Theme Park Insider

What I'll miss most about Disney's The Great Movie Ride

August 1, 2017, 11:16 AM · The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios is closing in less than two weeks, on Aug. 13. Running inside the park's recreation of Hollywood's iconic Grauman's Chinese Theater, The Great Movie Ride recreates scenes from classic Hollywood movies in Audio Animatronic form. Employing a moving theater ride system that brings people literally into those classic film scenes, the experience provides visual delights that have entertained visitors to the park since it opened in 1989.

But the line-up of Hollywood classics depicted in the ride remains frozen in time, not updated since that opening more than a quarter century ago. Only a film montage at the end of the ride acknowledges the past 28 years of Hollywood history, including the renaissance of Disney animation, the entire history of Pixar, the resurrection of the superhero genre, and more. Disney is replacing the attraction with Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway, the first theme park ride themed to the character that launched the Disney studio.

Disney's needed a Mickey ride for ages, and I don't know that today's Walt Disney Company has any interest in promoting "classic Hollywood" that includes rival studios. So I suppose that it was inevitable that this ride eventually would go.

While I join many fans in lamenting the removal of a large scale Animatronic dark ride, I am looking forward to seeing what Disney does with a Mickey Mouse dark ride in its place. Florida theme parks need cool, dark attractions that the entire family can enjoy together, and while The Great Movie Ride checked that box, I cannot imagine that the new Mickey ride will fail to check that box, too.

So here's what I miss most from The Great Movie Ride, a too-rare quality that GMR exemplified well — it gave its cast members an active role to play.

Okay, it's probably just my ex-cast-member bias showing here. But I love seeing cast members have the opportunity to do more than just load a car or push a button. On The Great Movie Ride, the cast members got to be part of the show. Many attractions, such as Jungle Cruise and Disneyland's Storybook Land Canal Boats, require spieling. But GMR made its cast members a character within its performance, not just an observer commenting upon it, as CMs are in the Jungle and on other spieling attractions. Heck, on The Great Movie Ride, it was the cast member who got to be the focus of the ride's big twist.

Disney spent how many millions to recreate some of the most iconic scenes in Hollywood history, in Disney's signature Audio Animatronic medium, but it was an hourly cast member who got to steal the show?

Now that is my kind of theme park attraction!

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Replies (38)

August 1, 2017 at 11:26 AM · I'm planning on going down to DHS at least once in the next couple weeks to get a last lap in before it goes. However, I'm incredibly excited for the long-overdue Mickey and Minnie ride, and I think this is a positive change for a park getting a complete and thorough overhaul.
August 1, 2017 at 11:30 AM · Back in 1989, it truly was state of the art, not enough major rides with so many Audio-Animatronics like it and just was spectacular. Fave part for me was always the great montage at the end of great movie stuff and how it'd be updated every few years.

I get the reasoning as the Studios have changed so much over the years and frankly amazed it lasted so long as it did after the MGM connection left. I will miss it deeply but not "Horizons"-level of loss but as a classic movie buff, loved its showing off.

August 1, 2017 at 11:37 AM · I got to do a walking tour of it when I was a CM, so at least I'll have those memories (and fun photos). It honestly was a little dated at this point, but it would've been nice to keep the concept with some newer movies sprinkled in to freshen it up.
August 1, 2017 at 11:51 AM · Has Disney announced if the new Mickey ride would be keeping the Chinese Theater facade of GMR? If the theme of the ride was based off of the Mickey cartoon where the characters jump into and out of the movie screen, I would imagine it would still fit.
August 1, 2017 at 12:28 PM · I explained to my kids that the ride featured lots of old movies they would not know. They wanted to go on the ride anyway - and they loved it!
August 1, 2017 at 1:12 PM · I liked the CM presence, and the sets were gorgeous. They auctioned off the arcade games from Disney Quest. If the same opportunity presents itself, there will be a Munchkin in my backyard garden in the very near future.
August 1, 2017 at 1:13 PM · Robert

Your article failed to mention the incredibly bad timing for closing this ride. DHS is all torn up and sad as it is now; this loss will turn it into a sad joke. Yes, all the new stuff will eventually make it better, but for those of us coming to DHS after GMR closes and before Toy Story Land opens, the lineup is grim. Disney should have waited until Toy Story land was open to close this attraction. (Better yet, should have updated it, while building the Mickey ride elsewhere, but that won't happen. I expect this decision will result in a net loss of animatronics, which is not a trend most of us would want.)

