Was Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway Worth The Demise of the Great Movie Ride in Disney World?

After three years in development, the Chinese Theater at Disney’s Hollywood Studios officially has a new tenant. Yet with this new beginning came the end of an era, for Hollywood Studios is the first Disney Theme Park ever to cycle out every single opening day attraction. The MGM Studios of 1989 is gone, never to return.

Adieu, MGM. You will be missed. ©DisneyParksBlog

Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway has proven to be extremely popular, but its rise comes at the loss of a classic Disney attraction. Now that we’ve had a chance to experience it ourselves, the question remains — was the new attraction worth sacrificing The Great Movie Ride?

 🚨While we don’t go into detail about it, we do touch upon elements of the on-ride experience of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, so if you’d like to remain completely unspoiled, proceed with caution!🚨 

Relics of a Bygone Age

Disney-MGM Studios, as Hollywood Studios was formerly known, was a park of opportunity. Universal Studios, the historic rival of the Disney Parks, had announced plans to open a park in Orlando in 1990. In an effort to get ahead of the competition, then-CEO Michael Eisner ordered the development of a rival park that would bring the Disney touch to the interactive studio concept. The result was Disney-MGM Studios, which opened the year before Universal.

The famous Wizard of Oz sequence from The Great Movie Ride. ©Disney

Universal Studios Hollywood was (and still is) dedicated to taking people behind the scenes of the studio’s famous films, with the legendary Tram Tour serving as the park’s most famous attraction. Their advantage was that Universal Studios began as a working film studio — the theme park actually sprung up around it due to the popularity of the tour. Disney didn’t have quite the same advantage. While they did move part of their animation department to Orlando and even shot a few films there, celebrities were reluctant to commit to a Floridian shooting schedule when Hollywood was already established.

Catastrophe Canyon on Disney’s Backlot Tour

So as the original MGM Backlot Tour atrophied away and the Magic of Disney Animation was reduced to a simple curiosity, only one ride remained that held up the park’s original goal. The ride that, much like Horizons at Epcot, represented the thesis statement for the whole park — the Great Movie Ride.

A scene from the Great Movie Ride. ©Disney

The Great Movie Ride was an experience only Disney could have come up with, as it took the concept of a guided tour through the world of movies and made it completely literal. As the tagline famously said, this was a “Spectacular Journey Into The Movies”. The ride combined immersive sets, audio animatronics, and live actors into a wild tour through cinematic history, complete with a hijacking by a movie villain in the middle of the ride! Everything from Alien to the Wizard of Oz was referenced in the attraction, leading to a bit of mood whiplash from time to time. It’s pretty shocking going from Singin’ in the Rain to a Xenomorph leaping at you, especially at Disney World.

Great Movie Ride

Still, for all of its quirkiness, the ride was a beloved staple of the park for years. Until Toy Story Mania opened in 2008, it was the only true dark ride the park had, and it was the only attraction that maintained that vision of classic Hollywood the park once held dear. When it closed in 2017, countless fans mourned its passing.

The Year of the Mouse

The next occupant of the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood Studios, Runaway Railway, had some pretty big shoes to fill. It’s the first attraction guests will see when they enter the park, and it’s the first dark ride ever to feature Mickey and Minnie. So, is it worth the wait?

Does Runaway Railway live up to its predecessor?

Well, in short, yes! While it’s not as thrilling as Rise of the Resistance (which is fair, since it’s targeting a completely different audience), it is a technical spectacle and a fun addition to the park. The vaunted “2.5 D” technology really sells the idea that you’re inside a Mickey Mouse cartoon, with the most masterful use of projection mapping ever seen on a Disney attraction. Not only do the sets look like a hand-drawn cartoon, but they can completely transform at the drop of a hat! It’s also targeted as more family friendly than its predecessor, and we can’t deny it’s nice to see Mickey get his own ride.

With just a quick change of the projection, this set completely transforms!

There’s no denying the ride is fun, but is it worth the starring role?

Well, if The Great Movie Ride was the thesis statement of MGM Studios, then Runaway Railway is the thesis statement of Hollywood Studios. What is that, you ask? Simple — a chance to step inside the worlds of your favorite movies and cartoons!

Literally, in this case!

This isn’t a new trend, either. Just years after opening, it became clear to both Disney and Universal that opening a working film studio in Orlando just wasn’t going to work. To paraphrase the famous philosopher Regina George (from Mean Girls), they were trying to make a new Hollywood happen, when it clearly wasn’t going to. With that in mind, the transition to a new theme for the park began almost immediately after the park opened, with the arrival of Tower of Terror.

While it does still pay tribute to the golden age of Hollywood, Tower of Terror was the first step in a new direction.

Tower of Terror was a paradigm shift for the park; rather than being a passive observer to films, or observing the processing of film making, you were the star. Now, with the opening of Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the park has made the transition from movie magic to immersive storytelling. The Great Movie Ride and Runaway Railway both touch upon this theme, but Runaway Railway bridges the gap between old and new. Rather than show a series of spectacular, but disconnected vignettes, Runaway Railway makes you the star of a Mickey Mouse cartoon, telling a cohesive story.

…Alright, it’s a somewhat disjointed story, but it’s disjointed in the way cartoons usually are. You’re going from the Old West to a Factory, not from  Wizard of Oz to Raiders of the Lost Ark.

In short, while we will mourn the loss of the Great Movie Ride, Runaway Railway is a worthy successor that marks the parks new path forward. After a multi-decade identity crisis, it seems like Hollywood Studios has finally begun to find its footing. So… we guess you could say…

♪”Nothing can stop it now! I knew somehow, that it would finally make it! It’s had one crazy ride, but luck was on it’s side! Star Wars will be its guide, and nothing can stop it now!”♫

What are your thoughts? Do you think Runaway Railway is a worthy successor? Let us know in the comments!

