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The Great Movie Ride in Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat has been the focus of attention for guests entering Disney’s Hollywood Studios since 2001, when it was placed directly in front of The Great Movie Ride. Previous to the large blue hat, Guests of Disney’s Hollywood Studios could have a straight-on view of Disney’s replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. The hat has been removed, giving Guests a re-newed front exposure to the Theater.

The new sponsor of the attraction is Turner Classic Movies and their film historian Robert Osborne will be featured in the new version of the pre-show and post-show. The Great Movie Ride was originally going to be placed in Future World at Epcot, as a pavilion featuring Entertainment. Disney exec’s then decided it was such a great concept that they should build a new park around it. Thus, Disney’s Hollywood Studios (then called MGM Studios) was born. The attraction opened with the park May 1, 1989.

The original Grauman’s Chinese Theater exists in Hollywood, California. (Disney is not permitted to use the name Grauman, so they simply refer to it as The Chinese Theater.) It is the place where we have watched movie stars walk down the red carpet to the premier event of their new film, or someone’s new film, for decades. The stars turnout in their finest to the delight of their fans, photographers, and each other! Both the original Grauman’s and the Disney version have a large plaza where stars have made their marks, literally, by placing hand prints, foot/shoe prints, their names and the dates of the impressions in 107 cement patches. It is great fun to walk through the patio looking at all the stars that have made their personal impressions, not just in Hollywood but also here in Walt Disney World. (Can you find the star of Biblical movies patch? …where he spelled his name wrong?) The list of characters that added their mark to the patio on Opening Day included Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Roger Rabbit, and more. Come look for your favorite!

There is an authentic vintage car on the patio, ready for you to pose next to. Choose a favorite set of foot/shoe prints to step into for another shot? FastPass+ entrance is directly from the patio into the theater. If you are going Stand By you will enter the lobby by stepping onto the red carpet. Inside the Lobby you will find several displays of great movies of the past. These displays rotate and have different costumes and props from many films, both from the old classic films to more present day productions. You then step into a theater room where the crowd weaves back and forth across the width of the room while moving forward. There are short clips of famous films playing on the big screen. These are your “coming attractions”. This is where the FastPass entrance comes in.

The Cast Members, dressed like Chinese Theater attendants, guide you onto a Hollywood sound stage, from the 1930’s time, of course. You will be directed to large ride vehicles where you will take a seat in one of several rows. Your group of almost 70 guests is accompanied by their own tour guide who points out the scenes, describing the characters and the film featured in that set. The tour guide also operates the ride vehicle. There are actually two of these large, open, ride vehicles traveling together down the track. At one point the first vehicle will experience an “old west” scene and the second will see a “gangster” scene. (You can ask the Cast Members directing you if you could be in a particular scene, if that is important to you.)

As you make your way under the marquee lights the strains of “Hooray for Hollywood” can be heard. (This song was written for the film Hollywood Hotel.) You may feel like kicking up your heels like the starlets in the first scene from Busby Burkley’s Footlight Parade. There literally is a “cake” built with these actresses in their old Hollywood bathing suits. This scene is entitled “By a Waterfall” and is a smaller representation of the 1933 film from what it was when the attraction opened.

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This scene, when the attraction opened, had more animatronic figures and water action that quickly became too problematic for park operations to deal with. There were just too many issues with water flooding the ride track or animatronics not working properly. You may notice parts of the ride still have issues with animatronics not working. Other musical scenes feature Gene Kelly, from Singin’ in the Rain, a film that he starred in and co-produced, and from Mary Poppins Dick van Dyke and Julie Andrews. Mary Poppins was Walt Disney’s Academy Award winning film from 1964. You hear snippets of both Singin’ in the Rain and Chim Chim Cheree. (You can get try acting out this scene yourself on the Streets of America section of Hollywood Studios. You will find the umbrella attached to a street lamp. When you step on the black mat, rain will appear!)

The next area focuses on gangster films where we see James Cagney, set in the film The Public Enemy. Dirty back alleys resembling the Underworld, is a tough neighborhood indeed. We see Cagney standing outside a door saying “Aw, you dirty, double-crossing—open up in there, you hear me?” (If you are in ride vehicle #1 your group will proceed through these dark street scenes of Chicago. If you are in the second ride vehicle you will stop, because you encounter a red light. There are some thugs on the left calling us “a bunch o’ rubberneckin’ tourists”. The Cast Member apologizes saying “Sorry about the delay, folks, but I don’t want to run a red light, even if it is just a movie.” One of the gangsters in the shadows says “Psst, hey you” to which our tour guide answers, “Are you talking to me? Are you talking to me?” There is an exchange of great comical lines, many from the movies of this period. A shoot out happens between characters on the left with a car full of thugs on the right side. One of the gangsters takes over the ride vehicle, shooting out the red light, to make his getaway.) For the cowboy western genre, we see the audio-animatronic Clint Eastwood, on the right, lighting a cigarette, playing out a scene from A Fistful of Dollars, outside an old saloon. To the left is John Wayne as Ethan Edwards from The Searchers, atop his horse. The old western town scene has a shoot-out between the Sheriff, from a second story balcony on the jail, and a bank robber across the street. The tour guide is chased into the bank by one of the robbers. Another robber makes his/her getaway with the ride vehicle. This gun-slinger finds himself in unfamiliar territory as the next scene is one from a spaceship, from Alien. A narrator tell us there is something hiding within the ship, and it is looking for its next victim. We pass the audio-animatronic Sigourney Weaver in this scene. At this point the gangster or the bank robber gets nervous and swiftly moves the vehicle out of there. But, guests do get to see the Alien appear.

