When Rise of the Resistance first opened last month, an early morning arrival meant pure paradise for guests willing to get out of bed super early. With officially scheduled 8 or 9 am openings, the park was regularly letting guests in between 6:00 and 6:30 with a full slate of attractions open. Not only that, but boarding groups for Rise were available as soon as the guest crossed through the turnstiles to enter the park. This system pretty much guaranteed those who arrived first a morning return time for RotR, but also all allowed them to enjoy the rest of Hollywood Studios with virtually no crowds! It was better than any Early Morning Magic or After Hours event, and it was perfect!
The controversy Disney faced was that many guests were angry that the park was opening well before the announced opening time. The average WDW guest isn’t scouring the internet for vacation tips and by the the time those folks showed up for the official park opening, boarding groups we either totally gone, or had return times near the end of the day. Even for families that were aware of the early openings, its not necessarily a feasible option for a family with young kids.
These guest complaints, in addition to Disney wanting to cut back operating hours at attractions, have lead to the new standard opening procedure for Hollywood Studios. The park had its official opening pushed earlier to 7 am through late January, and we wouldn’t be shocked if these early openings are pushed out further. Guests are still let through the turnstiles between 6:00 and 6:30, however there is one HUGE difference.
You can no longer secure a Rise boarding group as soon as you enter Hollywood Studios. Instead, boarding groups go live to everyone who is inside the park right at 7 am. This results in a straight up lottery situation as everyone frantically refreshes their MDE apps at the same time. We’ve heard countless stories of folks who had been in the park since 6:15, started searching for boarding group times the instant they go live, and being given a high numbered boarding group with a late afternoon / evening return. At the same time, there are plenty of folks who walk through the gates at 6:59 and are rewarded with a return time withing the first hour or so of operation.
Its a total crap shoot now, with a bit of a silver lining that you’re are still pretty much guaranteed to get a boarding group if you are in the park at 7 am. I suppose this is good for those who want to get an extra half hour or so of sleep, but we MUCH preferred the old system. It wasn’t perfect, but largely hyped openings are never going to favor the average park guest. I know that may be easy for us to say, not yet having children and being well aware of the early openings, but we still feel those who do their due diligence should be rewarded.
In addition to the boarding group distribution being pushed back to 7 am, the rides no longer operate prior to official opening either. The creates long lines almost instantly throughout the park meaning you can basically choose 1 headliner attraction to ride with minimal wait at rope drop, and then be forced to deal with the longest waits of the day throughout the rest of the park. There aren’t really any shows to see in the first couple hours of park operation, so be prepared to wait on line for something!
All of this is for naught really, as the current opening procedure is how things are going to stay. Still, let’s take a look back at my glorious morning back in early December when I first rode Rise of the Resistance under the old opening procedure.
Knowing guests would be allowed to enter the park somewhere around 6:00 am, I arrived at the gates just after 5:30 with only a dozen or so people ahead of me at my turnstile.
At just before 6:00, the area has filled up pretty nicely but is still way less crowded then you will currently see before gates open around 6:30 these days.
By refreshing my phone as soon as I entered the park, I was able to secure Boarding Group 11, with an estimated morning arrival time. As it turns out, it would only be about 10 more minutes until my boarding group was called.
However, since the rest of the park was basically a ghost town, I was in no hurry to rush back to Galaxy’s Edge. You are giving a 2 hour window to return after your group is called, and this was prime time to do the rest of Hollywood Studios with zero waits.
Slinky Dog Dash was a literal walk on, and would stay that way for quite a while.
Disney normally charges $79 a head for Toy Story Land’s Early Morning Magic event, and you won’t find waits this low during those events.
After my first ride, I got right back on for another go round.
I’ve already ridden twice by 6:25 am (17 minutes after first entering the park) and the wait is still 5 minutes. Against my stomach’s wishes, I took one more ride.
Alien Swirling Saucers opened a bit later than the other 2 land attractions but it didn’t amass much of wait at any time before official park opening.
Things are still super quite as I headed over to Toy Story Mania.
There was literally nobody ahead of us on line the entire way.
We’re back out front at 6:42 with still just a 5 minute wait posted. We decided to take 2nd ride on it. The only thing that prevented us from riding a 3rd time is the long walks both to get to and exit the ride.
We next made our way over towards Sunset Boulevard.
There aren’t many places in all of Walt Disney Wold than an empty Sunset Blvd set to a beautiful blue sky just before sunrise.
We headed to the Hollywood Tower Hotel first.
Again, we are met with zero lines.
While we did still have to watch the pre-show, it was just a straight walk up to the elevator loading zones otherwise.
Next, over to Rock N’ Roller Coaster where again we will meet no resistance.
We were no required to view the pre-show here either.
We were back out front right around 7:15.
We now began making our way in the direction of Galaxy’s Edge.
First, we had one last stop at Star Tours.
There were only 4 other people on our flight.
Finally, we decided it was time!
Unfortunately, Rise of the Resistance had just gone down before we arrived at the entrance. We were assured that we would be able to ride as soon as the ride came back up. Though the ride still does go down fairly frequently, its usually not down for more than 60 – 90 minutes at a time. We could have reduced this risk by returning to join right away but the rest of the park was so amazing at that time that we have zero regrets.
Instead, we made our way over to Smugglers Run. I was surprised that even this area had little to no crowds.
Smugglers Run had a 20 minute wait posted but it ended up being closer to 10.
We don’t care what anyone says, we love this attraction and are so happy it exists. Admittedly, the ride portion itself isn’t an E Ticket, but it’s not supposed to be. And just getting to walk around the Falcon itself is a thrill every time.
We took a 2nd ride with no wait via the single rider line. Be aware that you will almost always get either the gunner or engineer position if you decide to ride via single rider.
By the time we finished are second mission, Rise was back up and running. I grabbed a few photos of the resistance base before jumping on line.
We got on line around 8:35 am having already accomplished so much around the park!
As you can see however, ALL of the days boarding groups were distributed 20 minutes before the park officially opened, hence a lot of angry guests and eventual change in operations.
This was one of the best days I’ve ever had in Hollywood Studios, with crowd levels (or lack thereof) we may never experience again. We understand both sides of the argument when it comes to what’s fair when it comes to boarding groups, but we sure do miss the old way. It was nothing short of glorious for those able to get up and out to the park early enough to take advantage of it!
We’ll be back soon with a look at our first time experiencing Rise of the Resistance, along with a full review of WDW’s new headliner attraction. Spoiler alert: It’s amazing!