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Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance – Maximize your chances of getting a boarding group

The new Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction at Disneyland and Walt Disney World is an amazing experience – but the stress in even just trying to get to experience it is enormous, especially if you only have a limited number of days to even try. So here are some tips to help you out that worked great for us, based on data gathering and some technical knowledge. We made two real-world attempts and we got boarding group 4 on our first attempt, and 2 on our second attempt!

The fine folks over on the DISboards have been experimenting and gathering reports for months, and collected it all in in the first two posts of this thread, and most of what you need to know of is right there but I’ve added a few tricks of my own. Now, bear in mind, things can change all the time so before your trip I’d review those two posts and maybe the last few pages to make sure of the procedures. I’m pretty sure this system is temporary but we don’t know how long it will be in place.

I’ll mostly be talking about the attraction at Walt Disney World, but currently the procedures are much the same for Disneyland.


Rise of the Resistance is not using Fastpass+ or even a Standby line. The only way to experience the attraction is to join the virtual queue system they are using by getting what is called a “boarding group”. With the popularity of the attraction and the busy crowd currently spurred by the whole of the Galaxy’s Edge area, there is a very short window in which to get a boarding group number – as little as a couple of minutes but on average about 35 minutes.

It is important to note also that this system is 100% disconnected from Fastpass+ – having three Fastpass+ selections already does not affect your ability to get a boarding group, and vice versa.

A boarding group (BG) itself is a number that gets “called” for boarding, after which you have a certain amount of time to return to the attraction to experience it, so you can do other things in the meantime. The window to return is typically two hours but sometimes, especially at the end of the day, it may be only one hour. The lower the number, the earlier you will experience the attraction.

There are two types of boarding groups as well. “Regular” groups and “Standby” groups. Regular BGs are somewhat guaranteed – there may be unforeseen circumstances where not all regular BGs get called. If that happens, guests with uncalled regular BGs will typically get some sort of compensation – that usually consists of an “anytime” Fastpass to return the next day, and possibly a one-day ticket in case you didn’t have another day’s admission to return. A standby BG has no compensation, but depending on your number you may still have a good chance of experiencing the attraction. Since February 4th (when they appeared to change how they allocated BG quantities and group sizes) they have not failed to call a regular BG. The big thing is that regular BGs are typically all snatched up in less than 2 minutes.

No one knows how many people exactly are in a boarding group, or how they are handed out. They seem to be fairly sequential based on how quickly people pick them up, but I believe the number of people per group is pretty variable, based on how fast they need to give out the groups and don’t have time to find slots for the group of two in an earlier group, etc. I think they just have a rough number that once filled it goes on to the next, and then the next, etc.

There doesn’t appear to be any evidence that someone canceling a BG they already have frees up anything that people can find later. I believe they just let those slots go unfilled and call standby boarding groups that much sooner.

Some interesting facts: Boarding Groups rarely start with 1. For some strange reason, they usually start at 2 and sometimes start as high as 10 or more – 15 was the highest since Feb 4th. No one knows why, but I suspect they leave some “space” to allow for compensation Fastpasses, etc. by reserving that quantity within the system – but there may be other reasons.

The highest regular BG number also isn’t fixed. It generally varies between 50 and 63. We don’t have a reliable way of knowing how many standby BGs are given out on a given day.

How do I get one? The Basics

You MUST use the Walt Disney World My Disney Experience app on your smart device – typically it’s just called “Disney World” in the app store, depending on which park you are visiting. This is the same app where you can manage your Fastpasses, etc.

You and your entire party also must also be IN Disney’s Hollywood Studios in order to get a boarding group. They are letting people into the park early. You must be fully scanned in to the park by scanning your MagicBand or ticket card at the entrance tapstiles. Sorry, but the rest of your party can’t sleep in while you go to the park for this one. You can, however, practice using the app – if you are willing to get up – and get as far as the party selection screen as shown below.

Currently, the home screen when you run it looks like the first image. Selecting either the picture of the AT-ATs or the Find Out More button will take you to the current status screen.

WDW MDX Home ScreenRotR Status Screen

If there are available boarding groups, the “Join Boarding Group” button will be red. The button will NOT turn red until the actual scheduled opening time of the park, even though they may let people in early. So, if the park opening is scheduled for 8:00am, that’s when you can join a boarding group. Not one second before.

Clicking on that will take you to a screen to select the people in your party. Only you will be selected at first – if everyone on the screen is in your party, just hit the “Select All” button, and select “Join a Boarding Group”.

