Yesterday we learned that Disney’s Hollywood Studios has added Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run to its fastpass+ lineup effective February 19th. Meanwhile, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance continues to run on the virtual queue system and hours for DHS now include a 7am opening through February 2nd, and we expect early openings to be extended further.
We also know that Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway will open on March 4th creating a whole new potential problem for Hollywood Studios — overcrowding. Until Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opens at EPCOT in the Summer, DHS will be home to the four newest E-Ticket level attractions at Walt Disney World — Slinky Dog Dash, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. That hasn’t happened since Animal Kingdom opened in 1998.
On one hand, the studios park is prepared for crowds. It has expanded the parking lot, added new bus drop off zones, widened walkways, and placed the Disney Skyliner station right at its front gate. Still, this could be a perfect example of be careful what you ask for.
As they say, ‘if you build it, they will come’ and throngs of guests are still lining up super-early to get in the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance with very little sign that crowds will get any lighter as the busier Spring travel season approaches. The addition of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway to that will only drive larger crowds to the park early.
So how will park operations at Disney’s Hollywood Studios handle the increased crowds? First, I would expect them to continue the virtual queue boarding pass system for Rise of the Resistance. If they switch to a Fastpass+ system, the Standby line will probably get quickly unmanageable.
On the other hand, as long as Runaway Railway doesn’t have major capacity issues due to delay, I expect it to open with a standby queue if only to help absorb some of the guests expected to arrive at the park.
Fastpass and virtual queue both have the effect of making the parks more crowded. Instead of standing in queues, guests are out shopping, dining, watching shows, or just walking around. By keeping Runaway Railway standby only, it will help absorb some of those crowds.
They could, however, offer a virtual queue for Runway Railway too. But that would add to the traffic jam of humanity in the park waiting for their boarding pass number to be called.
Hollywood Studios can also add more entertainment to the park. Adding extra shows to the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular or even adding a second show to the Theatre of the Stars, like they did with the Pixar concerts a few years back, will get guests out of the walkways and make the park feel less crowded even as guests wait around for their change to ride one of the three new attractions.
I would also expect Disney to add more evening extra magic hours to give WDW resort guests a chance to get in and experience Runaway Railway after the day guests have cleared. Nor would it surprise me if there were a few ‘after-hours’ hard ticket type events, perhaps themed to Star Wars, added to the calendar soon.
The last resort will be to go into phased closures. Phase one is typically not to sell any new passes for the park that day, but still allow those with tickets, like resort guests and APs, into the park. On the super busy days, they might go to phase two or three and close off entry entirely.
As soon as Disney makes any official announcements as to how they will handle both Rise of the Resistance and Runaway Railway queues we will let you know.
Are you planning on making a special trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to enjoy Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway once it opens? How do you plan to deal with the crowds?