If I may butcher a famous phrase from Shakespeare, "To Toy Story Midway Mania or Not to Toy Story Midway Mania, that is the question."
The WDW Today podcast recieved an email from Pat of Suwanee, Georgia who had a good question.
On to my question. We always make rope drop, but sometimes we are towards the back of the masses. When that happens, by the time we get to Toy Story, the Fastpass line is past One Mans Dream, and the standby is probably 200-400 person wait (I have checked the counter as we walk thru the turnstiles). I have noticed that when we exit Toy Story, the standby is drastically shorter. Since our next step will be Rock n Rollercoaster and Tower, is it a better strategy to go there first, then loop back to Toy Story?
Pat raises a really good point and it's a trend I've noticed too. The common thinking these days is you must hit Toy Story Midway Mania first in the morning but as Pat mentions, if you're not very close to the front of the crowd heading there at park opening, you will likely find yourself in either a really long line for FASTPASS or an even longer line to ride standby. So should you just shrug your shoulders and wait in either line anyway? Or is there a better way?
I first wrote about the 9:45am "lull" about a year ago (lull being a relative term) but there's definitely a dip in the standby wait time sometime around 9:30-9:45am. The reason for this slow down is everyone that wanted to ride at park opening as done so and those that decided to sleep in a little bit are still on their way to the Studios, so the standby line for Toy Story Midway Mania often slows down just before 10am when the next wave of guests arrive.
It isn't a major slowdown, so don't expect to walk on, but I've been able to hop on the standby line around 9:45am or so and wait only 30-40 minutes. Generally speaking, if you cannot see the end of the standby line from outside the attraction, that usually means the wait is less than an hour (regardless of what the sign outside says).
Getting back to Pat's question, if you realize you're in the "back of the pack" heading to Toy Story Midway Mania in the morning, you could call an audible and go ride Tower of Terror or Rock 'n Roller Coaster but there's a few caveats. First, you need to recognize the problem early. If you're on Pixar Place and wait in line for 5 minutes and see it's taking forever, you'll likely lose out on any advantage of leaving because of the time you already invested and the time it will take to now get back to Sunset Boulevard and hop on the lines there. This is something you need to decide before the park opens.
Second, you likely cannot ride both Tower of Terror and Rock 'n Roller Coaster before heading back to Toy Story Midway Mania. Remember, the slow down in the Toy Story Midway Mania line is usually only about 15-30 minutes between 9:30-10am, so if you're not done until 10am on Sunset Boulevard, you may have lost out on any advantage and be stuck in a 60-90 minute wait at Toy Story Midway Mania.
Pat definitely has a good idea, but this plan isn't for touring plan "n00bs" (that's internet speak for new people, pronounced "newbs"). Rather, this plan will require some planning on the spot (as in recognizing you're a little too far back) and being okay with the idea of backtracking.
If you wanted to go ahead with this plan, I'd consider going first to Rock 'n Roller Coaster at park opening, then heading to Toy Story Midway Mania and riding the standby line and then going back to the Tower of Terror to ride that. Frankly, there's no guarantees but if you're going during a less-busy time of the year, it might make some good sense. Of course, if Pat and his family do arrive to Hollywood Studios before the park opens and are right at the front of the crowd, then just plan on riding Toy Story Midway Mania first or grab a FASTPASS for it.