If everyone is in the park, then all should be well. If not, you might come to a screen that shows one or more people that are not registered as being in the park. If they did and it still rejects them, remove them from the list, continue quickly, and then visit one of the Guest Experience Teams scattered throughout the park to get it checked out. They can add them to your boarding group after they verify.

The next screen will tell you your boarding group number.

That’s really all there is to it – if everything goes right. Because technology is involved, there are various ways in which your device, the app, the network connections, etc. can glitch. So next are some tips to help maximize your chances at not only getting a boarding group, but a low number.

How do I maximize my chances?

Glitch happens. It’s just a fact of technology. So here are some tips on what to do to hopefully minimize the impact of any glitches.

  • Practice. Anyone can practice from home. Follow the procedures as if you were at the park, and you should be able to get through as far as selecting the members of your party, but then it will tell you you are not in the park. That’s fine – it means it worked, and now you know what to expect.
  • If you have more than one person in your party that has a smart device, have them all try. The first one in wins and the others will get locked out after the party selection screen, saying that everyone is already part of a boarding group.
    If they don’t have their own account (say, a child that is controlled by your own account), you can have them log into your account to try. The system is fine with more than one device per account.
  • Get to the park early enough to get scanned into the park. They have been typically letting people in one hour early. You can’t do much other than get into a line for Starbucks, or start queuing in some areas like Toy Story Land or the Galaxy’s Edge entrance, but unless you are trying to rope drop an attraction, you don’t need to be super early. Obviously take into account travel and bag checks/security.
  • Some time before the official park opening, compare the time on your phone to the official time as provided by NIST. There are some apps that do this (some are called “atomic clock” apps), or you can use a browser and go to www.time.gov. Watch the clock on your phone and the app/web site for how it lags between the turnover of a minute. The app usually activates between 0 and 2 seconds after the official park open time. Smart phones are pretty accurate and sync themselves to the same sources, and are usually less than one second off. If it appears to be more, try rebooting your phone, but I would do this at least 30 minutes prior.
  • Find a less crowded area of the park. You may be tempted to get in a line to get on an attraction early, but this puts you in a crowd of people with devices all trying to do the same thing as you, and the more devices there are the more interference and the local infrastructure to handle all the data requests will be taxed.
    Consider hanging out closer to a building, especially the entrance, but not inside or at least not deep inside. Mobile data and Wi-Fi signals will generally be stronger. Obviously don’t block the entrance. Check your signal – it can vary and that’s normal, but you don’t want it to disappear or show you don’t have any data signal at all.
  • Turn off Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi has problems with lots of devices in a small area. Go with mobile data if possible. If you must use Wi-Fi for some reason, see the recommendation above of being near a building. If you have more than one person trying, you can have some use data and some use Wi-Fi.
  • Close ALL applications at least 5 minutes before, including the My Disney Experience application.
  • At 5 minutes before, run ONLY the My Disney Experience Application, and watch the clock. Do NOT click through to the Rise of the Resistance screen – STAY on the home screen. While normally you could be on the RotR screen the button should turn red, it doesn’t always.
  • After it officially ticks to the park open time, count to one or two before clicking to the RotR screen. When you do, the button should be red but it may take a moment afterwards. If it doesn’t turn red after a couple of seconds, fully close (“force close”) the app as per your particular phone OS’s procedure, then re-open the app. You should get the fireworks screen then the home screen again. Then try again.

Of course, even following these tips glitch happens. Keep trying until it tells you there are no boarding groups available. If the worst case happens and you aren’t able to get a boarding group, have another morning visit planned and try again, maybe trying a different area of the park. If it works for you the first time, then you can come again and possibly ride a second time. You’ll want to.

Disney confirms Star Wars land expansions for Hollywood Studios and Disneyland

At the D23 Expo today, Disney confirmed the long expected expansion of Disney’s Hollywood Studios with a land based on Star Wars – and another one at Disneyland Park as well! They report that both are receiving a 14-acre expansion, although the details of how (especially at Disneyland which has limited space available – but recent acquisitions of nearby parcels might be related) and when we’ll see it are still under wraps.

I also wonder whether the 14 acres include reclaimed areas, as was expected in Hollywood Studios.

The land will be based on a remote outpost on a new planet which has not yet been named, but presumably based on the upcoming The Force Awakens movie, but things will be drawn from the original saga as well. A Cantina is expected that will feature the variety of aliens and creatures you’d expect. And two new signature rides will be added, including one featuring the Millennium Falcon nd allow guests to take the controls in a climatic battle between the First Order and the Resistance.

