Disney World Skyliner Opening Trip Report Part 5

Welcome to our trip report covering the opening of the Disney Skyliner in Walt Disney World! The primary purpose of trip reports is to supplement our existing content to let you know how our strategies are actually working at a given time! This post covers two approaches to Extra Extra Magic Hours at Hollywood Studios and some new changes at Epcot, including the debut of Epcot Forever!

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About This Trip Report

This trip report covers a short, three-night visit to Walt Disney World for the opening of the Disney Skyliner gondola system. The full introduction is available in part 1.

Two Mornings at Hollywood Studios

As with yesterday, we wanted to take advantage of both of us being available (oftentimes I’m solo) to compare two options. Today, we decided to try two approaches to Extra Extra Magic Hours at Hollywood Studios.

Quickly, Extra Magic Hours is a perk of staying at a Disney hotel (and select other hotels) that allows these guests early (or late) entry into a park. From August 29 through November 2, Hollywood Studios has daily “Extra” Extra Magic Hours from 6AM to 9AM. On this day, we wanted to test two strategies—starting with Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run vs. starting with Slinky Dog Dash.

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Having seen a report from WDW Prep School that crowds had been high the previous day, we planned to catch the bus from Caribbean Beach around 5AM. The app only notified me of a 4:55AM bus at 4:52AM, so we just headed out at 5AM with no idea when the next bus would come. It wound up picking us up at 5:17AM.

What about the Skyliner? Not running until 5:45AM and thus not helpful for our purposes. We arrived at the park at 5:27AM, and security had not yet opened.

I got in the “No Bags” line and Emily brought the bag to the shortest looking line. Around 5:30AM, when security opened, I noticed a new bag check line opening and shouted at Emily to head over there. She wound up beating me through.

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Disney has new security procedures that allow you to walk through the metal detectors with small items like keys, cell phones, and wallets. It’s difficult to say if this is an improvement, though, because things like chargers (which now people don’t automatically remove) still set off the metal detector.

We made it through at roughly the same time (she beat me by about 30 seconds), and queued to enter the park at 5:34AM. Guests were let in at 5:45AM, and we were held up just a few rows back at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard.

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Starting With Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run

There’s little notable about my morning starting with Smugglers Run, so I’ll get to the itinerary really quickly. The only thing I want to say is that you really prefer to be at the front of the crowds for this approach. Anything farther than, say, five or max ten rows back and you’ll probably be better off starting with Slinky Dog Dash, which we cover next.

Here’s how my morning went (times are when I boarded the ride):

  • 5:56 Begin Walk to Millennium Falcon

  • 6:23 Millennium Falcon

  • 6:50 Slinky Dog Dash

  • 6:59 Alien Swirling Saucers 

  • 7:14 Toy Story Mania

  • 7:33 Rock n Roller Coaster

  • 7:45 Tower of Terror 

  • 7:59 Star Tours

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Starting With Slinky Dog Dash

Emily started with Slinky Dog Dash. Even though she was in the same spot as me, we wanted to test this approach. If you’re farther back, fewer people are heading to Slinky Dog Dash, which makes it a better starting point. Here’s how her morning went:

  • 5:56 Begin Walk to Slinky Dog Dash

  • 6:05 Slinky Dog Dash

  • 6:12 Alien Swirling Saucers 

  • (Toy Story Mania Temp. Closed)

  • 6:26 Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster

  • 6:36 Tower of Terror

  • 6:59 Toy Story Mania

  • 7:19 Star Tours

  • 8:04 Millennium Falcon

If Toy Story Mania hadn’t been down, it’s likely Emily would have had a faster day starting with Slinky Dog Dash than I did starting with Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run.

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Generally, starting with Slinky Dog Dash is the safer approach here. If waits at the park get really bad, it’s still likely that starting with Slinky Dog Dash gets you through Toy Story Land quickly, and then you only have one long wait (for Millennium Falcon).

Afternoon and Evening at Epcot

With our mornings done, we headed back to Caribbean Beach to work. We also have a full Hollywood Studios One Day Plan if you need that.

Where the Skyliner really shines is in midday transportation. We walked right on at 8:38AM and were back at Caribbean Beach at 8:43AM.

