Last weekend, we said goodbye to one of the original, then Disney-MGM Studios attractions. I’m going to focus this article on remembering all of the great things about The Great Movie Ride and its impact. If you want to read my thoughts on why it should have been kept as part of Hollywood Studio’s future, you can check out our analysis of the D23 Expo announcements.
The Great Movie Ride opened on May 1, 1989. It was the sole ride on the theme park side. The Backlot Tour (another original which closed in September 2014) anchored the studio production side of the park. Placed at the center of the park, it was the perfect attraction for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The Great Movie Ride would always be synonymous with this park. It was always the first attraction to come to mind when thinking of the park.
The goal of Hollywood Studios has always in part been to bring guests into the movies. This will be taken to a new level when Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opens. However, it all started with The Great Movie Ride. Guests took a tour through scenes of some of the greatest movies of all time. Guests were in the middle of the action in the crossfire between the gangsters and the police. The intensity was stepped up from there when guests found themselves aboard the Nostromo with Sigourney Weaver being hunted by Alien. Finally, The Great Movie ride culminated with a trip to Oz and a ride along the yellow brick road.
When Michael Eisner dedicated the Disney-MGM Studios, he said concluded with, “We welcome you to the Hollywood that never was – and always will be.” This sentiment was fulfilled in The Great Movie ride. It featured so many timeless and classic films from Hollywood, including Singing in the Rain, Mary Poppins, Indiana Jones, and Fantasia.
Personally, The Great Movie Ride was one of my favorite attractions at Walt Disney World. It wasn’t a perfect attraction, and it had its faults, mostly relating the script and spiel. It might just be that I went on it so many times, but the script was never that exciting and could have used some more improvising ala The Jungle Cruise. However, every once in awhile, you’d get some cast members that knocked it out of the park. A day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was never complete without hitting The Great Movie Ride.
As a young kid going on The Great Movie Ride, I was drawn to all of the audio-animatronics and the movie montage at the end of the ride. The end film still gave me goosebumps until it was replaced by the TMC version. Little did I know it at the time, but this attraction instilled an appreciation for classic Hollywood films that I wouldn’t have had without it. It inspired me to want to one day work in the film industry. There was so much history packed into the attraction that it was hard to come away without learning something. I’m sure Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway will be a high-quality attraction. It will push the bounds of technology given Imagineering’s recent track record. However, it’s hard to imagine it being as inspiring and meaningful as The Great Movie Ride.
The loss of The Great Movie Ride, the Backlot Tour, and Streets of America marks the end of an era for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s the end of the park we knew from the 90s and early 00s. It’s the end of the Hollywood Studios that not only strived to bring people into the films, but also bring them behind the camera at the same time. The Hollywood Studios that gave people an appreciation of the making of movies. It now turns the mission statement of the park to a place where guests will simply find themselves placed into some of their favorite Disney intellectual properties, like Star Wars and Toy Story. I’m sure the attractions will be thrilling, immersive, entertaining, and everything else people have come to expect from new Disney attractions. However, I fear that we have lost the edutainment aspects of Disney-MGM Studios when it opened that made me initially fall in love with this park.