EDITORIAL: Why The Great Movie Ride’s Closing Ended Hollywood Studios

PHOTO REPORT: Disney's Hollywood Studios 5/3/17 (New York Street Lives, Pirates Preview, Star Wars & Toy Story Land, Etc.)
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Way back when, Disney’s Hollywood Studios was called Disney-MGM Studios. The year was 1989, but stepping into the park meant being transported back to the 1930’s. Hollywood was bustling with glitz and glam. Disney had recreated Hollywood Boulevard, and later added Sunset Boulevard, complete with trolleys and actors honing their craft. Grauman’s Chinese Theater was magically recreated. Stars made their mark in front of the theater, leaving their handprint and signature.

PHOTO REPORT: Disney's Hollywood Studios 5/3/17 (New York Street Lives, Pirates Preview, Star Wars & Toy Story Land, Etc.)

The Streets of America honored other magical and artistic cities, like San Francisco and New York. Animation Courtyard honored the animated film history of Disney. But all in all, Disney-MGM Studios was about the movies.

Opening Day

When it first opened, MGM had five attractions. Superstar Television recreated the production of some of televisions greatest shows, using the audience as the actors. The Monster Sound Show was a live show demonstrating the importance of sound in movies. The Magic of Disney Animation was a nine minute show on animation and included a short animated film. The Backstage Studio Tour was a two hour guided tour through the studios. And The Great Movie Ride was, of course, a “magical journey through the movies.”

PHOTO REPORT: Disney's Hollywood Studios 5/3/17 (New York Street Lives, Pirates Preview, Star Wars & Toy Story Land, Etc.)

Transitions and A New Name

Between 1989 and 2017, a lot in MGM changed. For instance, the name itself changed and became Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Disney added Pixar Place. A Sorcerer’s Hat was added (and then subtracted). Star Wars took over for a while. Frozen took over for a while. And then Star Wars took over again. We got a hotel that travels to another dimension and a super stretch limo courtesy of Aerosmith. Disney Junior characters dropped in and so did the Muppets. The Streets of America disappeared. And along the way, the old Hollywood glamour went the way of the dodo.

As of 2017, all of Disney-MGM’s opening attractions are gone, except one. The Great Movie Ride was the last one standing. The journey through the movies admittedly featured very outdated Audio-Animatronics, but it also featured a concept that was groundbreaking. Thanks to this ride, you could literally enter the movies. Who hasn’t watched The Wizard of Oz and imagined that they get to fight the Wicked Witch? Who hasn’t imagined flying with Mary Poppins or swinging through the jungle with Tarzan? Plus those tour guides were incredible. They put on the greatest show in Disney World.

PHOTOS: Signage Posted for Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway, Replacing the Great Movie Ride

And then it was gone. The Chinese Theater still remains, but inside will be Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad, a dark ride based on Mickey’s shorts on Disney Channel. Which doesn’t match the feeling of the Chinese Theater in the slightest.

As of 2019, the areas of the park will be Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, Sunset Boulevard, Mickey Avenue, Animation Courtyard, Pixar Place, Grand Avenue, Echo Lake, and Hollywood Boulevard. I challenge you to find the theme. Because the theme no longer is Hollywood.

Hooray for Hollywood?

Disney seems to be playing a game of will they, won’t they when it comes to changing the name of the park. It’s high time they should considering the current name is a symbol of what once was. The glitz and glamour has faded away. And we’re left with…what? A park that is basically at least three different parks cut and pasted together. Pixar, Star Wars, and what remains of Hollywood.

What used to be my favorite park is now Disney’s biggest disappointment. Toy Story Land’s budget was cut and we were left with something that was…well…unsatisfying. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge remains to be seen, but, frankly, knowing that the timeline is going to be in the world of the First Order instead of the Empire, I’m not super excited.

PHOTOS: "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge" Model Now on Display at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Magic Kingdom has always been about fantasy and adventure. Classic Disney. Epcot has always been about the world of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Animal Kingdom is pretty self explanatory. Hollywood Studios used to be self explanatory too and now I would need way more time to analyze what it even is. But it’s not MGM anymore and it’s not Hollywood Studios anymore. So this is my formal goodbye to my favorite park. Farewell, Hollywood Studios. It’s been nice knowing you.

