We visited Walt Disney World in Orlando this week, and were blessed with small crowds, and, for the majority of the time, extremely short lines. The benefit of timing a visit when the Florida kids (and many others) are already back in school!
There were two exceptions to the short queues – Soarin’ at Epcot, and Toy Story Mania at Hollywood Studios. The Toy Story Mania ride consistently had extremely long queues whenever we tried. (We had better luck with Soarin’ later in the evening.)
My family doesn’t usually spend a full day at Hollywood Studios, park hopping between Magic Kingdom or Epcot. Two days in a row, we hit Hollywood Studios between 11 and 12 o’clock, and were disappointed to find all the fast passes had already been distributed. The stand by queues were fluctuating between 80-120 minutes too, so we weren’t keen to undertake that wait (especially having endured a 45 minute wait for Soarin’ with an active 4 year old, and that was with the cool new interactive games at the Soarin’ queue.) The Toy Story queue has little to entertain or distract, other than a talking Mister Potato Head shortly before you actually get on the ride.
So, we hatched a new plan.
On the third day’s attempt, we awoke to hit Hollywood Studios right at rope drop at 9:00 am.
The lines of people to go up past the Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat (and towards the Toy Story ride) was fairly heavy right at entrance, and for some reason, cast members were channelling folks away from that shortcut and towards the Playhouse Disney entrance.
Within 10 minutes of the park opening, the fast pass windows were already heading towards a noon return time… which only goes to prove, once again, for Toy Story Mania – get there early, or don’t bother at all.
After snagging the fast passes, we finally realized why cast members were directing people away from the Sorcerer’s Hat. The attraction was having a delayed opening. We guessed the cast members were hoping to distract people with other attractions before they got to Toy Story. Despite questioning from the scads of people, all we could elicit from the cast members was that there were some mechanical difficulties. We didn’t know to what extent, or how long it’d take to fix. With fast passes in hand, we could ride the attraction right up to park closing once the ride re-opened. At first, the stand by queue was closed, but it soon opened, with cast members telling people they could wait at their own risk. A large stand by queue started to develop, and we thought – why not chance it (since we had our fast passes for later)? We had an hour to kill before returning for a character meal.
The chance worked. Moments before we had to leave, the ride suddenly opened up, and the line started moving. (Before we ducked inside, however, we noticed that the stand by queue was now over 90 minutes.)
You wear 3D glasses, and have Buzz Lightyear and Woody holding everything from plates that you have to shoot and break (who doesn’t the idea of smashing plates with no clean up duty, and no recriminations); to hooping rings around rockets.
The skill level required to shoot at the various targets isn’t as high as the Buzz Lightyear ride in Magic Kingdom (which is a laser light game, that requires you to shoot at “Z” targets), and my 4 year old was easily able to participate and get a charge out of each different game you play. (Your seats spin you around to different displays.) However, it is fun for all – you can choose to shoot quickly, and amass as many targets as possible; or you can shoot for accuracy and line up the higher-value targets that pop up at various points.
Toy Story Mania is a fun ride, and is worth queuing up for an hour if you have to… but get the fast pass if you can at all. Why waste that much park time, when you can get a ticket to come back at an appointed time?