We encounter the snake filled Egyptian temple scene from Raiders of the Last Ark on the left, and on the right we see the audio animatronic figures of Harrison Ford, as Indiana Jones, and John Rhys-Davies, as Sallah. They are attempting to lift the Ark of the Covenant from its ancient resting place.      Another scene, from the same movie shows the giant Anubis figure which serves as an altar to the Egyptain god, bearing a red-lit heart shaped diamond. A figure, who we are not shown the face of yet, appears to be guarding the diamond. Whomever is driving your vehicle is suddenly overcome with the desire to have this glowing gem. They stop the vehicle’s motion, gets out and runs up to where it is. They are given a warning, which they dismiss, that whoever disturbs the gem, will pay with their life. They ignore it and proceed to grab the gem, immediately there is a huge billowy smoke cloud that covers up the bandit. We wait to see what remains after the smoke clears. His skeleton is all that remains, shown reaching to grab the diamond. The shadowy figure is now revealed to us. It is the tour guide who was with us at the beginning of the ride. He/she takes over her spot once again driving our ride vehicle forward.

Who can forget the great horror films, pre-1981, which includes the first mummy film, produced in 1920? Following the “dead people” set we come to a jungle scene where an audio animatronic of Johnny Weissmuller, as Tarzan, swings by us on a vine, with his iconic Tarzan yell. We see Jane, played by Maureen O’Sullivan, atop an elephant. Cheetah is also seen in the trees.

All the romantics will enjoy this final scene tribute from Casablanca. The audio animatronic Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman stand plane-side to deliver the “best last lines of a movie ever” “Here’s looking at you kid.” We are told that Isabella Rossellini brings her children here to see their Grandmother Ingrid Bergman in this scene.

We can’t leave out the famous mouse himself, Mickey Mouse, in one of his best roles: Sorcerer’s Apprentice. We are shown clips on a movie screen from Fantasia. We then enter a much larger set that we soon recognize as Munchkinland from The Wizard of Oz. You will recognize Dorothy’s home immediately to your right, and see the Wicked Witch of the East’s legs sticking out from under the house, wearing the ruby slippers. The munchkins pop out of places while singing “Ding Dong, the witch is dead!” Suddenly there is smoke appearing, and we hear the voice of the Wicked Witch of the West as her green-skin form appears within the smoke. (This is one of the very best examples of Audio-Animatronics on Disney property.) Several great lines from the film are exchanged between the Wicked Witch of the West and your tour guide. As we follow the yellow brick road we come across another iconic scene from Wizard of Oz when Dorothy, Toto, Cowardly Lion, Tin Man and Scare Crow see the Wizard’s castle in the distance. They are discussing what they will ask the Wizard for when they arrive.

We move into a large room with a movie screen that brings some of the very best lines of all times from over 100 movies. We hear the title of only one film in this montage, it is Robin William’s giving his famous “Good Morning Viet Nam!” line.

There is one final scene before we leave, it’s called “the exit”. Wait for the tour guide to yell “Action!” before exiting the ride. Come relive the Golden Age of Hollywood in this replica of movie stardom! The Great Movie Ride does its best to “bring these movies to life and put you right in the middle of the action!”

Note: Since these scenes are all from movies prior to 1981, it may not hold your interest, unless you are a true old movie buff, or old enough to remember them. The shoot-out, dark areas, and the alien, may be too intense for small children. There is no height or age requirement for this ride. It lasts approximately 22 minutes. If you use a FastPass+ for this you will enter immediately into the pre-load area, skipping the lobby and the display cases. Try to sit in the first three rows. The back rows always seem to be behind and miss seeing the complete scene as the tour guide presents it. Also, if you have ridden it before, it has not changed. You will see the same movies, sets, audio animatronics so don’t expect anything new, yet. It has been rumored for many years that some of the movie scenes would change, but we have not heard that included in the 2015 refurbishment. The building is very interesting and art deco beautiful, and it follows the same floor plan as the original theater.

According to StudioCentral.com, “the track is 1928 feet long, which is the same year the original Chinese Theater was built.”

About Cassie

Cassie L. I am a lifelong Disney fan. I attended Walt Disney World in 1971, and was there during the opening week of EPCOT, and have visited the Disney Parks for than 30 times. I have had the privilege of visiting Disneyland as a child, and then again with my children. My family recently moved from the northeastern United States to the Walt Disney World area. I now have cast members in my family and enjoy hearing the magical stories at the end of a shift. I love visiting all of the parks and getting to try more Disney food and being able to share it with you to help you plan your own magical day at Disney.