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JacquelineG

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Brian Yesutis
Guest
Brian Yesutis

I completely agree with you. This still remains my favorite park. I cannot really explain why. The Great Movie Ride was the first attraction to get removed that really affected me. We just went a couple weeks ago and it was hard to accept that it was gone. It was such a unique experience and I each trip it was a goal of mine to get both scenarios. With it gone, the name needs to be changed. I don’t know what it should be called but Hollywood and Studios both no longer make sense.

Allyson
Guest
Allyson

How is Toy Story Land unsatisfying? It hasn’t even opened to the public yet. As far as I can see people are incredibly excited about it and not disappointed in any way. The name of the park is more of a debate. But as hollywood produces movies and this park is now themed to different movies it can still work. But who knows!

Danny
Guest
Danny

Agreed on Toy Story Land! I have a 2 year old and 4 year old who cannot ride Tower of Terror, Rock’n’Roller Coaster, or Star Tours (the 4 yo can ride two of the three but is also scared to ride them). They are so excited and go nuts every time they see the ads with Slinky Dog heading towards WDW. It’s surely not the park I grew up with (my first visit was in November 1989), but neither is Epcot! And at $100/person/day, I don’t want to take my kids somewhere for them to wait for Mommy and Daddy… Read more »

Tom Corless
Admin
Tom Corless

Both rides have heigh requirements that your 2 year old may not meet.

Danny
Guest
Danny

Tom – we’re not going until December, but she’s already tall enough for Alien Swirling Saucers. She’ll be close for Slinky Dog, but if she can at least ride one, she’ll be happy.

Disappointed
Guest
Disappointed

Because they gutted the original announced plan. Two rides, down from …. what was it originally, four? Etc, etc…

Suzy
Guest
Suzy

Things will change, they always do. There are two rides now but it remains to be seen what happens after they open, Toy Story IV opens, and they rename the park (which I’m sure they will do one of these days). Someone, possibly on a different WDW blog, mentioned a retro WDW park or area where the old rides go and I think this would be a terrific idea.

JC
Guest
JC

That would be so cool.on a different subject Mickey and Minnie railroad won’t work.

Jeff Bailey
Guest
Jeff Bailey

I agree that Toy Story Land is “unsatisfying” even though I have not been there yet. Sadly, it looks like something from a Six Flags instead of Disney. It is cute, but not up to the higher creative standards one would expect from Disney.

Frank
Guest
Frank

Terrific editorial.
I actually feel privileged to have gone to the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park.
It was total fun.
Frank

anna
Guest
anna

Absolutely agree…. The first time I walked into Disney MGM Studios it was like walking into the magic of yesterday – with the glitz & glamour of H’wood front & center. Now it’s just like mobs trying to get down the ‘street-like’ entrance to the ‘important’ things – & they aren’t important because the feel is gone. I do hope they change the name of the park because the name no longer fits it. They’ve messed far too much with what was once my second favorite place (magic kingdom being the first). I’m expecting them to start messing with MK… Read more »

Will
Guest
Will

They should rename it IP-Land. Then rename Epcot IP-World.

Curt
Guest
Curt

If you’re going that route, you missed a huge opportunity with IP-COT.

Will
Guest
Will

Excellent! I am abashed.

Zac
Guest
Zac

While I LOVE Pixar and have always been a huge Star Wars fan and I can’t wait experience these new attractions, I’m so disappointed in the direction (or lack thereof) of Hollywood Studios. I first went to the park about 2009/10 and it quickly became my favorite because it was about the things I’ve always had an interest in, movies and how they are made. Why not use Star Wars, Pixar, etc. to keep that theme alive? Disney would never sacfrice the core values and themes of their other parks so I don’t understand why HS isn’t treated the same… Read more »

Progressive Music Lover
Guest
Progressive Music Lover

The closing of The Great Movie Ride was both outrageous and unnecessary!! Obviously another penny pinching move by Trump acolyte Iger, that has done nothing but lower the morale of the innocent families and guests that travel from all over the globe just to experience The Great Movie Ride. Disney should be ashamed!

Mary
Guest
Mary

What the heck is the matter with you why do you people always think it’s Trump’s fault for everything that goes on get over yourselves Disney does things because Disney wants to look at they’ve done at Magic Kingdom they’re always changing things there and has nothing to do with Trump

Wendy Mealing
Guest
Wendy Mealing

Lol @blaming trump for the great movie ride.

