Whenever a new land opens at Walt Disney World, the hype is always extremely real. But we all know that like anything else, that excitement can flicker out pretty quickly (AKA any YA novel fandom).
The question is: how do you test if a land is a hit in Disney after it opens? It’s not only its initial popularity that keeps it high on the list but the continual visits from guests, how long the wait times are, and even what’s inside the land itself (still not over the Viewmaster slides in Toy Story Land tbh). And the differences between Pandora’s opening in 2017 and Galaxy’s Edge’s opening this year seem to show — at least anecdotally — that the two don’t stack up very similarly in terms of overall popularity.
Okay, let’s get real for a sec — creating lands around Avatar and Star Wars were game changers for Disney World. Drifting out of Walt Disney Studios and tackling bigger things was enough of a challenge as it was, but doing the franchises justice was a whole different level of difficulty.
And as far as lands go, Pandora and Galaxy’s Edge are AMAZING ways to step into beloved worlds. Fans are given the opportunity to travel to lands far, far away in the most realistic ways possible. But does that still mean they’re bound to be hits?
If anything, the pressure is EVEN higher for the parks to maintain guest excitement after they have their grand opening. That’s why we have to wonder: why does it seem that Galaxy’s Edge is less popular than Pandora — even years after Pandora’s opening — despite the fact that Galaxy’s Edge is brand spanking new?
Attraction Wait Times
Well, let’s back up for a second and consider whether Galaxy’s Edge really IS less popular than Pandora or if it just looks that way. After all, the two lands are different sizes — Pandora is smaller than Galaxy’s Edge by 2 acres — so could feel more crowded even if the same number of people are there. Also, Pandora has two headliner attractions while Galaxy’s Edge currently has only one. If Galaxy’s Edge had opened with Rise of the Resistance, would it be more “successful” on the surface?
As far as empirical data, here’s what we’ve got: If you go into the My Disney Experience app at most given times during the day to look at the waits for the two biggest rides in Pandora and Galaxy’s Edge, it’s actually surprising to see the drastic difference. While Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run only had a 35 minute wait recently…
… Flight of Passage was almost double the wait time with 60 minutes. This isn’t a one-time deal either, folks. This has been a trend in the Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom wait times on the reg.
I just checked again, just on a whim, and Millennium Falcon has a 55 minute wait, while Flight of Passage has a 115 minute wait. And Na’vi River Journey is actually at 60 minutes.
So, that looks on the surface like Flight of Passage is obviously more popular than Millennium Falcon. BUT WAIT! Do the attractions service the same amount of people? What if Millennium Falcon funnels through twice as many people as Flight of Passage in an hour — that would make up for the difference easily.
So here are the details on that: coaster101.com says Flight of Passage can accommodate 1440 guests per hour, while a New York Times reporter tweeted that Millennium Falcon carries 1800 riders per hour. So, OK. That’s a slight difference. But it doesn’t make up for Flight of Passage wait times being double those of Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.
To complicate things further, Flight of Passage has a Fastpass+ queue which guests typically blame for swelling Standby lines — though TouringPlans.com seems to dispute that popularly-held notion with this data from 2014 which indicates that FastPass isn’t always a guarantee for longer Standby queues. Still, we can’t say with certainty one way or another that FastPass creates a perception of busy-ness, but it is worth noting. (On a related note, Millennium Falcon has a Single Rider line, which may cut down on the Standby queue time in Galaxy’s Edge, too.)
The rides are somewhat similar in some ways with the use of screen and movement technology, but Flight of Passage is still the more popular attraction empirically when it comes to wait times. And if you add on the information that Flight of Passage is now over two years old, while Millennium Falcon is brand new, that brings the matter home even more strongly.
What Happens When Rise of the Resistance Opens?
But, the other side of the coin is this: although Smugglers Run is AWESOME, it’s currently the only ride in Galaxy’s Edge. Yup, guests will have to wait until December 5th in Disney World to see the land’s second attraction, Rise of the Resistance.
So if you really think about it, Smugglers Run is essentially the Na’vi River Journey of Galaxy’s Edge. If Pandora originally opened without Flight of Passage, the Avatar-themed land MAY have suffered a similar, seemingly lackluster response from guests as well as lower wait times for the one existing ride. (Guests are probably more likely to go to a land with two great rides rather than just one.)
So there’s still some hope for an increase in visitation and popularity with the opening of Rise of the Resistance. The epic 20+ minute ride looks INCREDIBLE with over 4 ride systems, 300 animatronic figures, a life-size TIE fighter, Tower of Terror-style drop, and more.
So we’re not quite ready to declare a long-term winner in this debate. Not all the cards have been played just yet, and while it looks like Pandora has beat out Galaxy’s Edge as the most popular land in the…well…LAND for now, we’ll wait until December to make a final call.
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Do you like Pandora or Galaxy’s Edge more? Let us know in the comments below!