Early October Crowds At Disney’s Hollywood Studios

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If you are in the Studios this week (October 1-7, 2010) you may have noticed that crowds are a lot heavier than expected. Our model failed to catch this and we’re very sorry for those of you that showed up at the Studios expecting low crowds. Hopefully, the touring plans worked their magic and the major bottlenecks were avoided.

Based on historical wait times, this week should have been some of the lowest crowds of the year. After combing through wait times submitted through Lines we see that wait times were closer to an average day at the Studios and in some cases more than that.

Here’s how it all breaks down.

Recent Crowd Levels at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Date Walt Disney World
Predicted
Walt Disney World
Observed
Studios
Predicted
Studios
Observed
October 1, 2010 1 1 0.7 3.9
October 2, 2010 4 4 0.7 1.4
October 3, 2010 1 4 8.3 9.0
October 4, 2010 2 4 0.9 1.9
October 5, 2010 2 3 0.5 4.0
October 6, 2010 3 6 0.2 5.2

Our estimates for per park crowd levels are subject to an error of +/- 1 on average so it is not surprising to see estimates that are off by as much as 3 index points (this should happen about 5% of the time). What is concerning is that all of our estimates were under-estimates. For some reason, wait times at the Studios during this period were higher than history would suggest.

Even though some of the estimates were too low, when you look at the last 365 days at the Studios, the wait times were about average for that park. Any time you can tour a theme park with crowd levels less than 6, you will be ahead of the game, especially when following a good touring plan.

The Story of Toy Story Mania

One attraction that was busier than expected at the Studios is the Fastpass booth for Toy Story Mania. On a crowd level day of 5 we’ll see a Fastpass distribution rate of about 3:1. This means that for every minute that ticks by on the clock, the Fastpass return window increases by 3 minutes. On the busiest days of the year, that distribution rate will increase to about 6.5:1.

On October 6, 2010 the Fastpass Distribution rate for Toy Story Mania was 6.13:1. This is one of the fastest distribution rates that we’ve seen, putting it in the top ten. This is especially strange for October which in all other areas is a pretty slow time of year. If you were in the Studios this week and have an idea why the crowds were busier than usual, or if you have an idea why the Fastpass Booth for Toy Story Mania was busier than usual, let us know.

Interestingly, the standby times for Toy Story Mania were as expected, peaking between 90 and 110 minutes on non-Fantasmic days.

What can we learn from this?

We will keep sifting though the data and see of we can find a reason. Hopefully, we can find an explanation that makes sense and tweak our models so that we will see this coming in the future. If you have the inside scoop as to why we’re seeing the increased crowds, let us know.

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Posted on October 7, 2010

15 Responses to “Early October Crowds At Disney’s Hollywood Studios”

  • We were at the Studios on Monday 10/4, based on the per park estimates – so it was still a great pick!. (1.9). I got a FP for Toy Story at around 9:45 for 1:45 PM. We then went and walked on Rockin’ Roller Coaster Twice, and everything else we did for the day. When we returned to Toy Story, the FP line still took 20 plus minutes. One interesting thing is that the normal standby que area was empty, but the standby wait time was posted at around an hour. It seemed to me that EVERYONE was using fast past, because you didn’t need it for any other rides.
    Anyway, we had a great day there with the smallest crowds we had experienced at the studios, as we normally go in August. Thanks – Paul

  • We were also at the Studios on Monday, Oct. 4, and thought that the crowds were extremely light. The number of people at the internal rope drop was much lower than we are used to, and we always travel during slow seasons. We did notice, however, that the fast pass time was pushed out very quickly – more quickly than we had ever seen during numerous previous trips. Bottom line: the fast pass return times for Toy Story did not jive with the crowd level. So much so that my husband was wondering if they change the number of available fast passes for a day to coincide with anticipated crowds.

  • Hey, you do your best and we are all appreciative for all the hard work that goes into figuring the Magical World of Disney out!

  • We were there on 10/6 (and then again on 10/7.) It was a lot more crowded than I anticipated. I’m glad to see this post…means I wasn’t totally losing my mind! On 10/6, we got in the line for Toy Story Mania at 9:05am and didn’t get on the ride until 10! On 10/7, there was a stand-by wait on Rock N Roller of 90 minutes at about 10:15 am, Single Rider was 35 minutes, so we got in the Single Rider line. It took 40 minutes for us to ride, but it only took about 30 minutes for the Stand-by line (we watched people who got in line the same time as us get on the ride faster!)

  • Just a theory…. but could the closure of Star Tours, one of the few other FP rides at DHS, be the cause of the FP issues?
    Especially for people who aren’t seeking thrill rides, Toy Story Mania is now really the only attraction with fastpass. So for many such visitors and families, they are getting a second FP for TSM, instead of getting one for Star Tours?

    ……… just a theory.

    • Hey Adam,

      Thanks! We looked at Star Tours’ closure, and it wouldn’t entirely explain the effect. The best reason we’ve heard is the new load/unload gates installed at Toy Story Mania, which have affected the ride’s capacity. We’re looking into that now. Fred will have an update shortly.

