After last week’s “frustrating foray” with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, I wondered if our late arrival strategy might be more of a hassle. We thus set out for Walt Disney World at the crack of dawn yesterday, opting to fight the rope drop crowd at Hollywood Studios. In this ride report, we’ll share our experience and attempt to resolve the dilemma of whether an early or late arrival is the best approach.
We got to the front of Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 6:25 am, where there was already a long line for security. This was the first time we had encountered any line for security at DHS since Rise of the Resistance opened; I’m not sure if it’s an anomaly or lower staffing is the new normal now that peak season is over. Either way, it still only took 10 minutes to get through bag check.
By the time we advanced to the turnstiles, guests had already been entering the park for a few minutes. While even our modest wait at bag check felt interminably long due to the slow/inconsistent pace (seriously Disney, get baggage scanning machines), this was a breeze. The tapstiles were not requiring fingerprint verification, so even though we were initially backed up beyond the ticket booths, we ended up inside the park and under Crossroads of the World by 6:40 am…
At this point, we could’ve continued forward as far as we could to the holding area in front of the stage (in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre). This would’ve been the ideal approach if we wanted to rope drop Slinky Dog Dash or Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run.
However, the crowd up there was already massive, the area looked cramped, and also very bright thanks to the illuminated stage screens…and we hadn’t yet had our morning coffee. Plus, it was a foggy morning, and I felt that’d be perfect for some ominous photos of the Hollywood Tower Hotel:
After that, we waited for what felt like ages but was really just like 15 minutes. We could’ve arrived about 20 minutes later, but the problem with that is things could’ve taken longer. It seems like our existing advice of getting to the park 30 minutes before the official park opening time remains the best course of action if you’re planning on doing rope drop.
At around 6:58 am, we both began refreshing the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Virtual Queue page on the My Disney Experience app incessantly to see if it was live yet. It went live the instant our phones rolled over to 7 am, and we both tried to join boarding groups (for both of us–not individually).
We had zero issues with this process, and scored a boarding group instantly–within maybe 5-7 seconds of the clock striking 7 am. Yet, we were in boarding group 43. Others around us reported higher groups (we heard someone say something as high as the 60s) and lower (in the teens).
That range should underscore the luck of the draw involved, and illustrate why this is a hybrid first-come, first-served and lottery system. While everyone inside the park yesterday at 7 am received a primary boarding group, the return times on those would’ve ranged from the morning hours until late afternoon.
The whole point of us arriving so early was to see if 45-60 minutes spent earlier in the morning meant no park hopping or wasted time later in the day, so we decided to stick around. We thus immediately headed back to Toy Story Land, where Slinky Dog Dash already had a 60 minute wait by 7:05 am.
About 10 minutes after that, the line for Slinky Dog Dash already stretched back to Walt Disney Presents and had ballooned to 80 minutes. The line for the attraction peaked before 8 am at 100 minutes. In other words, the longest posted wait of the day was not in the afternoon, but in the early morning. Same for Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run.
Elevated wait times were consistent among all headliners at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and it’s safe to say that the early morning advantage in doing these attractions as walk-ons or with minimal wait has all but evaporated. Had we been at the front of the pack, we probably could’ve done Slinky Dog Dash with an under 20 minute wait, but that would’ve been it.
No more “riding the wave” of the crowd through Disney’s Hollywood Studios, doing everything with a minimal wait before returning to your Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding group. Now it’s essentially a matter of picking one E-Ticket (at best), doing that, and then encountering the longest lines of the day everywhere else.
To compound matters yesterday, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance did not open and begin accepting boarding groups with the park. Still, our goal here was to avoid wasted time by park hopping, so we waited around until 8 am.
At that point, Rise of the Resistance still wasn’t open, so we decided to cut our losses and head out. We also had to get update photos from Epcot, so it’s not like leaving was a tremendous inconvenience. It turned out we made the right call, as the attraction didn’t start accepting boarding groups until around 8:45 am.
We continued watching the return progress in boarding groups, and saw that they were breezing along. So, at around 11 am when boarding group 41 was called we headed back over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Even as we entered the park, we noticed it had been stalled on 41 for a while.