August 1, 2017 at 1:31 PM · Sad to see it go, will miss the cast members who really gave it their all. I will also miss the "Alien" sequence. It always gave me the chills when I was a kid.
August 1, 2017 at 1:40 PM · Forgot charging admission to DHS, it should just be a free park hopper with admission to any of the other parks. Without The Great Movie Ride, the park will have less things to do than most carnivals.
August 1, 2017 at 2:19 PM · Everytime I go on The Great Movie Ride, I feel like The Great Bathroom Break is upon me. Sorry, the ride just doesn't work. The only great thing is it was unchanged. Mr. Reliable. No great highs. Just flat.

I can't believe they borrowed from Universal so blatantly with the stunt switch at Indiana Jones segment. The worst thing is we didn't get the same tour guide back after the Wizard of Oz segment.

The Wizard of Oz segment was so badly done and disjointed. Then every other segment was rushed to the end. Maybe Disney realized it couldn't be improved upon so they left it alone. Reminds me of a Waxworks horror movie.

August 1, 2017 at 3:55 PM · It's cool that there's going to be a Mickey themed ride, & interesting which versions of the characters they'll be using.

It's based on the new series of animated shorts (rather than the classic shorts & designs)

If guest aren't familiar with the newer character designs, it could be a bit of a shock, lol. (They are all a little different, but I'm specifically looking at you Goofy).

However the new shorts do harken back to the days when he was more of a "rascal" vs a corporate mascot. Perhaps that works better for the narrative.

August 1, 2017 at 4:06 PM · I think it's interesting that the new character design has more of a Warner Brother's feel to them than what we typically think of as how Mickey and the gang look and act. The Warner style is much more conducive to a fast paced, "run-away" rail road feel. I'm really excited by this concept.
August 1, 2017 at 4:19 PM · The right bit of scary, the right bit of awesome, the right bit of magical. The Great Movie Ride will remembered as classy, beautiful. The Alien sequence scared me at 9, and scared me at 36. The Guide on my last adventure was fun and full of enthusiasm, I cheered just as loud as did when I was a kid. And that Robert Osbourne (RIP) soundtrack was the icing on the cake. The ride rill be missed. Just please do not mess with my beloved Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. Or, brother, there will be words.
August 1, 2017 at 4:20 PM · Rob,

Have you seen the new shorts? Most of them have that Lonney Tunes style energy (a couple of them have a bit more heartfelt tone) ...

But they are very Chuck Jones' ish.

August 1, 2017 at 5:16 PM · As a former movie rider, I can attest that most of us felt this way. We felt like we were apart of something special. While I will miss what the movie ride was, it hasn't been that for some time. I really wish they'd update the ride but I'm also curious about the new ride.
August 1, 2017 at 5:28 PM · As a former Movie Rider, thank you very much for your kind words. I'll miss it, too.

https://orig06.deviantart.net/797d/f/2017/212/9/5/begone_by_zeartist_dbh2pc4_clr_prev2_by_papillonstudio-dbifj18.jpg

August 1, 2017 at 5:57 PM · Couldn't understand why this ride even existed, let alone in such a prominent position in the park. Maybe it was good years ago, but pretty much any ride Disney replaces it with will be an upgrade.
August 1, 2017 at 6:18 PM · The Great Movie Ride was Disney MGM studios "Pirates of the Caribbean". I held out hope for this ride when TCM stepped in as a sponsor. They could have replaced the Tarzan and the Alien scenes, refreshing it with upgraded technology and possibly newer movies. This is a travesty that they are closing the last remaining original attraction for the Disney MGM studios. Very sad indeed.
That being said, the showstopper was and always will be "The Wizard of OZ" with the jaw dropping next gen Wicked Witch animatronic.
August 2, 2017 at 12:22 AM · I won't miss the Cast Members "acting" their way trough the ride. The bad ones made the ride horrible and I felt sorry for the good ones who had to do the same bloody thing with their talent many times a day, year after year. It's cruel.
II missed the unobscured view of the Chinese Theater for many years. I hope the facade stays and when pew pew land comes around the stage leaves forever.
August 2, 2017 at 2:56 AM · As I always say - Great is right there in the title.
We arrive in Orlando on 22nd August, its killing me to miss having one last go.
Its one of our family's favourites and was a must do for us.
Alien used to terrify me as a child. I always loved the Casablanca scene, and then routinely drove everyone crazy by continuing to sing about brightly coloured paths when we were back out in the park.
*wipes away a tear*
August 2, 2017 at 4:30 AM · The original studio concept for the park was great. You did the Back Lot Tram and Waling tour, Animation (with real animators working on movie projects) and The Great Movie Ride. It was a half day of fun and information.

