UPDATE: Disney recently announced that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind WILL be using a virtual queue when it opens on May 28th and that a standby line will not be available.
In an age where practically everything has gone digital, Disney has made strides to make one of our least favorite experiences — waiting in line for rides — go virtual. In doing so, they have introduced their Virtual Queue system, which hasn’t been widely adopted just yet but rather used for their most popular rides.
In Disney World, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in EPCOT previously used Virtual Queues. On the west coast, Disneyland’s Rise of the Resistance, as well as WEB Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure at Avengers Campus in Disney California Adventure also have used virtual queues in the past. But lately things with virtual queues have been CHANGING.
With two new headliner attractions coming to Disney World in the next year or so (TRON Lightcycle Run in Magic Kingdom and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind in EPCOT), will the Virtual Queue system continue to guide the guest experience when it comes to checking out the latest and greatest rides?
Why Does Disney Use Virtual Queues in the First Place?
Back in the day (before virtual queues were even a thing), the opening of a new ride in Disney World often meant LOOOOONG standby lines stretching across the park. Depending on that ride’s capacity and ability to accommodate a large number of guests, the wait time for the newest ride could take up half of your day…or longer! Virtual queues eliminate much of that headache by distributing Boarding Groups at a set time.
Once your boarding group is called, you then have a set period of time within which you’ve got to return to ride the attraction. Just keep in mind that you still might experience a bit of a wait once you arrive. But the total wait can be significantly cut down thanks to the use of virtual queues.
Disney sometimes also uses virtual queues when a queue area cannot accommodate the sheer volume of guests looking to ride. When Disneyland first reopened in 2021 post the pandemic-related closures, a Virtual Queue system was temporarily adopted for Indiana Jones Adventure. This ride isn’t new to the park, but its queue (which can get quite long on its own) made for a bit of a tighter crowding situation in Adventureland.
This virtual queue system was unique, however, because it was only opened “as needed” each day — not at the set morning and afternoon distribution times that we’ve seen with other rides. Eventually, the virtual queue here was done away with entirely, and the traditional standby queue was reinstated.
Though virtual queues can help cut down on your actual wait time, they’re not necessarily all good. Some would argue that Disney’s Virtual Queue system only replaces one headache with another: by making Boarding Groups a requirement to experience popular attractions like Rise of the Resistance, whether or not you get to see Disney’s newest ride relies on chance and luck rather than your selective choice to wait in a long line.
Due to the continued popularity of Rise of the Resistance, not everyone who wanted to ride could necessarily get a chance to do so. In fact, we heard from a number of Disney fans who simply could NOT get a boarding group to Rise of the Resistance. If you’ve only got one day to try and accomplish a particular ride and only 2 chances to get a boarding group for that day, things can get STRESSFUL. And if you don’t manage to get a boarding group in the seconds before they sell out, that can become a major disappointment.
So there are good and bad aspects to Boarding Groups. Your experience with them has likely impacted your personal view on them and how you feel about them. But things with virtual queues have been changing a lot lately.
Click here to see what our readers had to say about virtual queues and whether they like them or not!
Virtual Queue Situations Have CHANGED
The virtual queue situations in both Disney World and Disneyland have changed a lot lately. Over at Disney World, the virtual queue system for Rise of the Resistance has been paused! That means guests no longer need to sign up for a virtual queue at the moment to get on this ride. Instead, a regular standby line is now available, in addition to the ability to purchase an Individual Attraction Selection (pay-per-ride selection) for this ride if a guest wants to skip the standby line.
Note that Disney has said they have “PAUSED” the use of virtual queues for Rise of the Resistance. Disney shared that virtual queues continue to be helpful, and that guests should continue to check the My Disney Experience app for updates on virtual queues, including the potential return of Boarding Groups to Rise of the Resistance at a later date or from time to time.
The situation has similarly changed at Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. The virtual queue for this ride has currently been suspended, though Disney has said they might use virtual queues in the future from time to time for select attractions.
Over at Disneyland, things have also changed. Disney has paused the use of virtual queues for both Rise of the Resistance and WEB Slingers. In both cases, Disney has noted that they plan to open the virtual queues for the rides “as needed” each day.
Despite these changes, we have seen virtual queues used at other locations (aside from rides) like select shops in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, meet-and-greets with Santa Claus, spots selling VERY popular food items, the opening of Space 220, or locations selling merchandise during specialty events in the parks.
Again, though Disney has paused the use of all of these virtual queues at the moment, they haven’t discounted the possibility that virtual queues could be used in the future.
Why Disney COULD Use Virtual Queues for TRON & Cosmic Rewind
One reason Disney likely enjoys the use of virtual queues is because they allow guests to spend more time in other areas of the theme parks, rather than stand in a line all day (which gives guests the opportunity to spend more money). It can also make guests feel more positive about their vacation experience as they would have gotten the chance to do more things during that wait time rather than just stand in line.
Generally, the less time guests have to spend in lines, the happier they tend to be! Guests also tend to be happier when they feel like they were able to accomplish/see/experience more on their vacation. The logic behind the virtual queue is that it can improve guest experiences since they won’t be waiting in extremely long lines (which can sometimes be multiple hours long) for a single attraction.
Instead of waiting in those long lines, guests will theoretically have the opportunity to experience other attractions and then just return to their desired attraction when their boarding group is called to then get on the ride in a relatively short amount of time, increasing their overall vacation satisfaction.
