Laura is a freelance writer living in Florida. She has a master's degree in English.
Update: August 13, 2017 was the final day for The Great Movie Ride. Take a look back at one of the best experiences Disney used to have!
Walt Disney World has many great attractions from thrill rides to water rides. But one of the best rides at any of the theme parks does not rely on thrills or splashes. The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios is a slow moving ride that everyone in your family from the youngest to the oldest will enjoy, appreciate and want to ride again.
The ride takes your through the golden era of the movies and recreates scenes from some of the classics. Here is a moment-by-moment guide to the ride including pictures and interesting facts. After reading you will definitely want to experience this classic ride for yourself.
History of The Great Movie Ride
The Great Movie Ride opened when Hollywood Studios opened in 1989. It was originally seen as the feature and focal point of the park (much like the castle at the Magic Kingdom or the sphere at EPCOT). Modeled after the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, the attraction focuses on movies that helped to define and shape their genre.
In recent years, Disney obscured the theater with a giant sorcerer's hat (modeled on the one that Mickey wore in Fantasia). Rumors persisted that eventual plans were to take down the ride. But so far it has still continued to operate.
So much thought and design and history went into the building and executing of the ride and fans of the attraction hope that it will continue to hold a spot in the theme park. Regardless, its importance and beauty have added to many visitor's appreciation and love of both the ride and of classic movies.
When you enter The Great Movie Ride (hereafter noted as TGMR) you will go through a queue line. Pay attention to the items in the glass cases. These are actual props and costumes from classic movies and some of them are breathtaking.
They have had Mary Poppin's white dress from the carousel/chalk drawing scene on display. They sometimes have costumes from Star Wars. In December 2013 they had the dress that Leigh wore in her famous role of Scarlett O'Hara.
The dress is the one she wore to the bbq to try to win Ashley back from Melanie. Though the dress is 75 years old it still looks as beautiful as it does in the MGM classic "Gone With The Wind."
The props change without notice but it is always worth a stroll through to look at what they have in the lobby.
After that you will wind through an area that looks like a movie theater. Clips from famous movies such as "Singing in the Rain" and "The Searchers" and "Indiana Jones" are playing. You can tell who TGMR fanatics are because they will be repeating the dialogue from the clips verbatim.
First Scene: Busby Berkley and Gene Kelly
You will be loaded onto a large, slow moving car with benches. Those in wheelchairs can either transfer or request a car that has room to roll the chair into it. Once in your car you will be introduced to your tour guide.
Listen for the guide to say "Ready When You Are, C.B." This is a reference to the great and controversial movie director Cecil B. Demille who directed such classics as "The Ten Commandments" and "Adam's Rib."
Once the car enters the ride you will first see a recreation of a scene from a Busby Berkley musical and, when it's working, bubbles floating down to your car. The tiered stage with dancers used to spin around but has not done this in years.
To your left you'll notice Gene Kelly holding onto a lamp post as he is "Singin' in the Rain." The robotic mannequin moves back and forth as the rain falls on his black umbrella.
Second Scene: Mary Poppins
From "Singing In the Rain," the ride enters another great Disney favorite, "Mary Poppins." Mary is suspended in mid-air and holding her trademark umbrella while some lively chimney sweeps sing "Chim Chim Chiree."
The guide encourages you to sing along to this well-known song as you are slowly moving through. There are reports of hidden mickeys in this and other scenes in TGMR so keep your eyes open.
Third Scene: Gangster Films
In the third scene TGMR pays tribute to gangster and prohibition films of the 30's and 40's. A life-like James Cagney of "Public Enemy" fame hangs out in the shadows as you pass by appropriately littered streets.
Most of the time, if you loaded from the back half of the ride load area, your car will stop here for a mid-ride show. Sometimes it will stop at the next scene. (More on that later). Once you are stopped (for a red light) a sinister figure rises, dressed in gangster clothes, and demands that your guide come up there.
In the confusion of the moment some gangsters in a black car pull up on your right and commence in a shoot out with the ones on your left (who are hiding behind boxes). If you have any young children who are sensitive to loud noise, you may want to cover their ears.
To get away the gangster hijacks the car with the guests in it as your original tour guide disappears. After shooting out the red light, he or she takes the car forward to the next scene.
Fourth Scene: The Old West
In the next scene, you are transported to the romanticized old west of classic films. To your right is Clint Eastwood and to your left is John Wayne. Like the gangster area of TGMR, this can be a stage for a midway show. However you will only see one midway show.
