Friday, May 1, 2009

Ride Review - The Great Movie Ride

We begin our weekend celebration of the 20th anniversary of Disney's Hollywood Studios with a look at one of the rides that's been there since the beginning.

Intro: The Great Movie Ride is located in a replica of the Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, located behind the Sorcerer’s Hat in the front of the park. You ride in large trams with many rows of pew-style seats, similar to those found at Ellen’s Energy Adventure at Epcot. If you think the ride seems like it belongs at Epcot, well, originally it did. The Great Movie Ride was going to be an Epcot pavilion, located between the Land and Imagination pavilions (ever wonder why there are four on one side of Future World and only three on the other?) But as the idea grew bigger and bigger, Imagineers decided to build an entire theme park about movies instead of one Epcot pavilion.

Queue: The Great Movie Ride is right in the front of the park and, as a result, on busy days lines can get very long very early. Don’t worry, the lines move quickly, though, and weave throughout the theater including the lobby which showcases movie memorabilia and a big screen showing classic movie trailers. It’s the kind of line you don’t mind waiting a half hour in.

Preshow: Movie memorabilia scattered throughout the queue and classic trailers showing in one room containing the queue.

Ride: We start off in front of a large marquee reading “A Spectacular Journey into the Movies.” “Hooray for Hollywood,” the ride’s theme song, plays as our tour guide introduces himself. We start with musicals and my tape somehow skips and I missed the name of the first movie, but the scene in the ride shows a lot of ice dancers forming a pyramid. We move on to “Singing in the Rain” and then “Mary Poppins” with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke singing “Chim Chim Chiree.”

Now things get a little tricky. See, there are two different versions of the Great Movie Ride, and whichever one you get is totally random. Here’s what goes down in one version…

We move on to gangster films and into the shadow of the big city. Too bad they couldn’t get the rights to the Godfather, the movie that defined the genre. We are told that the ride is experiencing technical difficulties and a live gangster, Mugsy, jumps out from the scene and tries to hold up our tour guide. This leads to a big shootout in the back alley and Mugsy escapes in our ride vehicle!

An automated voice takes over guiding the tour, as Mugsy makes some off hand remarks from the front of the tram. We enter the Western genre, as John Wayne stops by and rides a horse, you know, basically all you ever do in the old west. Clint Eastwood is also there, but he doesn’t really do or say anything. Mugsy quips, “Where are we, Jersey?” Then, we learn that someone is trying to rob the bank. Another shootout ensues and we take off.

We are now in a scene from the movie Alien. We learn that here on the space ship, with Sigourney Weaver, the crew has been vanishing and an alien creature is lurking. Mugsy gets kind of spooked, more so when the Alien jumps down from the ceiling and tries to attack us.

Thankfully, we escape from space and end up in Raiders of the Lost Arc with Indiana Jones. Mugsy decides he needs to steal a priceless jewel that is, of course, cursed. The Gods are not too pleased with Mugsy’s intrusion, so he is quickly disposed of. Then, our original guide takes back over and the ride continues as normal. (Why/How does our original guide return? No explanation just that “anything can happen in the movies.” I suppose they are right.)

In the other version, we move through the mob scene without getting hijacked and then go into the western scene. Once there, a live actor tries to rob the bank, eventually getting into a shootout with police and blowing up the bank. In the commotion, the robber makes a getaway in our vehicle and things go on essentially the same as when the mobster commandeers the car. Both get freaked out by Alien and then both try to steal the cursed jewel and are disposed of so that our tour guide could take back over. The ride continues the same on both versions here.

We go into the jungle with Tarzan (thankfully, the original, not the Disney version from the late 90s.) Tarzan swings on a rope; Jane and Cheetah sit around and watch.

Next we go into the goodbye scene from Casablanca. “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Into the children’s genre, as Sorcerer Mickey from Fantasia is shown. From there we go into a giant scene from the Wizard of Oz. The munchkins sing and then the Wicked Witch of the West (an AWESOME looking animatronic) accuses our tour guide of dropping a house on her sister. We deny it and she vows revenge. The munchkins tell us to follow the yellow brick road and we move on past Dorothy and Toto along with the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion looking at Emerald City.

The final scene is a montage of some classic cinema moments and stars. These are always impossible to keep up with, but here is a sample. We see, among many others, Charlie Chaplin, Singing in the Rain, Snow White, Saturday Night Fever, Three Stooges, Shirley Temple, Three Men and a Baby, The Godfather, Indiana Jones, The Terminator, King Kong, Wizard of Oz, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 2001 a Space Odyssey, Star Trek, Fantasia, Lady and the Tramp, Rodger Rabbit, Streetcar Named Desire, Good Morning Vietnam, Star Wars, Lassie, and the Sound of Music. That’s probably not even a quarter of them. It all ends with an overhead view of Hollywood and we return to the same place we started, in front of the marquee, and the ride is over.

“Cut! That’s a wrap.”

Thoughts: I’ve always wondered, is the movie ride great or is the ride about great movies? I suppose it doesn’t really matter. This is a great tribute to the greatest movies and stars of the century. I like that there are two different versions to see, it makes repeat viewing all the more worthwile. Really, it’s always a little different depending on how many personal touches your tour guide includes. I rode it once as the last car of the evening and had quite a bit of fun, compared to other rides during the day.

This ride is very well done on all accounts, and definitely worth checking out.

Overall Rating: ****

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