The Best Rides at Disney World: Enjoying the technical marvels of boundless imagination

I suppose I enjoy writing about anything, but rarely I get to write about something as enjoyable as the topic of today. Sure, even with all the concerns that there are in the world, it is nice to take a moment to have a little fun, and that’s what I did for myself for Christmas this year. I’m a fan of Star Wars, and very specifically the Millennium Falcon and it just so happens that they opened recently the new ride Smuggler’s Run at Disney World. So, I planned a trip to ride it giving myself no cost restrictions due to the unique nature of this particular vacation. I timed my visit to enjoy another Star Wars ride that just opened called Rise of the Resistance which appears to be the most technical ride ever created anywhere in the world to date. The result was an extremely enjoyable five amusement park journey over a 5-day period and over 40 miles of walking that exposed me to some really wonderful moments of pop culture development and technical mastery through wild imaginations. The story I tell here is one that would have helped me while planning this trip so I offer it to those who are in such a need, so that they can enjoy their vacations as much, or more than I did.

I wasn’t going to spend that much money and time dedication to a vacation and not see the most technical ride ever made that was themed to Star Wars so seeing Rise of the Resistance for me was paramount. The ride opened on December 5th and I targeted my visit for five days later once some of the technical kinks and consumer drop off had occurred. I hoped that the Star Wars franchise had been damaged to the point where I might actually be able to get on the ride in the middle of a work week at Disney World on a winter day between Holidays. But, the demand for this ride from the public was so intense that the ride was selling out just minutes after the park was opening each day, so approaching my dates at the parks, I was getting a little worried. I wasn’t sure if the ride would even stay running long enough to allow the visitors who wanted to ride the thing time to actually ride it. So there was a lot that could have kept me from riding it which made getting the opportunity a unique adventure in perseverance.

While my wife and I were traveling to Orlando Disney had created a boarding party policy to help alleviate all the intense traffic that wanted to ride the ride each day, something they were calling a virtual line. In their other very cool and technical ride that has now been open for over a year, the Avatar attraction called Flight of Passage, the average wait times are in the 190-minute range. Disney knew that for Rise of the Resistance that the times would be even greater, so they used this virtual line concept to get people access to the rides. That meant that you had to get to the park early and get in line to get a boarding pass designation that would then give you a kind of time slot to ride the ride. This is where things got tricky, the boarding passes couldn’t be booked but by a phone app, once you entered the park. There was a lot of digital interactions that I was very weary of, because I felt a lot of things could have gone wrong, and often do in other places. But the level of Disney competence turned out to be extraordinary and it all worked out in the end with hindsight. But it was very stressful if you were dead set in riding this new attraction—which I was. People were lining up to get their place in line essentially at 4 AM. The gates to Hollywood Studios, which is the Disney park that holds the new Star Wars rides didn’t post openings until 8 AM, yet unofficially the gates were being opened at 6:30 AM and within a few moments of that early time, all the boarding passes for the entire day were being given out. I knew we had to get to the park early—really early, and that we’d have to fight our way to get a boarding pass from a restless crowd.

What made things even worse, was that the ride was breaking down a lot and the park wasn’t getting through all their boarding passes issued in a day so even if you managed to get a boarding pass, you still might not get to ride. So to ensure that we’d get a boarding pass we arrived at the park at 3:50 in the morning and were the seventh car in line waiting for the parking lot to open. And sure enough, more people started arriving in droves. Security let everyone enter the parking lot without paying since they didn’t have any workers at the park yet to run the admittance booth. By 4 AM a massive line had formed at the security check in that lasted until it was thousands of people. At around 5:30 AM they ran everyone through security so that a new line could form at the front gate of Hollywood Studios. It was there where the real race would be on. You had to zap your way into the park before they’d allow you to join a boarding party for Rise of the Resistance and all those people would be doing the same thing at essentially the same time. Boarding parties could change, you might be one of the first people in the park, but if you had trouble with your phone, or the system crashed, a ten-minute delay could put you from 20 to 50 quickly. Anything under 50 had a good shot of riding that day, anything over was sketchy. The Rise of the Resistance looked to do about 100 boarding parties per day, so there weren’t infinite rides to accommodate all the people who were there. So we were stressed about getting that boarding pass even though we were at the front of the lines in all the phases. Still, lots of things could have gone wrong.

