"Ready when you are, C.B.!"
We made a bittersweet visit to Hollywood Studios last weekend to enjoy The Great Movie Ride one last time before it closed forever on Sunday, Aug. 13th. As an original attraction that opened with the Studios in 1989, its closure marks the end of what has been an arguably half-hearted effort on Disney’s part to follow through on the initial concept of the park as a functioning studio that transported guests to “the Hollywood that never was.”
Acknowledging the 70-minute standby wait time, a cast member near the entrance on Saturday said she had never seen GMR that crowded. Thankfully, we had FastPasses. When it was our time to load I asked if we could get on the Western scene side and the curt response was, “No special requests today!” Okay then, gangsters it is! (I guess the only time I’ll see that town sheriff again is posing as Thomas Jefferson in The Hall of Presidents.)
The experience of riding GMR for the last time was fun, but also a strong reminder of just how much Disney could have done with the attraction, but didn’t. From the water and movement gone from the Footlight Parade scene to the horror films section with only vague references to any actual films, there’s been plenty of evidence over the years that Disney decided long ago to let this attraction go. The odd “update” in 2015--when the park replaced some of the script delivered by cast members with pre-recorded commentary from Robert Osborne and several plugs for Turner Classic Movies—seemed to confirm the company’s loss of interest in the ride. There was nothing wrong with Osborne’s commentary, but before the change the attraction enabled guests to enjoy watching cast members put their own spin on the script (similar to the experience that draws so many to the Jungle Cruise in Magic Kingdom). While the cast member tour guides still played a role after the change, it was greatly reduced and they simply sat and listened for much of the ride.
In the end, I’m just glad that—at least for now—it appears Disney won’t tear down the replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre that housed GMR as the park makes way for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. If the Imagineers can just find spots for GMR’s Clint Eastwood and John Wayne animatronics in Toy Story Land or Star Wars Land, that would make this change much easier to take. Personally, I think a cigarette-smoking Clint Eastwood talking with Woody about just what the heck happened to that missing six-shooter would make for a great tribute.
What are your thoughts on GMR closing forever? Whether you’re mad, glad, or found yourself asking, “Great Movie What?” share your reactions in the Comment section below.