RIDE

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other ar­eas of the park,” Dis­ney spokes­woman An­drea Fin­ger said in a state­ment.

All around Graves at 4 a.m., where the crowds grew 100 deep, par­ents snug­gled sleepy young­sters as they waited to be let in at the park that of­fi­cially opened at 6 a.m. Cou­ples car­ried dough­nuts boxes and to-go cof­fees. Em­ploy­ees, who ar­rived at their shifts as early as 3 a.m., teased that all this fuss surely must be for the Mup­pets at­trac­tion.

“We made an ad­ven­ture of it,” said Graves, the first time he’s ever wo­ken up be­fore dawn for some­thing like this.

Len Testa, a com­puter sci­en­tist who stud­ies Dis­ney parks, pre­dicts the com­pany will keep us­ing the board­ing passes un­til some­time in Jan­uary.

Testa, who runs Tour­ing Plans that helps vis­i­tors strate­gize wait times, says he be­lieves the vir­tual board­ing passes keep some guests away from Hol­ly­wood Stu­dios since they know they don’t have a shot to ride Rise if they ar­rive too late.

But if there weren’t a vir­tual reser­va­tion sys­tem, peo­ple would wait in line for hours in standby queues — which isn’t what Dis­ney wants, Testa said.

Dis­ney ex­ec­u­tive Bob Chapek told CNBC in Au­gust, “Ten-hour lines are not a sign of suc­cess.”

It was a com­ment many took as a dig at Univer­sal Orlando, which drew long wait times for its pop­u­lar Harry Pot­ter-themed coaster this sum­mer. Chapek, who led Rise’s grand open­ing cer­e­mony in Orlando, is the com­pany’s chair­man of parks, ex­pe­ri­ence and prod­ucts.

The vir­tual board­ing passes also help Dis­ney man­age the masses as the ride’s op­er­a­tions grow more re­li­able over time, said Ali­cia Stella, a theme parks writer who runs Or­lan­doParkS­top.com.

“It broke down so much in the first week, imag­ine if ev­ery­one was in the standby queue at the time,” Stella said.

Dis­ney has called Rise its most so­phis­ti­cated at­trac­tion ever built. It’s easy to see why. The ride, which moves from room to room, is housed in a more than 160,000-square foot show build­ing that’s hid­den from view. In­side are some of the most ad­vanced an­i­ma­tron­ics Dis­ney has ever built and Dis­ney has de­signed track­less ve­hi­cles that as­cend, dart on the ground and fi­nally drop for the fi­nale.

The ride sys­tem has more than 5 mil­lion lines of code and re­quires 50 com­put­ers to op­er­ate it, a Dis­ney ex­ec­u­tive said ear­lier.

“It’s got to be a per­fect bal­let,” said Stella, who es­ti­mates it takes about an hour for Dis­ney to re­set the ride af­ter a break­down.

When Rise even­tu­ally runs at full ca­pac­ity, it should han­dle a flow of about 1,700 peo­ple an hour, Testa said, who es­ti­mated dur­ing a Dec. 26 in­ter­view it hadn’t reached above 1,200 peo­ple.

Testa pre­dicts Rise as fol­low­ing a sim­i­lar pat­tern as an­other fan-fa­vorite, Flight of Pas­sage, an An­i­mal King­dom ride that takes vis­i­tors soar­ing through the air. For more than two years af­ter it opened, it still had long lines and drew a word-of­mouth buzz from fans — which is what Rise is do­ing, Testa said.

On Rise of the Re­sis­tance, Dis­ney cast mem­bers play scowl­ing First Or­der of­fi­cers who usher vis­i­tors into de­ten­tion cells on a Star De­stroyer. A group of Stormtroop­ers, a new ad­di­tion, even marched in­side the queue Mon­day morn­ing.

Once locked in­side the de­ten­tion cells, vis­i­tors are un­ex­pect­edly res­cued and then board a track­less ride ve­hi­cle that takes them past fir­ing stormtroop­ers, tow­er­ing AT-AT Walk­ers and on a close call with vil­lain Kylo Ren.

Eight hours af­ter he joined the line at the front of the park, it was fi­nally Graves’s turn to board Rise at noon.

The de­lay came as Rise broke down twice while he was in line, although Dis­ney com­pen­sated the tourists with FastPasses. Other times, Dis­ney has given out free cook­ies and park tick­ets for vis­i­tors wait­ing for the ride to re­open af­ter prob­lems.

GABRIELLE RUSSON/ORLANDO SEN­TINEL

About a month af­ter the Star Wars: Rise of the Re­sis­tance ride opened, hol­i­day crowds be­gan lin­ing up early to be the first in line at the park.

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