It is mid-December, so let’s see how the crowd calendar has performed over the last 30 days.
|November 18 – December 16, 2019||Predicted Crowd Level||Observed Crowd Level|
The calendar performed well, especially at Magic Kingdom. Crowds were down in general over the last 30 days at the other three parks. Hollywood Studios crowd numbers were much lower than expected (more on that later). Crowds were very light leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, much lighter than normal. That may or may not be due to the lateness of the holiday itself — November 28 is the latest date Thanksgiving can fall. Unsurprisingly the parks were jam packed with guests during the Thanksgiving holiday although you could say that they didn’t quite hit the peak levels we usually see. That is no solace to the guests in the parks since we saw 100+ minute waits at all major attractions every day.
Disney Hollywood Studios
Crowd levels at Hollywood Studios were way down from predicted levels over the past 30 days. This is primarily a result of our overestimate of the impact of Rise of the Resistance on wait times throughout the park. We have seen enough in the crowd patterns at Galaxy’s Edge to know that these trends are very likely to continue so we have adjusted our forecasts immediately. No need to keep observing these low crowd levels. Our models are showing that Hollywood Studios crowds are about as large as they would normally be without the new ride. The boarding group queue system used at Rise of the Resistance represents a new approach by Disney, one that we have not modeled before. We have been tracking as much information as we can about the queue. We are looking froward to sifting through it all in the coming weeks so we can find optimal ways to experience the ride in 2020.
Primeval Whirl appears to be back online and operating on a regular basis, at least for now. Its wait times have been typical, in the range of 30-50 minutes each day. There is some indication that Animal Kingdom crowd levels are finally decreasing to pre-Pandora levels. Of the last 30 days our predictions have overestimated on 19 days. Perhaps the new lands at Hollywood Studios are drawing a few more guests away from Pandora.
One trend we are tracking closely is the early opening of the parks. Hollywood Studios has opened early on a regular basis. This is not surprising as Disney prepares for long lines of early birds hoping to experience Rise of the Resistance. What is surprising is the impact on wait times across the rest of the park. The TouringPlans Crowd Calendar reflects the average wait time at key attractions between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. This is historically the core part of the day when we see attractions hit their peak wait times. Now that Hollywood Studios opens at 7:00 a.m. or earlier we are seeing peak wait times shift earlier as well. We would expect this for rides at Galaxy’s Edge and adjacent lands like Toy Story Land but we are also seeing it at Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. This makes sense from a guest’s point of view. Since you have to arrive really early to obtain your Rise of the Resistance boarding group then wait around until your group is called, you might as well tour the rest of the park.
This poses some challenges for us on the Stats team but offers great opportunities for guests willing to sleep in and forego Rise of the Resistance. We have had to alter our models to skew the peak wait times a little earlier in the day. However, if you make a touring plan that starts at noon and goes until park close you may see lower wait times that previously predicted. Go ahead — try it! An afternoon plan for Hollywood Studios can be relaxed and fun now that so many are rushing to Batuu in the morning.
These early park hours are not restricted to The Studios. On December 25, Magic Kingdom opens at 6:00 a.m. We haven’t seen that park open that early since the last 24-hour day on May 22, 2015. Crowds seem to be showing up too. One of my favorite days of touring was with my kids on New Year’s Day way back in 2012. The park opened for Extra Magic Hour Morning at 7:00 a.m. and we toured like park commandos until 1:00 p.m. when the holiday crowds flooded the park. That was back when the “arrive early and take a nap midday” strategy was a real crowd-beater. Now the secret is somewhat out. On some days, rope drop is the busiest crowd you will see all day. The “arrive early” strategy is still optimal in most situations but prepare to battle the other early birds.
2020 and Beyond
We expect Rise of the Resistance to be the key attraction to watch as we head into 2020 but there are other super headliners on the way. In fact, we are currently looking at our forecasts for 2021 as well. These forecasts come with a lot of assumptions about what crowd flows will look like at Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Train, as well as Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and the Tron Coaster (opening in 2021). Summer has historically been a busy time for the resort but since 2017 summer crowds have waned. We will be watching closely to see if Disney continues its strategy to open parks earlier than usual as a way to battle the summer heat and keep crowds rolling in earlier in the day.
Got questions for the stats team? Let us know in the comments.