since our visit, which is that today (September 1, 2021) for the first time since…maybe December 2019?…the early morning virtual queue entry time didn’t fill up in seconds or minutes.
It stayed open until after 9 am, for over two full hours!
We got group 89 at 8:40 am.
While this is probably exciting news, this probably won’t last much longer. By tomorrow or Friday, Labor Day crowds should start arriving. This isn’t a particularly busy long weekend at Walt Disney World by holiday standards, but it will give attendance at least a slight bump.
It’s difficult to say just how much pent-up demand exists among locals who have been anxiously awaiting the return of APs, but there’s definitely at least some. Probably enough to bring the days of boarding groups available for multiple hours to an end–at least on weekends.
It’s possible that by the time pent-up demand among new Annual Passholders fizzles out, it’ll be late September. That’s when crowds are expected to start arriving for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary on October 1, 2021.
Sometime shortly after that, there’s the launch of Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Walt Disney World. 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 virtual queue capacity will be reallocated to that pay-to-play system.
In other words, it’s entirely possible that what’s happening with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance right now will only last another few days. We mention all of this to avoid giving you unrealistic expectations that this is the “new normal.” It absolutely is not.
If you’re visiting in October or December, the virtual queue will almost certainly be competitive again, with boarding groups gone in seconds.
With that said, this is cause for some degree of optimism. As we’ve previously noted, 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 joining the virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance becomes slightly less competitive going forward. This definitely will not mean boarding groups are available for several hours per day, but even a few minutes would be a huge relief for guests who don’t have fast fingers–or phones.
Ultimately, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is one of Imagineering’s greatest achievements ever, and if you want to enjoy the incredible experience without it being tainted by the stressful virtual queue…now is the time! Your window is probably closing already, but our expectation is that the process will continue to be easier on weekdays throughout September 2021.
After that, it’ll be interesting to see what happens next with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. This is the one attraction we anticipate being a popular purchase with Magic Carpet Access via Lightning Lanes. Depending upon how much capacity is allocated to that, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance could go from being very easy to access to very difficult to access in the span of a month.
Have you experienced Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in the last few weeks? Have any success scoring a boarding group hours after the entry time opened? Are you optimistic or apprehensive about how easy this process will be in the coming months once Lightning Lanes launch? Will you be attempting to join the new/modified virtual queue on your next trip to Walt Disney World? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!