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Disney World Rumor: It’s Curtains for the Great Movie Ride

greatmovieridesign

There are big changes coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando Florida.  Disney has already announced that they are building new lands themed to Star Wars and Toy Story.  These projects are ongoing and no completion date has been announced.  In its current form, the park is operating at a diminished capacity and it has a reputation as a “half day park” to begin with.  To accommodate the construction (but more importantly, to keep operating costs as low as possible) Disney has had several closures in recent years.  Insiders are reporting that as early as next year, The Great Movie Ride will be joining them.

Before I get into the rumor, I wanted to talk about the historical significance of the attraction.  Originally, The Great Movie Ride was being developed as a pavilion for Epcot.  According to Disney, they soon realized that it could be the centerpiece for a movie-themed park instead.  This dawned on the company around the same time as Universal announced they would be building their own movie-themed park down the road.  I’m sure the two events are unrelated.

The park currently known as Disney Hollywood Studios opened in 1989.  At the time, it was called Disney-MGM Studios and there were only two attractions.  The Great Movie Ride was the centerpiece to the park.  The other attraction was the original incarnation of the Backlot Tour which took most of the day to experience.  Slowly, Disney shed the “working studio” concept for the park and the tour shrank down to a shell of its former self.  In 2014, Disney finally pulled the plug on what was left of the tour.

Recently, rumors have been swirling around the reinvention of the park.  In a few years, it will be a vastly different experience and may even have another new name.  Earlier this year, there was talk that the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror would be rethemed to include the Guardians of the Galaxy.  This seemed absurd, but it has been confirmed for the California version of the ride.  The Orlando Tower is safe for the moment.  Reportedly, President of the Walt Disney World George Kalogridis balked at the idea.

Did Kalogridis object to the desecration of one of the best themed attractions in Orlando?  No.  He argued that the park was already operating at minimum capacity and couldn’t handle losing the Tower for the time it would take to install the Guardians overlay.  So he floated the alternative plan of shoehorning the Guardians into the Universe of Energy at Epcot.  For the time being, neither plan has been greenlit and both remain on the table.  We’ll have to see how that plays out.  It’s possible neither plan will actually move forward.

I bring this up because the straw that broke the camel’s back was the closure of the Great Movie Ride.  With one more ride scheduled to close, there is simply no way the park could have handled the closure of another signature attraction.  There would be nothing left to do!  So in a weird way, the Great Movie Ride’s sacrifice is earning the Tower of Terror a stay of execution if not an outright save.

The big question is, what is going to take the place of the GMR?  Details are scarce.  But insiders (Marni1971, MansionButler84 and WDW1974) have confirmed that the plan is to put in a new attraction based around Mickey Mouse himself!  (I also want to credit TheVisionarySoul for breaking the initial rumor earlier this week.)

Not concept art, but gives you the general idea behind the attraction

Not concept art, but gives you the general idea behind the attraction

 

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Posted on August 4, 2016, in Hollywood Studios, theme parks, travel, Walt Disney World and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I will be very sad to see the Great Movie Ride go, if this plan moves forward. One of the things I love most about many of the best theme park attractions is the use of audio animatronic figures, and the GMR still has some of the best around even though the technology has advanced since its 1989 opening.

    While I love the idea of an entire attraction based around Mickey, I sure wish it could be built without sacrificing something as wonderful as the GMR. I’m guessing that this move is an additional response to the park having had so little to do for families with small children. While I understand that, I also really like having attractions that appeal to more mature and knowledgable sensibilities. If the parks pivot too far in the direction of the kiddos I may be gradually alienated from them. I know that some people would argue that bringing in Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars constitutes catering to older audiences, that is really only partially true. When something appeals to 12 year olds just as much as (or maybe even more than) to adults, that’s not really a sophisticated target.

