The Great Movie Ride – Closed August 13, 2017
I couldn’t let the closing of one of my favorite attractions pass by without sharing my thoughts on the matter. It’s hard to imagine Disney’s Hollywood Studios without its signature attraction, one designed to capture the magic of film through some of the most memorable moments in movie-making history. The Great Movie ride was not only the anchor attraction, but it was the inspiration for the park itself!
Those close to me know that I have a great love for The Great Movie Ride that’s rooted in childhood nostalgia. It’s been a favorite of mine since it opened back when Disney’s Hollywood Studios was MGM Studios and all was right with the world. 😉
My parents brought me to Walt Disney World and MGM Studios for my second visit in June 1989. At the time, MGM Studios was a shiny new theme park with just two rides — The Backstage Studio Tour and The Great Movie Ride.
This theme park centered on movie magic was definitely the coolest thing I had experienced in my entire 10 years of life. The only thing that could have made this memorable trip better was if I had been chosen to ride the gigantic bumble bee to demonstrate chroma key (a.k.a. green screen) in the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” segment of the Backlot tour. My fellow 90’s kids know what I’m talking about!
But back to my beloved, The Great Movie Ride. Having worn out VHS tapes of both “Mary Poppins” and even more so “The Wizard of Oz” in my childhood, stepping into those films via The Great Movie Ride was a dream come true. If my mother were to tell you this story, she would say that I made my parents go on The Great Movie Ride 50 times on that vacation. Exaggerated as that may be, she would be right in that I just couldn’t get enough Great Movie Ride. And I do remember pleading to “just one more time” a few times that trip (and on the following visit in 1997 — that’s right “birthday cake castle” year).
Despite never having seen most of the films presented in The Great Movie Ride at the time, I was awed by the detailed practical sets and lifelike audio-animatronics. I mean, really, that Wicked Witch is still impressive 28 years later! She’s incredibly realistic and frightening to this day! “The Wizard of Oz” scene is still one of my all-time favorite parts of any attraction. I’ll miss it terribly.
The Current Appeal?
While some might say The Great Movie Ride is outdated and has lost its appeal, I feel like it still perfectly fit the park’s dedication to celebrating “the Hollywood that never was and always will be.” At the risk of overusing the word magical, I have to say there is just something so magical about seeing behind the scenes of the world of film, especially the classics. Even though the sets and effects were practical back then, they certainly translated into something magical on the big screen. And those practical sets were / are just so cool to see in person in The Great Movie Ride! It’s a Hollywood history and fantasy lesson all in one wonderful place.
Although I am writing this commentary from my perspective on The Great Movie Ride, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my husband’s take on the attraction. Though not necessarily a super fan of the ride like me, Andy does appreciate all it offers, particularly the technology used in the Wicked Witch AA and the highlights of classic movie history. It helps that his all-time favorite movie is “Alien.” He’s a movie buff and loves many franchises (including the Indiana Jones films), but “Alien” is his most favorite!
I have always enjoyed the fact that we both felt very connected to sequences within The Great Movie Ride. Though he doesn’t share my love of “The Wizard of Oz”, nor I his love of “Alien,” we could always enjoy The Great Movie Ride together. And our enjoyment was further enhanced by each of us being able to see the other captivated by our favorite scenes.
Great Movie Nuptials?
Truth be told, we nearly had our Disney Fairy Tale Wedding at The Great Movie Ride. Disney Weddings and Disney Special Events groups both offered a walk-around dinner event held inside the attraction! The event plan generally consists of a “famous director” leading guests on their big break and taking them quite literally into the movies as they make their way through a progressive dinner. These events were laid out to offered appetizers in the Gangster scene, dinner in the Western scene and desserts in “The Wizard of Oz” scene.
I was enamored with the idea of having a private party in my most treasured Disney attraction, and having it culminate with wedding cake cutting inside a scene from my most treasured childhood film. But when it came down to it, I wanted our wedding to be about our wedding and not about famous films despite how unique and exciting that seemed at first. It would certainly be an event our guests would never forget, but it wasn’t right for us for our wedding day reception.
The great news was that in 2013, we were able to attend just such an event with WDW Radio! My Great Movie Ride party dreams came true and I didn’t have to pay for the entire event! Hooray!
I’ll never forget that night and I’m so grateful we had the opportunity to experience a walk-through of the ride! It was such an amazing experience!
I’m dying to know what will happen to those sets! I would love to own a piece of Oz or any of the scenes, really. As you know, The Great Movie Ride doesn’t exit into a gift shop like so many others. This has led to an extreme shortage of GMR merchandise (my opinion), so I’ve never owned a shirt or pin or anything representing my love for the attraction. I missed the boat on the merchandise that was recently released after the closing was announced, so perhaps I never will. Thank goodness for the gazillions of photos and videos we have to remember it by!
Mickey, Minnie and friends will soon be moving in with Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. According to the Disney Parks Blog, “The attraction will put you inside the wacky and unpredictable world of a Mickey Mouse Cartoon Short where you’re the star and anything can happen. This zany out-of-control adventure features surprising twists and turns, dazzling visual effects and mind-boggling transformations that happen before your very eyes.”
While I am glad Mickey will get his very first Mickey-themed ride-through attraction, I’m disappointed that we not only have to give up The Great Movie Ride, but also that the new attraction designed to showcase my least favorite version of Mickey and company. I truly wish Imagineers had selected a classic Mickey style similar to the version of Mickey in the “Get a Horse” short instead. But like just about everything else at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Mickey is changing, too!
I do look forward to the inevitable change, but I also look back fondly on the great memories.
I’ll always have The Great Movie Ride.
“Here’s looking at you, kid.”