Theme Park Insider

Pandora, Guardians welcome huge crowds on their opening days

May 27, 2017, 10:53 AM · Pandora - The World of Avatar and Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout opened this morning to four-hour-plus waits at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida and Disney California Adventure.

Disney's top new attractions for 2017 previewed for reporters earlier this week, but neither attraction offered extended soft openings to the general public. Pandora offered reservation-only previews to annual passholders and Disney Vacation Club members for a couple of weeks and a very brief public soft open yesterday. But Guardians offered only a hard-ticket, after-hours preview last night.

At Walt Disney World, visitors faced waits up to two hours just to get into the new Avatar-themed land, plus multi-hour waits for its two rides. The queue for Mission Breakout in California winded through Hollywood Land on to Buena Vista Street, hitting a five-hour wait by 11am.

Meanwhile, back in Orlando, Universal's Volcano Bay headed into its first weekend of operation with multi-hour waits for almost all of its water slides. Volcano Bay hard-opened to the public Thursday after a media preview Wednesday and a couple of days of team member service testing.

Volcano Bay is using an innovative park-wide virtual queuing system for all of its attractions, which Universal marketed to potential visitors as eliminating lines in the park. But getting rid of physical lines isn't the same thing as eliminating waits, as visitors faced waits of up to six hours for the park's most popular rides.

Remember that wait times equal the number of people in line versus the rides' hourly capacity. I have been told that Guardians can put through about 2,000 people per hour, while I estimate that the Flight of Passage in Pandora might do up to 1,200 per hour. But if Flight of Passage loads as slowly as it did on its preview day, its capacity easily could drop below 1,000 an hour.

And Volcano Bay's water slides have hourly capacities in the low hundreds for single-rider slides and slightly higher for multi-person rafts.

Universal has installed a manually-updated wait time board so that guests can compare wait times around the park.

And I've been told that the Aqua Coaster is "off the grid" and allows visitors to claim a place in its virtual line while also waiting for another ride elsewhere in the park. (Update: Volcano Bay hit capacity and Universal closed access to the park by mid-day. Universal also is no longer selling one-day, walk-up tickets for the park and expects to close for capacity each day during the Memorial Day weekend.)

Were you at any of these attractions today? Please share your stories in the comments.

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Replies (31)

May 27, 2017 at 11:05 AM · 5 hour wait time for Krakatau? Lmao.

Does anyone know if you keep your spot in line if you leave the park? That's enough time to claim your spot in the queue, go to lunch + movie at CityWalk, for example. Or cross off quite a few rides from your list at either IOA or US, especially if you're a single rider.

I'm pulling for this to work, and for the kinks to get worked out, because standing in line sucks, and I'd love to see this implemented nationally, if not worldwide.

May 27, 2017 at 11:09 AM · Why I think it's always a great idea to hold off a bit before visiting a new attraction. I remember being at Studios just after Rock and Roller Coaster opened, was lucky enough to get on it first thing, did Tower of Terror and when I passed by Coaster again, already an hour long wait only a half hour after park opened. It's the combination of hype and something majorly new to get attention so better for me to wait for it to die down before trying it out.
May 27, 2017 at 11:33 AM · Pandora is themed entertainment's answer to Broadway's 'Hamilton.'
May 27, 2017 at 11:50 AM · 2000 guests per hour for Guardians seems like a high estimate to me.. if not too much has changed from its days as Tower.. Even assuming nothing slows the load process (unlikely) and all three shafts are operating, I'd guess maybe around 1,500 to 1,800 guests make it through in an hour. The lack of AP previews and use of Fastpass are big factors why the standby line for Guardians is currently 5 hours plus.
May 27, 2017 at 12:13 PM · This TH guy cannot get enough of Disney. They have got to be paying him. How else would someone be able to sanely make that comparison? It's been open to the public for one day, it's brand new, and it's Memorial Day weekend.Cute hyperbole though.
May 27, 2017 at 12:31 PM · TH, I don't see the parallel between Hamilton and Pandora. If the themed entertainment industry created an answer to Hamilton they would take an IP that the masses are vaguely aware of, then construct a perfect experience of it using unexpected, eye opening materials and methods. Pandora is stunning and has received some rave reviews... but also quite a few luke warm to 'so what' reviews. Hardly the Hamilton phenomenon. I believe you discredit the amazing accomplishment of Hamilton's success with your comparison.

