Disneyland Makes a Big Change on Its Top Star Wars Ride

November 23, 2021, 3:53 PM · Disneyland this week has switched to a traditional stand-by queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Disney previously had been using a virtual queue for the popular attraction, but that system left some fans frustrated when they could not obtain any boarding time for the award-winning ride.

As one might have expected, thousands of fans have rushed to the Galaxy's Edge attraction at park opening each morning, with the line of waiting guests spilling over into Critter Country and even Frontierland. But wait times have not been unreasonable, with a 120-minute wait soon after park opening this morning dropping to 90 minutes at mid-day, according to the Disneyland app.

The switch at Disneyland appears to be mirroring the earlier change at Disney's Hollywood Studios, where the Walt Disney World installation of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance dropped its virtual queue earlier this year. While Rise has had long wait times on both coasts, they have not been out of line with other high-demand attractions at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts. At mid-day today, the ever-crowded Radiator Springs Racers still had a higher posted wait time that Rise of the Resistance.

So was Disney wrong to use a virtual queue for Rise?

It's not fair to compare demand months after an attraction's opening with demand immediately after a much-hyped ride's debut. It's certain that Rise of the Resistance's wait time would have been much, much longer than a couple of hours had Disney opened the attraction with a stand-by queue instead of a virtual one.

Theme parks bear a responsibility not just to keep their guests safe, but to keep them as comfortable as possible within an often-crowded environment, as well. After two or three hours in a queue, people need bathroom breaks. After four or so hours, they need food. After six hours, they may have blown half their day park. It's reasonable, even necessary, for parks to look for alternatives to physical stand-by queues for attractions that generate waits that long.

But the problem with virtual queues - and most other line-skipped schemes - is that they allow people effectively to clone themselves by waiting for more than one attraction at the same time. That's what made the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance so frustrating to so many fans. There was no cost to guests for trying for a spot in the Rise virtual queue. So pretty much everyone visiting the park that day did. The overwhelming demand turned the virtual queue opening into a lottery drawing. How badly you wanted to experience the attraction - and how much you would be willing to wait in a traditional queue for it - no longer mattered.

Allowing people to wait in two queues at once - one physically and one virtually, can make a 30,000-person crowd in a theme park feel like a 60,000-person crowd. In a park such as SeaWorld, that rarely approaches its physical capacity, cloning actually can lead to a better experience, as fans get more for their money since the park has plenty of excess capacity to handle that increased demand. But in parks such as Disney's, which almost always draw near-capacity crowds, the overflow from double-waiting can push wait times to uncomfortable levels all over the park and make getting virtual queue return times difficult or even impossible.

Ditching the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance relieves some of that excess pressure. But with new pay-to-play schemes such as Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane, Disney is cranking that pressure right back up again at Walt Disney World by allowing more opportunities for guests to be in multiple queues at once. (Disney's implementation of mobile order also contributes to this problem, though limited kitchen capacity also contributes to the now-long wait times to get food from many locations in the parks.)

An ideal implementation of virtual queuing would look more like Universal Orlando's Volcano Bay, where virtual queuing is the only option and people cannot wait in more than one queue at the same time. But that's a water park on a constrained site with limited capacity. To this point, no major theme park has shown any sign of considering a switch to an all-virtual-queue approach. The money to be paid by selling alternatives to physical queues is probably just too tempting to allow major parks to consider a fundamentally different system.

As a Star Wars fan, I welcome the physical queue for Rise of the Resistance. The time cost of waiting in that standby queue reduces demand enough to make it possible for fans like me to experience the attraction whenever we visit, without having to log in before 7am to play the virtual queue lottery. But as a theme park fan, I dread any attraction opening that forces guests to stand in a line for hours and hours. Give me a lottery over anything approaching a six-hour physical wait.

If that's an inconsistent point of view, so be it. The search for the perfect queuing system for theme park attractions continues.