At 6:30 AM, they let us in, my wife and I zapped our Magic Bands at the station and in we were. Within seconds we had the app opened and much to my relief, we were boarding party 13, which meant we were sure to get a ride that day. And as it turned out, we’d have the chance to get on the ride in about a half hour. By 7:30 AM we were off the ride and in line to ride the great Smuggler’s Run. By 9 AM we had explored most of what we wanted to see at the new Galaxy’s Edge and were free to use our Park Hopper option to explore the other parks and the best of their best attractions. It was good that Disney had opened their park so early to take away the pressure of the day and to give themselves more time to give everyone they could rides on Rise of the Resistance. Without knowing but hoping that they’d do the same kind of thing at Animal Kingdom for the new Avatar ride, we showed up at 8 AM for the 9 AM open and were delighted that Disney opened the park there early as well, at 8:30 AM. Since we were one of the first in line we headed to Flight of Passage and were able to get on the ride before 9 AM.

In the end after riding everything, which was spectacular, the Smuggler’s Run turned out to be my favorite ride at Disney. My wife and I rode a lot of rides on our vacation, but we ended up riding Smuggler’s Run 8 times and each time I found myself enjoying it more and more. It wasn’t just because I’m sentimental toward the Millennium Falcon, but because the ride is a technical marvel to me that was a lot of fun to fly. I was equally impressed by Flight of Passage and Rise of the Resistance, but the flamboyant nature of Smuggler’s Run won the day for me. It turned out to be a couple of the most enjoyable days of my life.

Disney was brilliant in their marketing strategy. They liked that Rise of the Resistance was overselling and that they had to show sell-outs which only increased the desire for demand. People not willing to get up as early as I did weren’t going to get a ticket, and that made it the hottest ticket in the country for something that turned out to be more Broadway play than amusement park attraction. All these rides were more than just rides, they were theatrical experiences in many ways and were deeply impressive. Disney turned out to be very flexible on their openings so that they could build up ride experiences by thinking out of the box and I was very impressed with them. They not only built some of the greatest rides in the history of the world released all within a short time of each other, but they knew how to build the anticipation. Getting on Rise of the Resistance was more treasure hunt than just slugging through a line, and that made it that much more special. And that turned out to be the secret to getting on the rides at Disney World that people wanted to see so much. If you were willing to get there early, they’d find a way. They get the long lines to market, you get to experience something very cool, and that did make it a truly magical experience.

Rich Hoffman

The Rise of the Resistance is Now Open: What a marvel of techical mythology

I plan to geek out on Star Wars for the next several weeks. I’m sure I’ll cover other current events as my readers expect, but for my own enjoyment, there is a lot to enjoy as a Star Wars fan that I think is very relevant to our modern world and the philosophies that spawn off them. Star Wars if you peel away the stories in space, the black and white view of good and evil, the fairy tale aspect of the mythology is unique in that its essentially about the tyranny of rules and how humans crave the freedom to be whimsical and untethered to the concoctions of authority. As the new ride opened up in Galaxy’s Edge called Rise of the Resistance and I watched the live streams of the opening ceremony, I couldn’t help but think of how wonderfully unifying the whole thing was, as people of all kinds of political backgrounds could at least agree on something showing that we all have more in common than not. I had been looking forward to the opening of this Disney attraction for a very long time writing about it way back in 2012 with great gusto. Well now its here, and I have some opinions about it that are worth talking about.

