For months, Disneyland officials prepared for the large crowds that would descend with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, the largest and most anticipated single-themed addition in the park's history.
Paths were widened, planters were narrowed and queues were redesigned, all in an effort to open as much room as possible when the new land opened. Steps were taken to control access, ensuring the 14-acre Black Spire Outpost would not burst at the seams.
Yet crowds have been lighter than anticipated since Galaxy’s Edge opened to all visitors on June 24. (Reservations had been required for the three weeks prior.)
The virtual queue, which park officials created to handle high demand, has been triggered only a handful of times, typically in the morning. Otherwise, Galaxy’s Edge has been open with no limits, allowing guests to come and go as they please.
Demand for the only ride also has been manageable. Waits for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run have typically hovered between 30 and 60 minutes (spiking to 90 minutes at times), far shorter than the two- to three-hour waits when Radiator Springs Racers opened in Cars Land at California Adventure in 2012.
Attendance has been relatively light through the rest of the park. Waits for Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean have typically been 20-30 minutes, roughly half of what might be expected this time of year. Shorter lines also have been seen for the Matterhorn Bobsleds and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Deals for annual-pass holders
Park officials have made a few moves that may be a reaction to fewer guests (Disney does not comment on crowd sizes.). It’s making a "Bring your friends" offer to holders of annual passes, allowing them to purchase $99 one-day park hopper passes (normally $199).
And the Main Street Electrical Parade is coming back. It will run Aug. 2-Sept. 17. The parade has long been a fan favorite.
Speculation on the lower-than-expected attendance numbers has focused on two possible reasons, neither having to do with the look and feel of Galaxy's Edge.
First, potential visitors may have feared the anticipated crush of guests and decided to wait until the novelty wore off.
Second, some may have put off visiting until Rise of the Resistance opens. The cutting-edge attraction that takes riders aboard a Star Destroyer won’t open until later this year. (Disney won’t even hint as to a possible date.)
In addition, the cheapest annual passes aren’t good through July and most of August.
It’s impossible to predict if this trend will continue, especially as more people start booking trips in hopes of capitalizing on the surprising circumstances. But for now, the Force is with those who despise overwhelming crowds.
There's no telling what park officials are thinking as they approach the Aug. 29 opening day of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney World in Florida. They announced earlier that previews will be offered to some annual-pass holders, and there are no plans to use reservations or a virtual queue to manage crowds.
New ride at California Adventure
Meanwhile, Pixar Pier at Disneyland's California Adventure is finally complete with the opening of Emotional Whirlwind, a spinning ride based on Pixar’s “Inside Out” movie.
Riders step into brightly colored boxes representing each of the emotions in "Inside Out," which dangle from polished orbs, each resembling a hot-air balloon. The boxes are lifted and gently spun in this kid-friendly attraction.
If it looks familiar, the ride previously was known as Flik’s Flyers. It had been part of the former Bug’s Land, where construction continues on a Marvel-based superhero land.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Disneyland's Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge crowds smaller than anticipated