Our (Mostly Useless) Experience with Disney Genie+ at Hollywood Studios

    With Disney’s new attempt at lowering guest expectations for the Disney Genie+ paid skip-the-line system, we wanted to take another stab at using Genie+ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Ideally, we wanted to use “stacking” to create an afternoon of fun at Hollywood Studios, but we quickly found that the reality was more of an anxiety-filled raid on whatever selections we could find. We tried stacking back in November, so make sure to read up on our previous experience to see how it differs from our recent experience.

    Genie+ Stacking: What’s Possible at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
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    What is Disney Genie+ “Stacking”

    A term that gained traction back when Disney Genie+ debuted was “stacking”. So what is Disney Genie+ stacking? Stacking is the accumulation of Lightning Lane return windows throughout the day to load up on return windows towards the end of your day. In short, stacking was possible because of the 120-Minute Rule described below. Let’s take a look at an example at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which is the park where stacking is likely to be found the most.

    • At 7:02am, you make a Slinky Dog Dash Lightning Lane reservation for 4:25pm to 5:25pm. We’ll call this Lightning Lane 1 (LL1)

    Disney’s Hollywood Studios opens at 9am, starting the clock for the 120-Minute Rule on LL1

    • At 11am, the LL1 120-Minute Rule expires and counts as a redemption event. You make a Tower of Terror Lightning Lane reservation for 5:30pm to 6:30pm (LL2). The clock immediately begins for the 120-Minute Rule on LL2
    • At 1pm, the LL2 120-Minute Rule expires and counts as a redemption event. You make a Toy Story Midway Mania Lightning Lane reservation for 7:30pm to 8:30pm (LL3). The clock immediately begins for the 120-Minute Rule on LL3
    • At 3pm, the LL3 120-Minute Rule expires and counts as a redemption event. You make an Alien Swirling Saucers Lightning Lane reservation for 5:45pm to 6:45pm (LL4). The clock immediately begins for the 120-Minute Rule on LL4
    • At 5pm, the LL4 120-Minute Rule expires and counts as a redemption event. You make a Frozen-Sing Along Lightning Lane reservation for the 6:30pm show (LL5). The clock immediately begins for the 120-Minute Rule on LL5

    This is an example of basic Genie+ stacking, and really a good technique if you either want to wait in standby lines at the beginning of the day or even if you want to spend most of the day relaxing at the resort and making new selections from the pool bar as redemption events occur and you qualify for new selections.

    Hollywood Studios Genie+ Lightning Lane Attraction and Show List

    Individual Lightning Lane Entrances
    Attractions include*:

    • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway**
    • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

    Disney Genie+ Lightning Lane Entrances
    Experiences include*:

    • Alien Swirling Saucers
    • Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage
    • Disney Junior Play & Dance!
    • For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
    • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
    • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway**
    • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
    • Muppet*Vision 3D
    • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
    • See Disney Stars at Red Carpet Dreams
    • See Olaf at Celebrity Spotlight
    • Slinky Dog Dash
    • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
    • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™
    • Toy Story Mania!

    **Between February 25, 2022 and August 7, 2022, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Frozen Ever After and Space Mountain will be included via Disney Genie+ service and will not be included as an individual Lightning Lane selection.

    Hollywood Studios Lightning Lane Priorities

    Here’s how we would prioritize your Lightning Lane attraction selections:

    1. Slinky Dog Dash

    We’re going to put Slinky Dog Dash right at the top of the list. The attraction runs out of Lightning Lane return windows quickly, sometimes in seconds and even before Rise of the Resistance a la carte purchases.

    2. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run

    Next up is Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. This ride has a single rider option, which might work for some families, but the second-newest attraction in Hollywood Studios can still demand hour-plus waits. It is often the attraction that runs out of Lightning Lane windows second behind Slinky Dog Dash.

    3. Tower of Terror (Probably should be #2..for now)

    The next three in our list can probably be swapped out based on personal preference or, for the more savvy fans, based on operational issues throughout the day. Tower of Terror was unreliable at the start of November, so it would’ve almost been a no-brainer to at least grab a return window and either skip a massive standby queue or get a redemption at another attraction.

    4. Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster

    We’ll stay on Sunset Blvd for our next recommendation – Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster. Again, we can probably shuffle our #3-6 selections a bit based on what works for you. If Tower of Terror is operating smoothly and running all four dispatch locations and two elevator shafts, it’s possible that Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster gets bumped up to #3 on our list.