Even as a little kid I loved the making of Star Wars as much so, if not more than the movies themselves. I see the creative process as an opportunity to break previous rules and to innovate and that has always been at the core of all Star Wars experiences that are good, whether the endeavor is in literature, film, television, amusement attractions, comics, video games—Star Wars is always best when they are breaking the rules of previous assumptions and the hope when Disney bought the franchise from George Lucas back in 2012 was that something like this Rise of the Resistance attraction, and the Galaxy’s Edge land in Disneyland and Disney World would actually happen. And when it did, the rules would be pushed to the creative limit and we’d all get something very special.

On the opening day of this new ride the traffic was backed up at the gates of Hollywood Studios well before 4 AM in the morning. And the rides for the entire day were already booked up before 8 AM. The energy and anticipation for this ride attraction is astonishing and for good reason, the technical achievements that were made to make it were mind bending cool and the best that modern technology could utilize. It’s something that only Disney as a company could do due to their massive cash reserves and collection of very imaginative people within their Imagineering group. It has taken a while for the Disney Company to figure out their role in this new ownership, and to step beyond the temptations to limit the scope to modern political concerns and social justice perspective, but its quite clear to me that with all their efforts at Galaxy’s Edge and the story of Batuu, they have done a great job. Over the past several months I have read all the comics about this exciting new land at Disney World, read the books, The Black Spire and The Resistance Reborn, and I have been excited to see how the media company would be able to tie all these elements together into a grand modern mythology.

For perspective, I am the kind of guy who geeked out in Canterbury, England because I was able to walk the sites of one of my favorite books, The Canterbury Tales. I feel much the same way when it comes to James Joyce and is work in and around Dublin, Ireland. Wherever great acts of thought and imagination have taken place I find reverence there because for me, that is one of the most important things in the entire world, creativity of thought and action. And typically, we only see those kinds of things spring out in the world through some great literary work, or a good movie or musical piece. And we go through our entire lives and see such things only here and there and not too often. But with Star Wars, we see a lot of creativity and we always have. The stories are always about the perils of tyranny and living under the thumb of too many rules where individual rights are smashed to give way to a compliant society. But that’s not it, Star Wars both in front of the camera and behind is about unleashing the imagination so that something bigger and better could be born, and people can feel that even if they can’t articulate what it is they feel.

When people rushed to be the first to ride Rise of the Resistance, which is without question the most technical ride in the history of the world up to this point, they were pushing to touch this aspect of Star Wars that makes it so special. The ability to enjoy something that is specific to human beings, not only to think of a story that communicates to so many people across so many demographic barriers, but to entertain ourselves with its complete immersive environment. As I say that I have been playing a lot of Battlefront II with my oldest grandson lately which is just another layer of this new mythology. Additionally, in November I took a long weekend and shut off the world professionally to just play the new Star Wars game, Fallen Order, which was wonderfully entertaining. To be able to explore these places in a video game environment to me is a jaw dropping experience given that my background was at the start of the video game age. What they can do these days to me is amazing. But to step out of the movies, books and video games and into a real environment like what they have created with Rise of the Resistance at Disney World is nothing short of awe inspiring.

It gives me a lot of hope for the human race whenever these big Star Wars events happen and I can see so many people excited about it. I enjoy conventions and big video game releases because of this very element, but its been a long time, if ever that I’ve seen anything like the energy that came out of the opening of Rise of the Resistance at Disney World. The energy of the participants was amazing as viewed by the videos within this article. To see the level of detail that the Imagineers at Disney World were able to pull off with this attraction is more than impressive, but what’s better is that so many people appreciated it to the extent that some of them were willing to wait for days to ride the ride. Yet Disney deserves the credit for putting their money where their mouth was. They spent a billion dollars on this attraction and it shows, which was a massive investment on their part into their fans. People can complain that Disney is too expensive and that they are a giant media corporation that has a monopoly on talent. But they gained all that prestige through being good at what they do. And its not often that people can get such a return on investment as we are all getting with Rise of the Resistance, the ride.

Rich Hoffman