Progressive Music Lover is a fool
Guest
Progressive Music Lover is a fool

Are you that stupid ? How does the president of the United States have any say in a theme park? Also Iger is a Democrat and a Hillary and a Obama acolyte. Iger is a tool, but chapek is to blame. Go back to reading huffignton post you utterly brainless fool.

dusty
Guest
dusty

indeed

Rob Bearry
Guest
Rob Bearry

Had to throw politics in did you, you are something else.😡🤬. Get over it! The Great Movie Ride was long out-dated, Disney is phasing out old attractions which most kids don’t enjoy and are trying to bring in younger, new families with attractions that they might possibly enjoy. I don’t care if they change the name, it is irreverent. The park is finally getting some new stuff to bring some much needed life into that place.

The Donald
Guest
The Donald

Politics aside, no it wasn’t outdated! NOTHING is outdated, period. If kids don’t enjoy it that is their fault and they need to be forced to. Screw future generations as well. Disney should be catering towards their parents and attempting to brainwash kids into becoming just like their parents, with the same tastes. It’s called propaganda, sweetheart. When I take over Disney I’ll be draining the swamp of newer attractions like Toy Story, Star Wars, and Marvel while putting back attractions like The Great Movie Ride to make the park MGM and great again.

Kirsten
Guest
Kirsten

I agree it’s just not the same park we once knew. Slowly through the years things just kept getting shut down. And yes the great movie ride was the icing on the cake, along with for me, Osbourne lights. With that said however I still enjoy the architecture and themeing on the Hollywood and Sunset Blvds. I felt so great the other day walking around in the shops and listening to the music and feeling transported, then to top it off at the Brown Derby lounge. So I did feel like I was in 1940’s Hollywood. I think the name… Read more »

RebeccaMcK
Guest
RebeccaMcK

It is time for a name change, to reflect what is really in the park now. My suggestion would be a simple Disney Movie Park, or Disney Movie Land. The park has no studios (just the fake stunt show camera stuff still in the Indiana Jones show), and the word “Movie” tells people there are things in there from the movies (Star Wars, Frozen, Toy Story, anything Pixar, Walt’s One Man’s Dream area, even Tower of Terror with it being Twilight Zone themed). They could eventually re-theme Rock’n’Roller Coaster to have some kind of movie theme (or have various rock-tempo… Read more »

Randyland
Guest
Randyland

The issue comes down to Disney trying to keep interest in the parks with new things… the problem is that Disney is not willing to build new things and leave the old things alone. It is a HUGE mistake because the old attractions have great meaning to those who go to Disney as a matter of tradition. They are destroying these traditions simple because they do not want to pay the costs to keep them running which includes hourly Cast Members simply running the Attraction. And they want to keep the lines long in general, so to add new attractions… Read more »

Kirsten
Guest
Kirsten

Bravo! Well said!

Michael Avant
Guest
Michael Avant

There are two big reasons why they chose to replace attractions instead of just adding them. One is the cost issue. Brand new attractions, not ones that replace old ones, would require additional things like utilities and cast members that would add to the everyday cost of running the park. And the second reason/issue is about the space needed to expand to install new attractions. Disney, in my opinion, stupidly painted/built themselves into a corner with Epcot and Hollywood Studios. DHS is surrounded on three sides by three different roads and highways, which can’t be moved, so no expansion in… Read more »

SJames
Guest
SJames

My two cents, they missed an opportunity for building a “5th gate” buy putting Galaxy’s edge at HS. I 100% agree they needed to refurbish HS, but Star Wars is so epic, it could have handled an entire park on it’s own. I like it when DLR and WDW differ slightly in attractions anyway, so having an “outer space” park would have still worked, with its own connecting themed hotel. And you could have brought in guardians and even Pandora for a real trip to other galaxies, almost a nod to lost in space. They could have even incorporated stitch… Read more »

Randyland
Guest
Randyland

there is space to add if they want too…. costs are the factor for sure, but when you want to make money you need to spend. they could also build another park when hey run out of room. Soon they will attack the Magic Kingdom and destroy Frontierland and then Adventureland. Once the damage is done, it can not be reversed. Incredibly short sighted decisions, made for short term goals, as if the decesion makers know that they will not be around to feel the effects of the long term damages.

Jon David
Guest
Jon David

As a former movie rider myself, it really crushed me inside when they announced it a year ago. GMR was a wonderful place to work and I miss it every day, but the fact that it’s closed means I cant even visit it anymore.