    5. Toy Story Mania

    We’ll head back over to Toy Story Land for Toy Story Mania. Toy Story Mania availability not only generally lasts longer into the day, but the ride itself has a high capacity to churn through guests.

    6. Alien Swirling Saucers

    Staying in Toy Story Land, we’ll head over to Alien Swirling Saucers. This is a lower priority for us given how low the wait times get at the end of the evening.

    7. Star Tours

    The bottom two attractions are not even really necessary to grab a Lightning Lane return time for. We’ll put Star Tours above MuppetVision 3D simply because the line has the potential to get much longer than MuppetVision 3D.

    8. MuppetVision 3D

    Last in our list, but not in our hearts – MuppetVision 3D.

    First Selection with Genie+

    So, how did our day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios go with Disney Genie+? All told, it went fine, but that’s because we aren’t normal vacationers. We can wake up early to ensure that we book our first return time at 7:00:01am instead of sleeping in or grabbing breakfast. We can craft our entire day around making sure that we make a new Lightning Lane return time at the precise moment that we’re allowed to instead of wrangling kids or finding where we parked our stroller. In short, our experience might be mostly useless because it was likely the best-case scenario, but there might be some learnings here.

    Our day started at 12:15am when we purchased Disney Genie+. Unlike FastPass+ before it, you won’t be waking up at 7am two months before your visit. Instead, you can elect to start your day as early as 12:01am if you’d like. You won’t be able to make any Lightning Lane selections until 7am, but you can purchase Disney Genie+ as early as midnight on the day of your visit. Our advice is to instead set an alarm for 6:30am to purchase Disney Genie+ for the day ahead, perhaps taking on any issues you might face such as any last-minute Friends and Family adjustments in the 30 minutes before 7am instead of at midnight. For a full guide on how to purchase Disney Genie+, check out our guide below.

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    Consulting our priority list above, our top priority was Slinky Dog Dash. We didn’t plan on riding Rise of the Resistance on this visit, but we will have a breakdown soon on how to attack riding Disney World’s most in-demand attraction.

    If you plan to purchase Rise of the Resistance Individual Lightning Lane, buy that before making a Genie+ selection. Simply put, Rise of the Resistance is the top priority. However, because we weren’t planning on riding Rise of the Resistance, we could make a quick selection of Slinky Dog Dash right at 7am.

    At 7:00:15am, we made our Slinky Dog Dash Lightning Lane reservation for one person for 11:40am – 12:40am. We can only imagine what it might look like if you have a party of four, or, god forbid, a problem with one of the guests in your party. Frustratingly, but commonly enough, we refreshed right at 7am, clicked on an 8:30am return time, and were given an 11:40am return time.

    Anyway, after making our Slinky Dog Dash reservation, we immediately set an alarm on our phone for 10:25am. Why 10:25am? That’s 1 hour and 55 minutes after Disney’s Hollywood Studios opens. For every other Lightning Lane throughout the day, you’ll simply set an alarm for 1 hour and 55 minutes after your current selection, but because the park isn’t open yet, the 120-Minute Rule timer doesn’t begin until the park opens. So, what is the 120-Minute Rule?

    120-Minute Rule

    So what is the 120-Minute Rule? This rule states that you can make a new Lightning Lane selection 120 minutes after you made your previous selection. If your previous selection was made before the official park hours (as is the case because Disney allows your first selection to be made at 7am), then the 120 minutes don’t begin counting down until the official park hours begin for the day. Here’s the rule:

    120-Minute Rule for Disney Genie+

    • Next Lighting Lane selection available 120 minutes after previous selection, OR 
    • 120 minutes after park opening if initial selection made before park opening

    This was a pretty standard rule back when paper FastPass was a thing and what made paper FastPass easy to understand was that your next available booking window was printed on the ticket.

    Genie+ Redemption Events

    It’s also important to understand Genie+ redemption events, and how they interact with the 120-Minute Rule.

