Disney Hollywood Studios is no stranger to change. In the past two years, this theme park gained two new themed lands, Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Popular attractions such as the Backlot Tour shut down permanently to make room for the new additions. Even the name of the theme park changed from Disney-MGM Studios to Disney Hollywood Studios. Today, we’d like to pause for a moment to remember a legendary Disney attraction, The Great Movie Ride. This ride honored the world of cinema by celebrating the best pictures made by Hollywood.
Once Upon A Time in Hollywood Studios
The Great Movie Ride made its debut on opening day, May 1st, 1989, at Disney-MGM Studios. It was also the last opening day attraction to close its doors 28 years later on August 13th, 2017. The park was known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios by this point in time. This original and innovative ride was a memorable experience for many guests, including myself. My love for movies came from this attraction since it inspired me to seek out classic films to watch.
The Great Movie Ride experience starts the minute you approach the attraction’s building. The building is a theme park replica of the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Children seeing it for the first time would stand in awe since it felt like a real Hollywood experience. You could even see the handprints of certain movie stars in the cement outside! Of course, one would also find the handprints of classic Disney characters such as Mickey and Goofy.
Entering the building felt like a red carpet celebrity entrance. The beautiful interior design made it feel like you were inside the legendary movie theatre. A fun bonus feature was the addition of movie props to the queue line. Guests were able to see such wonderful movie props such as Dorothy’s red ruby slippers from Wizard of Oz while waiting in line. The final waiting area has a giant movie screen playing snippets of movie trailers for films you’ll see referenced on The Great Movie Ride.
The ride was a 22-minute journey into the wonderful world of classic cinema. It wasn’t confined to solely Disney films either. Thanks to its original partnership with MGM Studios, and later TCM, the ride was able to showcase an expansive movie library to guests. Walt Disney Imagineering added animatronics to help recreate living scenes of memorable film moments. The animatronic reenactment of movie scenes, such as moments in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Casablanca, is part of what made the ride so unique.
The ride was also split into segments to showcase different film genres. Your journey began in the early days of Hollywood by entering the musical movie genre. Seeing scenes such as Gene Kelly holding onto a lamp post from Singin’ in the Rain gave guests a renewed interest in classic cinema. Then your journey continued onward to the Gangster films and Western movies. This is where the ride got a bit interesting. Depending upon which car you were riding, you either stopped in the Gangster or Western section for a brief action episode in which a Cast Member boarded your vehicle to “hijack” it. Both experiences involved a brief playful shootout between the Cast Member and animatronics. So either a wanted gangster or a cowboy outlaw would join your ride for the next few minutes.
The next part had you riding through the Alien movie. This was a highlight for some guests since the horrifying alien creature would pop out to surprise guests. You then saw scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark and stopped at a temple room holding a prized jewel. This is when you would lose your Gangster or Western Outlaw character to the curse of the gemstone. Then you’d continue riding through scenes celebrating the horror genre, Tarzan, Casablanca, and even Disney’s Fantasia. The final animatronic room was a spectacular scene dedicated to The Wizard of Oz. You passed through the Munchkin town while going down the Yellow Brick Road. The bright colors, music, and frightful Wicked Witch made it a great experience.
Finally, the last part of the ride was a theater-style room. This part was when they played a film montage of classic movies to watch before you depart. It was a fitting end to the ride because the montage helped spark interest in guests to watch classic movies when they return home.
That’s A Wrap
The Great Movie Ride may be gone, but it certainly isn’t forgotten. Guests still remember its legacy on the Disney theme park and their memories of the attraction. It’s been sad to see the building closed these past two years. However, that will soon change when the upcoming Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway makes its debut in March 2020. The new ride will celebrate the animated adventures of Mickey Mouse and his friends on a unique ride experience. Disney guests will once again be able to enter the cinematic world by journeying into Mickey’s animated world and enjoy a different type of movie-based ride. Nothing will replace The Great Movie Ride in our hearts, but we can embrace the future with the new memories we can make on the upcoming attraction!