The opening day of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance saw such huge crowds that the line was cut off before Disney’s Hollywood Studios had even officially opened.
The parking lot opened just before 4 a.m. and Disney allowed guests to enter Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge around 6:15 a.m. — well ahead of the official 9 a.m. opening. To handle the demand, Disney instituted a “virtual boarding group” system.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, all the slots were for the day were taken by 8:30 a.m.. This meant unless guests had arrived extra early, they weren’t getting a chance to experience the attraction that reporters have quickly ranked among the best Disney rides ever.
“There are over 100 computer systems inside the building, all talking to each other, all working together, to make it all happen,” Scott Trowbridge, portfolio creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, told the Orlando Sentinel.
The technologically-advanced ride, which opened more than three months after the rest of Galaxy’s Edge, had reportedly been plagued with operational difficulties ahead of openings. As it did on the media preview day, the ride did experience a few breakdowns over the course of the day.
Because of those interruptions, some guests that had obtained boarding group passed didn’t get to ride. As compensation, however, those guests were given a FastPass good for any attraction at Disney World (including Rise of the Resistance) and a 1-day park hopper ticket.
In contrast, when ride malfunctions have forced Universal Orlando to clear the queue at Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, guests have typically been offered an Express pass for any ride — except Hagrid’s.
Universal did not respond to Orlando Rising’s request for comment on the Hagrid operations.
As for Rise of the Resistance, Disney has not made it clear how long the “boarding group” system will be utilized. In the opinion of Bill Zanetti, a founding member of the University of Central Florida’s Entertainment Management Advisory Board, it shouldn’t be a permanent operating procedure.
“As someone who has studied queues and queuing theory for many years, I want to make clear that while ‘boarding groups’ for a new attraction for a couple days is fine, this is only a short term solution,” Zanetti said in a Facebook post. “If I arrived beyond that first few days, and I arrived mid-day at the park and found out that I wouldn’t even have any chance of riding something that I’m literally paying to enter the park for, I would be absolutely livid. This is why there is always a standby line in addition to FastPass. This is why attractions queues close when the park closes and the ride cycles out after that. You can’t do virtual line as your only option all day long and expect people to be content.”
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