Home » Does This Controversial Practice REALLY Make Wait Times at Walt Disney World Longer?

    Does This Controversial Practice REALLY Make Wait Times at Walt Disney World Longer?


    If you’ve been visiting Walt Disney World since the park’s early days, or at least prior to 1999 when Disney’s Fastpass service was first introduced, then you remember the days when waiting in line for a ride meant just that. Of course, Fastpass helped to alleviate the pains of waiting in line for our favorite attractions, and more recently Fastpass+ and the My Disney Experience app has made the experience even more tolerable for many guests. But what about those lines that you just can’t get a Fastpass for?

    Even with the enhanced planning abilities presented to guests through My Magic+, a Fastpass can really only get you so far. Unless your three original Fastpass selections are early in the morning, and you’re able to continually reserve more Fastpasses throughout the day, which in actuality is very unlikely, you are bound to spend at least some time waiting in line: and this is where interactive queues come in.

    Early interactive queues

    Image: Disney 

    In 2005, the first attraction that would eventually receive an interactive queue opened at Walt Disney World. Soarin’ Over California opened as part of the Happiest Celebration on Earth promotion, which brought attractions from other Disney parks down to Walt Disney World. The attraction proved to be extremely popular among guests, and this instant popularity coupled with the lack of thrill rides (or any rides for that matter) in Epcot compared to the other parks immediately brought along high wait times.

    The long waits caused many guests to rush to Soarin’ first thing in the morning to grab Fastpasses for the attraction later in the day. On a busy day in 2005, it would not have been surprising for Soarin’ to run out of Fastpasses before noon. (And this was before Fastpass+, meaning that guests would run to this attraction upon arriving in the park to manual print Fastpasses that would be for some time later in the day, which they would not even know until they physically reached the attraction). Of course, with Fastpasses running out early in the day, many guests found themselves waiting in a line that was 100 minutes or more.

    By 2007 the first of many interactive queues opened at Soarin’, paving the way for even more immersive queue experiences to come later. The “interactive” part of the queue involved guests moving in certain ways while waiting in line to complete games and tasks on the screens above. The games fit the theme of the Land pavilion, with activities including having guests lean left and ride to guide a bird through a valley, and keeping flying objects afloat using their arms while the background changed through a number of earthy landscapes. Today we might view the technology used in this queue similarly to how a Nintendo Wii functions.  

    Walt Disney World’s first interactive queue made the wait time for Soarin’ a little less daunting for guests, but it was not without its flaws. For guests who either could not move in the way that the game wanted them to, or guests who simply were not interested in this level of physical activity while waiting in line, the queue was nearly useless. The games in the queue also often relied on guests working together as a group– which is great when your family is interested in playing, but not so great when the family next to you doesn’t move, thereby causing your section of the queue to “lose.”

    Another early interactive queue debuted a couple of years later at Space Mountain, another attraction which regularly holds notoriously long wait times. Like Soarin’, Space Mountain’s interactive queue features a series of games to keep guests busy while waiting in line. Unlike Saorin’ however, these games are somewhat more individualized, which perhaps unsurprisingly usually results in more guests playing.

    Space Mountain Image: Brittany DiCologero

    The games at Space Mountain are based on classic space-themed video games. In this queue, guests are able to shoot asteroids, collect space junk, and help build a space station. While the overall score can be impacted if some of the group decides not to play, more guests seem to consider their individual scores rather than the group scores anyway. If you’ve ever seen or played the games at Space Mountain’s interactive queue, then you’ve seen how addicting they can become. For many guests, especially children, the games at Space Mountain are actually so much fun they really are not in any kind of rush to move down towards the rest of the line.

    Space Mountain’s queue then is a double edged sword, and is often cited as an example of a poorly designed interactive queue by Disney fans who oppose the concept. While some praise interactive queues as excellent ways to become part of the story while passing time in line, others feel that they cause the wait times to actually increase because traffic jams are created when guests spend too much time playing the games. 

    If you really focus on how the line works, this is actually not the case at Space Mountain like some guests may believe. Chances are that even if the line has move while guests are playing the game, there will still be so much more line in front of them that they will have plenty of time to walk and meet the end of the line, and their wait time will not have been impacted at all. Instead of quickly walking to catch up to the family in front of them, they would spend the same amount of time in line with more time spent playing the game instead. But what about guests who aren’t interested in playing the games? Is the protocol for them to pass other guests in the queue, or wait behind the guests who are playing? We’ll come back to this later.


    Haunted Mansion

     Image: Disney

    Perhaps the most popular interactive queue at Walt Disney World is the Haunted Mansion. This queue is a departure from the first two attractions we’ve discussed as it not based solely around a game, but rather on the intricate details that make this attraction so special. The extended queue, which was added to the Haunted Mansion in 2013, gave Imagineers the opportunity to add to the backstories of various characters from the mansion thereby adding to the attraction’s story while also entertaining guests in line. From the busts of the Dread family, which serve as an interactive murder mystery for guests, to the tombs that play music when guests touch the raised instruments, the Haunted Mansion’s queue strikes a balance between having something to do while waiting in line and focusing on the story giving the ride a deeper meaning.

