The Great Movie Ride

Halt, Unbeliever! Anything Can Happen in the Movies!

By Francesca Scrimgeour, Walt Disney Archives

The Great Movie Ride attraction was a film lover’s dream, an experience that visited some of the most important and classic films of all time. As soon as the attraction vehicle passed under the neon-flashing marquee with “Hooray for Hollywood” swelling in the background, Guests knew they were in for a spectacular adventure.

Initially titled “Great Moments at the Movies,” The Great Movie Ride was originally planned for EPCOT as part of a Hollywood studio-themed “Show Business” pavilion between the Imagination and The Land pavilions in Future World. The attraction and pavilion quickly morphed into a much larger concept than the Imagineers had first considered. Executives at the time recognized that the entertainment concept could be formed into an entire theme park experience, which eventually became the foundation for The Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park, or, as we know it today, Disney’s Hollywood Studios Theme Park. That only goes to show that though it may go through a few iterations, a good idea never truly goes away!

Imagineers often have to think outside the box and collaborate across disciplines to create the most unique experiences conceivable. For this attraction, they were tasked with the challenge of immersing Guests within the world of several classic movies, all deeply rooted in popular culture, while also striving for the high-quality experience that had come to be expected by those familiar with their capabilities and past accomplishments. Imagineering delivered with The Great Movie Ride and brought forth an array of dramatic, terrifying, and whimsical scenes for Guests to experience.

In order to transform their imaginations into reality, Imagineers created models of the attraction experience to help others understand the big picture. Models are a vital part of the creative process as they give designers a three-dimensional storyboard to work from. This photograph shows a model of the loading area for the attraction. Designed to look like a Hollywood soundstage, the attraction vehicle sets out on its adventure by entering beneath a movie theater’s brightly lit neon marquee.

The Great Movie Ride
Load Area model for The Great Movie Ride.

Imagineers are professionals at the top of their fields—from painters to engineers and every discipline in between—and they push themselves to create extraordinary experiences for our Guests. These images show Imagineers sculpting and adding last-minute touches to the Audio-Animatronics® in The Great Movie Ride. The first image shows sculptor Magda Flaire working on busts from The Wizard of Oz sequence, while the second image shows a Xenomorph from Alien being sculpted. Both examples offer a glimpse into the details that were carefully applied to craft the attraction.

The Great Movie Ride
Sculptured busts from The Wizard of Oz (1939) sequence.
The Great Movie Ride
Sculpture from the Alien (1979) sequence.

As an opening day attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and as a cornerstone to the theme park’s concept, The Great Movie Ride necessitated representation from Hollywood’s most iconic pictures. The classic films that the Imagineers settled on included Footlight Parade (1933), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Mary Poppins (1964), The Public Enemy (1931), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), The Searchers (1956), Alien (1979), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Tarzan and His Mate (1932), Casablanca (1942), Fantasia (1940), and The Wizard of Oz (1939). The attraction ended with a grand finale montage featuring some of the greatest stars and films ever made, and was periodically updated over time. As the world of the movies grew, so too did the attraction.

With the glitz and glamour of Hollywood encompassed in one attraction, it is no wonder The Great Movie Ride was a fan favorite. The last image we’ve shared here is from early previews of the spine-chilling Alien scene, and highlights just how much testing is done before an attraction is revealed to Guests.

The Great Movie Ride
The Great Movie Ride previews…to shocking delight!

The Great Movie Ride was as unforgettable as the films that inspired it, and we hope this article has provided you with a fond glimpse back at the care and detail that went into creating this experience. As the attraction’s Tour Guides used to say: “We’ll see you at the movies, the stuff dreams are made of.”