If you are like me then you love movies. I watch my fair share of movies and a pretty good variety at that. I have always been a sci-fi guy, but I like my share of action, adventure and comedy as well. Thanks to my wife I have been introduced to musicals, period dramas and some classics along the way. So, a ride that is all about celebrating the glory of movies sounds pretty good. However, even though your ride vehicle remains grounded throughout, the ride itself has its share of ups and downs.
True movie buffs will appreciate the queue of The Great Movie Ride, which really begins outside the theater. Here you will find handprints of many famous actors and actressess. You can let the kids hunt for the inaugural handprints and signatures made by Mickey, Donald, Minnie, Goofy and Roger Rabbit on opening day. A few of my favorites are C-3PO and R2-D2, Dick Van Dyke and Jim Henson. After exploring the forecourt you will enter the lobby of the theatre where you will find display cases containing actual props and costumes from a vareity of films. I love seeing the actual items and imagining my silver screen heroes wearing that exact costume. There are details you can see in person that you won’t find on even the largest high definition t.v.
The queue eventually leads you into a large theatre complete with a movie screen at the front. There are no comfy reclining seats here but you won’t be standing long as you watch a short pre-show comprised of trailers from films soon to be featured on the ride. If you visit when crowds are high and lines are long don’t be dismayed upon entering this room. What intially looks like a long wait with many people in front of you will move quickly as the theater doors open and 68 people are let through at a time to board the ride vehicles.
Once you make that transition you will be loaded onto one of the two large capacity vehicles. If you can sit towards the front so you will be up close and personal with the tour guide. If not, don’t worry the view once inside the ride is good from any row. Your journey begins by passing under a neon movie marquee reading “A spectacular journey into the movies”. As the music playing above suggests it is time to give a “Hooray for Hollywood” and explore cinema history.
Up until this point I love The Great Movie Ride. I love the glitz and glamour and the upbeat music all getting me excited about the movies. However, from this point on your experience will be greatly influenced by two things. Number one your familiarity with the movies represented inside, and number two the cast member who is your tour guide.
Normally, I don’t like to give too much information about what you will experience on the ride. In this case though I am going to list the movies that you will encounter. They are:
Footlight Parade, Singin’ in the Rain, Mary Poppins, The Public Enemy, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Searchers, Alien, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Tarzan the Ape Man, Casablanca, Fantasia, The Wizard of Oz
So, how many of these movies have you seen? For me the number is 6. For my 5-year old nephews the number is 0. Obviously I am able to appreciate this ride more than they are, and someone who has seen all 12 films will appreciate it more than I do. Now, you are not merely watching clips from these films on a screen. Each movie listed here is recreated with elaborate sets and lifesize animatronics of the films stars. In the case of Mary Poppins, Burt and Mary are singing one of my all-time favorite Disney songs Chim Chim Cher-ee as they occupy London rooftops. When you arrive in the land of Oz munchkins bring the story to life as they encourage you to follow the yellow brick road. So, the ride is very well done with a lot to take in. As I said before, how well you know each film will determine how much you can appreciate what is before you.
The second, highly fluctuating element is the cast member. Actually, you will experience two different cast members on this ride, but I won’t spoil everything here. As they like to say, this is the movies and anything can happen. What each cast member brings to the table will greatly effect your enjoyment of the ride. As a kid and teenager I remember being totally sucked in by the cast member’s performance throughout the ride. They really brought everything to life and took me on a journey that was interesting even when I didn’t know the movie set we were moving through.
I have also had the opposite experience as was the case on my last visit. We had a cast member playing the role of a gangsta. Unfortunately, she sounded like she had been swimming with the fishies too long and had develeoped a cold. Despite sitting on the second row right next to her, she was hard to understand and her voice did not carry at all. I felt bad for those in the back of the vehicle. Her acting skills left a little to be desired as well and ultimately she took us out of the experience more than she brought us in.
Another neat thing to note is that your experience will include either a shootout from the old west or a shootout involving the mob. If both vechicles are running the first vehicle will encounter the old west scene, while the second vehicle will stop for the gangsters. Again, not to spoil too much but one of the two cast members will come from these scenes meaning you will share your vehicle with either an old west bandit bank robber or a no good rotten scroundrel gangster.
Which brings us to the fright factor of this ride. The shootout and subsequent takeover by a bandit or gangster is only one of the elements small children may find scary on this ride. Others include:
– A scene of full of snakes
– Lifesize Aliens jumping out from the dark in multiple locations
– A woman with green skin appearing from a plume of smoke
Of course you don’t have to be a small child to be frightened by the thought of an evil Alien jumping out from a dark corner, just ask my wife. I’ve found a well placed hand over the eyes or ears works wonders and will allow the whole family to experience the ride together. If everyone makes it past the Aliens, witches and snakes you will all be rewarded by entering a large theatre with a giant screen. Here you are treated to a brief 3 minute movie showcasing clips from over 120 different movies. While even this portion of the ride is in need of an update I feel safe in saying you will recognize more than a handful of the great films featured.
So, much like Hollywood itself, The Great Movie Ride has some real hits and sometimes some real misses. For the movie buffs in the group this is a ride you don’t want to miss. In fact, you may even want to ride twice so you can experience both versions of the ride. For others, The Great Movie Ride may receive a more critical review. For big Disney fans this ride is of great significance. The Great Movie Ride was originally planned to go into EPCOT. However, the idea of the ride was so well liked by Disney executives they thought it could lead into an entire new theme park called Disney-MGM Studios. Of course that is exactly what happened and today we can enjoy Hollywood Studios.
A quick update here. On November 26, 2014 it was announced Disney is teaming up with Turner Classic Movies. As part of the relationship The Great Movie Ride will receive a TCM branded refresh of both the pre-show and the finale. The new queue will include digital movie posters and a new pre-ride video hosted by TCM host Robert Osborne. This show will provide some insights into the movies that will then be experienced on the ride. As for the finale a brand new montage of classic movie moments will be on display. Then, upon exiting, riders will have the opportunity to have a photo taken with a classic movie theme. This new refresh of the ride is scheduled to open in Spring of 2015.
So, if you have time and aren’t too scared pay a tribute to both old Hollywood and old MGM Studios by visiting The Great Movie Ride. You may even want to use this an excuse to introduce yourself or your family to some of these classic movies before you go.
Does The Great Movie Ride get your two thumbs? Please leave your comments below!
Follow the WDW Ride Guide on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/wdwrideguide
To subcribe to the podcast visit www.wdwrideguide.com/subscribe.