    I can easily imagine a Mickey Mouse ride that would be absolutely fantastic thematically and technologically while maintaining fun and historical depth. Unfortunately I can also imagine a very shallow and disappointing Mickey ride that would lean too heavily on screens.

    We can only keep our fingers crossed.

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    • According to several of the insiders, TMC has already been informed that their sponsorship of the GMR will not be renewed because the ride is being replaced. That puts this in the “as close to sure thing as you can get with a Disney rumor” category to me. The big question is “when” not “if”. Sounds like it will be next year at the earliest. The sponsorship runs through 2018, but some are saying Disney plans to terminate it early. It’s toast.

      I’m sad about this too for several reasons. It is one of the few remaining animatronics features outside of the Magic Kingdom. These used to be the kinds of attractions Disney was known for. I would have much preferred updating some of the animatronics and fixing some of the effects to an out-and-out replacement.

      The reason for the replacement is that the GMR is expensive to operate. Not only do you need the ride operators, you have several performers as well. And those outdated animatronics were going to need to be replaced eventually. It was a business decision. You can bet the new Mickey ride won’t have live actors. It probably won’t have a lot of animatronics either, but one can hope.

      The choice of Mickey Mouse as a new star does suggest an effort to make the park a little more family friendly. I take these on a case by case basis. IF we’re making the assumption that GMR is going to be replaced by something, an attraction based around Mickey that somehow relates to Hollywood (ideally Mickey’s history as an icon) is one of the better possibilities. They could have put in Superstar Limo 2.0 or shoehorned in whatever Disney property was popular at the moment.

      Word from the insiders was the this ride looks like good fun. I imagine the ride will be a crowd pleaser. It’s just a shame Disney decided to shut down an existing ride rather than adding to the line-up. When all is said and done, the renovation of DHS could result in the park having even less capacity than it currently does. That would suck.

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  2. GMR has always been one of my favorite WDW rides, and I think rebuilding it from the ground up using state-of-the-art tech, and with a focus on Disney intellectual Properties makes a lot of sense. When we went last year, my 11-year-old daughter just didn’t recognize ANY of the featured movies, with the exception of “Wizard of Oz”, of course. But Tarzan, Gangsters, Westerns and Bogie just aren’t a part of her world.

    With the success of the Wizarding World, I can see Disney studios transitioning to a more Teen and thrill based version of Magic Kingdom with less “Family” attractions and more fast and exciting rides.MK would remain true to Walt’s vision of a place where families play together, DS is Family with older kids, Epcot is Adult, and AK remains its own place.

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    • Unfortunately, Disney’s plan doesn’t really match what you have described. A large chunk of land that formerly housed the behind-the-scenes your will now be a kiddie-friends Toy Story Land with attractions that would feel at home at your local amusement park albeit with familiar Toy Story characters like Slinky the Dog. Most teens probably won’t want to set foot in that area once they realize what it is. As for GMR, Disney’s not rebuilding it from the ground up. They are abandoning the concept complete, gutting the building and putting in a Mickey Mouse dark ride. As Daffy pointed out, these kinds of moves suggest that Disney is courting the younger set.

      Take a look at Epcot where Frozen was shoehorned into the Norway pavilion. even the “adult park” is starting to look like Fantasyland. It’s not that hard to imagine all the parks becoming reflections of the Magic Kingdom.

      I have often heard it argued that the GMR needed to be upgraded because kids weren’t familiar with classic movies. How are they supposed to discover them if all they are ever exposed to is the latest summer blockbuster. I can tell you, my oldest loved the GMR even though she had never seen any of the movies. It was a glimpse into an entire world of cinema waiting to be discovered. I hope that the new Mickey ride is a real crowd pleaser, but I am sad that we are losing an attraction as unique as GMR in order to make that happen.

      Let me be clear about this, it didn’t have to be this way. Disney has the land and the resources to have added the new ride without closing down the park’s signature attraction.

