Walt Disney World has tweaked the procedure for assigning spaces in the virtual queue that it is using to load guests onto its new Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Guests had been showing up at the Hollywood Studios front gate around 4am to ensure that they would get first dibs on spaces in the virtual queue. But now Disney has announced that it will no longer assign visitors to "boarding groups" for Rise of the Resistance before the park's published opening time.
All guests who want to enter the virtual queue must be inside the park before they can request a boarding group assignment through Disney World's official My Disney Experience app. But Disney routinely lets people tap in through its parks' entrances before their official opening times.
The trouble is that Disney also was opening the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance at around the same time as it started letting people into the park. Because Disney did not publicize when that would be, people started showing up hours in advance just to be on the safe side. And since it takes some time for thousands of waiting guests to tap their MagicBands or admission cards to get into the park, no one wanted to be waiting in the plaza to enter while other guests inside the park were claiming all the boarding group assignments.
Starting today, Disney is no longer opening the boarding groups when it starts letting people physically into the park but will wait to do that until the park's official opening time. Now, you still want to be inside the park at that moment to guarantee that you will get on the ride that day, so you still should plan to arrive at the park early. You just don't need to arrive hours in advance - you only need enough time to park your car, go through security and tap in. I would guess that getting to the park's toll booths 60 minutes in advance should be plenty of time for that.
Disney's Hollywood Studios officially opens at 7am daily through Christmas, then at 6am from December 26-31. Then it returns to a 7am opening from January 1-4 before going to an 8am opening through February 1. After that, it's 9am. In case you were wondering, Morning Extra Magic Hours for Disney World hotel guests do not return to Disney's Hollywood Studios until Sundays in February, but by that time the boarding group assignment procedure might have changed again... if Disney is still using boarding groups at all.
Good luck, and May the Force Be with You.
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It's easier to scale a server farm to handle a few thousand more form requests than it is to scale and staff an entrance plaza to handle a few thousand more people before dawn each morning.
Robert..I so enjoy this website! I got to experience ROTR a few days ago...it was worth getting up super early...but i do have a question...do you not think there will be a crush full of people waiting to get in before 7am? how will it different how it is now with 1000s waiting at the gate! thanks, and again, I love this website and all the work you do!!!!
Have to agree with @mcurt9 on this one .... this timing change will make absolutely no difference to when people will be arriving at the front gate. The only way this would change is if Disney started to allocate boarding groups throughout the day. Maybe 10% an hour, or something like that. Other than that I'd advise anyone thinking of going to DHS to ride ROTR this side of mid-January to be there early.
I completely agree with Disney's approach to crowd management and boarding groups with Rise of the Resistance. I think now they got it right and fair with opening boarding groups @ official park opening. From reading blogs and Youtube videos, it seems Disney has been opening the park at 6:30am (7am official). This new practice of opening boarding groups should reduce crowds somewhat from arriving too early.
@makorider - I think this change does make a big difference, and reduces the need to be at the DHS gates more than an hour prior to opening. Disney opens the gates to its WDW parks based on crowds gathered outside. However, as Robert has noted here, if access to Boarding Groups doesn't open until the official park opening time, you just need to be tapped into the park by then. Based on typical flow into the park, Disney can usually get guests crowding the entire DHS entry plaza through the gates in 20-30 minutes. So long as Disney is physically letting guests into the park @30 minutes prior to the official opening time, showing up more than 45-60 minutes early is not giving you any advantage. Once everyone is through the gate, it's a waiting game until those Boarding Groups open, so getting there at 4 AM gives you the exact same chance of snagging a Boarding Group than someone strolling through the gate 2 minutes before official opening. It may take a few days for people to catch onto this subtle change, but eventually people will figure out that camping outside the DHS gates at 4 AM is a waste of time, and will stop doing it.
This also levels the playing field in terms of transportation. While Disney has shifted the bus schedules to start getting on-site guests to DHS well before the official park opening time, some were finding themselves well back of the entry plaza mob, and relegated to late-day Boarding Groups. Many message boards were recommending on-site guests to use Uber and Lyft to ensure arrival at DHS before the on-site buses started dropping guests off to be at the head of the line. Since being the first ones tapped into the park doesn't give you any advantage, taking the bus (or Skyliner) is now a viable option for on-site guests.
