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Fastpass fail

The other night I couldn’t sleep and like many times, I found my mind wandering about lots of things and eventually I was thinking about Hollywood Studios (I know, very surprising) and an idea popped into my head regarding fastpass at the Studios.  I started thinking about each attraction that uses fastpass, as well as those that have in the past, and after a little while came to a conclusion that seemed clear to me: overall, fastpass at Hollywood Studios has been a failure. 

What I mean by failure is that fastpass hasn’t really done much to improve things at the Studios in terms of maing wait times shorter for guests.  Let me dive into this to explain what I mean.  Fasptass was brought to Walt Disney World to help guests ride the most popular attractions with a short wait.  Basically the premise is you get a Fastpass, go do something else (Disney would prefer you shop) and then come back at your assigned time to ride.  At Hollywood Studios, I’ve found Fastpass to be unnecessary in most cases.  

The basic principle I came up with is that the less efficient an attraction is, the more useful Fastpass is.  In other words, an attraction that handles crowds well doesn’t need Fasptass as much as an attraction that has a lower capacity of guests it can handle.   Muppetvision 3D, an attraction that once had Fastpass, handled crowds so well that Disney opted to remove Fastpass from it.  On the other side of the spectrum, we have Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, which due to its popularity and less overall capacity per hour, depletes its Fastpass very quickly each day.

So what does this all mean?  Well, like Muppetvision, other attractions at Hollywood Studios just don’t need Fastpass.  Fastpasses at Star Tours are a dime a dozen since the standby wait rarely exceeds 30 minutes and two other attractions, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show haven’t offered Fastpass to guests at all in months because there just isn’t a need for them.  Add to that list Muppetvison which had Fastpass once but removed it because again, no need for it.  All four of these attractions have a common link; they can handle the crowds that are thrown at them to the point where Fastpass merely complicates the situation and honestly makes the wait longer.  Yes, longer! Think about it, if at Star Tours half the simulators (3) are reserved for Fastpass guests while the other half for standby, you cut the capacity of the ride in half and make the standby line longer even though the other half of the capacity may not be in full use as there aren’t guests filling up the Fastpass side of the ride fully.  If you took Fastpass from Star Tours, what you’d find is shorter standby waits since the entire capacity of the ride could be dedicated to the standby line.

To be fair, there isn’t a total failure with Fastpass.  Rock ‘n Roller Coaster and Toy Story Midway Mania greatly benefit from Fastpass, or more to the point, guests find Fastpass useful at these attractions because of the long standby wait times that would result regardless due to their inherit super popularity.  I can’t defend taking away Fastpass at Coaster, but I will say that I believe Toy Story Midway Mania would benefit from removing Fastpass. Why?  Well, during the soft opening previews for the attraction (before it was officially open, yet allowing guests to ride as Imagineers made final adjustments) there was no Fastpass working and the standby wait for Toy Story rarely exceeded 40-50 minutes whereas with Fastpass, standby waits regularly exceed 70-90 minutes.  Again, with no Fastpass, the ride allows for its full capacity to be devoted to handling the standby line and as a result, you have less waits.

I’ve neglected Tower of Terror until now and that’s because it’s like the tomato of this argument (tomato referring to the fact it has the properties of a vegetable and a fruit).  On the one hand, it’s incredibly efficient at handling crowds but on the other hand, its popularity still results in long waits and I can make an argument for either side so I’ll leave it ambiguous for this conversation.

I will measure the benefit of Fastpass by looking at how the standby waits would be with and without Fastpass.  So let’s look at the tally. Four attractions either don’t offer Fastpass regularly or even need them, 1 attraction is neutral (Tower of Terror), 1 attraction had its Fastpass removed because it was unnecessary (Muppetvision), 1 attraction would be better without it (Toy Story Midway Mania) and 1 probably does benefit from Fastpass (Rock ‘n Roller Coaster). Out of 8 possible Fastpass attractions, only 1 stands to truly benefit from it. 

Looking at all this, we could have shorter overall waits for 6 out of 7 of the most popular attractions at Hollywood Studios if we ditched Fastpass (Muppetvision already has lost it so it’s obviously doesn’t count) today.  We could have a whole different discussion over whether that should happen, but my original point is Fastpass just hasn’t done much to actually do what it set out to do: make it easier for guests to experience the popular attractions in the park. While writing this whole article didn't do much for helping me get to sleep, it did open my eyes to just how Fastpass affects the standby waits in the Studios and how lines would be shorter generally if we did away with Fastpass.

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A regular look into Disney's Hollywood Studios, both past and present, with commentary and analysis from Matt Hochberg.


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Posted: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 by