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Austin Lang is an Orlando local with a love of Disney, puns, and Disney puns. He's been a contributing writer for AllEars since 2019, and has been sharing his quirky view of Disney life ever since.

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22 Replies to “Was Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway Worth The Demise of the Great Movie Ride in Disney World?”

  1. Disney now all about the money not the experience. This projector junk is much cheaper thanLive actors and maintenence of audoanimatronics. Universal is even doing more realistic physical rides and lands and far better guest experience which is an incredible turnabout. Cheaper tix and hotels too-and look at Typhoon Lagoon. Very sad for a very long time Disney lover. Last 2 trips made me want to go somewhere else, especialy with no fast pass and upcharges to just get tickets like fast pass used to provide rather than waiting in line. Dieny needs new direction to what made them the best, new corporate leadership who share Walt’s original vision.

  2. Yes, but it didn’t have to be. An expansion of DHS vs converting one attraction to another would have been alot better. Disney needs more attractions to eat up the guests Not just even swaps.

  3. At a place that still maintains the Country Bears and the Carosel of Progess, whytear down the GMR? Still looking forward to M&M

  4. Yes! Mickey should have gotten a ride a long time ago and Great Movie Ride was beyond old. The latest update from Turner movie classics was horrendous! Meanwhile the scenes were getting worn, backdrops were wrinkled, and the whole thing needed to be updated. The worst thing that happened with The Great Movie Ride was Disney decided all their movies were classics even if they hadn’t come out yet and they stuck him in the end collection of films. It was narcissistic thing to do. They put their Star wars movies in there before the movies were released! Now I would have preferred that Disney buildup a Toontown and this ride would have been part of it as well as a really fun epic ride with Oswald based on roughly the epic Movie game. As well as developing a whole lot of new other things from very kid friendly to up in the action level. Disney world is supposed to be the thing that has all the land they ever ever will need, and yet things are still torn down for something else. I’m still glad Mickey has his ride there because the Great Movie Ride either needed a huge overhaul from beginning to end or something new had to come in. And I love that I got to ride and dance and share it all with them.

  5. I don’t believe that Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway was a worthy replacement of The Great Movie Ride. Disney Parks could have created the former at another location. The company could have also updated the latter attraction a little. But replacing The Great Movie Ride with Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway? What was the point?

  6. It’s very cute, but the line is too long, if Disney could add shade and big industrial fans to their ques, the lines would be tolerable. Is this a marketing practice to make Express pass/Genie thing more desirable?

  7. I haven’t gotten to try the new Mickey ride yet but have to say I LOVED the great movie ride! It was nice when everything else had long lines and you needed to cool off a relax for a little while. I feel like every park has THAT ride and this was it.
    It will be missed.

  8. We just got back from Hollywood Studios last week and our family was not impressed with the new ride. All of us enjoyed the movie ride so much more. I understand they thought the ride was outdated and needed something new, but truthfully classic movies are never outdated.. that’s why we will watch them over and over again and again. The new Mickey ride appeals to children, and the movie ride appealed to every age in the family, especially seeing movies that maybe the parents and grandparents had seen in the theater when they were originally released. Sorry Disney.. but we give a thumbs down for the new Mickey ride.

  9. The ride may be a technological marvel but overall I was not impressed. Too many of the rides are dependant on projections for my taste. I prefer old school 3d scenes and characters.

  10. Indiana Jones and Star Tours (which has been minorly updated) have been around since 1989 and i believe are still there, making some of the article misleading.

  11. Will miss the Movie Ride as it was one of a kind. This new one seems like just a kids coaster. Definitely NOT worth the loss of such a cool attraction. It would have been great if they coud have put the coaster somewhere else, but I understand they lost licenses to some of the movies. Sad day for adult entertainment…

  12. The Great Movie Ride was poorly realized since day one. Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway is a vast improvement. In fact, replacement of any and all original Studio attractions is a good thing. All the original “move making” stuff was BAD!

  13. I rode it. A great ride. But would have rather still had The Great Movie Ride.
    I’ll miss it.

    However if Magic Kingdom ever deletes “Tiki Room”, I’m out.

  14. I loved the Great Movie ride in theory. Loved the re creation of the sets and seeing movie history..but hated the tram takeover part. It ruined the experience. I wish they could have made it more of a celebration of classic cinema and less an interactive guest-in-peril experience. It was the reason I stopped riding it every trip.

  15. Rode it on the second day. It is family friendly and there are some pretty amazing projection mapping experiences in here but all in all I was a little bored with it. In one section the ride seemed to stall for a long beat but picked right back up. Probably working out the kinks. I also sort of wondered how this ride fits into the studio concept. I guess the idea of Mickey and his cartoons works.

  16. We waited 45 minutes to ride it yesterday and it was well worth that wait! I already want to ride it again because there is just so much to take in.

  17. I would of rather had imagineering update the original ride with some new animatronics and updating some of the scenes while also keeping some of the classic ones. Keepers would have been Casablanca, Wizard of Oz, Raiders and Aliens. Would have changed out the musicals room, singing in the rain, Tarzan, the mummies and the Western scene and then re-scripted the scenes with the cast members live participation. Plus they still could have updated the ride system with the trackless system to make guests feel more a part of the movies. Just my opinion

    1. THIS. Update, not destroy. The Mickey ride is just ok. The movie ride was so good. And the take over was meh in the movie ride. But there were so many movies that could have been done as an update.

  18. The original attraction was getting old, stale and long in the tooth. Change was needed. I just watched someone video of the ride on youtube and it looks like a winner.