How Pandora Will Impact Crowds At Animal Kingdom – A Crowd Calendar Update

by on February 13, 2017 13 Comments

Filed under: Animal Kingdom, Crowd Blog, Recent News, Walt Disney World (FL)

Pandora: The World of Avatar opens officially at Animal Kingdom on May 27, 2017 and crowds will flock to the park to take in the new attractions. Expect to wait 200 minutes or more to experience the new attractions during the first week of operation. We also expect wait times at other Animal Kingdom attractions to increase 15% when the new Pandora attractions open, and we expect that increase to last throughout most of the summer.

The last major addition to a Disney Park was New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom. The expansion ended with the opening of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train on May 28, 2014, two days after Memorial Day. Wait times at Magic Kingdom rose dramatically after the headliner opened, not just at nearby Fantasyland attractions but across the park. Animal Kingdom doesn’t draw the same crowds that Magic Kingdom does, and Pandora likely won’t have the same draw that New Fantasyland did, but it is reasonable to expect a significant bump in attendance. The new Pandora attractions will see extreme wait times throughout the summer, but we expect rides like Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris to see wait times go up, as well.

As a result, we are updating the Crowd Calendar to reflect the announcement of Pandora’s official opening date. In addition, we are making a few minor updates to other dates and parks in line with our most recent analysis.

Other New Developments That May Affect Crowds

  • Disney announced an increase to Walt Disney World ticket prices, with costs going up as much as 10% for certain multi-day tickets. A price increase can lead to a small dip in attendance, either through shorter or fewer trips. What we don’t yet know is how much this price increase will affect crowds, given the opening of Pandora and other developments.
  • We expect Disney’s Hollywood Studios to drop its evening Extra Magic Hours program. We also expect the Animal Kingdom to add evening Extra Magic Hours, and Magic Kingdom not to replace its evening parade (at least with anything new or notable) for the next few months. The net effect of those changes should be to push evening crowds to the Animal Kingdom. We’ve never seen this situation before, though, and we don’t know how much the price increase in park hopper tickets will discourage people from visiting a second park per day.

Is Pandora Animal Kingdom’s New Fantasyland?

It may take our models up to 30 days to recognize the impact of these changes. We’ll adjust each park’s crowd predictions based on that and post something to the blog explaining the changes as we get them.

What’s Behind These Crowd Calendar Updates

Here is a brief description of what you will see on the latest crowd calendar. As always, the crowd levels are subject to change as they are based on the information available to us at the time we make the predictions. We always encourage you use a touring plan as the best defense against any size crowd – they work, so use ’em!

February

The rest of February will see some minor changes that reflect dips in wait times we have seen in late January and early February, mostly at Hollywood Studios. The calendar is currently not predicting a large boost in wait times at Animal Kingdom when Rivers of Light begins regular performances but that may have to be revised once we see what happens after February 17. Unless you are visiting specifically to see the show, try to avoid that park, especially in the evening.

March

March will see some minor changes of one index level scattered throughout the month. Forecasts for Soarin’, Frozen Ever After and Meet Anna & Elsa recently went through some substantial adjustments. For new or refurbished attractions it can take a while to see how the attractions behave in the different seasons of the year so we refresh our models every few weeks to make sure we are keeping current.

April

Changes in April are minimal with most being a one-point dip. Most of those come in the middle of the month after the Easter holiday has passed. We still expect the post-Easter crowds to be busy however, as many schools are on break. It may be that Animal Kingdom sees a dip in crowds during April and Early May as locals who might normally visit will put it off until the new stuff arrives later on the spring.

May

May will see some minor changes but mostly increases. It is possible that the late May opening of Pandora will bring large crowds to the other parks as well, especially if Animal Kingdom gets overrun by curious locals. If you plan to be among the first to see Pandora you should plan to arrive very early, well before the sun rises. A good plan might be to wait a week or two and arrive first thing in the morning on a weekday – a rainy day would be best.

June

Hollywood Studios is the only park that sees some increases of more than one index point in June. Other parks see almost no change except for the occasional drop by one index point. June forecasts may change once we get closer to the summer season and know more about the schedule and how Animal Kingdom’s new attractions are affecting the flow of guests between the parks.

July

July is looking a little more crowded than our last crowd calendar predicted, especially at Animal Kingdom and Epcot. We saw from New Fantasyland in 2014 that Seven Dwarfs Mine Train brought in large crowds during the busy summer season, we expect Pandora to do the same for Animal Kingdom.

August

Conversely, our models show that August will be a quieter month for Animal Kingdom as the novelty of the new attractions begins to wear off. Some estimates for Magic Kingdom did go up a point or two in August however, mostly in the later part of the month.

September

September looks great as always! Lots of crowds in the lower part of our scale. If you want to see crowd levels of ‘1’, ‘2’ or ‘3’ then September is the month for you. Some crowd levels in late September and early October did go up a few points as these latest updates include a complete analysis of what we saw in Fall 2016. We expect wait times to repeat themselves during this period in 2017.

October

The majority of significant changes in October occur at Magic Kingdom as we saw some higher wait times than usual in 2016, continuing a trend that we saw since Fall 2014. Still, October will offer moderate crowd levels most days.