      Thanks!

      Len

  • Hi. I don’t have any insight on this issue (although I think the Star Tours closure theory has merit because people do want to take advantage of Fastpass), but the comments above made me wonder if, on my upcoming trip the week after next, we would be better off using Fastpass for Toy Story Mania (even though the touring plan doesn’t recommend it) or just getting in the standby line. We’ll be arriving before rope drop and plan to head straight to Toy Story Mania. I would have thought that a rope drop arrival would beat a Fastpass return, but Kelly’s comment about the standby line taking 55 minutes made me question this.

  • I arrived on Saturday at 11:30 and the park felt crowded and of course no TSM FP. After lunch though we had a 20 – 25 minute wait on RnR walked on ToT and walked on GMR. At a little before 6 we gave TSM a try. Waited around 25 minutes. I would say by 2:30 the park felt empty walking around. I think a couple things people have already said may be adversely affecting the TSM FP. No Star Tours, say what you will ST could eat up a lot of people who now may be riding TSM a 2nd or 3rd time and grabbing FP for it. Also, could Disney have changed the number of FP being distributed to try and keep the FP line shorter? I also wonder if they jack up the wait times to keep people away. Out of all the attractions the four days I was there it seemed to have the biggest discrepancy between posted and actual wait times.

  • I just read on chow.com that Monday is Canadian Thanksgiving. Could this be why traffic is increased? That people are talking the week before off for holiday?

  • I was in the world from 10/2 to 10/9, and I must admit that since this is only my 3rd trip as an adult, I’m a newbie than all of you guys, but I can say for sure…the parks were MUCH more crowded than this same week in Oct of 2006, and Early Dec 2007. I just kept looking around at all the people…everywhere. It was capped off by Saturday Morning’s “8” at MK. If that was an 8, I don’t want to be anywhere near a 10 at MK. When I saw the huge line for the Monorail at TTC, I asked our group to go to Epcot, since it was a recommended park…I was overridden. I’m glad to see some revisions/acknowledgment of the larger crowds last week. It lets me know I’m not just remembering 2006 differently :)

  • We were at WDW 10/4 thru 10/10 and at the Studios on 10/7. On that day, we saw a few things that might be significant. We were told that early in the day both ToT and RnR were down for at least the first hour in the morning. When we rode Tower later in the day wait times were about 40 minutes, but we noticed that one of the elevator shafts (3 I think) was not being used. Also, when we rode RnR, they seemed to be having trouble as well. While we were waiting in the loading area, we saw one train that was delayed for more than a minute on the launch, then our own train experienced the same thing. We spoke with a CM who will remain nameless at TSM who said that thruput on the ride was running close to 1000 per hour, but prior to the gates being installed they were running around 1800, and that management was scratching their heads trying to figure out why it had dropped so much. I know the day we were there it was Fantasmic night, but we haven’t seen crowds this high in off season ever. Has the recession ended or are the discounts just that good?

    • Forgot to add that RnR standby time was 70 minutes and Tower was as much as 90 minutes at one point. Regardless, the crowds that day (10/7) were pretty heavy.

  • Observations on Toy Story Mania from Monday, October 22:

    Hit HS at 5 PM until midnight. Was particularly interested in TSM due to this blog and subsequent theory of exit gates and had never ridden the ride.

    At 5 PM the Standby time posted was 120. Steady queue of FastPass users. No change at 6 PM including FastPass flow.

    At 7:30, Standy as at 90 minutes and I made the plunge. It took 90 minutes of steady stop and go (if that makes sense) with pretty consistent pace (slow). FastPass demand was constant — a group always waiting to get in.

    Loading area: Cars load 8 people at a time; virtually no single riders. It’s an easy load — walk on at floor level, walk off at floor level. The only “exit gates” I saw were the doors on the cars themselves that open at the same time the safety bar raises. It’s a quick exit and entrance. The only problem is that the bar and doors not always open automatically. A CM would have to open a side panel on the car to release the bar and doors manually. This of course slowed things down a bit.

    Wheelchair loading not an issue since it’s accomplished on a side track, out of the main flow.

    At 11 PM – entered line at the same place as at 7:30. Took 20 minutes. NO FASTPASS line. Flow much faster obviously for standby.

    At 11:30 PM – entered line at the same place as at 7:30 and 11 PM. Took 20 minutes. No FastPass line to interrupt standby flow.

    Data from the gate. At almost midnight the gate counter registerd almost 15,000 visitors since park opening at 9 AM. About 1,000 flowing through per hour. CM confirmed this. CM also said he heard that HS park attendance for the day was about 22,000.

    So we have a relatively small capacity load cycle (8) that can push 1,000 per hour through. Standby seems to be affected by high FastPass demand.

    And we can conclude what? Too many FastPasses issued, overpowering Standby disproportionately? Seems like that would similar to Soarin’.

    What do you guys think?