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Massive Changes to EMH and Operating Hours 9/1 Through 11/2/2019

By Dave Shute


On May 3 Disney World announced a set of extraordinary changes to its Extra Magic Hours  program for the period from September 1, 2019 through November 2, 2019.

Extra Magic Hours are periods when only folk staying in eligible hotels can participate in the open attractions in a park. During normal times, they happen for each park typically twice per week, and the recent pattern has been as follows:

During September 1, 2019 through November 2, 2019, at three parks morning Extra Magic Hours will be daily, and will be earlier than has been common at this time of the year:

  • At Animal Kingdom they will be every day of the week, from 7a to 8a.
  • At Magic Kingdom, they will be every day of the week, from 7a to 8a.
  • At Hollywood Studios, they will be every day of the week, from 6a to 9a (which I sort of predicted here).
  • Epcot sees no changes to its traditional EMH patterns (at least so far), because Epcot is in fact the weak park that everyone has accused Hollywood Studios of being. The fact that it has escaped such criticism is purely a function of how much alcohol is readily available there.

Here’s how it shapes up graphically:

The effect of this is first to level out to an extent differential daily demand for the parks. For the uninformed, Extra Magic Hours serve as a cue (for those eligible for them) as to which park to go to that day. For the informed without park hoppers, EMH serve as cue as to which park to avoid that day. Having them be equally available removes these cues, and hence will have some effect in spreading crowds out among the parks.

Evening regular operating hours will remain as a powerful set of cues.

During this period, Magic Kingdom routinely closes at 6p three or four nights a week for the Halloween Party. This makes folks tend to avoid Magic Kingdom on days it closes early, and to flock there on days when it is open late. Imagine the effects on the Studios if the Studios were the only park with morning EMH on a day that Magic Kingdom closed early.

The extra EMH at both Magic Kingdom itself and Animal Kingdom will lessen the impact of their early closes on Hollywood Studios.

The three hours of EMH at the Studios every day are a bit of a leveling out of the fact that FastPass+ will not be “initially” available for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, the only ride that will be available during the partial opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

But, as I have written elsewhere, these three hours are not remotely enough EMH capacity to make up for the absence of FastPass+ at Smugglers Run. Only around 5,000 people a day will be able to ride Smugglers Run during EMH, of the 60,000 to 90,000 or so folk who are eligible for EMH each day.


No one knows how many folks will show up in September and October.  I’ve written elsewhere that I don’t expect much impact from the partial opening of Galaxy’s Edge on the other three parks.  This conclusion is based on history, not guesswork, but even so it may well be wrong.

Imagine showing up at Hollywood Studios at 5.30a to discover that the line for Galaxy’s Edge is already three hours long.  Many will stick it out, but the presence of EMH at 7a at two other attractive parks creates alternative places for some to spend their mornings. Early morning crowding at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will be profoundly shaped by the degree of balking at Hollywood Studios–people showing up there, rejecting the wait, and going to their next best option.


During this period, Epcot and Hollywood Studios retain their traditional 9a opens to the general public.

However, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom during this period have their standard daily openings shifted from 9a to 8a. Daily 8a openings recently have been seen only during the worst of the holiday weeks.

These operating hours extensions will also increase the attractiveness of these two parks, particularly for those ineligible for or unwilling to get up for anyone’s EMH—an important cue especially on nights that Animal Kingdom closes at 8p or Magic Kingdom at 6p.

The net effect of both of these changes will be to further level out demand for the parks.


“Rope dropping” is a common strategy for avoiding waits. To rope drop, your group arrives at a park not offering morning Extra Magic Hours well before regular open, and get to and stays near the head of the line of folks who plan to come in.

This puts you ahead of most folk when the park opens, and if you pick your first rides well (and especially if you have FastPass+ for the most popular rides anyway), can save you time all day long.

Well, since there are no days with no morning EMH at three parks during this period, rope dropping will not work out that well, except at Epcot. Rope dropping will in particular not work at Hollywood Studios, where you can expect the park to be quite busy by 9a.

However, the reason rope drop works at all is that many people on vacation—especially, but not only, first timers who don’t know better–are unwilling or unable to get their gang moving early enough in the morning to make it to the park entrances well before 9a. Rope drop is not magic—it just takes advantage of human nature and cussedness.

Well, even fewer people are willing and able to get their posse moving well before 7a. So at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, so long as you have FastPass+ for the very most popular rides, arriving at say 7.30a for an 8a open should still work OK.

That being said, if you are eligible for EMH, at these two parks you should probably arrive at 6.30a and do EMH, and if you aren’t eligible for EMH, you also probably have FastPass+ access only at 30 days before arrival, so may not be able to get FastPass+ for the very most popular rides.

So the best answer during this period is to stay at an EMH-eligible hotel and arrive well before EMH starts. Every hotel on this page  is eligible for EMH—in addition, also eligible for EMH are the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek  and the Waldorf Astoria Orlando.

Or you can just go to Epcot. It’s easy to drink there.

Kelly, the long-time travel agent partner of this site, can help you book an EMH-eligible hotel. Contact her using the form below:

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1 Jane { 05.05.19 at 1:42 am }

Hi Dave, I feel very out of sorts b/c my main strategy the other 2 yrs we went involved avoiding the park with EMH. So, now, I’m tending to think the particular park I choose doesn’t matter as much….but I have been working with a rough draft you gave me. It’s for Thanksgiving week which you told me was all bad so it matters more to have good daily plans. Here is my rough draft; we’re coming to WDW after doing something else in the area. You did not recommend MK for 11/27 but I had nowhere else to put it. Thank you for any advice. 🙂
I honestly don’t know what we’ll end up doing for HS b/c I wanted to be there when they open but know my group will rebel against having to be there before 6 am……if it were just me I’d do it and then leave around 1 pm, but there are many others in the group besides me…..

