Great Movie Ride
From Disney's Hollywood Studios Wiki
The Great Movie Ride is a dark ride, located at the very end of Hollywood Boulevard. It takes guests through scenes from famous movies throughout history.
The ride is located inside a recreation of the famous Hollywood landmark Grauman's Chinese Theatre. However, because the Walt Disney Company did not obtain permission to use the name "Grauman", the proper name of the building is simply "The Chinese Theatre". (Also, at the time the attraction was opened, the actual Grauman's Theater was officially known as "Mann's Chinese Theater" as it was owned by the Mann movie theater group.) The facade was almost completely blocked from view in 2001 when a giant replica of the Sorcerer's Hat from Fantasia was built directly in front of the facade. Since then, the hat has served as the park's icon.
Scenes from all major film studios are represented with one notable exception; there is no reference to any motion pictures released by Universal Studios.
The queuing area
The queue line winds through a recreation of the Chinese Theatre lobby past glass display cases containing actual costumes, props, and set pieces from various films. The queue then takes guests into a small pre-show theatre where guests view a series of condensed movie trailers for the various films that are featured on the ride. The queue line ends at a pair of automatic doors at the front of the theatre that lead into a 1930s era Hollywood soundstage where guests are loaded onto waiting ride vehicles.
Notable props currently residing in the queue
- Merry-go-round horse from Mary Poppins
- Susan's costume from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
- A green peacock Elizabethan dress worn by Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love.
Props that formerly resided in the queue
- Blades and Monkey Heads from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
- The holo-chess board used on board the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
- The Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz (Another of the 5 known pairs is in the National Museum of American History administered by the Smithsonian).
- The dip machine model and bullet case from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.
- Spacesuit and various props from the movies Alien and Armageddon
- Sam's piano from Casablanca.
- A dress worn by Maria in The Sound of Music.
- The title object from Cocoon.
As guests reach the end of the queue, they enter a 1930s-era Hollywood soundstage where they are loaded by cast members into one of two sets of open, theatre-style seating ride vehicles. The ride vehicles are grouped together in pairs of two, and feature an open cab in the first row of the front vehicle for a live tour guide to stand, provide narration, and operate the ride vehicle. When the attraction is operating during the peak season, both sets of ride vehicles are used. Otherwise, only the second set of ride vehicles is used.
The movie set within the soundstage features a large neon theatre marquee and a cyclorama of the 1930s-era Hollywood Hills complete with the original Hollywoodland Sign. As the ride begins, the tour guide on the ride vehicle tells guests that they will be taking them through scenes from different movies and genres throughout history.
The first genre of movies introduced are musicals, which begins with a pyramid of audio-animatronic starlets in a scene from Busby Berkeley's Footlight Parade. The next musical scenes include audio-Animatronics of Gene Kelly singing from a lamp post from the film Singin' in the Rain, followed by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke singing on the rooftops of London in Mary Poppins.
The next scene is a tribute to gangster movies. The ride vehicle passes through the dark and seedy backstreets of 1930s Chicago and past an audio-animatronic James Cagney in a scene from The Public Enemy. During peak season, the first set of ride vehicles continues on to the next scene while the second set is stopped by a red light above a tunnel entrance. The tour guide stops the ride vehicle and waits for a green light. While stopped, a live gangster named Mugsy and their audio-animatronic sidekicks Squid and Beans show up and get involved in a shoot-out with rival mobsters on the opposite side of the street where the ride vehicle is stopped. Although Squid is shot, the lead gangster chases away the tour guide and hijacks the ride vehicle. When Mugsy notices the red light, he shoots it out and the ride continues, with the gangster now the announcer in the ride vehicle.
Next is a tribute to the Western genre. Here, guests encounter audio-animatronics of Clint Eastwood standing near a saloon and John Wayne sitting atop his horse. The ride vehicle comes to a stop as a bank robbery is in progress. If the vehicle is not already being driven by Mugsy, then a live bandit, named either Kate Durango or Kid Carson, chases away the tour guide and hijacks the ride vehicle after blowing up the town bank with dynamite. The hijacker if it is Mugsy then instructs guests to take out their valuables to be collected but then stops and hurries the ride vehicles through the town as the bandit's audio-animatronic sidekick, Snake, is involved in a shoot-out with the town sheriff. Following this scene, the remainder of the attraction is the same for both sets of ride vehicles.
As the ride vehicle continues into a spaceship, a narrator's voice states that this is the Nostromo, the ship from the movie Alien. The narrator then tells guests of the alien lurking within the ship waiting to claim its next victim. The ride vehicle passes a scene of an audio-animatronic Ellen Ripley as she prepares to confront the alien. Hearing this, the hijacker forgets about the guests' valuables and speeds the ride vehicle through the ship. But not before the Alien appears and attacks the guests, popping out from both the ceiling and the wall.
