Recap of Crowds at Walt Disney World for Thursday, May 10, 2012

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Note: This is a trial blog post intended to summarize our predictions of crowds in Walt Disney World yesterday, and how the crowds actually looked.  Let us know in the comments if this sort of thing is useful, and if there’s anything else you’d like to see.

Thanks to everyone who posted feedback on yesterday’s initial post about crowd levels in the parks.  Based on that feedback, I’ll keep this post a little shorter and include a couple of character greeting lines, as well as a couple of photos.

For all graphs, the blue line represents our prediction of Disney’s posted wait times outside each attraction.  The green line represents our estimate of your actual wait in line.  The red dots are actual posted wait times, from that attraction, submitted by TouringPlans staff and Lines users.

We had Disney’s Hollywood Studios rated as a park to avoid on Thursday.  On the theory that you should confront every morning something you’ve been avoiding, let’s start at the Studios and take a look at the crowds yesterday.  Here’s Toy Story Mania:

 

Toy Story Mania

Yeah, that’s a posted wait of 110 minutes.  On a Thursday.  When school is in session.  However, Toy Story Mania was shut down for two hours in the middle of the day Thursday, from around 12:45 pm to around 2:45 pm, and that certainly affected waits later in the day; my guess is that people who had FASTPASSes and had run out of other things to ride by mid-afternoon were likely just waiting on their Toy Story ride before calling it a day at the Studios.

By the way, the explanation Disney provided for the TSM outage was that Andy was home, so the toys couldn’t play:

Toy Story Mania Outage on Tip Board

Toy Story Mania Outage on Tip Board

(Thanks to our researcher Shane for the photo.)  Other than the ride breakdown, TSM looked to be a little lower than we predicted.  When a ride breaks down, it’s always difficult to judge how busy a popular ride was, especially when FASTPASS is involved.

Here’s Tower of Terror:

Tower of Terror

Tower of Terror also went offline briefly around 7:30 pm, and that may be the cause of the spike in posted wait times at 7:30.

See the three dots above the blue line at noon, followed by the sharp drop and two dots below the green line at 1 pm?  This kind of thing is suspicious, because it’s an indication that Disney’s posted wait times may be obviously wrong.  Here’s why:

Tower of Terror’s posted wait at 12:44 pm was 50 minutes.  Doing the math, that means that if you got in line at 12:44 pm, you’d be on the ride at 1:34 pm.

However, people who got in line 9 minutes later, at 12:53 pm, only had a wait of 20 minutes.  That means they got on the ride at 1:13 pm, or a full 21 minutes before the people who got in line earlier.

Now, Tower of Terror is an attraction with variable capacity.  It has two drop shafts, and (if I understand the ride mechanics) a total of four ride vehicles can be operating at any given time.  It’s possible that only 1 or 2 ride vehicles were operating at noon, and Disney suddenly increased the capacity to the attraction’s maximum of 4.

Another possibility is that Disney the posted wait times were just estimated too high.  For what it’s worth we had an actual wait reported of 18 minutes at 2:15 pm.

On to Rock ‘n Roller Coaster:

Rock 'n Roller Coaster

Pretty much what we expected, give or take a few minutes.  No ride breakdowns reported at RnRC yesterday, so the magic duct tape must have held up better there than other attractions.

Star Tours’ lines also were in line with what we predicted.  We won’t be freezing the stats guys in carbonite, I suppose:

Star Tours

We had actual waits of 1 minute and 2 minutes reported at Star Tours between 10:45 am and 11 am yesterday.  I expect those to increase as we get into Star Wars Weekends next week.  Incidentally, if you’re interested in Star Wars Weekends, our friends over at StudiosCentral.com have a great overview of all of those activities.  Here’s the link.

Great Movie Ride was what we expected as well:

Great Movie Ride

The Backlot Tour’s wait times were higher than we expected, but let’s take a closer look at those:

Backlot Tour

Our fabulous Lines users submitted posted waits of 30 minutes at 11:49 am, and 15 minutes at 12:13 pm.  While that’s technically possible, it makes me think the 30-minute posted wait was wrong.  If it was true, then Disney would have had to adjust the posted wait down twice – a total of 15 minutes – within 20 minutes to reflect what was actually going on in a rapidly shortening queue.  Call me a pessimist, but I don’t think that happened.  Still, the overall posted waits show that the Studios was pretty busy.

Before we leave the Studios, let’s give a shout out to some of the best character performers in all of Walt Disney World: the Studios’ Streetmosphere actors.  Here’s Myna Talent touring the parks as God intended: with a feathered hat and a martini:

Myna Talent, Streetmosphere Character

Myna Talent, Streetmosphere Character

The white gloves are a nice touch.  Thanks again to Shane for the photo.