“I am thrilled to announce the next chapter in the long and exciting history between Disney Parks and Star Wars,” said Bob Iger, Disney’s Chairman and CEO. “We are creating a jaw-dropping new world that represents our largest single themed land expansion ever. These new lands at Disneyland and Walt Disney World will transport guests to a whole new Star Wars planet, including an epic Star Wars adventure that puts you in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance.”

And for the purists, everything done will be officially canon.

Stay tuned for more details, and follow along with The DIS as they provide live coverage from D23!

Name change coming for Disney’s Hollywood Studios?

It’s been rumored for a while, but Disney CEO Bob Iger let slip during today’s shareholder’s meeting that Disney’s Hollywood Studios will receive yet another name change, to further reflect that it is not an actual functioning studio any longer but rather an immersive, glamorized version of Hollywood and the land of film making. He caught himself after he said it before revealing a new name, not understanding that they had not yet released the info.

Not sure what the final name will actually be yet, but the top two leaders in my head are currently Disney’s Hollywoodland (a reference to the original full Hollywood sign) or Disney’s Hollywood Adventure, compared to Disney’s California Adventure out west.

FastPass+ tier changes at Epcot and Hollywood Studios

A few attractions will change their FastPass+ tiers at Epcot and Hollywood Studios, starting with FastPass+ selections for June 16th and later.

According to WDW Magic, Epcot’s “Living With The Land” will move up to Tier 1, while “Maelstrom” and “Character Spot” will drop down to Tier 2. At Hollywood Studios, “The Great Movie Ride” will move up to Tier 1.

This means that “Living With The Land” and “The Great Movie Ride” will be part of the tier where you can only choose one of the experiences in advance, while you can choose two from Tier 2.

There is no tiering at Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom.

This only applies to new FastPass+ selections made for days on or after June 16th. Existing reservations are not affected, but if you cancel them and then make new ones you will be subject to the new tiers.

Guest slate for Star Wars Weekends finally announced

We finally have details for the upcoming Star Wars Weekends!

Aside from the previously announced returning host of all five weekends, James Arnold Taylor (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and Mark Hamill, Ashley Eckstein will return for all weekends to host “Behind The Force” show which provides a behind the scenes look, this year focusing on the upcoming Star Wars Rebels, and will feature a member of the voice cast each week.

The guest stars include (subject to change):

Weekend I: May 16-18

Ahmed Best: Jar Jar Binks (Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace; Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones; Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith; Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

Peter Mayhew: Chewbacca (Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith; Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope; Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back; Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi; Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

Vanessa Marshall: Hera Syndulla (Star Wars Rebels)

Weekend II: May 23-25

Warwick Davis: Wicket W. Warrick (Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi); Wald (Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)

Jeremy Bulloch: Boba Fett (Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back; Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi); Capt. Jeremoch Colton (Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith)

Tiya Sircar: Sabine Wren (Star Wars Rebels)

Weekend III: May 30-June 1

Ray Park: Darth Maul (Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)

John Ratzenberger: Major Bren Derlin (Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back)

Taylor Gray: Ezra Bridger (Star Wars Rebels)

Weekend IV: June 6-8

Mark Hamill: Luke Skywalker (Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope; Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back; Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi); Darth Bane (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) (Note: Mark will apparently not be signing autographs)

Ray Park: Darth Maul (Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace)

Billy Dee Williams: Lando Calrissian (Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back; Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi)

Taylor Gray: Ezra Bridger (Star Wars Rebels)

Weekend V: June 13-15

Dee Bradley Baker: Captain Rex/the Clones, Bossk and several additional characters (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

Cat Taber: Padmé Amidala and several additional characters (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

Tom Kane: Yoda, the series’ narrator and several additional characters (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

Matt Lanter: Anakin Skywalker and several additional characters (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

Steve Blum: Zeb Orrelios (Star Wars Rebels)

Mark Hamill to appear at Star Wars Weekends

Just announced today, and I believe the first celebrity announcement aside from James Arnold Taylor returning as host, is a big one…for the first time ever, Star Wars‘ own Luke Skywalker will appear at Disney’s Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekends.

He will be there for one particular weekend – Weekend IV, which is June 6-8. He will take part in the daily “Legends of the Force” motorcade and “talk show”, and presumably (but not confirmed) he will be signing autographs at a few points during the day. If you’re hoping to snag an autograph, though, beware – Disney uses it’s FASTPASS system for celebrity autographs, giving them out just before the park opens for the day – and the lines can form very, very early in the morning for top guests…people reportedly lined up close to midnight for the next day for Billy Dee Williams last year.