    Another more innovative queue can be found at Dumbo the Flying Elephant. For most of this attraction’s life span, the queue was simply a series of lines, with no real distractions unless you include simply looking around the rest of Fantasyland or people-watching. With the New Fantasyland expansion in 2012, the Dumbo attraction received a number of upgrades. Along with the second spinner, and refurbished, stylish design, the classic Fantasyland ride also received a covered, interactive queue. 

    Rather than having games spread out in the line itself, guests visiting Dumbo when there is a significant wait time may be given a pager, similar to what is often used when restaurants have waits. While parents sit down and relax while waiting for the pager to go off, kids are able to enjoy the circus-themed play area, where they can run, slide, climb, and otherwise burn off some energy when they would ordinarily be waiting in line.

    The argument against interactive queues

    Dumbo Play Area

    Image: Disney 

    You may be surprised to learn that the concept of interactive queues is actually very often debated among Disney fans. There are guests who enjoy the distraction from how long the wait times for attractions can be, however there are also guests who feel that the games at interactive queues actually hold up the line, making their overall wait time longer. But do interactive queues really increase wait times?

    In general, the answer is no. In most cases, if you feel that you are stuck waiting behind other guests in a line who are really taking their time in an interactive queue, you will not end up experiencing the attraction any later than you otherwise would have. For instance, at Space Mountain, is the party in front of you isn’t moving when the line moves due to the games, the extra couple of seconds or minutes you spend waiting behind them shouldn’t make a difference. Once they do start moving, you and everyone else in line will likely end up waiting in a different part of the line. You’d spend the same amount of time in line, the only variable is whether you spend it moving right along with the party in front of you, or stalling a bit in part of the queue and catching up. 

    Of course, it is not guaranteed that interactive queues do not hold up lines all of the time. If there is a very short line for a certain attraction, the guests in front of you stopping could in fact make the wait time even longer. Take the Space Mountain example. If the party in front of you stops and spends extra time at the games, but there is little or no line in front of them, then it may actually take you longer to get through the line. When this does happen, another debate arises– should you go in front of them, or should you wait?

    The etiquette of interactive queues

    Peter Pan's Flight

    Image: Disney

    Though interactive queues are becoming increasingly common in theme parks, there is not as of yet a standard for when guests should feel comfortable passing in front of the parties ahead of them. Guests visiting Walt Disney World definitely follow the attitude that time is money, and waiting in line longer than they expect to is not something most guests would be interested in. Most guests also know however, that especially depending on the guests around them, line cutting in Walt Disney World is probably not something you’d want to be caught doing.

    This situation can be an awkward one, but the chances of it becoming a serious problem on vacation are slim. If the party in front of you does take exceptionally long getting through a line, it would not be inappropriate to ask if you may pass them. Just be sure to check with the other guests first before you end up being accused of line cutting! 

    Why are some interactive queues better than others?

    Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

    Image: Disney

    Even with interactive queues popping up all over Walt Disney World, guests still prefer to avoid waiting in line altogether when given the chance. Fastpass gives guests an advantage in this respect, as they can choose attractions in advance to skip the standby line in, but only three Fastpasses may initially be selected each day. If for instance it comes down to choosing the final Fastpass between Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight, which attraction would you choose?

    If you choose Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, you are following the trends that generally take place in terms of queuing in the Magic Kingdom. The My Disney Experience app is an easy way to discover which attractions tend to run out of Fastpasses first, thereby serving as one of the few indicators for guests as to which attractions are the most popular choices for skipping the standby line. There are of course other factors that differentiate Seven Dwarfs Mine Train from Peter Pan’s Flight that may result in one running out of Fastpasses before the other (like one being more thrilling and new than the other) however the nature of the standby line likely contributes to this decision as well.

    Both attractions typically draw long wait times, however many guests actually want to spend time in the interactive queue at Peter Pan’s Flight, whereas few guests want to wait in line over at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Where Peter Pan’s queue takes guests on a journey through the Darlings’ home with subtle interactive elements and lots of attention to storytelling and detail, there are only a couple of interactive portions of the Mine Train queue, and the areas that are not very interactive are outdoors (albeit covered). For many guests, the fact that the Peter Pan queue is air conditioned is enough reason alone to use the Fastpass for Mine Train instead. 

    So what’s your opinion on interactive queues? The psychology behind them seems to make sense, that people will have more enjoyable experiences when they do not feel like they are simply bored and waiting a long time for something exciting to happen. Games and other interactive elements should, in theory, pass the time, making the wait time feel shorter than it actually is. Still, some guests thoroughly enjoy the queues as additional elements that truly add to the attractions, while others groan and feel that their wait times have actually increased. Where do you stand? Are interactive queues beneficial or problematic for guests waiting in line in the Disney parks? Which interactive queues work in your opinion, and which do not? Let us know in the comments!