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Replies (11)

November 23, 2021 at 7:09 PM

Theme parks bear a responsibility not just to keep their guests safe, but to keep them as comfortable as possible"
I totally agree Robert. Also it's true that no perfect system for crowd distribution exists yet, specially with popular parks such as Disney's. The approach seems to be to charge the guest for every aspect of the visit and Focus on new guests that are easier to convince and do not know how to "Game" the system as older park hacks that know the place by heart. My humble suggestion is to eliminate FOTL mechanics, a bit longer operating hours and to allow guests into the parks using a tiered system according to the accomodations expenditure within the resort. Deluxe and DVC guests go two hours before park opening, moderate and value one hour before, an at opening time the General Public (:every day at every park ). Use the late extra magical hours also for Disney guests every nigth in all parks ( except for those with nigth events for holidays and such ) that Will create " waves " of guests going for the Big attractions and leaving them when the next groups arrives. Give your guests SOMETHING of value to show for staying in the bubble. That would help a little with distribution. I know, i know. Just Another of My feverish rambles. But if ANYBODY seems Bob Chapeck ,( he's not at D23, wonder why? ) Run this by him. Please?

November 23, 2021 at 11:54 PM

I’m a fan of keeping a virtual queue for the opening month and then ditching it. Every week I’ve gone to Disneyland I’ve witness many families near the attraction who weren’t aware of this system and it ruined their trip for not riding this newer attraction. Some were lucky to be made aware of it before the second opening at noon by a Cast Member, thus giving them a chance to ride it. While those who were made aware after the noon drop, were out of luck.

November 24, 2021 at 3:05 AM

Yes, I am agree with this: "Theme parks bear a responsibility not just to keep their guests safe, but to keep them as comfortable as possible"
I totally agree Robert. Also it's true that no perfect system for crowd distribution exists yet, specially with popular parks such as Disney's. The approach seems to be to charge the guest for every aspect of the visit and Focus on new guests that are easier to convince and do not know how to "Game" the system as older park hacks that know the place by heart. My humble suggestion is to eliminate FOTL mechanics, a bit longer operating hours and to allow guests into the parks using a tiered system according to the acomodations expenditure within the resort."
I think you can write such thoughts on your instagram and increase likes using https://soclikes.com

November 24, 2021 at 7:53 AM

AgustinMacias, i agree completely. i keep going back to my grief-stricken friend in september who is not the least bit park or app savvy and although she did manage to get a boarding group, it was a late one and she ended up being denied access to ROTR. by the time i met up with her later in the day, she was so upset all she wanted to do was go back to the hotel and get out of WDW as soon as possible. i took her to guest services to try and argue her case (what would it hurt to try since she is just one person?) but to no avail. a week after she got home, they dropped the virtual queue and i was able to get on the ride in 1 hour 15 minutes. i can only imagine the PR guest service nightmares Disney cast members no longer have to deal with now as i'm sure my friend is one of thousands who now have a negative vibe with Disney. personally, i certainly won't be getting a virtual reservation for ratatouille, i will just wait.

November 24, 2021 at 8:10 AM

The virtual queue should not be needed unless a ride consistently has a long wait time. Once that happens then activate the virtual queue. And to ensure there’s always people ready to get on, people should still have to wait 20 or 30 minutes. A virtual queue shouldn’t eliminate waiting, it should just make that wait considerably shorter.

November 24, 2021 at 8:48 AM

I agree that if virtual queueing is the answer to unpleasant waits, what is the answer. Im less concerned about the wait time and more that I find standing for long periods extremely unpleasant, much less standing in cattle pens.

I think the tonight shows waiting lounge is interesting, but seemed to leave things rather chaotic and unstructured. Any other good solutions out there?

November 24, 2021 at 9:43 AM

I think Robert pointed out the Tapu Tapu system at Volcano Bay, but essentially dismissed it because of the park's small footprint and capacity would not make it viable for a full-size theme park with capacity crowds. However, I do think a full-virtual queue system like that is the eventual solution. First, Tapu Tapu forces guests to wait in a virtual line for EVERY queued attraction in the park. Second, it allows guests to explore other parts of the park while they are waiting for their return time. Finally, Tapu Tapu constantly updates queue status, so if guests are not returning promptly when they're called back to their reserved ride, it starts calling the next set of guests in line, allowing you to skip over guests who are not doing their part in keeping the virtual line moving.