Let’s head over to Epcot, the park we recommended as the best to visit on Thursday.  Here’s the waits for Soarin':

Soarin'

The waits looked to be a little lower than we estimated.  I’m glad that happened on a day we said Epcot would be slow.

Here’s Living with the Land:

Living with the Land

Pretty much what we said it would be.  Remind me to give the stats guys an audioanimatronic chicken as their next bonus.

Here’s The Seas with Nemo and Friends, everyone’s favorite attraction based on a directionally-challenged clownfish:

The Seas with Nemo and Friends

Again, the lines looked pretty much like we said they would.

As far as character greetings go, Epcot has the Character Spot.  We got a grand total of one wait time for it yesterday, and it was in line with our estimates:

Epcot Character Greeting

Spaceship Earth was pretty slow all day.  Lines users reported actual waits of 0 minutes at 3:45 pm and 7:45 pm.  Those late afternoon times are generally when we recommend visiting SSE.  Here’s the graph:

Spaceship Earth

And, finally, Mission: Space:

Mission: Space Green

Those short waits in line should not be construed as a reflection on Gary Sinese’s acting ability in the pre-show film.

Let’s check Maelstrom before heading over to the Animal Kingdom.  Here’s what the waits looked like at Maelstrom yesterday:

Maelstrom

There’s only one explanation for the higher-than-expected wait times around 2 pm: Norway put its most attractive Castmembers at the ride entrance in order to lure guests on to the boats.  Curse you, Scandinavian sirens, for messing with our wait time models!

On to the Animal Kingdom, which we had listed as a neutral park – neither the best nor the worst.  Remember that the blue line represents our prediction of Disney’s posted wait times outside each attraction.  The green line represents our estimate of your actual wait in line.  The red dots are actual posted wait times, from that attraction, submitted by TouringPlans staff and Lines users.

Here’s the wait times in line at Expedition Everest:

Expedition Everest

That jump in posted waits, from 5 minutes at 10:16 am to 25 minutes at 10:45 am, makes me think the posted wait sign wasn’t being updated as often as it should have been.  I mean, it’s possible that our model was wrong, and that there was a sudden influx of an extra 500 people, beyond the regular crowd we expected, in those 30 minutes.  Maybe a tour group.  We’ll keep an eye on Everest’s wait times for the next few days to see.

Here’s Kali River Rapids, also in Asia:

Kali River Rapids

Our model’s prediction of the waits was better than yesterday, but still lower than we wanted at 1 pm.  The stats guys are looking at this.

On to Dinoland USA.  Here’s Dinosaur:

Dinosaur

Looks pretty good.  We didn’t have any wait times submitted for TriceraTop Spin, but here’s Primeval Whirl:

Primeval Whirl

Also looks pretty good.  One last stop, at Kilimanjaro Safaris, before we end the day at the Magic Kingdom.  Here’s what the Safaris looked like yesterday:

Kilimanjaro Safaris

Wow – those are some extraordinarily high wait times between noon and 1 pm, and some seriously low waits at 5 pm.  The next time we have staff in the park and this happens, I’ll ask them to hop on the Safari to see what the actual wait is.  It just seems a little odd that so many people would wait 80 minutes for the Safari at 1 pm, when the wait at Everest was 30 or less.  You’d think some of those folks would have balked at 80 minutes and taken the short walk to Asia.  Like I said, we’ll put someone on the ride to see what’s really going on.

Moving on to the Magic Kingdom, a park we had listed as neutral.  Here’s the wait for Mickey Mouse’s autograph on Main Street:

Mickey Mouse Meet & Greet

Pretty close to what we expected, around a 15-minute wait most of the day.  Mickey’s not as in demand as the Princesses, and here’s their wait time info from yesterday:

Princess Meet and Greet

The posted waits seem to be +/- 15 minutes from our estimates.  We didn’t get any actual wait times for the princess meets.  We’ll keep an eye on this over the next few days.

To keep this blog post short(er), I’ll hit the highlights of the Magic Kingdom.  Here’s Space Mountain:

Space Mountain

As noted yesterday, I think we’re underpredicting Space’s wait a little bit in the morning.  The stats guys are looking at that.

Here’s Buzz Lightyear, which was in line with our predictions:

Buzz Lightyear

Our predictions for Dumbo looked good …

Dumbo

… as did Peter Pan …

Peter Pan

… and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh:

The Many Adventures of WInnie the Pooh

Over in Liberty Square, Haunted Mansion had an unexpectedly high wait time in the early evening:

Haunted Mansion

I wonder if that was some playful spooks having fun with the wait-time sign, because the rest of the day looked pretty slow.

