As we outlined in our recent post, boarding groups have been distributed within seconds of opening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios as of late. In this post, we want to look at the why and try to look forward a bit to help you plan your upcoming visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
UPDATE (1/6): Boarding groups lasted for about 10 minutes this morning, a notable improvement over what we see in the post below. Hopefully the predictions we laid out in “the weeks ahead” section below play out.
New Rope Drop Procedure
One of the biggest “whys” is a new rope drop procedure that sees the park opening earlier than before the holiday season. When we visited the park yesterday morning, Disney opened the tappoints at 6:10am, 50 minutes before boarding groups would become available. This is a relatively new change, with previous openings around 30 minutes prior to boarding group open. 20 minutes may not seem like much, but it’s a 66% increase in guests vying for the same amount of boarding groups.
Just like in previous posts, we’re only concerned with the regular boarding groups that have been distributed within seconds. We don’t really care too much about backup boarding groups. While we think that a lot of guests benefit from backup boarding groups, they aren’t protected by the FastPass+ recovery options should Disney not call your group.
Of course, a 66% increase in guests in the park is significant, and they need somewhere to go. While we’ve seen Disney hold guests in the Hollywood Boulevard area in weeks past, Disney is now allowing guests to queue up in masses at three important areas.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Guests who want to rope drop Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge can do so by taking a left in front of the Chinese Theater and heading towards Star Tours. From there, you’ll be held short of Star Tours and walked back to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at rope drop. Get in this mass of people if you want to ride Smugglers Run when the park opens.
It’s worth noting that this is the largest of the three “queues”, stretching back towards the Chinese Theater by 7am.
Toy Story Land
Another popular rope drop option is Toy Story Land. Guests who want to head to Toy Story Land first should take a right at the Chinese Theater, and head towards the mass of people held just short of the Toy Story Land entrance.
Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror
A third mass of people can be found along Sunset Boulevard, held short of Tower of Terror and Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster. Simply take a right down Sunset Blvd and head towards Tower of Terror if you’d like to ride either one of these attractions first thing in the morning.
Affects on Rise of the Resistance Boarding Groups
The 66% increase in guests has had a profound effect on Rise of the Resistance boarding group availability. The data shows that the boarding groups have been distributed in less than 2 minutes the past three days in a row.
With so many people trying for the same allocation of boarding groups, the system has effectively become a lottery, with little to no advice that can be offered beyond showing up about 60 minutes before park opening to ensure that you’re inside the park by park open. Being inside the park is the only real requirement that there is to have a shot at securing a Rise of the Resistance boarding group. Also, make sure that everyone who wants to ride is on your friends and family list if you want to include them in your boarding group.
Check out our Rise of the Resistance boarding group guide (HERE) for more tips and info.
For more on our thoughts about the way Disney is approaching the opening procedures and the effective lottery system, check out our post (HERE).
For timing your arrival to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, check out our post and photos (HERE).
The Weeks Ahead
It’s hard to predict what Disney will do in the weeks ahead, but with majority of schools back in session tomorrow after a winter break, we should see some relief from the massive crowds we’ve been seeing the first few days of 2020. Another factor that has very likely contributed to the crowds is the unblocking of some of the lower levels of Annual Pass to the park. The block lifted on Friday, likely making this weekend one of the worst that we’ve seen yet.
If operating hours are any indication, it looks like Disney plans on the demand remaining high through January 11th. From the 12th through the 16th, park opening is currently listed as 8am instead of the 7am opening we’ve experienced since the start of the year. The 12th is also the Walt Disney World Marathon race day, which means we should see some lower crowds following that weekend. Operating hours go back to 7am for the 17th-20th, a Friday through a Sunday before returning to 8am for weekdays. As of publish time, Disney has 9am as a scheduled opening time for most of February. It’s likely that they’ll adjust those hours as we get closer, but we might be able to expect a similar, and more familiar, pattern of higher crowds on the weekends as local Annual Passholders try to take advantage of their non-blocked lower-tier passes.
Of course, we’ll be at the park periodically to check on rope drop procedures and crowd levels to help you come up with the best plan to secure a Rise of the Resistance boarding group.