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      • That’s too bad. I really hope we’re both wrong. (And I still stand by my comment that DS will be the “Teen” park: Toy Story Land is the exception that proves the rule. )

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        • With Rock’n’Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror, I think a lot of fans have viewed DHS as the Teen Park for a while. But I think it’s more accurate to say it is the IP (intellectual property) park. Even that distinction is being muddied as Avatar invades Animal Kingdom and Guardians of the Galaxy are threatening to take over a chunk of space (maybe more than one pavilion) in Epcot. Disney has been trying for a while to make the park more kid-friendly. They picked Hollywood and Vine as the location for their Disney Jr character meal for a reason. About 10 years ago, Disney ran a (failed) promotion to try to attract young children to Disney World for their first visit and the park they picked for the promotion was, you guessed it, DHS. It’s become the home of all things Playhouse Disney (now Disney Jr). The reason the promotion failed was that once the kids got done with the stage show and the meet and greets there was very little left for them to do (this was pre-Toy Story Mania).

          What exactly does that mean for the future of DHS? No one knows for sure. Even Disney is still shuffling their plans. If you see the place as Disney’s answer to Universal, you probably still will. It will probably always have more thrill rides than the Magic Kingdom or Epcot. But I think ten years from now, the distinctions between the four parks will be blurred. Twenty years from now if they continue down the current path, it will be hard to tell where one park ends and the other begins. They’ll all feel like MK clones.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Lebeau, what have you read about the rumored imagineer layoffs? Joe Rhode is perhaps among them. If true, this looks like money guys are tired of being told they don’t understand theme parks and jettisoning anyone who threatens their authority.

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    • I have heard about it. On the one hand layoffs at WDI are very common. After a big project, layoffs are expected. Disney has a lot of projects in the pipeline, so I would expect them to have work for Imagineers. But maybe they have reached a point where it is time to let some people go. this probably has a lot to do with Shanghai being done.

      Rhode was working on Avatar. He recently showed up in promotional footage talking about the future of DCA so if he was let go I am surprised by it. I’ll see what I can find out there. Here’s the thing. Imagineering is notoriously inefficient. There are changes that need to happen there. If that’s what this is, that could be a good thing. It probably won’t be clear until the dust settles.

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      • Lots of conflicting info out there mostly coming from Twitter. So, I’m not trusting it. Joe Rhode says he’s still with Disney. Marni seems very confident that neither Rhode nor Tom Fitzgerald were included in the layoffs. I’m betting he’s right.

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  4. The article is clearly labeled as a rumor, and he’s got a good source for it. If you’ve been looking at the other Disney World rumors articles Lebeau has posted, they have mostly turned out accurate in one way or another. If this article makes you mad, that seems like a you problem.

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    • Thanks for the vote of confidence.

      Rumors are tricky, aren’t they? There’s no way to know until after the fact whether or not they were factually accurate. And even if they don’t pan out, that doesn’t mean that the initial report was false. It’s possible plans changed. You just never know. I find the best way to get good info is to follow a source for a while and see what their track record is like. The best sources I have found in over a decade of tracking rumors are at the WDWMagic forums. These aren’t the high profile guys like Al Lutz (retired anyway) and Jim Hill (often right but jumps the gun just as often). Marnie, WDW1974 and some of the other posters there have shown they have actual connections to insiders in the company. When these guys say something is in the works, I believe them. They rarely dish until they have confirmation and they have very long track records of being right.

      The vast majority of rumors you see on Twitter or Disney blogs start with these sources. But what happens online often turns into a game of telephone with bloggers and Twitter-users adding in their own speculation. The further you get from the source, the more cloudy the info gets. So I try to stick with info confirmed by the guys who have proven track records and share the really big stuff here.

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  5. Let’s revisit this conversation next year. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • daffystardust

      Less than a year later and what do you know? This has been officially confirmed. The Great Movie Ride will be replaced by a Mickey Mouse attraction. Too bad Lebeau is such a big liar. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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