Here’s what was going on at Splash Mountain over in Frontierland:

Splash Mountain

Definitely higher than expected in the morning.  That’s unusual because the opposite happened yesterday, when waits were lower than we expected.  I still think weather plays a part in this queue’s waits in the morning.  We’ll keep an eye on it.  Oh, and Splash went offline for at least an hour yesterday afternoon.

Moving on to Adventureland, here’s the lines data for Jungle Cruise:

Jungle Cruise

I’ve got to say that I’m still a little surprised at a 20-minute posted wait before 10 am.  I’ll ask the team to ride it a few times to see what the actual waits are.  Oh, and we had a report of a 4-minute actual wait at 9 pm.  If you’ve not been on Jungle Cruise at night, try it – I think it’s a better ride after dark.

Wait times at Magic Carpets of Aladdin were in line with predictions:

Magic Carpets of Aladdin

Finally, we didn’t receive wait times during the day for Pirates of the Caribbean.  Pirates was reported offline on Thursday evening between 8:30 and 10 pm, and we got wait times reported right before it was closed, and during the closure.  It doesn’t make for a pretty picture (either literally or figuratively), so not worth a graph.

That wraps up yesterday in the parks.  Let me know what you’d like to see in these posts going forward.  Thanks for reading!

 

 

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Posted on May 11, 2012

31 Responses to “Recap of Crowds at Walt Disney World for Thursday, May 10, 2012”

  • Hi, I am a math geek and really like this sort of thing, but please don’t clutter up your otherwise great blog with these extremely long entries everyday. There must be somewhere else on the site you can share this.

    • Thanks JJack. We may move them to a special ‘crowd calendar’ blog.

    • Agree with JJ–love this and hope it continues, but maybe just show a small portion of it (say, the first attraction or 2) and then have a link that takes you to another page with the full rundown.

  • Wow – I thought this was just a one time deal. This is such an in-depth post, it must be incredibly time consuming to write and analyze…isn’t this what interns/grad students are for? ;)

    Your comment on the discrepancies on backlot tour reminded me of something that occured the last time I was in the studios. It was the morning of a fairly slow day (3 or 4) and TSMM went down, causing longer lines at other attractions for the next hour or so. I remember actually seeing the posted wait time on Tower of Terror change from 20 to 85 while I stood there. Obviously, the closing of Toy Story caused a spike in the stand by line, but not THAT much of a spike. Does Disney ever use the posted wait times in order to exert some control over guests as far as encouraging/discouraging them from entering the queue for a particular attraction? I’m just trying to make since of the anomoly I witnessed.

    • Hey Eric-

      I absolutely think Disney intentionally posts higher wait times at some attractions. For example, if you ever see an 80-minute wait at Toy Story during the last 30 minutes the park is open, I think Disney’s doing that to keep people out of line so they can shut the ride (and the park) at a reasonable hour.

      I jumped in one of these “80 minute” lines just before park close with my family one night, and we waited something like 12 minutes. Heaven knows I have some experience with estimates being off, but it’s their own data! Too large a mistake to say it was inadvertent.

  • Great addition. This will be helpful on my next trip (in October).

  • I was at the Studios on this day, and I can tell you that the wait times Disney was showing for the attractions were ALL greatly exaggerated! STAR TOURS, for example, had a posted wait of 20 minutes, but we walked on it again and again (Yes, I am a geek).It was that way all over the park. Even the Sci-Fi Dine In was taking people without ADR’s. The park really didn’t seem too crowded to me.

  • Wow. I find this super interesting! Then again, I’m a math PhD student and eat this stuff up. I am really surprised you get so few submitted wait times. I will have to make sure I submit a lot next time I’m down there to help you guys out.

  • Love, love, love it. The more info you can provide, the better as far as I’m concerned

  • Love the graphs and analysis!!! Keep it up – the more information you can provide your readers the better they can plan their Disney trips.

  • Also love this analysis.

  • Some fun stuff. I wonder, though if by adding a few new badges might encourage more entries. For instance “wait time entered for every hour of park operation”, “3 wait times submitted for the 4:00pm hour”. It just seems that there is alot of entry early (when we know the lines are shorter) as well as end of day there are a few (after Liners return from their breaks and charged their “entry device”. )

  • I find this analysis very fascinating and love that I get a glimpse “behind the scenes” with these blog entries. I hope that you continue to write them, though I know it has to be amazingly time consuming. Thanks for all your hard work, which makes my vacations amazing!

  • by Mark Welker on May 12, 2012, at 10:41 am EST

    These “recaps” are too long and detailed. I’m not sure how you can make them shorter but, maybe your could develop a composite “wait time score” for each park which assumes one rides each key attraction once. Yes, I know, that would also require you to assume a “touring plan” for each park.

