In recent episodes of Beyond the Berm, we have discussed what the future might hold for Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. We have talked about rumors of Cars Land and a Star Wars area, we mentioned the closing of the Backlot Tour and the great amount of land that the closure made available, and we recently talked about the confirmation that the Sorcerer Hat would be coming down in 2015.
Last week, we got another piece of the puzzle, as it was announced that Turner Classic Movies will sponsor the Great Movie Ride, one of the signature attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and that the attraction would even receive some minor upgrades. Those upgrades mainly include a new pre-show movie hosted by TCM personality Robert Osborne to replace the trailers that had been showing for over 25 years, and also a new film montage at the end of the ride featuring lots of new movie clips that hadn’t been included before. Wouldn’t it be nice if they also wrote a new script for the “drivers” in the attraction? Yes, it would. Maybe they will.
Personally, I am excited about this. And I think one of the things that I am most excited about is that they aren’t talking about major changes to the ride, but instead they will largely leave it as it is, which is nice because it is still a good ride. I am glad they aren’t pulling out some of the classic movies from MGM and other studios to replace them with more contemporary Disney movies. I like that films from other studios are represented, so that it isn’t just the Great Disney Movie Ride.
Before the Disney-MGM Studios opened, the attraction that interested me the most from all of the pre-opening publicity was the Great Movie Ride, mainly because it sounded like it would include lots of Audio-Animatronics, a ride, and perhaps some surprises along the way. In short, everything that makes for a good Disney attraction. And when I finally got to ride it just a couple of months after the park opened, I was not disappointed. The Wicked Witch animatronic from The Wizard of Oz was spectacular, as were several of the other figures, although some featured relatively limited animation. The sets and sound effects transported you into the movies that they were meant to represent, instead of just making you feel like you were looking in on something from the outside. And the next generation of the ride system originally used in Epcot’s Universe of Energy was cool, too. Add in to that the fact that there were two different versions of the ride, depending on if you ended up in the western scene or the bank robbery scene, and that made it even better. And real fire, too!
I know the Great Movie Ride may not supply the same thrills found in high speed or high altitude attractions such as the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror that were added later elsewhere in the park, but I still thought it was a vital part of the attraction mix. Except for some of the corny script versions that have been used, I have thought it has held up well over time.
Perhaps now with some sprucing up and more visibility, the attraction will once again be one of the centerpieces of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Now we know why the Sorcerer Hat is coming down – so that the Chinese Theater will be visible again. And some of the news outlets have confirmed that the Chinese Theater facade is in fact staying, since we and others have speculated that it might be changed out for something else. That is all good news.
And even better news is that as part of this partnership between TCM and Disney, classic Disney programming will be shown on TCM as well, in a presentation called Treasures from the Disney Vault. Already mentioned are classic movies such as Darby O’Gill and the Little People, Pollyanna, The Three Caballeros, Davy Crockett, and more, including shorts and episodes from the old Disney television show. For those of us who used to enjoy this type of programming when it was on the Disney Channel and lament on what the Disney Channel has now become, this is quite welcome news. Look for the first Treasures from the Disney Vault on December 21, 2014.
To read more about this news, check out the stories from Disney23, the Orlando Sentinel, and the New York Times, which first reported the deal.