There can be a financial benefit and potential experiential benefit (as well as some practical benefits), at least initially, to continue using virtual queues when new rides first open. Instead of having lines of 4-5 hours when a ride first opens (anyone remember that LONG wait for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway when it opened?!), guests can simply use the virtual queue to save their spot and come back when it’s time for them to board. They can then spend the rest of their day enjoying the park, rather than waiting in line.
This frees up physical space for Disney from a practical perspective too, which can be helpful. Having stanchions and extended queues prepared for those types of extensive waits can be a bit of an undertaking. Generally, if things with the virtual queue run smoothly, that level of an extended queue shouldn’t be necessary.
Both TRON and Cosmic Rewind will likely be VERY popular and highly anticipated rides, so Disney may need to utilize a special form of crowd control so the lines don’t stretch across the park. Virtual queues could be just the thing. They could keep wait times relatively reasonable, stop lines from stretching halfway across the parks, and still allow guests to experience the new rides.
Disney could ultimately do something similar to what they’ve done with Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. They could utilize a virtual queue for these new rides immediately upon their opening, and then remove the virtual queues once they feel that they are able to do so. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opened in October of 2021 and the virtual queue was discontinued in January of 2022 — that’s a period of about 3 months. Disney could continue that trend and utilize virtual queues just open the first months of the new rides’ openings, or they could keep the virtual queues around for longer.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek has also commented on the future of virtual queues, noting that they may continue to use them to help shape the guest experience. So that might be an indication that virtual queues will keep being used, at least initially.
Disney’s own words in the announcement made about Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure also point to this. Specifically, Disney said that virtual queues “continue to be helpful with the launch of popular attractions” so they may use it again from time to time for select attractions. “The launch of popular attractions” — hmmmm, seems like just the type of language to point to the potential use of virtual queues for TRON and the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster. But only time will tell.
Why Disney Might NOT Use Virtual Queues on These New Rides.
If Disney’s new and upcoming rides are built with extensive standby queuing space and their rider capacities are high enough, virtual queues may be mostly unnecessary. It may just depend on whether Disney can accommodate those longer standby lines!
Keep in mind that other new Disney World rides have NOT been given virtual queues, like Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. A virtual queue is not necessarily a “one size fits all” solution, and we may discover that TRON, Cosmic Rewind, or even both rides can accommodate lengthy standby queues without the need to distribute Boarding Groups.
Another consideration is the other “crowd control” instrument that is currently being utilized. Yep, the Park Pass Reservation system.
Since Disney is already limiting the number of guests permitted to enter a park for the day, there might be a bit less pressure to implement another layer of crowd control on top of that (though that hasn’t stopped them using virtual queues for other rides while Park Passes were implemented). Additionally, since guests are required to make Park Pass Reservations, Disney can use the number of guests reserved to visit the parks for that day to plan accordingly. It could help them forecast how many Cast Members they’ll need to have working in any given park, and could allow them to see where they need to prioritize staffing.
All this means that if there is no virtual queue, Disney could still be prepared to have Cast Members on hand to handle overflow queues, redirect traffic, or just provide general assistance.
But What Happens if Disney DOES Use Virtual Queues for TRON and Cosmic Rewind?
If it turns out that Disney’s newest rides use virtual queues, we have some tips to help plan your day!
Get ready to book those Park Pass Reservations for EPCOT (for Cosmic Rewind) and Magic Kingdom (for TRON) if Disney World is still using reservations for park admission at the times the rides open. Once Disney announces official opening dates for these rides, you can expect those dates and dates surrounding them to fill up pretty quickly when it comes to Park Pass reservations.
You’ll also want to make sure you have backup plans. Consider adding the Park Hopper option to your ticket, and consider planning more than one day in EPCOT and Magic Kingdom to increase your chances of getting a Boarding Group and experiencing the new ride, but still give you the ability to go elsewhere if you don’t score a group.
Just remember that Park Hopping is based on availability, and it can fill up on very busy days (like what we saw on the 50th Anniversary). So just because you have a Park Hopper ticket, it’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to hop to the park you want to visit.
Finally, you’ll want to keep in mind that Disney may adopt similar rules to what we’ve seen used in the past. Disney World may allow guests to only have one Boarding Group at a time or structure boarding group distribution times so that it’s not really possible to get a boarding group for 2 different rides on the same day. If both of these rides end up using a Virtual Queue system at the same time, that could mean you’ll have to make some important choices about what parks to visit first during your trip.
All of our previous virtual queue suggestions will also likely come in handy if these rides use a similar system: get your My Disney Experience account fully set up for yourself and your friends/family, make sure everyone’s tickets are linked, make sure everyone has been added to your friends/family group, make sure to set those alarms early and continually refresh the virtual queue page before the official boarding group release time, and act quickly once boarding groups are available!
It can be a huge bummer if you are unsuccessful in scoring a Boarding Group, so keep your expectations at a realistic level and if it doesn’t work out, remember that you still have an ENTIRE park to enjoy!
Click here to read about the new Boarding Group rule Disney World MAY adopt when their newest rides open.
Whether or not Disney World uses their Virtual Queue system when TRON Lightcycle Run or Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind open, be prepared for a LOT of guests wanting to experience these new attractions! Expect big crowds, meaning either more people waiting in the standby line or more people also trying to score a boarding group. You’ll definitely want to pack your patience! Be sure to check back with us for all of the latest updates.
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Do you prefer Disney’s Virtual Queue system? Or would you prefer they stick to their traditional in-person queues? Let us know in the comments!