Earlier this year, we celebrated the grand opening of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Based on the reviews and videos I’ve seen, the ride looks innovative and fantastic — but there will always be a part of me that mourns the loss of the once flagship attraction, The Great Movie Ride.
Admittedly, the attraction may not have been getting the crowds the company wanted, but I think there was a huge opportunity to update this attraction. When The Great Movie Ride first opened along with Disney-MGM Studios in 1989, the ride was full of properties from other movie studios like Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, and more. With the Walt Disney Company now owning many different studios, properties, and production companies, they had the opportunity to revamp The Great Movie Ride using only Disney-owned properties, therefore not needing to pay any licensing fees through the years.
Based on this, I came up with some ideas on how Disney could have worked their properties into the ride. Some of these ideas are simply fanservice on my part, but it’s fun to think about what could have been.
The rules I followed when creating this concept was that I couldn’t use any movies that were originally represented in the attraction and that the different genres represented throughout the original ride had to be represented here. Let’s begin.
“Hello everyone and welcome to The Great Movie Ride 2.0! My name is Jeff and I’ll be taking you from this Hollywood soundstage right into the middle of the action of the greatest films ever made, all on one tour. But between you and me, this is no ordinary tour, because The Great Movie Ride brings these movies to life and puts you right in the middle of the action.”
The first genre we came upon in the original attraction was movie musicals, showing us classics like “Footlight Parade,” “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Mary Poppins.” In my version of the ride, it would all start with “The Sound of Music” (1965, 20th Century Fox) with Julie Andrews on the iconic mountaintop singing that famous tune. Even if you’ve never seen this movie, you’re surely familiar with this song and visual (unlike “Footlight Parade”). It’s also nice to have a Julie Andrews character portrayed in this version even if she can’t be seen in her Mary Poppins wardrobe.
The next musical I would feature is “Hello, Dolly!” (1969, 20th Century Fox). Not only is this a classic movie musical, but it also has a nice tie-in with Disney, as a couple of songs from this musical are heard daily in the Main Street, U.S.A. music loop. But in this case, I would like to hear the titular tune. Finally, I would choose a musical that would transition very nicely into our next ride segment. “Newsies” (1992, Walt Disney Pictures) would fill the air with its joyful tunes by Disney Legend Alan Menken, as well as transition us into the streets of New York for our next genre.
We would then enter dingy city streets, perfect for the gangster movie genre. In the original attraction, we got a bit of a scene from “The Public Enemy,” but in my version of The Great Movie Ride, I want to see some action from “Dick Tracy” (1990, Buena Vista Pictures). The shoot-out scene from the original attraction could fit in nicely with the distinct villains from the colorful film.
As we originally entered the Western genre, displays included scenes from “Fistful of Dollars” starring Clint Eastwood and “The Searchers” starring John Wayne. In their place for the updated edition, we could see “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969, 20th Century Fox) and “Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier” (1955, Walt Disney Productions).
As we enter the science fiction section which originally featured “Alien,” we have a couple of options. Of course, it could be updated with any of the films from Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars” franchise, but considering there is a fourteen acre Star Wars-themed land just a stone’s throw away, let’s feature a twist on the original film and use “AVP: Alien vs. Predator” (2004, 20th Century Fox). In the original attraction, many studios outside of Disney were featured because the films Disney produced fell within a very specific genre. With Disney now owning 20th Century Studios, a lot of these holes can now be easily filled.
As we enter the adventure portion of the ride, which originally featured “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” I think we have a few good options. There’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (2003, Walt Disney Pictures) or “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (1954, Walt Disney Productions). But if I had my choice, we wouldn’t go beyond the backyard and would instead feature “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” (1989, Walt Disney Pictures). That movie is jam-packed with adventure.
Although I always loved that the horror genre was featured in The Great Movie Ride, it always posed a bit of a problem. First, this attraction was made to be enjoyed by the entire family, so there’s a fine balance to deal with as far as honoring the genre and not terrifying children. There’s also the fact that Disney’s theme park rivals, Universal Studios, invented the horror genre. If they did want to feature specific films this time around instead of just a generic horror-feel, some options include “Poltergeist” (2015, 20th Century Fox) or “The Fly” (1986, 20th Century Fox).
The next scene we came across in The Great Movie Ride was from “Tarzan the Ape Man.” This one feels like a no-brainer. I would love to see this portion of the attraction dedicated to “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (2014, 20th Century Fox).
We then came across one of the most iconic film scenes ever made from the drama “Casablanca.” The vignette I would like to see isn’t nearly as classic, but I would argue is equally as touching and more fitting. I would love to see an animatronic Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers on Disneyland’s Main Street, U.S.A. from “Saving Mr. Banks” (2013, Walt Disney Pictures). I think fans would love to see this bit of “Walt” inside the attraction.
Next up, we had a scene from “Fantasia” featuring Sorcerer Mickey. As much as I love seeing Mickey Mouse, I would replace this with scenes from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937, Walt Disney Productions). It certainly holds an important place in motion picture history as the first feature-length animated movie.
And finally, there was the epic finale from “The Wizard of Oz” in this fantasy-inspired display. I think an equally family-friendly finale could feature The Muppets. In their movie “The Great Muppet Caper” (1981, The Jim Henson Company) there is a song called “Hey, a Movie!” which would be the perfect final scene in The Great Movie Ride 2.0. As we head into the movie montage, Disney would have plenty of studios and properties to pull from that didn’t get their own animatronic sequence in the main portion of the attraction.
Of course, the possibilities are endless on what could be featured in an updated Great Movie Ride. What are some of the films you would like to see using one of the genres originally featured in the attraction? Let us know in the comments.
Watch our ride-through video of the classic attraction below:
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your free gift of “America’s Hidden Mickeys: Lesser Known Disney Destinations Around the U.S.A.” at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.