    On the Walt Disney World website, Disney says that “You can make one [Genie+ Lightning Lane] selection at a time, starting at 7:00 AM on the day of your visit”. Furthermore, Disney says that there are redemption events that qualify you to make your next selection. Disney says that “Once you’ve redeemed your initial selection (or the arrival window has passed), you can use the app to check your My Day itinerary or Tip Board to see when you’re eligible to make another selection.” So, in that quote, two Genie+ Redemption events are outlined:

    Disney Genie+ Redemption Events

    • Once you’ve redeemed your initial selection, OR
    • The arrival window has passed

    Another redemption event not explicitly stated is the 120-Minute Rule. Properly stated, the redemption events should be:

    • Once you’ve redeemed your initial selection, OR
    • The arrival window has passed, OR
    • 120 minutes elapse from your previous selection (or park open)

    Ok, with that knowledge, let’s explore the selections we made for the rest of our day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

    Genie+ Afternoon Stacking at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

    So, with Disney’s Hollywood Studios opening at 8:30am on the day of our visit, we could make our second selection of the day at 10:30am – using the 120-Minute Rule as our redemption event because we couldn’t tap into Slinky Dog Dash until 11:40am at the earliest.

    Yes, you can hold more than one Lightning Lane selection at a time. Unofficially, this is called Genie+ stacking.

    Before we jump into our selections, we should outline our self-imposed “rules” for our experience. Our first rule was that we couldn’t refresh for more than 5 minutes at a time. While we have benefited from 30 minutes of refreshing before, we don’t think that it’s reasonable to expect that you do the same. Furthermore, we’ve even seen some examples of guests refreshing for 30 or 40 minutes to get a Lightning Lane for an attraction that they could’ve simply ridden in that amount of time if they got into the standby line.

    Another rule that we gave ourselves almost stands in contrast to our first self-imposed rule, and that is that we can drop our current Lightning Lane if a better Lightning Lane selection shows up. Unfortunately, you risk the possibility of not only losing your current selection but also missing your “better” selection if it disappears in the amount of time that it takes to cancel your current selection and make a new selection. That leads us to a Genie+ wishlist item that we hoped Disney would’ve rolled out by now – the ability to swap or modify your Lightning Lane.

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    At the risk of getting distracted further, let’s take a look at our experience with the 10:30am drop.

    Actually, let’s get distracted for a minute more. If we consult our priority list, we see that our next selection should be Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. For the foreseeable future, we might suggest that Tower of Terror get bumped up to number two on your Hollywood Studios Genie+ priority list. Ok, but why? Since February 7th, Disney has been performing maintenance on one of the two elevator drop shafts on Tower of Terror. As you might imagine, this has had a negative impact on wait times to the tune of doubling wait times. This also means that, in theory, not only has the attraction capacity been halved, but so has the Lightning Line allocation. With a much higher standby wait than you’ve been accustomed to, it might be even more critical to secure a Lightning Lane for Tower of Terror now than in the past. Ok, back to our day.

    10:30am (Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway)

    We decided to try for Tower of Terror first, given what we know about capacity. Unfortunately, as you can see below, we were starting to get a taste of how difficult it might be to make a Lightning Lane selection – even in a nearly perfect situation as a party of one.

    At the risk of harping on this too much, there really is something to be said for the stress that you feel when trying to secure a Lightning Lane selection. More so when you have the family vacation on your shoulders.

    After a minute of refreshing for Tower of Terror, we were starting to feel the stress of getting something, anything.

    Another refresh and we saw a Smugglers Run return time, which we decided to take…or so we thought.

    Another refresh and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway popped up for us. Typically, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is an Individual Lightning Lane attraction, but from late February through August 7, 2022, Disney added Runaway Railway to the Disney Genie+ lineup of offerings. Tower of Terror wasn’t available, and we just struck out on Smugglers Run. With the stress of the situation catching up with us, we decided to grab Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway…or so we thought.

    With our 5-minute self-imposed rule coming up quickly, we selected Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster. Somehow, it stuck. While the return time shifted a bit, it wasn’t too crazy.

    With our second Lightning Lane selection secured, it was time to make an alarm for our next selection…or so we thought. After exactly 3 minutes of letting it sink in that our second selection of the day was for 10 hours in the future, we reconsidered. Thankfully, a minute of refreshing allowed us to score a Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway Lightning Lane. With a 5pm return time, it seemed like a solid find and we snagged it. Again, it’s worth noting that this is a best-case scenario of just a single guest. If we were a party of four, it would be unlikely that a Runaway Railway Lightning Lane would pop up with relative “ease”.

    12:38pm (Star Tours)

    It’s probably worth pausing here to think about the consequences of our actions. Not only does every second count when making your first Lightning Lane selection at 7:30am due to the competitiveness of getting Slinky Dog Dash, but so does every second count when making each and every Lightning Lane selection after that. By making our second selection at 10:38am, our 120-Minute Rule clock wouldn’t expire until 12:38pm – a full 8 minutes after anyone else who might have made their second selection closer to 10:30am on the dot.