I was on the Great Movie Ride and we had to evacuate the cars and walk to the exit. Walking into the Wizard of Oz room was the highlight. Wish I had a chance to attend the event held in the ride. Pictures and video of the event looked great.

August 2, 2017 at 8:47 AM · "Florida theme parks need cool, dark attractions that the entire family can enjoy together." I agree wholeheartedly. While I was never a huge fan of The Great Movie Ride, it did at least provide 15 minutes of relaxing, air conditioned escape from the Florida heat. I miss the days of the epic dark ride like Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain or Spaceship Earth. While theme park technology has increased dramatically, the new rides created tend to be much shorter in duration that the ones I grew up loving. Although slow moving, the experience would last 10 to 15 minutes long. While Mickey's and Minnie's Runaway Railway sounds exciting, I expect it to be more like the Seven Dwarves Mine Train and last for somewhere between a minute and a half and three minutes. I feel the same way about the Avatar Na'vi River Journey. It's a slow boat ride like the classic dark rides, but it only lasts about five minutes. Why isn't anyone creating longer, more epic rides anymore?
August 2, 2017 at 9:45 AM · "Why isn't anyone creating longer, more epic rides anymore?"

Attention spans...Today's society thrives on the 8-second GIF and 30-second Youtube clip. People don't have the patience for a 10+-minute dark ride, even if it does possess great pacing and excitement.

I'm not sure what to expect from Runaway Railway. At first it sounded like they were going to use the same ride system as the Great Movie Ride, but as I read more about it, I'm not sure what they're going to do. The fact that they haven't said when it will open pretty much puts anything on the table, save for an inverting roller coaster with a prohibitive height restriction for the target audience. If they said it would be opening next year, I would definitely expect a reskin, similar to what happened when Maelstrom became Frozen Ever After. A longer timeframe would suggest a full gut on the building interior and virtually any new ride system (including a trackless dark ride) would be possible. There a lot of mystery surrounding this new attraction, but for some reason it just doesn't excite me. Perhaps it's my dislike of the new style Mickey Mouse, or my lack of passion to see the character in a ride, but the Disney PR hype machine didn't grab me with this announcement. With low expectations though, I guess it won't be hard for Disney to at least satisfy my curiosity.

August 2, 2017 at 12:06 PM · Russell sums up the issue I keep have to bring up to others wishing Horizons or such would come back. Just harder to see today's youth as willing to sit still for ten or fifteen minute ride which is a damn shame. Just makes me feel older realizing how I could go on those rides multiple times and my niece and nephews would be "ugh, that long, let's hit something else."
August 2, 2017 at 12:06 PM · Russell sums up the issue I keep have to bring up to others wishing Horizons or such would come back. Just harder to see today's youth as willing to sit still for ten or fifteen minute ride which is a damn shame. Just makes me feel older realizing how I could go on those rides multiple times and my niece and nephews would be "ugh, that long, let's hit something else."
August 2, 2017 at 1:00 PM · At the risk of displaying great ignorance, what details are out there about Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway?
August 2, 2017 at 1:34 PM · There's very little info about the ride. No opening date, no ride system details, just that it's the first Disney ride to star Mickey Mouse. From Wikipedia...

