The view down Hollywood Boulevard has almost completely been restored to its original form. For the first time in nearly 15 years, the Chinese Theatre is once again the highlight of the view from the entrance of the park. This blog is not to get into whether the Hollywood Studios is better with or without the hat in front of the Chinese Theatre, but there is something I believe everyone can agree on: the Chinese Theatre is absolutely beautiful, and it is very deserving of being one of the first things you see as you enter the park.
Inside the Chinese Theatre is the last remaining opening day attraction left at the Studios, The Great Movie Ride. The attraction takes you on an 18-minute journey into some of Hollywood’s most famous films, and you the guests are thrown right in the middle of the action from scenes of the movies. On the journey through the movies, you will meet famous actors and actresses portraying some of their most famous roles and even meet some new characters that may try and steal the show.
The theatre that the attraction is located within is a replica of the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California. The landmark sitting front and center creates a great visual experience as you journey down Hollywood Boulevard. On the outside of the theatre, bright neon signs with the name of the attraction beckon in the guests as they move closer to the theatre. The theatre has so many interesting details and artifacts around and on it that it really is an attraction itself. The most obvious thing going on around the theatre are the hand and footprints left by famous actors and Disney characters. Some of these famous people or characters include George Lucas, Dick Clark, Tom Cruise, Danny DeVito, Harrison Ford, Mickey Mouse, R2D2 and much, much more.
There are countless of other details that must be investigated while looking at the outside of the theatre. Besides the beautiful replica details on the theatre itself, there are a few that are my favorite. When looking at the theatre from the front, there are two beautiful banners hanging on the sides. If you look closely, they show characters from the films that are about to be previewed inside the attraction. Another of my favorites pays respect to a couple of Disney’s most famous movies that first premiered at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. There are two glass windows on the front of the building that show pictures and poster art from the opening of The Jungle Book and Mary Poppins.
Once you have been able to pull yourself away from the amazing detail of the outside of the theatre, you head into the queue where the fun continues. Inside the art-deco-inspired grand lobby where the queue is located, guests are given the opportunity to view props, set pieces and costumes from classic films. A few of these include the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, a carousel horse from Mary Poppins, a costume from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and an Elizabethan dress from Shakespeare in Love. Also in the queue is a very large movie screen playing the trailers for the films you are about to see on the attraction, so if you are unfamiliar with some of the films, pay close attention to the trailers, and it will help you get a better idea of the movie prior to boarding. The queue ends at a pair of automatic doors in the preview theatre that lead guests into the 1930’s era of Hollywood and the soundstage where guests are boarded onto the ride vehicles.
The 1930’s era in the soundstage is very apparent, as the most obvious clue is the HOLLYWOODLAND sign resting in the Hollywood Hills. The LAND portion of the sign was removed in 1949. In this attraction, guests board a very large ride vehicle that is operated by a cast member who also is your tour guide through the movies. A good tour guide in this attraction can really make or break the experience you have because they have a very interactive role throughout the attraction.
The real show of the attraction are the films represented including Footlight Parade, Singin’ in the Rain, Mary Poppins, The Public Enemy, A Fistful of Dollars, The Searchers, Alien, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Tarzan the Ape Man, Casablanca, Fantasia and the Wizard of Oz. Each section takes you into a scene being famously portrayed, and in some cases, the scenes are being re-made right in front of your eyes. During the journey, the tour guide gives a brief description of each movie with some interesting details added in. Each scene is beautifully mastered with extreme detail. My favorite two scenes are Mary Poppins and Alien due to my love of the two movies, and I think they are so perfectly done. They make you feel as though you have entered the movie. At the end of your journey through the movie scenes, the ride vehicle pulls up to a large movie screen, and as a grand finale, a film montage plays of some of the most famous films, actors and actresses.
Recently, Turner Classic Movies has become a new sponsor of The Great Movie Ride, and there are multiple changes that have already started to occur. Outside the exit, there is currently construction taking place that will allow guests a new photo opportunity. Along with this change, a new final film montage will be created, new digital displays of movies and new ride audio for the attraction. With these changes comes a very exciting time, but it also leaves the question whether Disney and TCM will replace and create new film scenes throughout the attraction. Whether this happens or not, The Great Movie Ride is one of the classics at Walt Disney World and is always a must do.
- When building the theatre, Imagineers used blueprints from the Chinese Theatre in California to make their own exact replica. After the theatre in Florida was built, owners of the theatre in California decided that renovations were necessary for their theatre, so they asked Imagineers for the blueprints they had created while building the replica because they were more up to date with building codes. Those blueprints were then used for the California renovation.
- In the Casablanca scene, only the front half of the airplane can be seen as the other half is currently in use at the Jungle Cruise at the Magic Kingdom Park.
(Exterior photo ©Disney. All others from the personal collection of Kendall Foreman.)
Alex Larson is recent graduate of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a huge fan of everything Disney. Born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, he has loved Disney since he was born. Making annual trips to Walt Disney World since the age of three, the parks have become a very special place to him. His love for the parks is due to the memories he has had, attractions, the endless things to explore, the food and the sense of happiness every Disney fan feels while there.