May 27, 2017 at 12:41 PM · Mr. Inuk, How many times have you been to see Pandora?
May 27, 2017 at 1:09 PM · I have been to Pandora, but at no time was I shot by Aaron Burr.

Oh, wait, did I just spoil something?

May 27, 2017 at 1:32 PM · And the iPhone 8 will be the tech industry's answer to Hamilton? Hamilton itself was the answer to the publishing industry's Harry Potter and Dan Brown novels? Chick-Fil-A in the Northeast is the fast food industry's answer to Hamilton? I mean these are all popular things where demand exceeds supply upon initial release. We get it. You can make the same comparison literally about countless things as I just have. Why TH is disturbingly fixated on the Hamilton analogy alone is beyond me after all these months. Maybe he just loves Hamilton or maybe he's just a lovable troll? Both are equally plausible.

I'll have you know though TH, as a native New Yorker who spent many years working in the theater industry as you have in the theme park industry, the Hamilton phenomenon is nothing new. Before Hamilton, it was Book of Mormon. Before Book of Mormon it was Wicked. Before Wicked it was Avenue Q. Before Avenue Q it was The Producers. Before the Producers it was Aida. Before Aida it was Rent and so on. In my mind, the only connection PTWOA has with Hamilton is that they're both high quality experiences in their industries that like so many other things in so many industries are so popular that demand exceeds supply upon initial release and thereafter for some time.

May 27, 2017 at 3:56 PM · "Disturbingly?"

(Chuckle)

May 27, 2017 at 5:52 PM · "Due to high demand" Pandora was closed to new "travelers" for the remainder of the day, likely so they could clear out the crowds for EMH which will be running every night at Pandora for awhile.
May 27, 2017 at 9:54 PM · I'm her at WDW. Didn't even bother with pandora today but I'll be up Bright and early tomorrow (really today, as it's 1am right now) to brace the crowds. Single rider my be my only savior
May 27, 2017 at 9:54 PM · I already posted the following in the previous article, but it may have some merit here.

"By all accounts the system (for Volcano Bay) is not working (evidenced by Twitter posts of a seemingly empty park with 3 hour waits for each slide). Perhaps a complete overhaul is needed."

May 28, 2017 at 12:43 AM · I've been to Pandora (soft opening Friday morning) and seen Hamilton and have to say I enjoyed Pandora a lot more.
May 28, 2017 at 1:58 AM · Their is no difference between standing in line or virtual queuing if you can only be in a place at one time. This entitled mentality of being first or before you has got to go. If you need to see it before everyone else, then you're just going to have to stand in line like everyone else who had the cash to by the ticket.
May 28, 2017 at 6:23 AM · To Mr. Schroll.

The answer to your question is no. Your wrist band is linked to you and you must surrender it when leaving the park. It is then recycled to another guest.

May 28, 2017 at 9:13 AM · Pure speculation here, Gabriel Schroll, but I would say what you would like to do is not possible. Since visitors don't keep their Tapu bands upon exiting the park, I would say there would be no way to keep your place in the virtual queue.
May 28, 2017 at 9:44 AM · I was expecting, cause Avatar land is a dead end area, that Disney would take a note at Universals book and distribute return tickets for that land to keep the line down. But I guess that would mess up their "magic" band system so guests are left with no other options.

I'm a bit shocked about the throughput for FOP. Is that with 3 theaters working (there are 3 right?). In a park that has already so little rides that is a huge failure.

