In today’s blog post, we’re taking a closer look at how Rise of the Resistance Boarding Groups came about and how they impact your park visit.
We think Rise of the Resistance is the best ride Disney has produced in decades. It’s the most popular ride in the park, and the most complex ride Disney has ever made. That complexity makes it prone to breakdowns—daily, on average, and sometimes more than once.
In normal circumstances, a headliner ride like Rise of the Resistance would have offered FastPass+ at opening, and its popularity would have led to standby wait times of 6 hours or more. Because FastPass+ gives guests a specific time window to ride, such as 1–2 p.m., attractions that offer FastPass+ must be predictably reliable. When the ride breaks down, riders who couldn’t ride during their FastPass+ window are either stuffed into the ride’s remaining daily capacity (crowding out standby riders at that ride) or are passed off to other rides’ FastPass+ lines (crowding out both FastPass+ and standby riders at those rides).
Rise of the Resistance isn’t reliable enough to offer FastPass+, even when Disney offers FastPass+ elsewhere. And because Disney CEO Bob Chapek once criticized long waits at Universal’s popular Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (the second-highest-rated attraction in any Disney or Universal domestic theme park) by saying, “10-hour lines are not a sign of success, it should be seen as a sign of, frankly, failure.” Disney can’t allow long standby lines at Rise of the Resistance.
Disney’s solution is something called boarding groups, which function like mandatory FastPass+ reservations without a specific return time. You obtain a boarding group for everyone in your party through the My Disney Experience (MDE) app at exactly 7 a.m. or exactly 1 p.m. on the day of your Studios visit. If you’re successful, you’ll get a boarding group number, typically between 1 and 180. Once you have a boarding group, MDE will tell you which boarding groups are currently eligible to ride (for example, “Groups 40 to 45 now boarding”) or give you a rough estimate of how long your wait will be to ride. If your phone is set up to receive alerts from MDE, you’ll also get one when your group is ready.
The good news is that you don’t have to be in the park (or even in the state) to get a boarding group. And Disney is reasonably flexible if you’re doing something else, such as eating lunch, when your boarding group is called—showing up 30 minutes late shouldn’t be a problem unless the ride is about to close.
The bad news is that you and everyone in your group must have a park reservation for the Studios on that day. That is, you can’t start at another park, hop to the Studios, and get a boarding group. Further, all boarding groups will be snapped up within a few seconds after 7 a.m. or 1 p.m., so there’s no room for delay or error. And that’s a problem because MDE, and the Wi-Fi at Hollywood Studios, are not completely reliable either.
We tested the network speed and reliability of Disney’s Wi-Fi in locations around Hollywood Studios, as well as via the T-Mobile cellular network, to see how fast we could connect to MDE servers in Oregon. Disney’s Wi-Fi speeds were two to nine times faster than our cellular network, in part because Disney’s Wi-Fi connects to an internal network that includes the MDE servers (in Oregon, we think) that give out boarding groups. In comparison, T-Mobile’s network traffic was routed from Orlando to Tampa; then Miami; and then Mountain View, California, before reaching Disney’s servers on the West Coast. Your cell service provider’s speeds and network routes are probably similar.
However, Disney’s Wi-Fi was much less reliable than our cell service. Disney’s Wi-Fi lost around 6% of all the requests we tried to send—an error rate about 20 times larger than that of our cell service. See tinyurl.com/rotr-networks for more details on our tests. The fastest, most reliable Wi-Fi spot seems to be in Animation Courtyard near the entrance to Disney Junior Dance Party!
The fast but unreliable nature of Disney’s Wi-Fi means that you should, if possible, have as many people as possible try to obtain boarding groups for your entire party at 7 a.m. and at 1 p.m. If you’re in the park, half of you should be on Disney’s Wi-Fi, and half should be on your cellular network.
Even if you’re able to submit a boarding group request exactly at 7 a.m. or 1 p.m., the flood of requests from thousands of other people is enough to overwhelm the MDE computers. It’s common to have MDE respond with a message like “Oh no! Something went wrong!” to your request. By the time you’ve received the error and resent your request, all boarding groups are likely to be taken.
Disney’s implementation of boarding groups is essentially a lottery—some people win, and some people lose, through no fault of their own. And because the process fails for hundreds of people every morning, Disney is unlikely to do anything to make it up to you.
For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids.