Inspired partially by the competition with Universal Studios and partially by what would have been an Epcot pavilion, Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened in 1989 as the Disney-MGM Studios and to great fanfare. The park was packed during that first year, unfortunately, there weren’t too many attractions, or at least what you would consider something you ride. There were shows and tours (at that time the Backlot Tour was a 2 hour showing) but only one true ride through attraction at opening and it took center stage at the end of the Studio’s Hollywood Blvd.
The Great Movie Ride was the star attraction at the opening of Disney-MGM Studios in 1989 but was a concept for an Epcot pavilion originally titled “Great Moments at the Movies”. When Michael Eisner joined the Walt Disney company, he approached Imagineering President (at the time) Marty Sklar and they came to an agreement that the pavilion and the attraction would be a great premise for an entirely new theme park. So Disney Imagineers automatically had their star attraction for the new park, but they had to figure out how to build it and what it was to be about, but anyone who loves movies can tell you that some serious time and detailing was put into what would become The Great Movie Ride.
First of all, we are greeted by a wonderful facade outdoors, with a replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, one of the most distinguishable and recognizable movie theaters in the world. The original theater on West Hollywood Boulevard opened in 1928 which fit the period look of the golden age of Hollywood Eisner and friends were hoping to achieve with the new park. Imagineers also included the famous handprints, footprints, and signatures of famous celebrities out front to give it an authenticity. Some hand prints are those of Disney characters while others are celebrities who either shot films while at the Disney-MGM Studios or while visiting the park. Up until 2001, the theater was the first thing you would see at the end of the park’s Hollywood Boulevard, going by the same design pattern as Cinderella Castle and Main Street U.S.A., but that all changed when the Disney company decided to create a logo for the park, adding a giant sorcerer Mickey hat directly in front of the Chinese Theater facade.
Inside the theater, the recreation of the Chinese Theater continues with a replica of the lobby. As you walk through the queue, you will wind back and forth seeing several glass cases filled with props and costumes from various films. Once through the lobby, the next room widens and you enter an actual theater which also has a winding queue. The film screen plays trailers for the films you may see while on the attraction. Once past the theater area, you enter onto a sound stage and the loading area for your vehicle. Before I go much further, I would like to say that this attraction has a great ride vehicle that allows 70 guests on at once and is one of the few attractions that actually has a guide that rides along with you, which not only give the attraction a comedy act, but allows the attraction to be unique and different every time you ride.
Several films are portrayed through sets and animatronics which include Singing in the Rain, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Alien, The Public Enemy, and The Wizard of Oz. To note, the first film you come across is Footlight Parade which is a film about the “new” movie business that hit Los Angeles. Also to note about Footlight Parade is that it was seen as risque during a time when ratings and censors didn’t exist in the film industry so it seems as a logical but odd choice by Disney to add this film to the attraction. The attractions final audio animatronic scene is Wizard of Oz, which is worth taking note due to its popularity and it’s regarded as one of the top films in movie history. Beyond the Oz scene is a montage of over 100 different films from the 1920s until present day.
The attraction also has other hidden gems and details. For example, the attractions track runs for 1,928 feet which also matches the year that the Chinese Theater opened. Other interesting facts are that the belt buckle John Wayne wears in the attraction is in fact one of John Wayne’s own belt buckles he wore. In fact, several oringinal suits, props, and sets have been integrated into the Great Movie Ride and at 22-minutes in length, there is a lot of room for some interesting props.
The attraction was proven as a popular attraction throughout the park’s early years and plans to bring it to Disneyland and Disneyland Paris were in the works but never came to fruition. Along the same lines, there were plans to add a mock-attraction into the Disney-MGM Studios in the early 1990s. When Jim Henson had made a deal to bring the Muppets to the Studios, there was to be an entire land with one attraction being the Great Muppet Movie Ride. This attraction would have been smaller in scale but similar in presentation, however all of the animatronic figures would have been recognizable Muppet characters and the scenes they were portraying from films would never go according to plan. Unfortunately for all of us Muppet lovers, discussions fell through after Henson’s death and we only got Muppet Vision 3D instead of an entire area of the park.
The attraction currently still brings in a pretty regular crowd, but is not nearly the star attraction it once was. There have been rumors and discussions for years about the future of The Great Movie Ride. It was once rumored to become a Disney Villian 3D show, and has also been rumored to be updated with new scenes from more recent films, giving it a relevance to a younger audience. Will any of these changes ever happen? We will all just have to wait and find out. In the mean time, please make your way to the Great Movie Ride, especially of you are a film fanatic. It is worth the lengthy ride, especially if you get a good guide aboard your vehicle.
What are your thoughts on the Great Movie Ride. Have you been on it? Is it an attraction you always have to do at the Hollywood Studios park? Would you like to see it updated or changed? Give your thoughts and I will be back with more new articles soon.
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Posted on September 6, 2012, in Articles and tagged Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney-MGM Studios, Footlight Parade, Great Movie Ride, Great Muppet Movie Ride, Walt Disney World, Wizard of Oz. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.