If there's one attraction that screams "Hollywood" and could probably be considered the flagship attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios, it's The Great Movie Ride.
Located inside the full-scale reproduction of the famed Grauman's Chinese Theater, this 20-minute long journey takes guests into some of the best movies ever produced.
Before heading into the queue for the attraction, take some time to hang out in the courtyard of the Chinese Theater and look at the handprints and footprints embedded in the cement. You'll find some of Hollywood's biggest stars including Harrison Ford, Robin Williams, and Dustin Hoffman in addition to some Disney greats including Goofy, Donald Duck, and Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. Some out-of-this world stars also left their mark - be sure to look for C3P0 and R2D2's prints.
Once you enter the Chinese Theater you have a chance to check out some pretty impressive props and costumes including a costume from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and a costume from Shakespeare in Love.
The queue for the attraction is located in what looks like an old movie theater, and as you wind through the line, keep your eyes on the movie screen where you'll have a chance to watch condensed movie trailers from some of the films represented in the ride.
Once you've boarded your ride vehicle you'll be joined by a cast member who is your host for the journey through Hollywood. There's a very good chance that "Hooray for Hollywood" will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day, as it's the song that plays as you leave the soundstage and enter the world of movies and fantasy.
There are 12 movie scenes that guests travel through on the Hollywood journey. Many people will remember that Disney's Hollywood Studios was originally named Disney MGM Studios - and many of the films in the attraction are MGM or MGM/UA (United Artists) films. Other studios represented include Lucasfilms (which is now owned by Disney), Warner Bros., Walt Disney Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. Notably there are no film scenes based on Universal Pictures movies.
The first movie scene is from Busby Berkley's Footlight Parade and from there guests travel past scenes from Singing in the Rain and Mary Poppins, and then you enter the seedy underworld from Public Enemy. If you're a Hidden Mickey fan look for Mickeys' shoes under a James Cagney poster.
One of the unique things about The Great Movie Ride is the amount of interaction between cast members and guests. Once the ride vehicles enter Gangster Alley or the Wild West scene (depending on which version of the ride you're part of), a gangster or a cowboy/cowgirl will take over the ride vehicle as the cast member disappears off stage.
If this takeover happens in Gangster Alley, there's quite a bit of fake gun fighting that happens and the little kids might get frightened. It helps to reassure them that it's all just part of the movie and no one is really getting hurt.
After the ride vehicle is taken over by the criminal element, it journeys past Gangster Alley and the Wild West scenes (which feature Clint Eastwood and John Wayne) and moves into the spaceship Nostromo from the movie Alien. This is another scene that tends to frighten kids (and some adults). The alien is hidden above riders and on the side but seems to be tamer than I remember in earlier versions of the ride. Still it is scary and the ride vehicle quickly exits the space area.
The next scene is straight out of Raiders of the Lost Ark and there are a lot of snakes, so if you have a fear of slithery things you might want to avert your eyes. The next scene plays on the Raiders of the Lost Ark feeling, but isn't from any specific movie. The criminal driver exits the vehicle to steal a priceless - and cursed - gemstone and it reduced to a pile of bones in the process. And just like that the fearless cast member returns as the vehicle driver.
Moving right along, the ride vehicle enters the realm of horror films complete with more snakes and mummies. Riders are quickly transported from horror films into the jungle for a scene out of Tarzan. As the ride nears the end the ride vehicles travel past audio-animatronics of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman playing out a scene from Casablanca ("We'll always have Paris."). There's a story that the back half of the plane from this scene can be found on the shores of the Jungle Cruise.
Next up is a projection of Sorcerer Mickey from Fantasia, and then guests find themselves in Oz. The munchkins appear, singing "Ding dong the witch is dead" and the attention to detail in this area is some of the most stunning on the whole attraction. You really feel as if you are IN Oz, especially when the Wicked Witch of the East appears in a plume of smoke, threatening to get "you and your little dog too!" The ride vehicles are quickly on their way, but not before you see Dorothy and friends as they start their journey on the Yellow Brick Road.
The ride ends in a darkened theater where guests are shown a montage that features many of the greatest movies of all time starting with some classic silent films and traveling through the genres of musical, comedy, horror, drama, and more. If there's one section of the attraction that needs some updates, it's this film montage. While there are some current films including - such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Finding Nemo, and Armageddon - the montage does feel dated at times.
As the montage ends, the ride vehicles exit the theater and are once again on the Hollywood sound stage where the ride originated. After a round of applause for the cast member, guests exit the vehicles. And that's a wrap!
Thanks so much to Traci C. for another great post on things not to miss at Walt Disney World. Also to Sam Howzit and Loren Javier for their ride photography via Creative Commons. What is your favorite scene from The Great Movie Ride? Leave us a comment!