Which Is Better: The Great Movie Ride vs. Runaway Railway
August 13, 2017, stands as a dark day for Disney fans. On that date, Disney’s Hollywood Studios closed The Great Movie Ride forever.
On March 4, 2020, the replacement debuted, only 12 days before Coronavirus closed Walt Disney World for nearly four months.
During the downtime, I started debating which ride I like better since both are brilliant.
So, let’s have an attraction face-off to decide the superior attraction, The Great Movie Ride or Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
As a movie lover, especially of classic cinema, I always treasured part of the wait in line at The Great Movie Ride.
Once you reached the interior area, Imagineers displayed a treasure trove of memorabilia from the Golden Age of Cinema.
One moment, you’d learned fun facts about Indiana Jones’ hat.
Then, you’d realize that you were standing next to the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Any movie lover would adore that!
Even further into the line queue, a classic movie theater screen would show highlights from movies, which left me conflicted when the doors opened.
Sure, I could board the ride, but I had to stop watching the movie scenes!
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway takes a different approach. Sure, it utilizes the same waiting area, but part of its queue area works differently.
You enter a small room where your heroes, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, plan a perfect day.
They’re driving a red convertible and singing along, and they’ve thrown Pluto into the truck…for some reason.
The introductory cartoon tells a story while playing an integral part in the attraction.
After something happens, the wall breaks, and you symbolically enter the cartoon world of Mickey and Minnie.
Unexpectedly, this exchange doesn’t move me as much as The Great Movie Ride did. I enjoy the brief clip that sets the tone…but it’s no Ark of the Covenant.
Even though the attractions come from the same ride building, they’re entirely dissimilar.
For instance, The Great Movie Ride could last as long as 22 minutes, depending on your host.
Runaway Railway “only” lasts for roughly seven and a half minutes. So, it’s more condensed.
Part of the difference stems from the structure of the attractions.
The Great Movie Ride worked like a dark ride, with several set pieces like the Casablanca plane sequence and the Wizard of Oz section.
With Runaway Railway, you’re on a trackless dark ride that tells a faster, more detailed story.
The former ride exemplified the classic Imagineering storytelling style of carrying guests down a set path at a fixed speed.
You’re in for a more chaotic, whizbang experience on Runaway Railway, as you’d expect from a ride set in a cartoon universe.
Mickey & Minnie’s attraction embraces its modernity, as the trackless nature allows for unprecedented sequences like the waltz scene.
Still, The Great Movie Ride had a few tricks up its sleeve, too.
The cast member playing the host would sometimes disembark from the vehicle, leaving an antagonist in charge of the journey.
This bit of variance meant that you never quite knew which narration you’d get, and I always loved that element of surprise.
What I Love about The Great Movie Ride
When Universal Studios arrived in Orlando, they coined the phrase, “Ride the movies.”
However, Disney fans know that this description was used repeatedly during the construction phase of Hollywood Studios.
The Great Movie Ride demonstrated proof of concept for the entire park, which is why its absence feels somewhat soul crushing.
When I boarded this attraction, I knew that I was about to watch some of the greatest moments from movies.
The late Robert Osborne hosted some elements, including the grand finale. His presence added a touch of class to the proceedings.
Plus, I very much enjoyed the various cast members bringing their own takes to the script.
They didn’t have as much leeway as Jungle Cruise Skippers, but a few of them dared to quip a bit more.
I especially loved those moments when the fish-out-of-water antagonists would express confusion at the sci-fi sections.
Their lizard brains weren’t prepared for a future that included spaceships and aliens. It was a clever bit.
Finally, I loved that Disney would sometimes modify the closing scene to include “newer” movies.
The Matrix didn’t arrive until ten years after The Great Movie Ride. So, its presence at the end always struck me as proof of the ride’s evolution.
What I Love about Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
First of all, is there a more colorful ride in theme parks today? I say no!
Imagineers broke out the deep end of their Crayola boxes for this attraction.
Then, they added a sense of whimsy, taking Mickey & Minnie on a shocking adventure.
One second, guests are driving through an amusement park. Then, they’re flying through a tornado on their way over a waterfall.
This madcap adventure surprises at every turn, yet it winds up as a romantic night under the stars anyway.
The happy couple even gets to sing as fireworks light up the night, proving even Mickey and Minnie appreciate a magical end to the night.
The elevator pitch for Runaway Railway is that you enter a cartoon and experience a Disney animated world.
The ride delivers completely on its premise and then some. It even shows off some modern technology during the waltz scene, the most memorable sequence.
Which One Is Better?
Hollywood Studios turned 30 in 2019, and its birthday frustrated me since I knew that its signature ride had shut down, never to return.
For us old school park guests, The Great Movie Ride embodied the park since opening day. It felt wrong for Disney to abandon its signature attraction.
So, I think it’s clear that I’m an ardent supporter of The Great Movie Ride.
Even six months ago, I wouldn’t have believed what I’m about to say next.
I think Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is the superior ride.
The vibrant colors, cartoon whimsy, and spirit of Walt Disney elevate this attraction.
Also, The Great Movie Ride celebrated Hollywood, which is understandable given the name of the theme park that hosted it.
However, Runaway Railway feels more fitting for a Disney theme park.
After all, Uncle Walt got his start with animated shorts. Mickey and Minnie became cultural icons because of the man’s brilliance.
No Disney theme park has ever operated a ride that stars either one of them until now. Apparently, I’d felt that absence without ever knowing it.
The Imagineers tasked with creating Runaway Railway understood the importance of their challenge, and they met it with enthusiasm and bravado.
When I board this train, I believe that I’ve entered a Disney cartoon, one that honors the mouse who started it all…and his human friend, Walt Disney.
The Great Movie Ride will always mean a great deal to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is the ride that we need today.
Still, I maintain hope that Disney will bring The Great Movie Ride back at some point, either at Hollywood Studios or elsewhere. I miss it dearly.