Disney’s Hollywood Studios remains Walt Disney World’s most popular park—fortunately, it is no longer also its most unpredictable one.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios has gone through a lot of changes since 2020 arrived. It went from being one of Disney’s least-visited parks to its most-visited one, even surpassing Magic Kingdom when Walt Disney World reopened after lockdown.
While Magic Kingdom is finally starting to catch up in terms of attendance, Disney’s Hollywood Studios continues to run strong. Hype around Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance continues to draw droves of guests, and the park has become a much more appealing family destination with the addition of Toy Story Land and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. If Disney can make good on their goal to bring back shows and entertainment soon, the park will once again feel like a proper full-day destination.
Our last update for What to Expect at Disney’s Hollywood Studios took place all the way back in December of 2020. Many things have not changed much: the park is still consistently busy, the new virtual queue system for Rise of the Resistance is working well, and you can still expect lots of plexiglass on rides.
What does the park look like now, though, with Spring Break having arrived?
Our most recent visit took place on Thursday, March 18th, 2021—a max capacity day with 35% crowds plus park hoppers after 2PM. Here’s what we found…
1. Pretty much every day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a max capacity day
We started figuring this out back in Fall 2020, but it has held true—it’s pretty rare to find a day where Disney’s Hollywood Studios isn’t at max capacity anymore.
Disney’s other three parks have seen some unique shifts in crowd trends since Spring Break season arrived—Magic Kingdom feels noticeably crowded with frequent max capacity days, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has increased its hours, and even Epcot is starting to see regular max attendance days. Really, if you plan to visit Walt Disney World any time in the next few weeks, you should expect all parks to be at full 35% capacity.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been much more stable—while the park enjoyed some pockets of medium-capacity attendance early in the pandemic, since the arrival of 2021, it’s almost always at maximum capacity. The park fortunately has good crowd control in place, so social distancing hasn’t been too big of a problem, but it definitely no longer feels empty or even light on crowds. Unusually long lines (due to social distancing) amplify this effect and occasionally lead to strange scenes, like this portal into the backwater of Batuu Disney had to open to accommodate potential crews for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
Where Hondo keeps his perfectly legitimate cargo stores…
On top of this, park hopping is back as of the start of 2021. Guests with an annual pass or park hopper option on their ticket can move freely between all four Disney parks after 2:00 PM (within park hopping capacity limits). Naturally, Disney’s Hollywood Studios can prove quite the magnet for park-hoppers wanting to experience Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the park’s other new attractions, particularly with Disney Parks Pass reservations becoming harder to come by. So far, this hasn’t made DHS feel too packed, but it is something to remain aware of.
2. Improvements for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance are paying off
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance has gone through quite the history of controversy. As soon as it opened, it became Walt Disney World’s most popular attraction, and that popularity led to quite the lengthy battle trying to figure out the best way to manage the park’s unique virtual queue. You could easily say the most unMagical moment for many Walt Disney World guests is the moment this sign comes out…
They keep it pristine by washing it in our tears…
As of 2020, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance has finally landed on a solid system for dealing with the ride’s virtual queue, and not much has changed since our last update. Guests who have a Disney Parks Pass Reservation for Disney’s Hollywood Studios (sorry park hoppers) can try for a Boarding Group for the ride at 7:00 AM from wherever they are via the My Disney Experience app—even outside Walt Disney World. If you don’t get a group, you can try again at 1:00 PM from inside the park (some guests have reported good luck attempting this from near the Guest Experience tent).
The system works, and in truth, it’s easier than ever to get a Boarding Group for the ride since attendance is still capped at 35%--meaning less competition. While it is still possible to strike out, the chances are significantly better than before. We also noticed a nice adjustment to the Boarding Group screen itself—guests are now given an Estimated Return Time. While that time can shift, it was really nice to have a general idea how long you might have until that crucial hour when your group is called.
As for the ride itself, Rise is operating at consistently high capacity. While the ride still has breakdowns, Disney continues to get through high numbers of boarding groups, and the choice to add plexiglass into the ride increased its capacity significantly.
Does the plexiglass ruin the ride? No—though it can make for some weird angles during the pre-show and some bizarre effects on camera. Here’s what the ride looks like behind plexiglass:
Video: YouTube, Jett Farrell-Vega (@My Kingdom For a Mouse - Glimpses of Disney)