Today In Disney History ~ June 8th
The Great Movie Ride is a guided vehicle dark ride located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. The attraction employs the use of Audio-Animatronic figures, live actors, special effects, and projections to recreate iconic scenes from twelve classic films throughout motion picture history. The attraction—which debuted with the park on May 1, 1989—is located inside a replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, one of Hollywood’s most famous movie palaces.
The Great Movie Ride directly inspired the creation of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In a Walt Disney Imagineering book, it was revealed that The Great Movie Ride was actually going to be the main attraction in a show business themed pavilion at Epcot, which was to be called “Great Moments at the Movies.” However, the newly assigned Disney CEO Michael Eisner and WDI president Marty Sklar decided the idea was strong enough to lead an entire new theme park. The idea for the ride was expanded, and the Disney-MGM Studios went into official development. Plans called for The Great Movie Ride to be the main attraction for the Disney-MGM Studios Paris theme park, which was scrapped due to the early financial difficulties of the Euro Disneyland Resort. Years later when the resort began turning profits, a show business themed theme park went into development again, and the Walt Disney Studios Park opened in 2002 at the Disneyland Resort Paris, although minus The Great Movie Ride. A show called CinéMagique was built in lieu of the ride due to claims by Disney management that the French preferred shows to ride-through attractions.
Three separate attempts have been made by Walt Disney Imagineering to bring The Great Movie Ride to California. First were plans to incorporate the attraction into the proposed “Disney-MGM Studio Backlot” project, a 40-acre (160,000 m2) film studio themed retail and entertainment district that was planned (but ultimately never built) for downtown Burbank, California during the late 1980s. Several years later, plans called for the ride to serve as the centerpiece of the proposed Hollywoodland at Disneyland, which would have been added to the park during the planned Disney Decade in the 1990s. Due to budget cuts, however, Hollywoodland was canceled. Later, plans called for the ride to be built as part of the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area of the Disney California Adventure Park theme park at the Disneyland Resort. But budget cuts in the park’s original development planning forced the ride’s projected cost to be spent on smaller, original and less expensive attractions.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Disney was interested in purchasing Jim Henson’s Muppets. Walt Disney Imagineering developed a Muppet-themed land for Disney-MGM Studios called Muppet Movieland. The land was to feature two main attractions; one was Muppet*Vision 3D and the other was The Great Muppet Movie Ride, a parody of The Great Movie Ride featuring Muppet characters such as Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and Gonzo re-enacting scenes from famous films such as Frankenstein and Peter Pan. However, after Henson died, the deal fell apart and Disney cut back on the Muppet-themed area to just Muppet*Vision 3D.
On the park’s opening day, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Roger Rabbit and other Disney characters placed their signatures, footprints, and handprints in front of the façade of the Great Movie Ride.
On a side note, the ending of The Great Movie Ride was originally going to have more of a foundation in The Wizard of Oz with the Fantasia scene being the Cyclone, and also a divider down the middle of the theatre separating the A and B vehicles in the final (film clip) scene. Where the screen is now was where the Wizard would have appeared surrounded by flames. The Wizard would say his famous line, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” and the show would be “interrupted” as the curtains to the left or right of the screen would open to reveal either your live bandit (on the A vehicle side) or gangster (on the B vehicle side). Along the outer walls of the theatre (to the left of the A vehicle or to the right of the B vehicle), is currently large empty carpeted areas. Here was supposed to be large platforms where models of all of the audio-animatronic characters seen earlier in the ride would be standing and would take a bow.
Unlike many Disney dark rides that feature separate embarkation and debarkation areas, the Great Movie Ride has only a single combined unloading and loading area. The last people to exit the vehicles often pass the next group of guests waiting to board the vehicles. At the time the ride was designed (the mid to late 1980s), it was common throughout the theme park industry to have all major rides exit into a store selling merchandise associated with the attraction. The Great Movie Ride, however, does not exit directly into a store and instead allows guests to directly exit back outside into the park.
In 2014, as part of an exclusive programming deal with Disney, Turner Classic Movies agreed to become the sponsor of the attraction. The attraction underwent a refurbishment in 2015, with the addition of a new pre-show and post-show hosted by Robert Osborne, who also provides onboard narration to the ride. The changes were unveiled on May 29, 2015.