Earlier this month, Disney moved to an 8am opening of Disney’s Hollywood Studios instead of the usual 7am (or earlier) openings we had become accustomed to since Rise of the Resistance opened in early December.
- First Impressions and Crowd Levels for an 8am Opening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with Rise of the Resistance Tips
While the 8am opening has made for a lot easier morning routine, Disney is packing guests into the park up to an hour before official park opening, resulting in harder to obtain boarding groups. Let’s look at the data.
Website thrill-data.com has the most complete and easy to consume data right now as it relates to all things Rise of the Resistance. One interesting plot shows how long it takes for two types of boarding groups to be handed out for the day – “guaranteed” and backup.
“Guaranteed”, or initial, boarding groups are the highest in demand and usually are distributed within seconds. We refer to them as “guaranteed” not because you’re necessarily guaranteed to ride Rise of the Resistance on any given day, but because Disney will offer recovery options if your boarding group is not called, essentially guaranteeing a chance to ride…at some point.
Backup boarding groups have no such guarantee. If you get a backup boarding group and your group isn’t called, it’s just tough luck, try again tomorrow. Because of that, “guaranteed” boarding groups are in high demand, and have lead to thousands to set an alarm for 5am or 6am while on vacation to try and get in the park early enough to get a “guaranteed” boarding group.
Now, let’s talk about what we’ve seen in the past with regards to guaranteed boarding groups before talking about more recent trends.
First, they’re gone in seconds. In our experience, guaranteed boarding groups last about 90 seconds, sometimes less. This means that you have to ensure that you get to the park early enough to get past the touchpoints at the entrance and fire up your My Disney Experience app before the scheduled official park open.
A more recent trend is that Disney is handing out fewer guaranteed boarding groups. Of course, a variety of factors could play into it, and we go in-depth as to the reasons in this post. Today, February 14th, Disney has hit an all-time low backup boarding group threshold of just 59 guaranteed boarding groups. It’s worth noting that the trend to distribute fewer guaranteed boarding groups started back in mid-to-late January, a little over two weeks before Disney moved to an 8am opening.
Fast forward to February 4th, and the first 8am opening of many that Disney has scheduled over the next few weeks. With an 8am opening, guests were able to sleep in more, get into the park earlier as it related to the scheduled official opening, and (as you can see below) join massive crowds to rope drop one of three lands – Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, and Sunset Boulevard.
So, what’s the latest trend that we’ve noticed since Disney has moved to an 8am opening? Backup boarding groups are being distributed quicker than ever.
In the past two weeks, backup boarding groups are being distributed in less than 10 minutes after park opening. That means that if you don’t show up within minutes of park opening, or if you have any technical issues that require you to get in line for Guest Services or the Guest Experience Team, you not only won’t be able to get a “guaranteed” boarding group, but you might miss out altogether. Let’s take a look at the data, visualized.
In the chart below from thrill-data.com, you can see three different colors. Green represents when the boarding groups opened, yellow represents the full distribution of “guaranteed” boarding groups, and red represents the full distribution of backup boarding groups. As you can see, since the park moved to an 8am opening (right half of the graph), the delta between when boarding groups become available and when they are fully distributed has shrunk. While you might be able to get a backup boarding group an hour or more after park opening with 7am openings, you now have less than 9 minutes, on average, to get a backup boarding group with 8am openings.
In the past six days, backup boarding groups have been fully distributed within 2 or 3 minutes! That’s unbelievably fast, and means that a lot of guests who are even doing the right thing by showing up early are not able to get even a backup boarding group.
We’d like to end this post by making a case for boarding groups. Due to the instability of the attraction (more than 3 breakdowns per day), Disney is nearly forced to use boarding groups. By throttling the amount of guests that are physically in line, Disney is able to control the situation during a break down of the ride. 300 guests waiting in line for an attraction to reopen is a lot better than thousands of guests if a standby system were in place. Until Disney can get Rise of the Resistance to work reliably, a virtual queue system is the smart way to go.
That said, there is clearly a problem when guests who do everything right by getting to the park early and ensuring they’re inside the park aren’t even able to get a backup boarding group as has been the case in the past two days, specifically. Of course, Disney has crowd theory engineers on staff that can probably come up with a more elegant solution than we could, but what’s going on right now can’t be it.
Moving forward, our best advice continues to be to show up to the park early, 45 minutes should be enough, and hope for the best when it’s your turn to grab a boarding group. Things are, presumably, only going to get worse next month when Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway opens on March 4th. There will no doubt be an increase in crowds looking to ride the first ride-through attraction to feature Mickey Mouse, and an increase in crowds likely means tougher and tougher to obtain boarding groups for Rise of the Resistance. Thankfully, Disney is offering both FastPass+ and traditional standby for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
We’ll continue to report on the data and our on-the-ground experiences to assist you with your upcoming vacation.
As always, keep checking back with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to bring you the latest Disney Parks news and photos.