Star Wars Weekends extended an extra weekend, fireworks added, but no Hoopla?

Walt Disney World has announced that Star Wars Weekends will be extended for an extra weekend this year, with the first weekend on May 16-18, and the final one on June 13-15. Also, via a cryptic message reportedly from the emperor himself, a nightly fireworks show will be added. It also mentions a new evening experience on Hollywood Boulevard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Hollywood Boulevard is the main street that leads from the entrance to the central stage where the Hyperspace Hoopla has taken place the past couple years.

But what does that mean for the Hoopla itself? Word is spreading fast that the Hoopla is gone this year, being replaced by the fireworks, as cast members have internally been told that Hoopla has been retired – but we’re still wondering what is meant by the “new evening experience”. In the mean time fans are livid – The Hyperspace Hoopla was HUGELY popular as the nightcap for each day, generating such a large crowd over the years that it had to move from the small Jedi Training Academy stage to the much more accommodating (and now semi-permanent) central stage at the crossroads of the park. Having seen the crowd last year, I find it crazy that Disney would consider ending this show – unless the plan is for something even bigger.

Also announced will be the return of James Arnold Taylor has the host of the weekends – he was the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and has hosted for several years. He does an amazing one man-many voices show that is not to be missed. And the theme this year is “Join The Rebellion” – perhaps a tie in to the upcoming Star Wars Rebels show?

Oh, and if you heard that there were some unfinished episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, it was true – and they are finished now, and will be released on Netflix next month.

Changes to FastPass+: tiered choices at Epcot and DHS, no regular FP for Pop Century guests, limited FP+ for Swan/Dolphin

Recently there have been some sudden and surprising changes with the FastPass+ system being rolled out. And at least in one case, it has guests shifting to other resorts or canceling their reservations all together…

First, about a week ago Epcot’s FastPass+ selections began to be “tiered”. This is similar to how attractions were handled with the Birthday/Give A Disney Day Fastpass cards, and with very early FastPass+ testing. What has happened is that the attractions were placed into two groups, or tiers, and you could only make ONE FastPass+ selection from the top tier, which included Epcot Character Spot, IllumiNations (when available), Maelstrom, Soarin and Test Track. Then you can pick two from all the remaining attractions. And you could not change your selections afterwards to attempt to get a second top tier attraction. Note that Soarin’ and Test Track – arguably the top two attractions at Epcot and often the only two you really need a Fastpass for, are in the top tier, which means you have to make the choice – which one are you going to use your FastPass+ for? For now, you could still get a regular Fastpass for the other, but that is changing as well (see further below.)

Now word breaks today that the same is happening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, with Toy Story Mania, Rock’n’RollerCoaster, Fantasmic! and Beauty and the Beast in the top tier. While this pits TSM and RNRC against each other, it leaves Tower of Terror and Star Tours in the other tier, so you at least have some reasonable choices.

Why are they doing this? Well, without any specific data, it is believed that these top two attractions at each park are getting almost all of the FP+ selections – and this is making availability somewhat scarce as the day draws near. By tiering and forcing the choice, more availability among the top attractions will allow more guests to take part instead of only those planning far ahead.
Continue reading Changes to FastPass+: tiered choices at Epcot and DHS, no regular FP for Pop Century guests, limited FP+ for Swan/Dolphin

Star Wars Weekends have begun!

Star Wars Weekends started yesterday! There have been a few changes – the Stormtroopers apparently aren’t doing their park opening routine above the turnstiles this year, instead are appearing at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine, and the parade makes a stop at the event stage in front of the Hat and they introduce the guests and give a quick overview of the events of the day.

But everything is in full swing, and you can follow along on Livestream with the DIS – I hear that they will carry the Hyperspace Hoopla live at 8pm!


Trip report – Saratoga Springs, Holidays and Harry Potter (December 2010)

[This is a trip report from December 2010, being included as a new post as part of the site redesign]

Day 1 – Arrival, Animal Kingdom

This was a larger family trip – my in-laws would be joining us, and we had a 2 bedroom villa booked at Saratoga Springs. Even though this is a holiday time trip, we decided to skip the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party this time, as we felt the crowd levels were far to high from our 2007 trip to warrant the expense, and we instead wanted to spend a day at Universal’s Islands of Adventure to see the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Continue reading Trip report – Saratoga Springs, Holidays and Harry Potter (December 2010)