One of the reasons that I especially love going to Disney World in Florida is that it brings back so many memories of my childhood. When we were kids, we used to go to our grandparents’ house in Florida at least once a year, and several of those trips culminated in visits to the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and (later on) Hollywood Studios. The remaining rides from back then that exist today are a bridge back to my childhood, and I was excited to share all of them with my own kids when we made trips to the parks in 2014 and 2015.
The day I took my family to Hollywood Studios was a hot one, and everyone faded fast by the time it was lunch. But while I let everyone pick what they wanted to do while they were there, I had one demand of my own: That we go on the Great Movie Ride.
We did so, and my kids got to experience one of my favorite dark rides from my childhood. Little did I know, but that trip would be the last time any of us would have that opportunity, as Disney scrapped the ride in 2017 in order to make Mickey’s Runaway Railroad.
I’m still a little bitter about this, because I felt that there was something incredibly special about the Great Movie Ride — especially as a headlining attraction for that park. (And besides, Hollywood Studios has always been starved for rides, so why not just add the Runaway Railroad somewhere else and increase the total number of rides?)
I think for me, this ride was a love letter that spoke to my own passion for great movies. The whole queue felt like going through the ultimate movie theater, complete with real props from various films. When you went on it, you got on board these giant movie theater seat vehicles that then took you through different scenes from specific films and settings. When you were on the ride, you weren’t just watching a movie — you were inside of it. It was all around you.
And that sense of immersion was increased by a Disney Cast member taking the role as an actor who “drove” the vehicle and would interact with guests. There were two points on the ride (you’d get either one or the other) where the car would be hijacked by another cast member (a gangster or cowboy) and then driven to an Indiana Jones scene where the original driver would return after a clever bit of trickery. As far as I am aware, this ride and Jungle Cruise are the only two Disney rides where cast members were an important part of the ride experience itself.
This ride was so special to me as a teenager because, really, movies and pop culture were my best friends. Sad, I know, but that’s how it was. I loved going to movie theaters and getting lost in these other worlds, and so I found it deeply thrilling to suddenly come upon Ripley from Alien (which was a movie series I had just started to get to know back then). This is dorky, but I’ll confess: Every time I went by Ripley in this ride, I’d say out loud to her, “Hang in there, Ripley!”
I even did that when I returned as an adult.
I don’t like it when parts of my childhood are changed or dismantled, but such is the way of life. At least I’ll have my memories, and at least I got to share this great ride — this Great Movie Ride — with my own children so that it would become a small part of their memories as well.