My only issue with this change, which is similar to what Robert noted on another thread, is that this now turns the Boarding Groups into a lottery, meaning that guests are now subject to chance as to whether they get a Boarding Group (or at least grab one for earlier in the day). Since many many people will already be tapped into the park when the Boarding Groups open, all guests are on equal footing and fighting for the limited supply of Boarding Groups (which may exceed the number of guests in the park when it officially opens). Prior to yesterday, you could tip the scales in your favor of getting a Boarding Group (or one for earlier in the day) by arriving earlier than everyone else so you could be one of the first guests through the gate. This new procedure doesn't give any advantage to guests getting through the gate early so long as they're tapped into the park by the official opening time.
Some may see this as more "fair" while other may be upset since it puts their opportunity to ride RotR up to chance. I've seen some argue that this favors richer guests who have multi-day park hopping tickets that can tap into DHS to see if they can join a Boarding Group, and leave or hop to another park if they don't get one (and come back to try again another day), while more value conscious guests who may only have 1 shot to ride RotR are subject to the whims of technology and a random draw with ZERO control over if you get a Boarding Group or what time that Boarding Group will get to ride.
I think Disney had to do something, because guests were showing up earlier and earlier once they understood that the further up in the gate-opening crowd they were the better chance they could join an earlier Boarding Group.
Ultimately, the solution to all of this is for RotR to run at its designed capacity with fewer extended breakdowns. Even with a 40" height restriction and a 1-ride-per-day limit, it cannot accommodate every eligible guest that walks into DHS on a given day. Once RotR can start taking 25,000+ guests per day (instead of the estimated 12-15k it's taking now), Boarding Groups will no longer be necessary.
I think it's safe to say those of us who have braved a 4:30am alarm call just to ride ROTR see things differently. We've been in line at 5:30am and looked back to see already a crowd stretching back beyond the entrance arches, into the plaza and back to the bag check area.
I don't see that changing just because Disney allows people in at 6:30, but doesn't allow boarding group allocation until 7. The masses will not see it that way, and they will turn up as usual very early to get in line to be one of the first thru the gate. It's human nature.
Despite the changes made, and if I was going to go again, I would not make the decision to set my alarm an hour later, to then arrive at the park 2 mins to 7. I know that people are being let in at 6:30, but that does not necessarily mean I'll be walking straight in to the park at 7:01am. I'm much more likely to be in the middle of a mass of humanity somewhere on the plaza between bag check and the entrance gate.
It is what it is now, and nothing will change until Russell so correctly points out, the ride reaches it's capacity on any given day and then the boarding groups become no longer necessary.
@makorider - I don't think so. The word is spreading very quickly, and many people are relieved to find out that showing up at DHS before 5 AM on the week between Christmas and New Years (when DHS opens at 6 AM) is no longer necessary. All of the trip planning and WDW tip forums are promoting a 60 minute advanced arrival to DHS when previously it was 120-150 minutes. You may not see the change happen right away, but I suspect that by this weekend, most guests will not show up until 5:30-6 AM (for a 7 AM opening), and fewer on-site guests will be arriving via Uber and Lyft in favor of Disney Transportation.
Once we get beyond the holidays, all bets are off though, as I expect Disney to change up the procedures again. I think these changes are a direct response to the increasingly earlier times guests were showing up at the gate and the influx of once-in-a-lifetime visitors during the holidays that don't want their vacations ruined by having to drag kids out of bed at 4 AM.
OK, let's say I'm on a once in a lifetime vacation to WDW, and for all the right and/or wrong reasons I'm at Disney during the most insane period of time that is Christmas/New Years. Let's not forget, the vast majority of pass holders are now blocked out until Jan 3rd, so 99.99% of the people visiting are out of state tourists.
Whilst sitting in your hotel room with the wife and kids discussing tomorrows trip to DHS, and the exciting possibility to ride ROTR, are you really going to take that risk, and stay in bed an extra hour, with the knowledge that even though they don't allocate boarding groups until official park opening, you still have to be actually in the park to get a chance to join a group ??
