Wednesday, August 9, 2023

New Longest Wait King at Hollywood Studios?


When it comes to Disney knowledge, sometimes you take things for granted.  If we're specifically talking about wait times, the common wisdom is that the newest ride in any park is going to have the highest wait times until a newer ride appears.  This isn't always the case - sometimes the new attraction is a lower tier ride (not an "E Ticket", for those who like the lingo) and once the new ride smell wears off, the previous busiest ride will take over again.

In recent years, a lot of big attractions have debuted at Disney World, and largely the pattern has remained true.  When Star Wars Galaxy's Edge opened in 2019, the two rides in that new land shot to the top of the wait time lists at Hollywood Studios.  Millenium Falcon Smuggler's Run has largely receded into the pack with a lot of the existing rides, which makes sense - Smuggler's Run was the "b" attraction in Galaxy's Edge.

The main attraction there of course is Rise of the Resistance, the much hyped, multiple ride vehicle that anchors the land.  The hype here is warranted - Rise is a tour de force (pun intended?), and is objectively the best attraction on Disney property (it doesn't necessarily have to be your favorite ride - mine is still Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom - but from a storyline, technological and "magic" standpoint, it's hard to beat it).  

Once it debuted (and again when operations returned to normal after Covid), Rise has almost always been the busiest ride of the day at that park (and often times, at all the parks in total).  I took this for granted - I barely glanced at wait time charts, because we all knew what the top ride in that park was going to be.

But lately, I've noticed a new trend, and I decided to dig into the numbers a little bit.  Rise is no longer the busiest ride at Hollywood Studios on most days.  In fact, one ride has taken over that title and now dominates the wait time landscape. That ride is none other than Slinky Dog Dash, the coaster and main attraction in Toy Story Land.

Slinky is a worthy "busiest" ride - it held that title for a few years leading up to the debut of Galaxy's Edge (as well as Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway).  Toy Story Land is still relatively new (it opened in 2018, just a year plus before Galaxy's Edge) and Slinky quickly became the "it" ride in that land.  Toy Story Mania had been around, and Alien Swirling Saucers is more for littler kids, so by default, Slinky was the main attraction.

I have no issue with Slinky as a ride.  It's only the second coaster in that park, and the other one, Rock N Rollercoaster Starring Aerosmith, is much more intense, given that it's the only coaster on property with inversions.  Slinky would appeal to the roller coaster wimps (raises hand) of all ages, and the Toy Story theming would impress kids big and small.  It was a sure winner.

It's also ... just okay?  It has a short duration, and coupled with the long lines to get on, adds up to a long experience in the hot sun.  It's not particularly thrilling, and the up and down hills often make me feel a little queasy (your mileage may vary).  I would be much happier with it as an attraction if it weren't so hard to ride.  We have to do it on every trip, but usually only once - if the time investment were equal to say, Big Thunder Mountain, then we'd probably give it another go or two.

So has Slinky Dog Dash reclaimed its crown as the top dog at Hollywood Studios?  Take a look at these charts below, all from as always.  I kind of arbitrarily chose dates going back a couple of months - the data below represents June 1st through August 7th, a total of 68 days.  

A few things stand out here.  First, the charts don't scale particularly well, because there is one anomaly in the Rise data, represented by that tall red line.  But the gist is pretty clear.  One good measure of very popular attractions is the "triple digit" factor, or the days when a particular ride averages over a 100 minute wait.  In these 68 days, Slinky averaged triple digits 32 times, while Rise hit that average only 13 times.

In a direct comparison between the two, I looked at the last 30 days (in this case, 7/9-8/7/23).  Out of those 30 days, Slinky average a higher wait time an astounding 26 times!  The times that Rise had higher wait times, it was usually only by a few minutes. But when Slinky had the higher times, there were days when the average was MUCH higher (often 15-20 minutes or more).  Over those 30 days, Slinky average a wait time of 99.8 minutes and Rise averaged "only" 86.5.

It seems pretty clear that Slinky has usurped Rise as the number one wait time at Hollywood Studios.  The data is even more skewed than I had thought from spot checking it recently.  It's a drubbing.  The better question here is why.  I tried to come up with some reasons, and it wasn't easy.  I looked at the ride capacity, to see if they were noticeably different.  But Slinky averages 900-1,440 riders per hour, and Rise averages 1,100-1,500.  Not a big enough difference to account for this trend.

I tried to think more abstractly - is Slinky more popular because it's more "family friendly"?  I mean, everyone has different interests, but there is little that is too scary or adult about Rise, and kids usually love Star Wars.  Even if more little kids rode Slinky, it seems like it wouldn't make that much of a dent in wait times.

One other thing is ride reliability. From the minute it opened, Rise had reliability issues, often resulting in the ride being down for large chunks of time, if not the whole day.  When the ride came back on line, that led to crowd rushes, as well as the ride having to accommodate more Lightning Lane returns in fewer operating hours.  It does seem that Rise has become more reliable over time, though, which might in and of itself lead to less congestion.  It still has its issues, though, so I'm not sure I can fully get on board with that way of thinking.  

The most likely explanation I could come up with relates to the "skip the line" process related to each ride.  Rise of the Resistance is the only Individual Lightning Lane (ILL) in Hollywood Studios, meaning it has to be purchased a la carte.  Slinky Dog Dash is part of the more general Genie+ service, where once purchased, it can be used on a variety of rides in a given park.

Why do I think this matters?  For one thing, it makes it easier to "beat" the Rise lines - just purchase an ILL and you won't have to wait in the standby queue.  Disney doesn't release data on how many ILLs (or Genie+ purchases) are available each day for each ride, but in recent months, Rise has had availability late into the day (according to Thrill Data, the average sell out time for Rise in the last thirty days has been 4:19 p.m.).

On the other hand, with Slinky being a part of Genie+, guests quickly got wise to the fact that Slinky was by far the number one priority at that park (and really, the highest priority of any ride in ANY park on property).  Indeed, Slinky's average sell out time has been 11:36 a.m. for the last thirty days.  Genie+ is quite helpful at Hollywood Studios, and I suspect a lot of guests purchase it, and most of THOSE guests select Slinky as early as possible.  

Once this "sells out", this leads to a choice - do you rough it and wait in the standby line or do you simply skip riding it for that day?  There is no other option here, and I think a lot of people will just deal with the waits.  Hence the longer average wait times throughout the day.

What, if anything, can be done to alleviate some of the wait time issues with Slinky?  I'm not really suggesting this (in case Disney is listening) but one option would be to turn Slinky into its own ILL.  Back when ILL originally debuted, Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway was the second ILL in this park, but that was largely due to its status as the new kid on the block.  It would make much more sense for Slinky to be that ride today.  Once ILL was cut down to one per park, it would have been bad press to move this ride, but now Magic Kingdom has two ILL rides, so there is a precedent for it.

Would that truly make a difference in wait times?  I don't know, but it would present a different choice to guests, and perhaps would give them more flexibility if and when to purchase it, as well as whether to wait in the standby line.  Hollywood Studios could likely survive the reduction in Genie+ options, but this might be a case of trying to get too greedy.

I'm not sure that Disney even wants to do anything about it, though anything averaging that high of a wait time probably deserves a second look.  Remember, this is a two minute roller coaster - I personally would not wait 100 minutes for that opportunity.  As always, the best option remains going to one of these rides first or saving it until the end of the night.  But it's also possible that people purchase Genie+, can't get Slinky right at 7:00 a.m. and are already planning to rope drop Rise.  In that case, guests have to choose whether and when to attempt Slinky.  In any case, this has been an interesting shifting of the winds and we'll see if it continues if no further changes are made.

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