Hooray for Hollywood! Now that I have ridden the Great Movie Ride many times due to the nature of my employment, I feel like I can really analyze the part that this attraction plays in making a thesis statement for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. When Disney’s MGM Studios first opened in 1989, the Great Movie Ride was one of the two rides (the other being the Backlot Tour) that existed in the park. That’s right; there were only two rides in the entire park at that time because the goal was that Orlando was going to be an extension of Hollywood. Disney had big plans for the Florida Studios park to be a working studio where guests could actually see movies as well as television shows being made. Sadly, this plan didn’t exactly work out, so the Studios became more of a traditional theme park.
The Great Movie Ride, however, still serves a reminder of what Disney’s Hollywood Studios was going to be, a park that educated guests about movies and the movie making process. This ride shows guests a little bit of movie magic while allowing the guests to become a part of the movies. We get to see a snapshot of some classic movies as well as enter the beautiful Chinese Theater.
The Great Movie Ride sets the scene by welcoming guests into the theater and showing them some previews for the upcoming movies that they are about to experience. Then, to further the idea that you are on a set, you are welcomed into a Hollywood Soundstage. The idea is that we are all a part of this movie. Your tour guide is taking you through various scenes, but all of us get to be a part of the movie making process. If you notice, the characters that are portrayed in the ride are referred to by their real names, not their character names. The whole point is that you are getting to learn about how movies are made, so these characters are actors, real people who are playing roles. This goes with the idea that everything is a set; on some parts of the attraction, you can actually see the back of some of the sets on purpose because, again, you are looking behind the curtain. When you encounter the gangster or the bandit, they are part of the movie; we have just stumbled into one of the scenes of that movie. This is why the tour guide informs the gangster that he or she (the tour guide) has seen this movie before. It’s almost as if the tour guide is giving the guests a “wink, wink” everything will be okay cue; this is just pretend. This whole notion that you are part of the show continues as your tour guide makes a grand reappearance in the Anubis scene. Guests are told that this is just a movie; “anything can happen in the movies!” Again, this is another reassurance and a reminder that this is all pretend, just more movie magic.
The entire ride has a very clear introduction into movies with the welcome spiel on the Soundstage to the rising action throughout Musical Street as well as the Gangster and Western scenes. Finally, the climax occurs when the tour guide is revealed again in Anubis. There is a sense that everything will be okay once the ride continues on through Tarzan and moves on to the Wizard of Oz. The Wicked Witch does cause some concern, but the ride ends on positive note with a journey to Oz as well as a movie clip montage that is supposed to get viewers excited about “all that Hollywood has to offer.” Then, the ride concludes where you began, right back on the Soundstage. You are then free to explore the park and go and learn about other movie making techniques. You can still learn a little about movie making, but there is some disconnect these days throughout the Studios because the entire park is not really devoted to the ways in which movies are made. There are definitely some fantastic attractions and shows present, but The Great Movie Ride really prepares you for the DHS of 1989, not necessarily the DHS of 2014. Regardless, this attraction is the centerpiece of Hollywood Studios and represents what the thesis statement of this park should be, which includes learning about movie making and also journeying to the Hollywood that never was, but always will be. Until next time, have a magical day, and keep moving forward!