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.
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.