    Also, “Crowd Level” is no longer what you are measuring. As you know, you are measuring “Wait Time” which no longer has a very good relationship with “Crowd Level”. Disney has become very good at matching their capacity to the crowd level they experience.

    Maybe it is time for you to change the name of your index to “Wait Time”.

    Now if there were a way to get attendance records, you could also report Crowd Levels. These do impact the visitors as they are trying to get from place to place. Some day, you will be able to get satellite photos of key areas in each park and use advanced software to count the people in those areas. From this you could develop a true Crowd Level Index.

    • Thanks Mark. I think for the vast majority of people, waits in line *are* crowds. Granted, Disney certainly manipulates rides and ride capacities at different times of the year, but I don’t think the average guest cares as much whether there are (say) 25,000 or 30,000 people in the Magic Kingdom; they would care whether the wait at Space Mountain was 35 minutes or 45 minutes.

      Also, one thing I like about wait times is that they’re objective and transparent. Anyone in the park can check Lines to see if we’re right. Disney doesn’t release attendance numbers, though, so there’s no publicly available way for someone to verify what we say.

      Great points. Thanks.

  • I’m always looking for “data” to help with our trip planning. This is great. Keep up the good work.

  • Great post, keep them coming! Long, but I like all the information being provided and have no trouble scrolling down if I’m looking for something specific.

  • I love this kind of data and your analytical review of Disney wait times and other items! Keep it coming and clutter up the blog with as much data as you’d like to share!

  • I love this new blog post! Is it possible to color cold the explanation of the lines, i.e. in the text – make the word ‘green’ -green & ‘red’ – red? or to mark their meaning on each graph? Also if you could maybe bold the names of the rides, or mark them on your graph as well. This will make for easier identification of the information that we might be most interested and help readers navigate through this type of information daily without getting bored over time.

  • Love this. If you think this is too much data for people, maybe just put wait times that didn’t fit with your expectations for that day. That may keep it shorter. But for me there is never too much data.

    • Ha! Thanks Rob. There are definitely days or attractions where we’re off. For example, I think we’re under-predicting the first hour of Space Mountain. But I think we’ve got the issue identified and should have a fix soon.

  • Love this detail! I’m also surprised at how few data points you actually get for a particular day, I would have guessed more.

    A note on the safari ride…the last time we rode an animal had wandered onto the trail ahead so our truck, along with 3 other trucks, became stopped near the elephants for a good 20 minutes waiting for them to resolve the issue. As our guide put it, the animals have the right of way, so we don’t move until they move.

    A wait of that long with no trucks moving certainly would have impacted folks waiting in line significantly. Not sure how often that happens, but would definitely be something difficult to predict and could cause you to see unexpected wait time results.

  • Len, I’m a math/computer geek also who eats this stuff up. I do agree with the other posters who would like to see these series of posts on their own blog, separate from the other wonderful blog stream.

    I also think that while this will be fascinating for a week or two, at some point a semi-daily or weekly post will probably suffice, with the anomalies for any given day (w/possible explanations) listed.

    When we were in the parks in April, I provided 99 wait times over 5 days, which comes to 20 or so a day, spread across lots of different rides. I tried to enter as many as I could without disrupting my family or our touring, often entering a time as we entered a ride, & another as we left. So while it sure seemed as if I was often posting times to be helpful, 99 over 5 days doesn’t really look like much, & given it’s spread across many different rides, unless there are a ton of people entering wait times, this is to be expected.

    I would encourage anyone who uses Lines to help everyone (& yourself) make it better by entering as many times as you’re reasonably able throughout your touring of the MK.

    Len, I bet if you offered small discounts to people who enter more legit wait times, you’d see a lot of data. ;-)

    Great job.

    EJ

  • I am a firm believer in the separation of Park and Math!

  • This is great information for our guests! Thanks!

  • I love this stuff! I don’t have a trip planned until September and love getting my Disney nerd data through your app and blog. Keep it up, but maybe have a special section for these entries so people can either go straight for them or avoid them if they aren’t fans of Disney math and Disney statistics.

  • One more thought- Although it’s great you are trying to get closer to predicting what times Disney will predict, I would be more interested in seeing how close your predictions are to the “actual” wait times. I find Disney often inflates their wait time, so I use your app and website to get a more accurate prediction than the posted times.

  • by Paula Gimbel on May 15, 2012, at 2:07 pm EST

    Just a quick comment – a meaningful % of the population is color blind. You may want to consider making one of the lines dotted (or similar) to make it more accessible. Love the graphs and am so happy you are sharing your results!