Nevertheless, we headed back to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and saw that a slow trickle of guests were still entering. It wasn’t broken down! Eventually, boarding group 42 was called…and almost immediately thereafter, rope was put up around the entrance of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which had just broken down.
Knowing we’d be in for at least a 70 minute delay plus a surge of guests when the attraction came back online, I opted to take the Skyliner over to Epcot again. The smart move would’ve been doing MuppetVision or some other supporting attraction that didn’t have a long wait, but I still needed photos from Epcot.
Not long after arriving in World Showcase, our boarding group was called. We met back up at the front of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance around 45 minutes later and did the attraction with an average wait. Everything was smooth and firing on all cylinders–no broken effects or unnecessary queue. So that was a plus!
It’s worth noting that nothing we experienced yesterday (the ride opening late or breaking down midday) is out of the ordinary. However, had Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opened with the park and had everything been running smoothly, it would’ve taken roughly 2 hours for our boarding group to be called.
Meaning that in a best case scenario, our boarding would’ve been up by ~9 am, and able to return until 11 am. While that wouldn’t have been sufficient time to do multiple headliners, we could’ve done Slinky Dog Dash plus maybe Toy Story Mania and definitely Star Tours.
Or, we could’ve done one of the three before heading over to Epcot to rope drop Frozen Ever After or Soarin’ Around the World. (We did not do this, but I’m guessing with Test Track currently down for refurbishment, the rope drop crowd is now slightly larger at these two attractions.)
This ‘best case scenario’ also assumes we would’ve been in boarding group 43, and not a better or worse position. True best case scenario would’ve been a group in the teens, and out of the park before 8 am. True worst case scenario would’ve been a crashed app and boarding group in the 80s. A boarding group in the 40s is about middle of the road.
Even though word has gotten out about the park opening and boarding group process, many guests still arrive at 7 am or shortly thereafter. Which, as you know, is too late. This means that until around 7:15 am, there’s still a steady flow of guests into Disney’s Hollywood Studios, all of whom are likely ending up with boarding groups in the 80-100 range, depending upon the day.
Following this, there’s a prolonged lull. Fewer boarding groups are distributed between 7:15 am and 8:30 am than are distributed in the first 15 minutes that the park is open. Meaning there’s usually minimal difference in arriving at 7:20 am or 8:20 am.
Both are likely getting backup boarding groups in the low to mid-100s. In both scenarios, it’s total luck as to whether either or both of those groups are called. Some days, we’ve seen Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance get well above 150. Other days, it doesn’t even hit 120. Obviously, your odds are better with a lower-numbered backup boarding group, but the point is that an hour difference later in the morning is not as significant as mere minutes right when the park opens.
The dilemma is thus whether arriving 30 minutes before park opening for rope drop is still the smart move, or if compromising on a late arrival is smarter. Sadly, the answer remains “it depends.” Is that extra hour of sleep critical to you? Are you staying at a Skyliner resort and wanting to use that to get to DHS? Do you have multiple days to try for a boarding pass? The dilemma remains unresolved because results are inconsistent and thus it really depends upon your preferences/priorities.
Overall, this marks the second consecutive “unlucky” experience we’ve had with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, but it’s worth emphasizing that our fortunes could’ve been much better on a different morning or with better/worse success in My Disney Experience. Just as our luck could’ve been worse back in December when things went so smoothly for us multiple times in a row.
On a final note, more than a few readers have asked us to “pick our side.” We share our ride report results not because we have some agenda–we don’t. One challenge in covering anything Star Wars-related is that many fans have made their minds up one way or another on literally everything before it even happens, and want our posts to fit with their agenda. Some cheered last year when we reported low crowds at Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland because it squared with their narrative. Others cheered at the large crowds for Rise of the Resistance, as it matched theirs. When it comes to Disney’s handling of Star Wars, we don’t have a dog in the fight. We’re simply sharing our firsthand experiences, for better or worse.
Which is your preferred Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance strategy–getting up early to make it for rope drop or sleeping in a bit and taking your chances? If you’ve done RotR in the last few weeks, what time did you arrive, which boarding group did you receive, and when was your return time? (More data points helps other readers make informed decisions!) 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!