Great Movie Ride
Opened: May 1, 1989
Location: Hollywood Boulevard
Extra Magic Hours: Evening
Type: Dark ride
Similar To: Living With the Land, Ellen’s Energy Adventure
What to Expect: The Great Movie Ride is housed inside of a full-size replica of the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater. The preshow area features a winding queue with movie memorabilia and then another large room with a giant movie screen that plays short clips/trailers from popular (old) movies. If the line fills this room, you’ll probably see the same clips two times. Once you move through that queue area, you’ll be placed in another line where you’ll wait to board a 70 person slow-moving vehicle similar to the ones used at Ellen’s Energy Adventure. A live narrator will board the boat with you and help move the story along as you travel through famous movie scenes that Disney has recreated with the help of animatronic characters. Movies represented include Alien, Casablanca, Fantasia, Mary Poppins, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Public Enemy, and the Wizard of Oz. There are two possible storylines featured in the Great Movie Ride, but the scenes are the same for both. The gangster story is often the only one running. When the Studios is busy, both stories may be running. If you’ve never seen the cowboy version, ask the cast member if it’s available when they ask how many people are in your party.
Where to Sit: There really isn’t a bad seat in any of the vehicles. Each row seats about six adults and the view is best on either the far left or right sides. I prefer to sit closer to the front because the narration is synced better. In the back, occasionally you won’t have your eyes on whatever the narrator is talking about because the vehicles are so long. In a perfect world, I would be seated on the far right of the third row.
Scary Factor: Medium. The following contains possible spoilers: There are a few movie clips in the preshow and animatronic scenes during the ride that may be upsetting to youngsters. This includes a creepy scene from the movie Alien. Although the bark is worse than the bite, there is an alien that lowers its head from the ceiling and the lighting and props are on the scary side as well. It’s not particularly scary, but kids may be anxious about what will be shown. The Raiders of the Lost Ark scene also includes a floor covered in snakes and skeleton props. The gun fight between the villains and your live host may also startle kids who have trouble remembering none of it is “real.” The problem kids may run into is that the vehicles carrying the riders move slowly and the scenes surround the boats, so kids can’t look away – only close their eyes if they get scared.
When To Go: Because The Great Movie Ride is located right at the end of the “main drag,” it’s busiest in the late morning when the majority of guests are arriving and immediately after the afternoon parade when the area is swamped again. I would recommend visiting after 5pm, long after the parade crowd has dissipated. Riding Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror early in the morning is more important than hitting the Great Movie Ride early because of the ride’s long duration and the fact that the line won’t be as long in the afternoon as the headlining rides.
Expect to Wait: After 5pm, the line shouldn’t exceed 10 minutes unless it’s Peak or Holiday season. Expect waits to peak in the 20 minute range. The later into the evening you ride, the shorter the line should be. When crowds are low and Hollywood Studios is recommended, you shouldn’t run into a line at all.
This Ride is the Reason the Hollywood Studios Exists: The Great Movie Ride was originally planned to be the centerpiece for a new Pavilion at Epcot. Instead, newly appointed CEO Michael Eisner thought the attraction was strong enough to plan an entire new theme park around it. He was only sort of right.
Commentary: While we all may be able to appreciate the “classicness” of a Disney attraction, this is another ride that has remained the same for more than 20 years. Although the live acting adds a bit of excitement and uniqueness to each visit, the story usually comes across as a bit forced and contrived. It’s still a pleasant, relaxing, air-conditioned attraction, but it’s not nearly as fun as it would be with updated scenes and movies. For example, there’s a scene from Tarzan, the Ape Man, which is regarded as one of the worst movies of all time. Does it really belong in a Disney theme park in the 21st century? On the other hand, The Public Enemy is an excellent gangster film, but how many people under the age of 75 have even seen it? There’s certainly nothing wrong with featuring the classics, but a serious refurbishment and a change in the narration would go a long way to making this a better attraction. As it stands, The Great Movie Ride is a must-do for anyone interested in experiencing one of the most classic Disney attractions, but it’s unlikely to impress anyone who only cares about the latest and greatest technology.