I actually think Disneyland/DCA are already perfectly setup for a Tapu Tapu style system with enough high profile attractions that can be managed with a virtual queue (aside from headliners, which could be managed just like VB manages Krakatau) while still possessing plenty of capacity on lesser attractions to give guests alternatives while they are waiting for the attractions on the virtual queue system. The VQ attractions would ONLY be available through VQ (no standby), and guests could only be waiting in a single VQ at a time (just as if you were waiting in a standby line). The standby attractions would ONLY be available by waiting in a standby line, while the headliners (RoTR, Indy, RSR, and Webslingers) would operate on a separate reservation system (could offer upcharges to guarantee access).

While the California parks could implement a Tapu Tapu style system pretty easily, the Florida parks would have a hard time, because there simply aren't enough smaller attractions with high capacity and low demand (i.e. typically short waits - <30 minutes) to allow for a full VQ system without significantly diminishing the park experience. Guests would be forced into VQ for too many attractions that would make it nearly impossible to experience more than half the park in a single day, and the quality and re-rideability of the lesser attractions that would be available through standby only would not be enough to keep guests entertained while they're waiting for the VQ return times.

For me, the biggest problem with Genie/LL and FP+ which preceded it is that Disney's systems don't dynamically adjust for attraction capacity. If an attraction is running well and can handle more than the average throughput, Genie/LL/FP does not page guests back earlier to fill the queue. Plus, the hour-long return window allows for too much variability that creates surges of guests in the queue that essentially necessitates a standby line to fill in those ebbs and flows of guests returning to the attraction through the LL/FP queue. Tapu Tapu eliminates those issues by constantly updating guest's return time, just as if they were physically standing in the line. If the attractions has issues, Tapu Tapu will adjust the wait time for guests, who can then switch to another attraction if they see that the line is not moving just like they would step out of a physical line if they see/hear that the attraction has broken down. A VQ system that mimics the standby line while having enough stuff for guests to do while they're being "cloned" is the key to success.

November 24, 2021 at 10:10 AM

One wrinkle we experienced last week was having our boarding group called exactly at our dinner reservation time. We made that reservation (at Lamplighter Lounge) 60 days in advance only to find out the day of that we’d have a conflict with Rise. And, if you do day of cancelation or no show for the dining reservation, Disney can charge you $10/person. Fortunately, we were able to talk with the Lounge and get our reservation moved earlier, but this just speaks to the additional headache customers and cast members have to take on for a system that gives you less control on timing.

FWIW, we were able to get a BG on all three days of our visit last Wed-Fri using the Noon virtual queue. First one we got a backup BG but got called (349 BGs that day), second was a later in the day BG, third was a midday BG where we only waited about 2 hrs before getting called. We waited in line at the attraction roughly 30 min (each time) after getting called so not too bad. Generally speaking, it felt like these were good signals that the VQ could be removed from the line without mega waits.

Our Spidey wait was roughly 95 min for comparison.

One thing I didn’t quite understand is why Rise only does boarding groups between 9a-9p. Given that you only wait about 30 min in line and you have an hour grace period, say someone in last BG shows up a 9:59, waits 30 min, that still leaves a chunk of time at end of day you’d think Rise wasn’t operating. Any insights here?

One of our favorite things to do with Racers is to wait until just before close to get into the line and wait for just a really short period of time. One would think you could do the same with Rise.

November 24, 2021 at 11:16 AM

One problem is that while we ( guests ) are thinking in riding Another atracttion the park managment is thinking that we should be eating or shopping ( $ spending ) . So those theorethical low demand / high loading attractions are NOT going to be there. If the park managment is happy with a 8 to 10 rides per day average, they are going to fill the void with character met and greet, and street parades / shows and more merchandise stores or carts. Commando Style guests be danmmed. Do You want to See all?? Stay Another day My friend!!! ( And don't go to See the competiton)

November 25, 2021 at 7:05 AM

Remember when Disney kept a new ride open until 12 AM midnight to give guests who paid the expensive entrance ticket a chance to ride the attraction...

November 30, 2021 at 9:54 AM

I like this place!

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