The ride vehicle next enters a scene set in an ancient Egyptian temple filled with snakes. The narrator informs guests that they are in a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark as audio-animatronic figures of Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and Sallah (Davies) struggle to lift the Ark of the Covenant. A second room within the temple features a large altar in the form of the ancient Egyptian god Anubis. Near the top of the altar, a large jewel is being watched over by a cloaked temple guard. The hijacker sees the jewel, stops the ride vehicle, and disembarks to retrieve it. Before touching the jewel, the temple guard gives a warning that those who disturb the jewel must pay with their life. Ignoring the warning, the hijacker reaches to grab the jewel. Suddenly, a plume of smoke shoots from the ground. When it disperses, the hijacker is now nothing more than a skeleton (still reaching for the jewel) and the temple guard is revealed to be the original live tour guide who reboards the vehicle and continues the ride.
The next film genre introduced is the horror movie as the ride vehicle travels through an ancient burial chamber full of mummies who have come to life. The ride vehicle soon leaves the tomb and enters a jungle, which is home to Tarzan the Ape Man (not to be confused with the Disney films Tarzan or George of the Jungle). Here, audio-animatronic figures of Tarzan swinging on a vine, Jane Porter sitting atop an elephant, and Cheeta the chimpanzee can be seen. The ride vehicle then moves past the classic final scene from Casablanca featuring audio-animatronics of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as they stand in front of a waiting airplane. Some incorrectly claim that this plane is the actual plane used during the filming of the movie, but it isn't as no full-size plane was actually used during the filming of Casablanca. The plane on the attraction was allegedly used in Tarzan's New York Adventure and other films in the 1940s before being purchased by Disney. The back half of the plane was cut off and can be found resting along the shoreline of the Jungle Cruise attraction at the Magic Kingdom. Next, the ride vehicle passes a film projection of Mickey Mouse in his role as The Sorcerer's Apprentice from the classic Disney animated film Fantasia.
The ride vehicle then enters into a scene from The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy's house has landed on top of the Wicked Witch of the East. During peak season, both sets of ride vehicles meet up here and come to a stop in the middle of Munchkin Country. Audio-animatronic Munchkins begin to appear from various places and sing as they welcome guests to their home. However, a plume of smoke suddenly rises from the ground as an audio-animatronic Wicked Witch of the West appears and asks who is responsible for killing the Wicked Witch of the East. The tour guide aboard the first set of ride vehicles answers her before she finally leaves in another puff of smoke. The Munchkins finally reappear from their hiding places and begin to sing again as both sets of ride vehicles follow the yellow brick road, past audio-animatronic figures of Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Toto standing in front of the Emerald City, to the ride's Grand Finale.
For the Grand Finale, both sets of ride vehicles line up side-by-side and come to a stop in a large, dark theatre where a short, fast-paced film montage of classic movie scenes is shown. At the conclusion of the film, both sets of ride vehicles exit the theater and return to the 1930s soundstage where the ride concludes and guests disembark. Unlike many Disney dark rides where there are separate embarkation and debarkation areas for the ride vehicles, in the Great Movie Ride there is only a single combined unloading and loading area. The last people to exit the vehicles often pass the next group of people as they exit the building.
At the time the ride was designed (the late 1980s) it was common throughout the theme park industry to have all major rides exit into a merchandise store selling novelties associated with the attraction the guests just exited. The Great Movie Ride does not exit directly into a store, but it does exit onto a "back street" directly next to the Pin Trading Store beneath the Sorcerer's Hat.
The Great Movie Ride has had some modifications worth noting.
The first sequence of the ride, Footlight Parade, was plagued with engineering and technical problems from the beginning. When the ride was newly opened, the Footlight Parade segment was different than it is today. The entire portion following the neon lighted entrance was fleshed out. All the walls leading up to, around, and beyond the cake were painted in art deco style patterns as seen in the "By A Waterfall". Approximately three "diving boards" with three mannequin "dancers" wearing capes were perched on the right hand side of the wall as you enter the ride segment. The five-tiered "cake" was prominently displayed at a left hand turn. It was in the open air illuminated with an array of animated lights. During this pass through the Footlight Parade segment, riders would hear a "loop" of "By A Waterfall" (a song featured in Footlight Parade) lasting approximately 40 seconds as bubbles fall from the ceiling.
For approximately the first year, the "cake" actually rotated and was adorned with water jets as seen in the movie. Allegedly, the rotating "cake" mechanism was constantly breaking down, causing frequent repairs and downtime. In addition, the water pumps would constantly fail, flooding the ride path. Park operations believed it was much cheaper and less problematic to leave the "cake" in place with lighting effects used to provide what imagineers terms as "kinetics" to the segment. This is what guests see today.