November

Some forecasts around Veterans Day and Thanksgiving have increased the crowd levels in November, especially at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. This reflects what we saw in 2016 during the same period. Although our forecasts are not based solely on the previous year, we do give more weight to recent observations so what we saw in 2016 counts more than what we saw in years past.

December

Similarly December will see some boosts in crowd numbers during the middle of the month in reaction to what we observed in 2016 but mostly minor changes throughout the rest. Of course, once December 25th arrives, the parks will be extremely crowded for two weeks.

January

Wait times in early January 2018 are forecast to be higher than originally predicted given the surge in wait times that we saw this year well after the Christmas rush would normally have ended. Crowd levels are still decent throughout most of the month however.

Posted on February 13, 2017

13 Responses to “How Pandora Will Impact Crowds At Animal Kingdom – A Crowd Calendar Update”

  • Thank you once again for your explanations and your transparency. I create personalized touring plans every time I go to Disney since they are my best defence against waiting in lines. Thank you for all the hard work you and your team do.

  • Thanks so much for jumping on this so soon! My trip dates are 5/27-6/10. I deliberately pushed AK to the second week of my trip when the rumors about a possible opening started circulating last month. Sounds like I made the right call. I just hope they address the FPP situation soon. Tiers or no tiers? What will it be?

  • Ha Ha, you people are so gullible. Do you really think this is anything more than a guess, a WAFG? This is NOT Diagon Alley. Avatar is NOT popular and has no cult following. Nobody, I repeat NOBODY, no matter how much data they have has any clue as to what is going to happen with regards to crowds outside of the first month. I predict, acknowledging I know NOTHING, that there will be a novelty factor where everyone will want to go and see it, but it will not elicit repeat visits for the majority of people. Just my uneducated guess.

    • Mark, you may be right. There really is no way of knowing how popular the Avatar attractions will be. However, we can rely on what we have seen in the past and come up with a pretty good educated guess.

      • by Charles Wheeler on February 16, 2017, at 9:14 pm EDT

        I completely appreciate the amount of work you all put in to making your “guesses.” Then again, I’ll take a guess with years of statistical models over just randomness any day. Keep up the great work guys and gals 🙂

    • We modeled 3 different scenarios for Pandora’s popularity:

      – A 5% increase in attendance. This is essentially Mark’s worst-case scenario coupled with Disney’s mammoth marketing machine. It assumes that either the story or the rides aren’t compelling, and the entire effort adds little to the appeal of a Walt Disney World vacation.

      – A 15% increase. This is at the low end of the bump that Universal saw with Diagon Alley. It takes in to account that Animal Kingdom starts with a higher number of visitors than USF anyway, and the fact that Harry Potter has more of a following than Avatar.

      – A 25% increase. This is the scenario where Disney hits a home run: the attractions, land, and restaurants are all much better than expected, the marketing campaign is a success, and word of mouth gets people to visit WDW who otherwise would not. It’s slightly less than what IOA saw with the opening of Hogsmeade (again, IOA is starting from a much lower base of visitors).

      We had to pick one scenario to model, because the models make the predictions. We picked the middle one.

      For what it’s worth, New Fantasyland added 4% to the Magic Kingdom. Again, the MK starts at a much higher base of visitors. NFL was also spread out over several years.

  • Fred and Len, you rock!
    This article was great, and Len’s additional rebuttal to Mark just adds to the depth of it. I’m awed by your ability to come even close to daily crowd trends, let alone predict new land openings! You guys are my heroes (well, not really, but I think what you do is awesome!)

  • Sorry to be repetitive, but you guys rock! I didn’t expect any educated guesses so soon. This is really interesting, and I’m so glad I always make my trips in September (thanks to the crowd calendar).

  • by disneybroadwayfan on February 14, 2017, at 3:25 pm EDT

    There is also a difference between “popular” and “out of the public consciousness.” Currently, AVATAR is out of the public consciousness seeing as the film is 8 years old, and the sequel more than a year off. However, AVATAR is the top grossing film of all time, which certainly means there is some level of popularity to the property. Nearly 73% of its grosses were from overseas (boxofficemojo.com), and that market could certainly account for a longer-term popularity at AK. And while that points to the initial film being less “popular” here in the US, remember that Americans are not the only people who visit WDW (or go to the movies). And Disney has really just started the marketing…

    I think what you have come up with as a predicted model is pretty terrific, Fred and Len. It’s a difficult job, and that you are even attempting it is commendable. Damned if you do/damned if you don’t work is always tough. Disney has made a gazillion over the years in just that type of work; Liners remind me of that every single day. So thank you Touring Plans and Disney.

  • When will Disneyland crowd calendar be updated/adjusted? Predictions there seem to struggling. I was looking at the recent history for the last month or two and the predictions and actual can be quite different. Thanks!

  • You state that you aren’t sure how the increase in parkhopper ticket prices will effect the number of those tickets sold. For someone like myself who didn’t parkhop but bought the now-defunct waterparks-and-more option, I will now have to buy parkhoppers. And if I buy one, I’m darn sure going to use it! Wonder how many people are like me and if it is a number large enough that it will effect attendance.

  • we had already booked our vacation 05/27 to 6/1. We are headed to Universal on 6/1. When do you think you will have updated touring plans to account for Pandora? I spoke with a Disney CM yesterday due to trouble with their website. He said they will be adding Pandora FP+ in March for the opening.