Attractions We Miss: Secrets of The Great Movie Ride
The Great Movie Ride opened 32 years ago. Unfortunately, it closed nearly four years ago when park officials settled on a Mickey Mouse ride.
Many of us lament the fact that we couldn’t keep both, as Disney’s Hollywood Studios has enough space to add another ride building.
Alas, management wanted Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway as the central attraction at the park, thematically and geographically.
So, we’re all left fondly reminiscing about the brilliance of a lost attraction.
Here are some long-lost secrets of The Great Movie Ride, the first anchor ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The EPCOT Pavilion That Became a Park
When Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park opened to the public in 1989, it featured only two major attractions, along with three mostly forgotten ones.
The anchor attraction at the time remained the park’s centerpiece through 2017. However, it almost never gained that lofty status.
Instead, Imagineers initially pitched the Great Moments at the Movies pavilion at EPCOT.
EPCOT Center possessed a somewhat nebulous concept during its earliest days as all ideas possessed the same chance of becoming pavilions.
Once Michael Eisner arrived as Disney’s CEO, he warmed to the idea of a movie-based pavilion, which was understandable.
After all, Eisner came from Hollywood as a studio boss and relished all ideas that reinforced his leadership strengths. Alas, the pavilion had two problems.
The first is that Great Moments at the Movies proved overly ambitious in scope for a secondary pavilion at EPCOT.
The other involved the focus at the park, infotainment. A movie-based pavilion didn’t fit accurately.
The negatives led to a positive, as Eisner experienced an epiphany.
The CEO decided to build an entire theme park around the “Great Moments Movie Museum.” The rest is history.
Two Versions of the Story – Bandits and Gangsters
Did you know that The Great Movie Ride featured an A Mode and a B Mode?
On most Disney attractions, the B Mode involves a modified ride experience due to some sort of malfunction.
With The Great Movie Ride, B Mode represents the default ride. You’re about to encounter a real-life gangster during your journey!
To Disney fans, A Mode became the holy grail of sorts. It was the version of The Great Movie Ride that you only got occasionally.
When line queues were average or shorter, Disney never opened A Mode. However, when guests saw trams on both tracks, they were in business!
The guests at the front had a chance of riding the mysterious path that switched up gangsters for bandits!
Yes, the western desperado section didn’t happen often, which made fans desire it more. Here’s what the Bandit/A Mode version looked like:
You were much more likely to experience the Gangster/B Mode instead:
The Hidden Catwalks
Jungle Cruise receives the lion’s share of the attention, but the guides on The Great Movie Ride learned tons of script, too.
Also, the guides had to ad-lib more due to the mercurial nature of the tram system. Do you remember those red and green lights throughout the ride?
They served a purpose in preventing a logjam of ride carts on the tracks. However, each red light forced some improvisation for the guides.
Cast members used walkie-talkies to communicate with one another in such situations, often requesting co-workers to verify visually whether the path was clear.
During this downtime, the guides needed narration that could entertain guests during the delay. Obviously, that’s a challenging job not everyone can handle.
As such, Disney developed a unique training system that included a hidden system for checking performance.
Guests couldn’t see them, but catwalks existed above several of the set pieces. Managers would spend time on these catwalks, evaluating performances!
Even regular cast members on The Great Movie Ride didn’t get to spend time on the catwalks as a rule, making them the most unique view.
TCM Didn’t Arrive until the End
Do you have fond memories of the late Robert Osborne hosting key moments on The Great Movie Ride?
If so, your memory has played some tricks on you. No, you’re not imagining Osborne’s presence at the attraction.
Over the years, the initial sponsor of The Great Movie Ride, Coke (!), dropped out.
Disney replaced the misfit beverage sponsorship with a more appropriate one, Turner Classic Movies.
However, this change didn’t occur until 2015! Disney slightly modified the attraction to fit better with the new and more natural TCM fit.
Unfortunately, this deal only lasted for two years. After that, The Great Movie Ride shut down, leaving TCM out in the cold.
Osborne hosted The Great Movie Ride for only two out of the ride’s 28 years. Since your last memories of it include him, that’s probably what has you confused.
Home to 50+ Audio-Animatronics!
Disney recreated many classic movie scenes for The Great Movie Ride. The most famous one is The Wizard of Oz, which plays a crucial role in two sets.
In fact, Imagineers had planned a third set-piece before licensing issues with MGM prevented it. At that point, Disney switched to its home turf, Fantasia.
Still, you’ll notice Audio-Animatronics for Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man at this attraction.
Before that, many Munchkins appear to inform you to follow the Yellow Brick Road.
Several animatronic dancers set the stage for Busby Berkeley’s Footlight Parade at the start of the ride.
Overall, 59 Audio-Animatronics appeared on The Great Movie Ride.
One of the great mysteries for Disney fans is finding where Imagineers have relocated some of these animatronics.
After all, no Audio-Animatronic ever disappears. Disney simply repurposes it. Do you know where any former animatronics from The Great Movie Ride are?
MickeyBlog confirmed last year that one of them isn’t at the parks, though. You’ll never guess who owns it, either!
No, That’s Not the Real Plane from Casablanca!
Here’s the weird “fact” about The Great Movie Ride that everyone has always gotten wrong.
At some point, someone claimed that the ride hosted the plane from the climactic sequence in Casablanca.
You know when Rick says goodbye to Ilsa on the runway? I mean this one:
Well, I can say with complete confidence that The Great Movie Ride used a different plane…half of one anyway.
Disney acquired a Lockheed Model 12 Electra Junior vintage plane and then put it to work in two places.
While The Great Movie Ride was open, guests could have seen the front half here. Then, they could have visited Jungle Cruise to look at the back of the plane.
Nobody would have ever allowed Disney to split a classic Casablanca prop into pieces like that. It makes for a great rumor, though!
While we miss The Great Movie Ride terribly, rumors persist that we will get it again one day.
Imagineers have invented black box technology. This innovation would allow for the temporary returns of lost attractions we miss…like The Great Movie Ride!