Today, this segment is still the "opening act" of The Great Movie Ride, but significantly toned down. The guests now enter a segment with its lighting significantly diminished. The outer walls are dark with practically no art deco recreations from the movie set. The "diving boards" have been replaced with art deco style wall sconces. Instead, guests pass through a deco inspired archway to find themselves facing a large scrim-lined proscenium decorated with grey/blue clouds and remnants of the art deco set designs. Throughout the segment, three large rotating projections of Busby Berkeley-style kaleidoscope dance sequences appear on the scrim (from By A Waterfall, 42nd Street, and Shadow Waltz). These disappear to expose the "cake", which is behind the scrim, and is simultaneously illuminated with washes of light and reflective water effects. The caped dancers on diving boards are now located to the far left of the "cake" behind the scrim. The art deco style wall panels still reside behind the "cake". The looping song segment and bubbles remain.
Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz scene did not have major structural changes, but the Wicked Witch animatronic character was replaced with a newer-design "Sarcos" figure. The Sarcos robots are capable of a great deal more movement possibilities than the original "limited animation" figure designs, and can move much more quickly. As a result they can be made much more lifelike. The new witch was reprogrammed to take advantage of the underlying robot, and as a result is one of, if not the, most lifelike characters in the attraction.
- Alien appears in The Great Movie Ride even though it was released by 20th Century Fox rather than MGM. Disney had acquired the rights to use Alien from Fox several years earlier for a planned ride at The Magic Kingdom, based on the movie. While the ride was canceled, the overall concept later morphed into The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, although the creature from Alien was not used on the basis that it was "too scary," and now the Alein in that attraction has been replaced with Stitch from Lilo and Stitch, and is called Stitch's Great Escape
- A 3D adventure called the "Chinese Theater's Villain Ride" was planned (but never built) for replacing The Great Movie Ride.
- The Great Movie Ride directly inspired the creation of Disney's Hollywood Studios. In an Walt Disney Imagineering book, it was revealed that The Great Movie Ride was actually going to be the main attraction in a showbusiness themed pavilion at Epcot, which was to be called "Great Moments at the Movies." However, the newly assigned Disney CEO Michael Eisner and WDI president Marty Sklar decided the idea was strong enough to lead an entire new theme park (one of Eisner's best choices as CEO). The idea for the ride was expanded, and the Disney-MGM Studios went into official development.
- Rumors have circulated of numerous attempts at replicating the attraction at several Disney theme parks around the world. Plans called for The Great Movie Ride to be the main attraction for the Walt Disney Studios Park, which was scrapped due to the early financial difficulties of the Disneyland Resort Paris. Years later when the resort began turning profits, a showbusiness themed theme park went into development again, and the Walt Disney Studios Park opened in 2002, although minus The Great Movie Ride. A show called Cinemagique was built in lieu of the ride due to claims by Disney management that the French preferred shows to ride-through attractions.
- Three separate attempts were made by Walt Disney Imagineering to bring The Great Movie Ride to California. First were plans to incorporate the attraction into the proposed “Disney-MGM Studio Backlot” project, a forty acre movie studio themed retail and entertainment district that was planned (but ultimately never built) for downtown Burbank, California during the late 1980s. Several years later, plans called for the ride to serve as the centerpiece of the proposed Hollywoodland at Disneyland, which would have been added to the park during the planned Disney Decade in 1990s. Due to budget cuts, however, Hollywoodland was canceled. Later, plans called for the ride to be built as part of the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area of the Disney's California Adventure, but budget cuts in the park's original development planning forced the ride's projected cost to be spent on smaller, original and less expensive attractions.
- When Muppet*Vision 3-D attraction opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios two years after the park's opening, the area surrounding the attraction was going to be developed into a Muppets-themed zone, with another attraction in the area being The Muppet Movie Ride, featuring Muppets such as Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy re-enacting scenes from famous movies. Again, budget cuts at the stalling theme park forced the idea for a Muppet land to be scrapped, along with "The Muppet Movie Ride".
- The ending of The Great Movie Ride was originally going to have more of a foundation in The Wizard of Oz, with the Fantasia scene being the Cyclone, and also a divider down the middle of the theater separating the A and B vehicles in the final (film clip) scene. Where the screen is now was where the Wizard would have appeared surrounded by flames. The Wizard would say his famous line, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" and the show would be "interrupted" as the curtains to the left or right of the screen would open to reveal either your live bandit (on the A vehicle side) or gangster (on the B vehicle side). Along the outer walls of the theater (to the left of the A vehicle or to the right of the B vehicle), is currently large empty carpeted areas. Here was supposed to be large platforms where models of all of the animatronic characters seen earlier in the ride would be standing and would take a bow.