I’m not surprised that Disney closed it. They get rid of things, that’s what they do. That’s what they do best.

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

Bravo from a fellow movie rider! #onceamovierideralwaysamovierider

Mike H
Guest
Mike H

It will always be Disney’s MGM Studios to me… and those first 10 years or so offered a MUCH better park experience than the last 10-15 years. Sad.

Jim
Guest
Jim

While I absolutely agree with the sentiment and spirit of the article, I look at the other side too and that is the theme park industry is a business and a lot of what was shutdown just wasn’t a “draw” anymore. Great Movie Ride was phenomenal for me, however there are a large majority of my family (and the HS paying attendance) who didn’t share the same sentiment & feelings I did towards the GMR. Many felt (as the author stated) it had outdated audio-animatronics and new guests didn’t see the appeal compared to other attractions. Unfortunately nostalgia only works… Read more »

Robin
Guest
Robin

Gotta say, GMR offered no nastalgia to me. My first ride on that was in 2015, (age 43), and it was a favorite. (I’m a Disney newbie). I’d read there was some sort of contract/license that expired that affected that ride; (it was associated with TCM). Don’t know how all those pieces work together but, regardless, I was bummed. As for it’s ability to draw a praying crowd, unless it had some consistent rediculously low wait time, I’m sure it was pulling it’s weight. It would be nice if Disney would consider audience input before destroying these things. I can… Read more »

A Nelson
Guest
A Nelson

the fact that you complain about Disney, the greatest place on Earth, and even more so find time to write about it is amazing?
Our family has been to Disney 14 times in the last 20 yrs. We still love it and plan to continue going. Every time we go we find something new we have not seen before. The changes and updates are great.

I think the billion dollar corporation that is Disney knows a little more about theme parts than you do. But hey, make sure do a write up on your theme park when it opens…

Mike F
Guest
Mike F

Everyone so far makes great points. For me, I wanted a few of the great attractions to remain to take my children on, and I was able to. On a side note, our daughter always wanted to be a cast member and work on the Great Movie Ride (as a driver). She did become a cast member (and still is), but that part of her dream was sadly dashed. Ultimately I was hoping to some day take my grand children on these classic rides to share the magic not only I enjoyed but also their parents enjoyed. So this makes… Read more »

Doug
Guest
Doug

The Great Movie Ride was the heart and soul of Disney Hollywood. And then they killed it. Surely the Imagineers could have freshened it up with new innovations. Maybe Disney decided they didn’t want to celebrate other studios’ movies. I feel sorry for the people who will never get to experience the Great Movie Ride. There was nothing else like it. And now it’s gone.

Robert
Guest
Robert

I completely agree. Hollywood Studios and Epcot are always my go-to parks whenever I go up there, but ever since GMR left it just feels so hollow and empty. I guess since GMR was the centerpiece, it’s one of the first things you see if you look straight into the park and knowing that now it’s an empty building (Well, not anymore, I guess since I’m sure construction on the Mickey ride has begun) is just so disheartening. When I went last, a few weeks after the closure and they had little makeshift barricades in front of the entrance, it… Read more »

Lyle Scott
Guest
Lyle Scott

My wife and I made our first visit to Disney MGM Studios on our honeymoon in May 1989. I was selected to be the newscaster in Superstar Television. Despite the fact that the park was small and had limited attractions, it became our special place and our favorite park. We have visited over 100 times in the past 29 years and have witnessed all the changes, both good and bad. While I will never understand why the park went away from its Hollywood roots, I do wish they’d pick a theme and stick with it. Whatever that may be. Things… Read more »

Colleen
Guest
Colleen

Totally agree. We were there in 1997 on our honeymoon. I loved the backlot tour and seeing all the Hollywood memorabilia. My favorite was an original script from Gone With The Wind. And as much as I love The Beauty and the Beast stage show, there is nothing left of old Hollywood at all!

Miguel
Guest
Miguel

Now I understand many people find it difficult to adjust to changes and transition but let’s not be negative. I respect the opinions shared but I don’t support or agree. To be honest I never really enjoyed HS/MGM and often skipped it during park hopping until recently because I felt it never kept up in comparison to the other 3 parks. I just visited yesterday and frankly I like where Disney is taking the park… It brings diversity in many aspects. Cinema has evolved so much! Walt himself made adaptations to his Snow White film from when he first saw… Read more »