    You can see where this is going over the course of a day too. If we stick to the 120-Minute Rule as the redemption event, we will have a situation of compounding interest, and not in a prosperous sense. Yes, if we use other redemption events, we could, theoretically, get back on track, but that seemed unlikely during our day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios if we stick to our priority list. You’re now more than 2,800 words into a report about Disney’s skip-the-line offering. I doubt that using an “intermediate” Lightning Lane selection to your advantage will be too advanced of a concept, but it is at least worth mentioning in case the opportunity presents itself. In theory, we could use an intermediate Lightning Lane to get ahead of the curve by changing our redemption event from strictly a 120-Minute Rule to an attraction tap-in. Let’s use our current predicament as our example. Instead of using Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway as our second selection, we could’ve chosen a less in-demand attraction like Star Tours to get a return time before the 12:30pm drop. If we tap into Star Tours, in our example, before 12:30pm, we can get “ahead” of the other guests who are participating strictly in the 120-Minute Rule. Just a thought and something to keep in mind when going about your day.

    Going back to our day, we were the guests participating in the strict 120-Minute Rule to stack our afternoon. That meant that not only were we “limited” to selecting an attraction once every two hours, but we would also be “behind” the 8-ball for our next few selections by at least 8 minutes. Here’s what availability looked like for our third selection at 12:40ish.

    Because our focus was on attractions (perhaps a mistake at Disney’s Hollywood Studios), our choices were limited to Star Tours, MuppetVision 3D, or Alien Swirling Saucers. With a return time just outside of the 120-Minute Rule, we went with Star Tours.

    Slinky Dog Dash

    After making our selection, it was time to ride Slinky Dog Dash. We arrived right at the end of our Lightning Lane window, but you do have a 10-15 minute grace period after your window expires where you should be able to still enter the Lightning Lane without trouble. With a posted wait of 110 minutes, we are now feeling pretty good about our 6:45am alarm.

    Our actual wait from redeeming our Lightning Lane until boarding the attraction was 7 minutes and 12 seconds. There are very few attractions at each park where you can find this kind of advantage, but Slinky Dog Dash is certainly worth an early alarm. Even though the queue has more shade than it did when the attraction first opened, it can still be a pretty brutal wait if you’re in a line that is not under the open-air building that covers about 50% of a standard standby queue.

    2:40pm (No choice made)

    Our next selection time was at 2:40pm after the 120-Minute Rule elapsed on our Star Tours selection. To recap, here’s how our day has gone so far:

    • 7:30am – Slinky Dog Dash (11:40am – 12:40pm return window)
    • 10:38am – Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway (5:05pm – 6:05pm return window)
    • 12:40pm – Star Tours (2:50pm to 3:50pm return window)

    Now, it’s 2:40pm and we’re eligible to pick another Lightning Lane selection due to the 120-Minute Rule redemption event on our 12:40pm Star Tours selection. After four minutes of refreshing, a 4:05pm Lightning Lane popped up for Tower of Terror…or so we thought.

    As we ran up against our self-imposed 5-minute rule for refreshing, here’s what our options looked like:

    • Alien Swirling Saucers – 7:40pm
    • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run – Not Available
    • MuppetVision 3D – 2:50pm
    • Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster – Not Available
    • Tower of Terror – Not Available
    • Toy Story Mania – Not Available

    We probably could’ve, and should’ve, taken the Alien Swirling Saucers Lightning Lane, but we decided to stop searching for a few minutes as we made our way to Star Tours to redeem our Lightning Lane selection.

    2:53pm (Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run)

    During a pause in the movement of the Lightning Lane queue, we refreshed again for two minutes before securing a Smugglers Run return time. As bad as it might be, anytime you can be searching for a Lightning Lane return time, you should be. In this case, we kept to our 5-minute rule and we were still successful in grabbing a Lightning Lane for a highly coveted attraction. It’s worth remembering that we are only making these Lightning Lane selections for a single person. You might not experience as much success with a family of four or more.

    Here’s an updated look at our selections made:

    • 7:30am – Slinky Dog Dash (11:40am – 12:40pm return window)
    • 10:38am – Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway (5:05pm – 6:05pm return window)
    • 12:40pm – Star Tours (2:50pm to 3:50pm return window)
    • 2:53pm – Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run (7pm to 8pm return window)

    Star Tours

    When we made it to Star Tours, the posted wait time was only 25 minutes, but the outdoor queue was in use, which we typically like to avoid. Our actual wait from the tap point below to taking our seat in the Starspeeder was 10 minutes and 2 seconds.

