As we’ve said previously, we’re fans of the virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Judging by reactions on social media, many others vehemently disagree. There seem to be a few primary complaints. First, that those who are willing to stand in line for 6, 8, or however many hours don’t have that opportunity.
The thing about this is, the ride’s day throughput is the ride’s daily throughput. Capacity doesn’t go up or down due to the virtual queue. Someone arriving at 7 am and having a 3 pm return time effectively is waiting in line 8 hours, just not in a physical queue. If the virtual queue didn’t exist, it’s not like someone arriving at 6 pm, after the daily allotment of boarding passes has been distributed, would be able to ride. The alternative is that Walt Disney World would’ve cut the line.
The second complaint, and one to which we’re more sympathetic, is that most guests are unaware that Disney’s Hollywood Studios is having unpublished early openings. This is definitely true, and it’s definitely unfortunate for those planning on rope dropping the park only to find it has been open for 2+ hours–and this is especially problematic if DHS runs out of boarding pass before official opening time.
The alternatives to that, either publishing an early opening time or opening at the published time, creates its own set of problems. Open at the published time and early-risers still show up at 5 am, and there’s now a huge crowd outside of the park’s security perimeter, which is both unsafe and uncomfortable.
Moreover, all of those people who arrived at 5 am are still getting boarding passes and they’re still gone by the time those who arrived 15 minutes before rope drop enter the park. (Assuming My Disney Experience doesn’t crash from so many people trying to use it all at once.)
Alternatively, Disney could publish the earlier opening time. The result is that the early-risers simply arrive 2 hours before that time, thus giving rise to the same issue, except now 2 hours earlier. The other problem this presents is that it upsets families who simply can’t get their kids up that early. (As noted above, we saw more complaints than praise for Extra, Extra Magic Hours.)
This is all to say that no matter the approach, opening a new attraction is about tradeoffs and there’s no magical solution that makes everyone happy. There’s more demand than there is capacity, meaning some (most) guests will not get to experience it every single day for a while.
Most families are not going to wait in an 8 hour line, nor are they going to arrive at 6 am. Realistically, most are missing out either way (assuming they even know about the new attraction in the first place). Those who are knowledgeable, diligent, and willing/able to sacrifice sleep will get to experience the attraction either way. That’s pretty much how it works in any travel scenario like this, Disney or otherwise.
With that said, this isn’t to simply say, “sucks to be you” to those guests who did their homework and arrived for rope drop only to find out that they never even had a chance at the virtual queue. If I were in that position, I’d absolutely be complaining to Guest Relations. Rather, this is to say that with every attraction opening, there are going to be winners and losers. There’s no “fix” here that gives everyone who wants to ride this the opportunity to do so.
Suffice to say, the virtual queue is definitely an imperfect solution, but we’d argue that it’s the best possible one given the circumstances. On weekdays, it puts tourists at an advantage (most locals have 9-5 jobs and can’t get to the park until after work–at which point they have no chance of riding), rewards early-risers, and doesn’t put anyone through the headaches of a multi-hour wait in line with no bathroom breaks.
If it helps, think of the virtual queue as a digitized, disconnected paper FastPass, but with a 2-hour return window. That’s essentially what it is, and given that so many people still seem to love legacy FastPass, that might make it more palatable.
To my mind, the only better alternative for handling the opening weeks of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance would be “pulling a Star Tours” and keeping Disney’s Hollywood Studios open round the clock for several consecutive days. Unfortunately, that’s simply not possible with this attraction.
The core problem with Rise of the Resistance, and the one to which we’re a lot less sympathetic, is that Disney announced the opening date for this attraction over the summer, back when there was no certainty that Imagineering would have it ready for prime time by December. And it isn’t.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is still in need of (at least) a few more weeks of testing & adjusting. Right now, it isn’t even ready for soft openings–let alone debuting to the general public.
This isn’t because the attraction is in unfinished form (when it’s up and running, it’s flawless) but because it’s still unreliable and prone to downtime and ride resets, each of which take slightly over an hour.
As we noted in our virtual queue post, this is a big reason why using that system as a release valve on demand is the best ‘lemonade out of lemons’ solution right now. If the physical queue were filling, guests would be waiting for hours–not doing any other attractions during that time–only to inevitably be dumped from the queue. That approach would lead to even more guest complaints.
Disney never should have announced the opening date of this attraction so far in advance, especially with the knowledge that it’s ride system was complex and already problematic. Prevailing sentiment is that they did so to drive occupancy numbers, but hotel bookings for the holiday season were already strong prior to the announcement. That’s what makes this especially befuddling.
Perhaps Disney wanted to squeeze an extra 1% out of the occupancy rate? Maybe they wanted to take what would be a busy season regardless and attribute that to the opening of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance? My bet would be a mix of both, especially as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was already coming under criticism for not moving the needle initially as much as anticipated. Now, it’ll be presented as the “cause” of an incredibly busy Christmas.
This approach will make it look good on paper, but opening now still seems like another unforced error. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is really, really good. We’re glad we’ve had a chance to experience it, but after experiencing the last few days, we sort of wish it were delayed until 2020.
If Rise of the Resistance opened in January 2020, it would debut to the same rave reviews, but likely without any negative coverage of ride breakdowns and boarding pass distribution woes. There would be no asterisk–it’d be pure hype that would drive bookings for the rest of 2020 at the exact time most people are making their annual vacation plans.
Of course, all of this is easy to Monday morning quarterback and critique from the outside looking in. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s also easier to assert that Disney should’ve opened the land all at once (something I did not think at the time–I thought the phased approach was better; I now disagree with that).
Perhaps Disney weighed all of these considerations, realized they had promised a “Late Fall 2019” opening ages ago, and felt it was necessary to have Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ready for the holiday season to deliver on that. As WDW regulars, it’s easy for us to say we wish it were delayed until 2020. We might feel very differently if we booked our once in a lifetime trip to Walt Disney World for December 8-15, 2019 (or something like that) over a year ago because we were big Star Wars fans and wanted to see the new land.
There are probably countless other tradeoffs and considerations at play to which we’re not privy. Again, this is something that’s easy to criticize from the outside without a complete picture of the decision-making process. I’m not one to blindly “trust in Disney” but I also don’t always assume the worst ulterior motives.
At the end of the day, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is a fantastic, revolutionary attraction and it’s well worth jumping through every hoop to ride it. As always, those who do their research (and that’s you if you’ve read to this point!) and are willing to sacrifice some sleep on vacation will be best situated to experience it.
Also fortunately for you, those hoops shouldn’t disturb the rest of your Walt Disney World vacation plans too much–you can ride Slinky Dog Dash, Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror, etc., while you wait for Rise of the Resistance! Stay tuned in the coming days/weeks/months as we continue to provide strategy updates on the virtual queue, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, in general.
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 to beat the crowds. It’s a good primer for this huge addition. As for planning the rest of your trip, we have a thorough Walt Disney World Planning Guide.
Have you experienced Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance? What did you think of the whole process for experiencing the attraction? Are you a fan of the virtual queue, or would you prefer something different? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? 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!