If you are lucky enough to see this show you are in for a real treat. As the car stops the tour guide is taken by a cowboy who has just robbed a bank. He or she decides to use the vehicle you are sitting in to make their getaway. But before they can leave a shoot out among the bank robbers occurs. In the end all the gun fire causes the bank to catch on fire.
The scene is spectacular but, most likely because of the cost of the fire effects, this scene is only run when the ride is very busy at peak times.
If you see the ganster show you will not see the old west show and vice versa.
Fifth Scene: Alien
After the old west you enter a pretty realistic scene from the movie "Alien." A narrator's voice lets you know that you are on the ship and that there is an alien on the loose. You pass a sweaty and scared looking Sigourney Weaver and see the evidence of slime dripping through the space ship grates.
As you proceed through the ride, younger children might be scared as the missing alien will jump out at you from the ceiling above. You may want to cover their ears during this part. There is usually some smoke coming from the ceiling right before the alien jumps out and the guide will scream "look out."
This scene is the darkest one in the ride.
Sixth Scene: Indiana Jones
From "Alien" there is little room for relief for those with phobias. You then enter a (fake) snake-filled room with Indiana Jones trying to retrieve the lost ark. The famous music from the movies plays in the background as the life-like Harrison Ford struggles to lift the ark. The tour guide (either the gangster or bank robber) usually repeats several of the famous lines.
In keeping with the theme of the film you then see an ancient statue with what looks like a shiny ruby on it. The temptation is too much for your criminal guide so they stop the car to retrieve the treasure. But the narrator notes that the jewel comes with a curse.
Not listening the guide goes up the stairs to get the jewel. As he or she reaches to touch it, smoke appears. When the smoke clears the criminal is now a skeleton and your original guide is back, noting that "anything can happen in the movies."
Seventh Scene: Tarzan
A short transition from the Indiana Jones via some skeletons representing early horror films finds you in Tarzan's jungle. To your right will be a somewhat comical, robotic version of Tarzan swinging back and forth through the trees.
To your left is Jane calling to Tarzan as she sits atop her elephant. The scene is colorful with lots of hidden details you may not notice at first. Pay attention to the jungle flowers and trees and the fruits. Can you find any hidden mickeys?
Eighth Scene: Casblanca
Perhaps one of the greatest films of all times, it would be impossible to imagine a tribute to great movies that doesn't include Casablanca.
In this pivotal scene Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are parting ways at the airport. As Bogey utters the famous line "Here's looking at your kid," Bergman looks away in a surprisingly realistic show of emotion.
In an unconfirmed rumor, it was said that Ingrid Bergman's daughter, the famous Isabella Rossellini, brought her children to TGMR to see this scene. She said that it was the closest thing that her children had to actually seeing their grandmother who died of breast cancer in 1982.
Ninth Scene: The Wizard of Oz (With A Nod to Fantasia)
You first enter a black circular room with a screen showing scenes from "Fantasia: The Sorcerer's Apprentice."
It was said that it was too expensive to license three scenes from the movie. So they turned it into a scene from Fantasia instead. However, it still looks suspiciously like a tornado.
In the final recreated scene you have a stop in Munchkin land where you meet the Wicked Witch of the West and have the Munchkins tell you to follow the yellow brick road. In a scene so breathtaking some people rent it out for their destination weddings, Munchkin land comes alive with color much the way it did in the movie when Dorothy first steps out of her black and white Kansas and into OZ.
The Munchkins peek out as your car pulls in, curious. But then the witch appears (to your right) in a cloud of smoke demanding to know who dropped a house on her sister. In a well-timed skit the guide interacts with the witch who disappears the same way she came---in a puff of smoke.
In the final moments you will see Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Lion, the Tin Man and Toto all looking at The Emerald City across a bed of poppies. Anyone who knows the scene will be struck with the detail and beauty of the recreation.
In the final stop on your ride you will see a compilation of scenes from great movies in all genres. This portion of the ride does get updated from time to time and new films added. It is fun to challenge those with you to name all the movies or actors that pop up on the screen.
The Great Movie Ride is one of those rides that might get overlooked. It is not a thrill ride. But the care and attention that went into the storyline and the recreation of the scenes makes it well worth a stop when you are spending the day at Disney's Hollywood Studios.