The Great Movie Ride opened with Disney-MGM Studios on May 1, 1989 and it entertained guests until August 13, 2017. The attraction was replaced by Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Inside the full-scale reproduction of Hollywood’s Chinese Theater, the beautiful lobby has plenty of detailed craftsmanship to admire while you wait. If people are waiting outside, you know you are going to be in line a while. The theater part of the queue takes about 20 minutes itself. In 2004, in this video, the lobby showcases the holographic chess board from Star Wars, props from The Temple of Doom, and the Mary Poppins carousel horse. Next, you enter a theater showing old movie “trailers”. This was updated in June 2015 when TCM began to sponsor the attraction.
We are loaded into the large ride vehicles after waiting for the group before us to unload. The mural on the opposite wall has the old 1930’s “HOLLYWOODLAND” sign, which I love. This attraction always had a live tour guide narrating and never switched to a recording, thank God. The ride vehicles are on an automated guide system and follow a little wire on the floor, like the vehicles in Universe of Energy.
Here is each show scene and some trivia:
1. Footlight Parade. You hear “By a Waterfall” from Busby Berkeley’s Footlight Parade as bubbles fall from above. The ladies on the five-tier cake used to rotate in the first year, but it was stopped due to mechanical issues. This is amazing to watch if you can find it on YouTube.
2. Singing in the Rain. Gene Kelly personally signed off on his figure used in the ride after Imagineers wined and dined him.
3. Mary Poppins. After the attraction shut down the Bert animatronic went to Dick Van Dike.
4. Public Enemy. If you are riding in the rear vehicles (#2B), you stop here for a shoot out scene between your tour guide and gangsters. A gangster hijacks your vehicle. James Cagney’s family did not like his outfit in this scene so they gave Imagineers one of his actual tuxedos to make him look “classy”.
5. Western scene. If you are in the front vehicles (#1A), you stop at this scene because someone is robbing the bank. Your tour guide goes to help and a bandit takes over the vehicle as the bank catches fire. The actor who impersonated John Wayne’s voice, Doug McClure, was personally approved by Wayne when he was still alive.
6. Alien. The spiel “Remain in you vehicle” is the only narration that survived after the 2015 TCM refurbishment. Alien was licensed from 20th Century Fox for another project back in the 80’s which never happened.
7. Raiders of the Lost Ark. After you pass by Indiana Jones and Sallah trying to lift the ark, you go into a temple. The greedy gangster/outlaw driving your vehicle attempts to steal a precious jewel and doesn’t listen to the temple guard who tells them to “Halt!” When they touch the gem they turn to smoke and bones, and the guard turns out to be your original tour guide. Movie magic! A broken off section of the statue’s feet in the snake pit can be found at Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge at Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities.
8. Mummy burial chamber. A quick nod to horror movies. The narration line “I see dead people” was added after The Sixth Sense movie came out. A clever update.
9. Tarzan. The Jane figure (Maureen O’Sullivan) was built in California and wrapped unclothed in plastic to be shipped to Florida, where the clothes would be added later, once the figure was installed. Several looky-loos stopped by the shipping bay to see the figure before being shipped.
10. Casablanca. Ingrid Bergman does not speak in this scene because her family did not give Disney permission to use it. Her grandchildren were brought to the ride several times though to “visit grandma”.
11. Fantasia. In 1985 Disney signed a contract with MGM/United Artists for use of up to 250 movies. Some movies were so precious they had their own contracts like Singing in the Rain, Gone with the Wind, James Bond films, and The Wizard of Oz. Disney had to pay for the length of time used on these films, so the tornado scene from Wizard of Oz had to be redesigned to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Fantasia in this location, to avoid extra fees.
12. The Wizard of Oz. Judy Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli, supplies the voice of Dorothy in this scene.
13. Finale. Both vehicles line up side by side in a theater where you see a montage of film clips, originally created by filmmaker Chuck Workman. It was updated several times. Because of licensing fees on some movies, you only see a one second clip, like Sean Connery as James Bond.
Back at the unload soundstage you give your tour guide a big round of applause and exit the vehicle stage right, once the doors open. There is no gift shop to walk through, you walk right back to the park. How nice. Hurray for Hollywood!
Preshow films – Footlight Parade, Casablanca, Mary Poppins, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Singing in the Rain, Fantasia, Alien, & The Searchers