With the right room in Caribbean Beach and a slightly above average walking speed, you could probably get from inside Hollywood Studios, to your room, and back in under 20 minutes. That’s park access that rivals the deluxe resorts.

After a few hours of writing, I headed to Epcot at 12:30PM. I boarded the Skyliner right around 12:34PM and I had gotten food from the Ireland Food & Wine booth by 12:56PM.

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Epcot Updates

Here are some of the changes going on at Epcot. Keep in mind that some things—especially the character greetings—are likely to change quickly as construction continues at the resort. (If you see arrows on the sides of the below images, tap them to scroll through the gallery.)

The Odyssey Pavilion now has a new logo (recall the bottom picture from yesterday; the other coloring changes are just a result of different lighting):

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This is a weird thing to miss, but I will miss the old sign. Odyssey was (and somewhat still is) that really old house in the neighborhood that you walk by and say “wow it’s cool how these old houses look!” The sign doesn’t change much, but it’s a small loss.

The pavilion, which was occasionally used as a festival space, now houses Walt Disney Imagineering Presents the Epcot Experience. This is a collection of exhibits about the future of Epcot.

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The highlight is a 360-degree theater with a looped 12-minute film about the future of Epcot and a model display in the middle. This is a must-do if you’re visiting Epcot soon.

As part of the next chapter of Epcot, there’s a variety of new merchandise available throughout the park, including some focusing on the new (temporary) show, Epcot Forever:

There’s also new Skyliner merchandise:

Impressions de France is undergoing refurbishment until January. The show will split theater time with the new Beauty and the Beast Sing-A-Long. I caught a showing of Impressions de France and was disappointed to hear frequent drilling on the other side of the screen (which is probably part of what necessitated the downtime).

Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy are meeting along the World Showcase entrance to the park. This is a strange location, in my mind, and I highly expect this was incredibly temporary, in part because these three also greet in a pop up Character Spot in old Innoventions West, near The Seas pavilion.

Winnie the Pooh greets inside, in the far back of the UK Pavilion. The Joy & Sadness + Baymax greeting spot is also still intact:

Not so much an update, but I did visit the Disney Pixar Film Festival for the first time in a long time. I forgot how great this show of three short films is. The downside is they don’t rotate films too often, but that is fine for most guests.

Dinner and Epcot Forever

Emily realized she didn’t know our dinner reservation time (6:50PM), and was running late. The Skyliner came up big, getting her from our room at Caribbean Beach at 6:29PM all the way to Biergarten—in the back of Epcot—at 6:59PM. Again, outside of open and close, this is a good form of transportation.

My goal with the 6:50PM reservation time was to catch two performances by the oompah band. We managed to catch the end of the 7PM show and all of the 8PM show, which is still great.

Our seats this trip were at the far back of the restaurant (and we happily take the end of the table so vacationers can have the better seats). Last trip, we were at a front and center table. Here’s those views compared (use the arrows):

Biergarten is a buffet, and as vegetarians we’re pretty happy with the selection, even if the price isn’t great (from a vegetarian perspective). We always each get a liter beer as well, and overall spend around $60 per person (before tip).

We get significant better value out of the food at Sanaa (our other favorite restaurant, but located all the way at Animal Kingdom Lodge), but we’re huge fans of the overall experience at Biergarten.

After dinner we just watched Epcot Forever, the new, temporary nighttime show, from the Italy pavilion.

A lot has been said about this show, and I don’t feel the need to belabor it because I’m just not that sort of blogger. The show relies mostly on Epcot music (particularly older Epcot music) for emotional weight. There are some cool effects with kites, too.

The show occurs at the end of the night, Epcot isn’t teeming with other things to do at this time, and it’s a temporary show (exact end date not set yet). Watch it at least once.

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We walked around a bit after the show (Extra Magic Hours were going on), but left around 10:30PM. We got on the Skyliner at 10:39PM and were back at Caribbean Beach at 10:56PM.

Notably, with Extra Magic Hours ongoing, the Skyliner would run until midnight. This would have been a great opportunity to grab a drink around the Boardwalk if we’d had the energy.

Coming Next In Part 6…Skyliner Roundup and Heading Home

All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered

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