It's interesting to see that today (19th @ 10:45am) according to the MDE app they are still distributing back-up boarding groups. Bearing in mind though, we have just had our coldest morning of the winter so far, so there may lie the answer to all of this .... :)
If your opportunity to ride RotR is going to be up to chance regardless of what time you show up, I do think most guests are going to choose sleep over getting to the gates 2+ hours prior to the park opening. You also have to consider that not only are the parks opening earlier, but they're also closing later, so families will be burning the candle on both ends, and are going to favor that extra rest over wasting time sitting on concrete outside of the DHS gates for hours.
Reportedly, the crowds were still pretty heavy this morning at 5:30 (7 AM opening), but not nearly as bad as yesterday when the procedural change was made unannounced by Disney. It does seem that the AP Blackouts are having some affect as Boarding Groups were still available through 8:15, when the backup groups started being offered (though they went beyond 121 for regular Boarding Groups yesterday). I think the increased percentage of tourists also means a larger number of guests that are completely clueless as to how to make the most of their WDW vacation. APs know when to show up and when to stay away, while your average tourist that does some planning, but lacks the experience or additional knowledge to work a WDW vacation to the fullest, is less likely to show up hours ahead of park opening.
I don't doubt that there will be a lot of serious out-of-towners that will want to take every advantage possible to make sure they get on all of the rides they want, but I think that group makes up a much smaller percentage of daily visitors than you think, and crowds outside DHS over an hour before park opening will start to shrink in the coming days.
FYI - The same procedure has now been utilized for three straight days, which means it's a pretty safe bet to make plans based on the new rules for at least the rest of the year. There have been multiple reports of guests arriving after 6 AM (less than 60 minutes prior to official park opening and the opening of Boarding Groups) that have easily gotten morning numbers (prior to 50). There was even a report of someone that pulled into the parking lot at 6:45, and made their way through the gate (via no-bag entrance) and still made it into the park to get Boarding Group 12. If reports like this keep circulating, fewer and fewer guests are going to show up 2+ hours early to the gates, which I think is a positive for EVERYONE (guests and Disney).
Very few pass holders is undoubtedly making a big difference.
Still not sure why Disney is persisting with boarding groups and backup boarding groups. Other than ride reliability of course.
They are still accepting backup groups this morning, and last time I looked just before close last night, they were up to VBG 153
Yep, soon be time for the standby lines and FP+ .... :)
Keep dreaming Makorider. They haven't added FP+ to MFSR yet, and with the stupid Concierge upcharge perk, there would need to be a 90+ day lead on adding FP+ to any attraction. With an announced opening date for MMRR that's already inside that 90-day window, Disney might not even use FP+ for that attraction either.
I wouldn't be surprised if Disney is gathering data right now to see if they want to stick with FP+ in its current form, at least for the most popular attractions. If MMRR does indeed open without FP+, and Ratatouille also opens without it, we might be seeing the beginning of the end for the most annoying aspect of a WDW vacation.
I haven't heard anything about FP+ for MMRR, but that's not to say Disney can't retro-allocate to 90 & 60 day people if they want to go that way with the new ride. The entrance isn't open enough to see if a FP+ lane has been installed.
Due to FP+ lanes being installed at MFSR & ROTR, I think it's safe to say they will be utilised, but sometime soon?, most probably not. I don't see SWGE this time next year operating without FP+
The spotlight will soon shift to DL and ROTR opening there. One assumes they will use the virtual queue, and hopefully operate it as per now at DHS. We were the guinea pigs, and what Disney has taken away from DHS should make the west coast version run much more smoothly both with the ride itself, and the wait time.
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I thought this was a good idea because guests would not be upset when they arrived to the park at opening and all the boarding groups would be full, but pictures on twitter made me change my mind. Mickey Views posted a picture at around 30 minutes before park opening and you can barely see the blue turnstile archways. It was extremely packed and, I would think, a huge safety concern. Maybe they could still let guests in early but not begin boarding groups until the minute the park opens. I read an article that also said how the Disney app servers could be suffering because even more people at once will be on the app attempting to get a group. I guess we'll just have to see what happens and how Disney handles this further. Can't wait to ride it in January at DL but I really hope its not as chaotic as DHS.