"At the beginning of the ride, guests will be invited to watch the premiere of a new Mickey Mouse cartoon, in which Mickey and Minnie Mouse prepare for a picnic outing and encounter Goofy conducting a train. According to Imagineer Kevin Rafferty, guests will then pass through a simulated movie screen (as in the 2013 short Get a Horse!) where they will experience a “zippy zany out-of-control adventure”. Guests will then be transported into the cartoon and aboard Goofy's train, which takes them on a wild adventure.

The ride is described as "2 and ?1/2 D" since no 3D glasses would be needed for the ride. It will also include more hidden Mickeys than any existing ride."

That to me sounds like a new ride system (trackless vehicles from Oceaneering perhaps), but it's very possible you could get a similar effect using the existing GMR moving theater vehicles.

August 2, 2017 at 10:24 PM · Thank you for quoting the well trusted source of Wikipedia. Russell Meyer is truly doing the investigative work the rest of us can't.
August 3, 2017 at 5:56 AM · The Wikipedia entry is appropriately sourced, and contained all of the released information regarding the attraction in a single quote. Welcome to 2017 Barry, 1970 is calling.
August 3, 2017 at 9:20 AM · I appreciate the info, thanks!
August 3, 2017 at 12:55 PM · So I just got off the phone with 1970 and we agree it's still not impressive that you can quote a Wikipedia article.
August 4, 2017 at 6:20 AM · I think the tour guide CM concept will be lost. We lost it at Living with the Land to save some money and I fear we are doing it with GMR.

I hate to see this show go because it was a pretty successful ride. It seriously made me want to check out Alien and Casablanca.

I know we are going to Disney World to be entertained, not educated, but the GMR at least opened the world up to some great movies.

August 4, 2017 at 7:26 AM · Sorry! But for me, time it went! It has been an anchor for the park since opening day but now that the park is evolving in a completely different direction its relevance is significantly reduced. I thoroughly enjoyed it the dozens of times I rode it but the fact that it hasn't been updated makes it an easy decision.

As for the Cast Member interaction experience, to be honest the majority were so over the top they irritated me. OK for the first couple of times only so I won't miss that aspect at all.

The park's complete re-birth means it is now out of place.

August 5, 2017 at 4:15 AM · I would just like to see them keep the sets, animatronics and props for a walk through exhibit. It would be a glorified wax-museum, but I will miss seeing John Wayne on his horse, Rick and Elsa by the plane, the Alien hiding in the wall, and Dorothy and the gang looking out at Emerald City.

Of course, I'm in the group that doesn't particularly enjoy the actors. As noted, they could be great, but they could also be painful or distracting.

August 5, 2017 at 4:15 AM · I would just like to see them keep the sets, animatronics and props for a walk through exhibit. It would be a glorified wax-museum, but I will miss seeing John Wayne on his horse, Rick and Elsa by the plane, the Alien hiding in the wall, and Dorothy and the gang looking out at Emerald City.

Of course, I'm in the group that doesn't particularly enjoy the actors. As noted, they could be great, but they could also be painful or distracting.

August 6, 2017 at 6:14 PM · Face it, TGMR simply outlived its cool factor. Bad show by uninterested CMs could ruin the entire experience. A too-short mashup while waiting in line lost its luster after standing through it 15 or so times. And the only freshening was the montage at the end, hardly a reason to keep returning to the attraction. Change is not only inevitable, but often necessary.
August 7, 2017 at 7:55 AM · Another great dark ride retired. The genres represented in THE GREAT MOVIE RIDE are timeless, and the scenes that made up the attraction were superb examples of such. If it's a refresh you want, they could have repurposed the gangster scene to DICK TRACY, the western scene to THE LONE RANGER, ALIEN to TRON or STAR WARS, TARZAN to THE JUNGLE BOOK, CASABLANCA to THE ROCKETEER, THE WIZARD OF OZ to SNOW WHITE, etc. Where are TREASURE ISLAND and 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA? The description of the new Mickey & Minnie ride sounds like MR. TOAD'S WILD RIDE to me, and not an improvement on the original. So it's not a working movie studio anymore-are we still talking about the Walt Disney Studios or not? At least the Chinese Theater will remain...right?
August 7, 2017 at 1:18 PM · I'm sorry you're not impressed Barry. Perhaps next time I'll quote Twitter or link to someone's Snapchat story.

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