Aaron Wallace waited in line for six hours this week for a 5-minute ride, the brand-new Frozen Ever After at Epcot. It was worth it, he said.
"Honestly, it flew by," Wallace said.
More long lines are appearing in Central Florida's theme parks as anticipated attractions open to the public. In the past month, SeaWorld Orlando debuted a major coaster named Mako, Universal's Islands of Adventure introduced Skull Island: Reign of Kong and Disney World added fresh entertainment options in its four parks.
Wallace's wait was Tuesday, on opening day of the ride based on the popular Disney animated film, "Frozen."
"I arrived at the park with no real commitment to spending six hours in line," said Wallace, who lives in Orlando and is a Walt Disney World annual passholder. "But we showed up and the weather was fairly pleasant early on and we made some fast friends in line."
"It was a pretty even mix of bloggers and tourists, but the prevailing sentiment was one of fandom and genuine excitement," Wallace said. "That's part of what makes these kind of debut-day activities such fun."
Theme parks tend to time their grand openings — or their soft openings — to get maximum publicity, but there are a lot of complexities and people involved, said Robert Niles, editor of the Theme Park Insider website.
"As with anything in the theme-park world, you can come up with an infinite number of reasons why things can happen," he said, including outside-world factors. Disney and Universal both canceled media events about the openings in the wake of the Pulse shootings.
Early this month, SeaWorld run Mako through its paces on a limited basis for a few days before its June 10 grand opening. The public streamed to the thrill ride, with the line extending beyond the queue and into a neighboring theater that day.
Epcot visitors continued to join the opening-day queue despite the prospect of hours of waiting time on a typically sunny Florida day. Some people abandoned their spots when the attraction was temporarily halted because of technical difficulties. Many of those who remained were families on their last day of vacation and/or Disney diehards. Park workers manned free water stations and, later in the day, distributed free ice-cream treats.
A contributing factor for the Frozen crowd was that the ride opened without public previews, Niles said. Attractions frequently have "soft openings" that give some fans an early look and the parks a chance to iron out their kinks and procedures before the grand-opening date. Folks who might have visited during a soft opening — also called a "technical rehearsal" — were forced to wait.
"There was only one first day and that leads to a huge crowd," Niles said. "It's not just the opportunity to go on the ride. It's the opportunity to go on the ride first. That ride is going to be there for 20-some years, maybe, but there's only one first day."
Adam W. Kelley said he avoided the giant Frozen Ever After line by securing a FastPass+ reservation 30 days in advance — something that wouldn't be possible with a soft opening. His wait, on the second day of operation, was 20 minutes.
"I did the same thing for Soarin' Around the World," another Epcot addition, said Kelley, an annual passholder in Maitland. "We want to ride the new ride as soon as possible."
Posts on social media spread the word about openings, and Orlando's active theme-park community reaches out to people who cannot attend. Hunter Underwood of Tavares kept his Twitter followers updated while waiting in the queue for Skull Island: Reign of Kong, which remains in its soft-opening phase.
"I have so many people who look towards me for picture updates, thoughts and opinions on stuff," said Underwood, who waited a total of three hours to ride Skull Island twice. "I have a small but dedicated fan base."
Underwood said he also waited for extended periods in the early days for trips on "Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts" and "Transformers: The Ride — 3D." The previews can provide different experiences, he said.
"You get to see the ride sometimes work right, sometimes not work right," Underwood said. "You might get a lights-on look. I love the technology behind the attractions, and sometimes you don't get to see that if the ride works right."