We’re back with yet another park opening protocol change at Hollywood Studios for Star Wars Rise of the Resistance. This comes as Christmas crowds descend upon Walt Disney World and word of mouth together have meant more guests arriving prior to official park opening.
Official communications about operations for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios have been sparse and Disney has been largely silent about its procedures for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance–but we actually have an official announcement on this one from the Parks Blog.
With that said, there’s still reason to believe that what happened today and what Disney has now officially announced could change again in the near future. Either way, we know a ton of you are in the midst of trips and want to be apprised of all relevant info so you can make a semi-informed decision about how to approach Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance…
Beginning this morning (December 18, 2019), the Virtual Queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance was not accessible in the My Disney Experience app until official park opening at 7 am. This was despite the turnstiles opening at around 6:30 am, which has been more or less consistent with recent mornings.
This was clearly a planned and coordinated approach, as there were prerecorded in park announcements, and Cast Members were similarly relaying this information to guests as they entered. We were not in Disney’s Hollywood Studios this morning, but huge thanks to reader Tom K, who emailed us a detailed account of his experience.
Here’s what he had to say, in part, about waiting to enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios: “I arrived at HS about 5:15 AM. There were approximately 3,000 people there ahead of me. The lines at bag check were minimal. My spot was about 30 feet in front of the ticket booth – the crowd started at the tap styles. Several said that folks arrived before 4 AM to get there. By the time the tap styles opened, I estimate I was in the middle of the pack.”
Tom ended up seeking shelter from the storm in Starbucks, waiting until official park opening to claim a virtual queue spot. His My Disney Experience app froze at 7:01 am as he was attempting to join boarding group 22. When the My Disney Experience app relaunched, he was able to join boarding group 50. (Ouch.)
Right off the bat, this anecdote illustrates a couple winners and losers of the new (or temporary) approach. The first is that boarding groups are more like a hybrid lottery and first-come, first-served system—at least for the rope drop crowd.
If this continues, there’s literally no advantage to arriving super early. Everyone arriving between 3 am and 6:45 am or so—assuming it takes 10-15 minutes to get through the turnstiles–will have an equal shot at the lowest number boarding groups.
Whether this is a good or bad change is a matter of perspective on which approach is most equitable. We will let you draw your own conclusions here as you undoubtedly already have an opinion one way or the other. Our only quibble, as always, is that Walt Disney World is not communicating its new policies for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in advance, via official channels. However, that’s par for the course and there’s zero reason to expect a change there.
The second takeaway from that anecdote is that the My Disney Experience app is…not great. It’s no secret that Walt Disney World’s IT infrastructure often buckles under high demand, and having a few thousand people trying to simultaneously score boarding passes for the Rise of Resistance virtual queue certainly qualifies.
This means someone arriving at 4 am could end up with a higher number boarding group than someone arriving at 7:01 am just by virtue of one losing at MDX roulette. This will definitely be frustrating, and one unequivocal upside of the unofficial early opening is that it staggered demand and load on the virtual queue.
Per Tom K, boarding passes were still available as of 8:20, but gone before 9 am. It’s worth noting that Walt Disney World started indicating that guests above boarding group 121 were essentially overflow earlier this week, so there’s no guarantee those ~8:20 am boarding groups will get to ride.
The likely reason that Walt Disney World is adopting this strategy is for the deterrent effect on future pre-park opening arrivals. Normally, when a new attraction debuts at Walt Disney World, diehard fans show up at ridiculous hours on opening day—maybe opening weekend—and then rope drop crowds start skewing closer to official park opening.
Here, the first part of that happened and crowds got better for a few days before getting much worse. Christmas approaching is one reason for that, but the better explanation is word of mouth. As information has circulated from unofficial sources—together with nearly unanimous glowing reviews for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance—more guests are aware of what must be done if they want a chance to ride Walt Disney World’s new E-Ticket.
With the busy holiday weeks approaching, this had the potential of spiraling out of control. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is a smash hit and guests are arriving earlier and earlier. The days we’ve visited this week have been bonkers, and these growing crowds outside the gates force DHS to open even earlier to accommodate them. This new policy going forward should reverse that trend, discouraging most people from arriving before 6:30 am.
In addition to this, no attractions will be open to guests prior to 7 am. Guests will be allowed onto Hollywood Boulevard and into the Trolley Car Café Starbucks and gift shops, but will then held prior to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. This thus doubly disadvantages the earliest guests to arrive. If this new policy sticks, there is really no reason to arrive at Disney’s Hollywood Studios before the published opening time.
As you’ve probably gathered from our previous posts, we’ve been fans of an approach that balances sleep and sanity with being up early to beat the crowds. As such, we’ve been suggesting getting to DHS between 6:30 and 7 am. Late enough to miss being stuck in a sea of humanity waiting for the gates to open, but still early enough to score a boarding pass and beat the crowds throughout DHS.
If we were doing Disney’s Hollywood Studios tomorrow (we aren’t!), we’d hedge our bets a bit and modify that to an 6:45 am arrival. Still enough time to be through the turnstiles at 7 am (or close enough to it), and with minimal time wasted. (This also makes our Skyliner ‘Rise (of the Resistance) & Shine’ Strategy a bit more viable.) Personally, I’d be inclined to arrive slightly later, as refreshing the My Disney Experience app and becoming frustrated if/when it crashes doesn’t sound like a good way of starting the day off on the right foot.
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 rope dropped Disney’s Hollywood Studios recently? What has been your experience with crowds? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment and strategy? 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!