    4:53pm (No choice made)

    More than 3,600 words later and it’s time to wrap up our experience. From 5pm on, we wouldn’t find any availability for our remaining attractions. Here’s what we were looking for:

    • Tower of Terror
    • Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster
    • Toy Story Mania
    • Alien Swirling Saucers

    Sticking to our 5-minutes-at-a-time self-imposed refreshing rule, we never stumbled upon a return time for any of the attractions above. Indeed, here’s a look at the Lightning Lane availability for the day that we visited, courtesy of thrill-data.com. As you can see, the only offerings with Lightning Lane availability after 5pm were Star Tours, MuppetVision 3D, Frozen Sing-Along, and Disney Junior Dance Party…not great.

    Closing Thoughts

    All told, we were able to get Lightning Lane return windows for four attractions. This is more than the “2 to 3 attractions or experiences” that Disney says that guests can expect to do with Disney Genie+, but we have two thoughts on that.

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    First, and we’ve tried to document this sufficiently, we are not the average vacationer. Yes, we imposed a 5-minute refresh rule on ourselves, but it’s unreasonable to expect someone to refresh for 15-20 minutes when that represents up to half of the posted standby time for many attractions. We were also a party of one, which should make finding Lightning Lane return windows easier than if we were searching for a family of four. When we say that our experience was “mostly useless” it’s because we essentially had a best-case scenario for our day at Hollywood Studios.

    Second, and this is a big one, “2 to 3 attractions or experiences” is pathetic – especially for a paid skip-the-line offering. We don’t want to harp on this too much, but what is the added value here besides to per cap guest spending? Who is happy with “2 to 3 attractions or experiences” when you’re paying $60 per day for a family of four? How is this a world-class guest experience? It isn’t. Disney Genie+ is broken and adding meet and greets that don’t demand more than a 5-10 minute average wait throughout the day can’t be the answer. Even adding Lightning Lane to shows, of which Hollywood Studios has many, doesn’t seem to move the needle much in terms of our own satisfaction with the product – and we love the shows at Hollywood Studios. If it weren’t for the fact that Disney has temporarily demoted Runaway Railway, we likely would’ve found ourselves at MuppetVision 3D skipping ahead of 8 other people to all wait in the same pre-show area.

    Is Disney Genie+ worth it right now? Probably not. A family of four would have a worse experience than we did, and even our experience in March 2022 wasn’t nearly as good as it was in November 2021.

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    Have you used Disney Genie+ over Spring Break? Let us know what your experience was like in the comments below or on social media!

    19 COMMENTS

    1. We are a family of 6, bought rise of the resistance I
      At 7:00, then tried to get slinky dog at 7:03, sold out, so we got Mickey and Minnie’s for 2:30. Park open 8:30, at 10:30 we got rockin for 5pm. At 12:31 we got toy story mania. Mickey and Minnie’s broke down right before our time, so we got an open pass. Here is how our day went. Rope dropped slinky dog (on site APs), we’re on and off before normal park open. Had a 25 minute wait for smugglers, then shopped and strolled. Left the park to drop off shopping, came back to do mickeys, found it was a free for all pass, as we walked by it, they opened it back up, and got on it through the standby line in 10 minutes, then on to rise for ILL, then to smugglers run for the second ride of the day with our now open fast pass (not good for slinky, tot, or RotR). Then we hit muppets standby, then snagged a star tours for immediate us (5 minutes later). Skip the line, hit a 4pm dinner. 5:45 we did rockin (bout and hour after we finished our actual food), then on to toy story mania for the lightning, then grabbed a frozen show lightning so we could show up at the last minute and have a seat. Waited till 8:55 to get in line for ToT, and waited 35 minutes. Hit every ride in the park except swirling saucers in the middle of spring break (3/31) and had plenty of time to shop, see sights, have family photos taken, and goto the resort to drop bags. I think this is well worth the 15 dollars a person. Better then spending 80 a person at universal

    2. This is really helpful Mike! We are a family of four heading to Disney at the end of May and I had thought we would splash out on Genie+ but it doesn’t seem to be worth it. Will you be trying it out again in the other parks too? I’d love to know if there is value to it in the others. Thanks!

    3. Did you mean this as a hit piece?
      I am wondering because you said
      “When we say that our experience was “mostly useless” it’s because we essentially had a best-case scenario f