The Great Movie Ride opened on May 1, 1989 as the new Disney-MGM Studios park’s signature attraction.
However, the history for the ride actually begins several years earlier in Future World at Epcot. In the early 80s Disney wanted to add two new pavilions to the Future World area. Marty Sklar and Randy Bright were tasked with coming up with the ideas for the pavilions. They ended up presenting the ideas of; The Wonders of Life Pavilion, a pavilion based on the human body, and the Show Business Pavilion, a pavilion based on the behind the scenes of movie magic and it was to be located in between the Journey Into Imagination and The Land pavilions (where Soarin’ sits today). The main attraction in that pavilion would be called Great Moments at the Movies and was going to not only give guests a look behind the scenes, but also put them in the actions of the movies. When Michael Eisner saw the plans for the pavilion he thought that the concept was strong enough that it could easily have an entire park around it instead of just a pavilion. So The Great Movie Ride actually played a huge role in the creation of the park it sits in today.
The Great Movie Ride was originally going to have a pretty simple facade, but since they were already
building a park around the ride they decided to make it the “weeny” of the park as well. Once Disney decided that the park would be themed around the Golden Age of Hollywood (1920s-40s) it was decided that the Great Movie Ride would be housed in Hollywood landmark Mann’s/Grauman’s Chinese Theater. The Chinese Theater would be the “weeny” for the park until 2001 when a giant replica of the Sorcerer’s Hat would be placed directly in front of it obstructing the view. It is speculated that it was blocked for legal reasons because Disney did not have the rights to the naming of the Chinese Theater. In early 2015 Disney announced the immediate removal of the giant Sorcerer’s Hat (more affectionately known as the BAH in the Disney community).
The queue for the Great Movie ride is a recreation of the inside of Grauman’s Chinese Theater As you wind through the hallways there are glass cases with real move props and memorabilia. As you wind through the halls you end up in a theater that runs previews for several classic movies that you will experience on the ride.
The ride itself begins under a neon theater marquee and off to your left is a cyclorama of the 1930s Hollywood Hills along with a familiar sign that reads Hollywoodland. Your driver then takes you off into a journey into the movies. The first genre of movies you are taken into is musicals, where you see movies like; Mary Poppins, Singin’ in the Rain, and Footlight Parade. After the musicals you journey into a potential live gangster scene reminiscent of Public Enemy. If you do experience the live action scene a gangster named Mugsy (male) or Mugsi (female) and her/his partners Squid and Beans get in a shootout with rivals on the other side of your vehicle. After the shootout Mugsy will commandeer your ride vehicle to continue your journey. The next scene is another potential live one that pays tribute to Westerns. You arrive in the scene just as a bank is being robbed and out of the bank appears Kid Carson (male) or Kate Durango (female). Again
a shootout ensues and you are in the center of it. While fleeing the scene the robber will blow up the bank with dynamite and take off with you and your ride vehicle! After this you are taken through scenes of several classic movies such as; Alien, Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark, Tarzan, Casablanca, and The Wizard of Oz. The finale is a “Great Movie Montage” that mashes up many of the great moments in the movies that you weren’t able to see on the ride. And completely unlike Disney you actually exit the vehicle where you entered and do not leave directly into a gift shop.
Great Movie Ride Facts
– Three separate attempts were made to bring The Great Movie Ride to California and all failed.
– In the Early 1990s Disney nearly made an attraction called The Great Muppet Movie Ride and it would have obviously been a Muppet spin-off of the classic attraction.
– The Wizard of Oz scene was originally supposed to be even larger than it is now. Where Fantasia is now was supposed to be a cyclone and the Witch was supposed to appear engulfed in flames saying “Pay no mention to the man behind the curtain” and then Mugsy or Kid Carson would reappear for a final bow along with all of the animatronics you encountered throughout the ride.
– There are scenes from movies of every major movie company in the rides final montages except for rival Universal Studios.
– The ride duration is 22 minutes and the vehicles seat 68 people.
Full Ride-through of The Great Movie Ride
Thank you for reading and please share your favorite experiences at The Great Movie Ride.
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