May 28, 2017 at 11:08 AM · There's 4 theaters for FOP, should have been 6 in my opinion with a ride system such as this and individual loading. Also, I forget where I heard it, but apparently there's also been some over heating with the ride system initially as they work out the kinks, so running all theaters at the same time for max capacity is a struggle right now.
May 28, 2017 at 12:13 PM · While 2,000 is probably the theoretical capacity for Guardians, I know from someone who worked on Tower of Terror that they typically got about 1,500 riders per hour. Unless Guardians is a significantly shorter ride, I'm guessing it really gets about the same number of riders.

If Flight of Passage is really only about 1,200 riders per hour, I wouldn't be surprised if more theaters are added. That is a very low count for an E-ticket attraction and just isn't sufficient with the crowds WDW sees. Long lines are to be expected at opening, but if Soarin' can get 1,500 with two theaters and Flight of Passage can't even get that with four, there may be a long term problem.

As for Volcano Bay, I'm really curious to see what Universal does to tackle the problem. Even at the busiest waterparks I've visited, waits generally max out at around an hour, and with the times posted it would take at least two full days just to do everything once. I like the idea of Tapu Tapu, but it needs to be effective in order to be worthwhile.

May 28, 2017 at 12:18 PM · Wait, they have single rider for the Avatar rides?
May 28, 2017 at 3:05 PM · with all of disney's concerns about, dollars and cents and profit. How could they possibly, spend so much money on a ride system, that handles such a low number of people????

Has the government or some kind of other monopolistic company, taken over disney, that such a crazy, boneheaded decision is made?? Last, I checked, disney still had tons on competition from universal????

May 28, 2017 at 4:18 PM · Senior TH,
I have been to Pandora once during passholder previews, and I consider myself far luckier to have seen the original cast of Hamilton last spring.

I am far more excited about seeing Hamilton again (if I can ever get tickets) than I am about visiting Pandora again (if the crowds ever diminish).

Pandora's achievements are vast, however they do not relate to Hamilton's. The producers of Hamilton made something from the ground up, and created an all new experience that we didn't know we needed- but feel I love with. Disney on the other hand wanted to grab up an already established IP, then created a stunning world featuring experiences that we basically already have (a boat ride, and next gen soaring'). And that is why I believe some reviews put Pandora in the "meh" territory.

May 28, 2017 at 5:40 PM · TH seems to live in a world of his own and he is always the smartest guy in the room... I just sort of laugh at his rhetoric these days instead of responding.
May 28, 2017 at 9:02 PM · Please don't be mean to TH he is passionate about Disney and is proud of what they have done.
Nothing's perfect at the start Pandora or Volcano Bay ,as both companies are trying to bring us new experiences , we should applaud them , because we all complain when they do the same version of a ride vehicle or system or 4D screen attraction again and again .
May 29, 2017 at 7:28 AM · If folks are willing to wait this long for Avatar, can you imagine the lines when the Star Wars land opens?
May 29, 2017 at 6:49 PM · 73.21.140.203 - I am not being mean. TH does things in a passive aggressive way just to get a rise out of people. We have all tired of his schtick...
May 29, 2017 at 9:12 PM · I like TH Creative. Just wish he would spend a little more time working on book two of his Milo & Baxter theme park trilogy and a little less time bragging that he got to go to the amazing land of Pandora before me!

PS I have no interest in seeing Hamilton. The music just does not appeal to me. Les Miserables... now that was a spectacular, ground breaking musical.

May 30, 2017 at 5:25 AM · Saw the Music of Pixar on Friday at Hollywood Studios. Great show with no waiting. The live performers and the video screens were outstanding. Hope this show has a long run.

The Projection Show that also premiered, was a surprise. Even the Disney staff on the street didn't know it was being shown.

May 30, 2017 at 7:04 AM · Yesterday, Monday May 29, Guardians was 300 minutes Standby waiting at 10am. You need Fastpass, but must get there early at park opening.
May 30, 2017 at 7:04 PM · My biggest issue with Guardians is that it teaches kids that raccoons are trustworthy and friendly. Very dangerous door to go through.

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