11/25 switch hotels, downtime, MK at night from about 5 pm to late
11/26 HS
11/27 MK morning and afternoon then break
11/28 AK
11/29 Epcot

2 Dave { 05.05.19 at 9:34 am }

Jane, based on what we know now, this looks fine. It’s impossible to say now what operating patterns will be Thanksgiving week–nor, if the 6a EMH continue, how early you will actually need to arrive to not see a horrible wait. Especially if Rise of the Resistance is open by then…

3 Jane { 05.05.19 at 2:45 am }

I should add that, re: HS, 1) we want to take the skyliner if possible and if not then the bus, and I don’t now if they’ll run early enough for that 6 am arrival, and 2) it might not be reasonable for us to get there that early b/c we are not going into Star Wars. I read somewhere that the only things open during EMH would be SW and TS Land….which I want to see but it wouldn’t take 3 hrs if we can get FP for the slinky dog (I think….)…..any advice would be welcome. I realize I just have to wait until closer to time to know what to do but my dining reservation window is at the end of the month so I’m trying to figure out a reasonable days plan. I’m thinking to book a very early lunch and either not a dinner, or book a dinner and assume that if crowds get unbearable we’ll have to decide if leaving and paying the cancellation fee is more important than staying for the res. (I really like having res for both lunch and dinner for a lot of reasons.)

4 Dave { 05.05.19 at 9:39 am }

Oh I forgot that you did not care about SW. I would forecast that 90% of folks at 6a will be heading to Galaxy’s Edge, and they will not much start exiting Galaxy’s Edge until about 7a, and will initially exit at about roughly half the rate of Smugglers Run’s capacity–about 10-15 a minute. (Exit rates will expand to hourly capacity an hour or two later) That’s not enough to overwhelm the other rides so long as some attractive options besides SLinky Dog are open. official word is that EMH will include “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, plus Toy Story Land attractions and select other attractions” (emphasis added). My guess is that “select” will include at least Star Tours, Rock ‘n’ Roller, and Tower of Terror.

5 ashri { 05.05.19 at 1:46 pm }

All of this information is so overwhelming!
We are going the second week in september and now i don’t even know how to proceed with what park to choose for each day. We want to zig while others zag & were originally going to go to parks that did not have emh.
How should we pick our daily parks given the new information?
Will halloween party nights still be better days to go to MK?

6 Dave { 05.05.19 at 5:30 pm }

Ashri, I’m thinking about this–evidence of thought:

You can leanr a lot from a pciture…but I’m still learning

7 Nanette { 05.05.19 at 2:49 pm }

What will this mean for Early Morning Magic in Fantasyland? Thanks!

8 Dave { 05.05.19 at 5:31 pm }

Nanette, I expect it will not be offered 9/1 through 11/2

9 Drew { 05.06.19 at 2:59 pm }

Dave, thank you for your post.

I realize this is just conjecture on your part, but do you think they will extend the extra, extra hours past November 2nd? We are going in mid-November, and I am up super early no matter what. We are staying at CBR, and I think these hours will offer a great advantage to suck it up and get going early, take in Star Wars with (relatively) minimal crowds, go back to the pool/nap, etc. and return in the evening for a round of Fast Passes and Fantasmic. It seems like it will make HS much easier in the Star Wars aftermath, but I’m worried they won’t offer it when we are there….thank you!

10 Dave { 05.07.19 at 10:27 am }

Drew, it’s hard to say. It’ll depend a lot on when Rise of the Resistance opens–and when it is announced. I’d expect something like these to return when the second ride opens. My best guess is that we won’t see them 11/3 through 11/8, and they will kick back in on 11/9 (this guess is because the absence of a holiday party 11/2 through 11/7 makes general operations simpler).

11 Dave { 05.07.19 at 5:12 pm }
12 Marie { 05.19.19 at 11:49 am }

Hi there! I’m a newbie to Disney and had scheduled our first trip Sept 9 through Sept 13 (Mon-Friday) because the crowds were projected to be minimal. I see now that they are not because of the opening of Star Wars. I’ve gone and confused myself with the arranging our schedule for those days. We have a 5 day park-hopper ticket and we are staying on the property. Any advice with an itinerary? Is there a chance that we won’t be able to visit HS because of capacity issues? We don’t care about Star Wars, but did want to check out the rest of the park. Thanks for your help and advice!

13 Dave { 05.19.19 at 12:27 pm }

Hi Marie, tell me about the ages of any kids you might be bringing, and your capacity to be up really early in the morning, and I’ll be able to help!

14 Marie { 05.19.19 at 1:41 pm }

Thanks Dave! My kids will be 7 and 10 when we take the trip. I’m sure our capability to wake up early would be high on the first day or two…..and may end up dwindling after a full day at a hot crowded park. Are early mornings our best option? We specifically planned the Sept trip because of the low crowds (we homeschool, so it’s a perk). I’m wondering if maybe we should reschedule for a better time? I’m not sure if I’m over reacting—I’ve read such different crowd projections for that time. Thanks again for your help!

15 Dave { 05.21.19 at 6:19 am }

Marie, there is a lot of uncertainty out there. If you could easily delay your trip to say late April (i.e. 4/18/20 or later) or the first half of May, in your shoes I would.

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