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Orlando Parkhopper

Disney World's Not-So-Great Movie Ride, Fantasyland Construction, Giraffe Ranch

Rating: 2 votes, 3.00 average.
by , 01-10-2012 at 12:13 AM

Movies and mine trains and elephants, OH MY! The Florida theme park scene is currently going through some interesting changes. Big Thunder has been shut down for some much needed refurbishment, Dumbo has been closed for relocation, and the Great Movie Ride is on its last leg but not for reasons you would think. We take another glimpse at those cool new Test Track cars in action and the developments in Fantasyland. But it isn't all Disney this week. Join us on safari as we take a trip into an often overlooked Florida Adventure, the Giraffe Farm.

Quite a bit is happening inside the berm of the Magic Kingdom. We have refurbishments, dismantling and new construction afoot.

We do our fair share of criticism here at the Orlando Parkhopper about maintenance issues in the parks, but we are even more excited when we can praise the good stuff. Upkeep is one of those things that every good park most do, and here on Main Street U.S.A, in the Magic Kingdom, the right side of the street is peppered with refurbishments.

Main Street Bakery is still open during maintenance.

Speaking of Main Street, there are some interesting new shirts that have appeared in the Emporium. Let's have a look-see.

Dramatic shifts in the layout of fantasyland took place this week. Dumbo took his last flights on Sunday and, literally overnight, the construction walls went up to allow for his removal beginning Monday Morning. Meanwhile, the Prince Charming Regal Carousel finally completed minor refurbishment and the screens were removed to reveal some nice work.

Fantasyland Train Station:
Passing by the train station, we catch a brief look at what is soon to come.

Old Dumbo:
The old Dumbo spinner that has been in operation since the early 90's had seen better days. During its final six months at its current location, the classic family attraction was let to fall apart at the hands of the millions of guests that passed through its turnstile. Paint in the queue was left chipped and unkempt, and the rides mechanism was far from show worthy. Regardless, the attraction entertained delighted youngsters to the last day, Sunday, the 8th. In a sort of poetic foreshadowing, the Timothy mouse at the pinnacle of the spinner came to stop facing in the direction that it would soon be moved to.

Dumbo preps for his final flight.

The very next day, walls sprang up to allow the demolition of the ride to begin.

Monday, the 9th, the walls were up.

Onward to the new location!

With the construction gaining more area around dumbo, the walkway has narrowed even more. Because of this, they have removed merchandise fixtures from the seven dwarfs mine shop and eliminated most of the benches/planters in the area, including the railings in front of the Friar's Nook (which has been seasonal for awhile).

New Dumbo:
The new "Dueling Dumbos", as we are calling them, are going up next to the old Goofy's Barnstormer roller coaster and behind the Tomorrowland Speedway.

The Circus tent that has been steel for weeks is just starting to get covered. The white looks like the inside layer of skin for the tents.

The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure
The exterior of the Little Mermaid ride is coming along nicely. Scuttle's interactive queue within the caverns should begin installation soon, once painting and major construction trim up.

Seven Dwarfs' Mine Coaster:
Just beyond the green construction walls is the pit that will soon contain the Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster.

Be Our Guest Restaurant and Belle meet and Greet:
As we look to the left side of Fantasyland's expansion, we see the facade for the Beauty and the Beast themed restaurant. The Beast's castle sits atop the rock work that is now being coated with "snow".

In the foreground, to the left, you can see the turret that will mark the end
of the castle walls into the expansion.

Here is where the meet and greet and tavern will be.

Work continues on the new bathroom complex near Pan and the old Skyway entrance.

More work continues along the parade route in Frontierland. Again, it's heartening to see so much upkeep going on.

If you want to take a ride around the orange colored buttes of Big Thunder you will be waiting until, at least, the summer. The substantial refurbishment will include nearly a total rebuild of the ride's show effects and many key set pieces. Many of the railroad ties inserted along the track have had to be removed over the years due to rot, and it is planned that they will all be replaced. Much of the leaky plumbing and geysers will receive tender loving care as well (at least we hope so).

Sunday was the last day of operation before the refurbishment.

You can clearly see in this shot the lack of themed railroad tie enhancements to the track.

Work has started immediately.

The new interactive game, Sorcerers in the Magic Kingdom, continues to enjoy soft testings. Here are a few videos of the new interactive elements hidden in plain site throughout the park.

You might just get a chance to play along on your next visit!

Here is the latest Walt Disney World photo update from Kevin Yee!

Can The Great Movie Ride Be Saved?

“Was that even good in the eighties?”
“That was terrible.”

I overheard these guest comments while exiting The Great Movie Ride recently at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. And I’m willing to bet they’re all fairly typical. But why? What makes it so terrible for so many and what can be done about it?

If you're expecting a lot of photos of broken effects and a laundry list of maintenance issues you may be surprised to learn there are honestly no apparent operational issues with the ride. Quite the contrary, it looks like there may be a renewed commitment to maintenance.

I experienced the rare western bank robbery scene and subsequent real fire effects for the first time in a decade.

There was goo falling behind the Ripley animatronic in the Alien scene that I don’t remember ever having seen in person before.

The animatronic ceiling alien actually thrashed after an extended period of it being broken.

And it appeared as if the swirls of light in the Sorcerer Mickey tornado sequence have been enhanced or renewed.

But is it enough that the ride is preserved and maintained? If there really is a team of people working on fixing the aliens and goo and lights and fire, why do people still say such horrible things about it? Should it be updated with more recent movie classics? Or should it just be gutted and replaced? To start the discussion rolling let’s focus on content, execution and tone.

Finale montage aside, the most recent film recreated in the ride is Raiders of the Lost Ark from 1981.

And while I would be offended if they tried to install a sequence such as Avatar or some other property based solely on recent popularity or box office success, hasn’t there been a film in the last thirty years that could be considered classic enough to replace, say, the stiff Tarzan mannequin that swings by?

Yes, Weissmuller was the ultimate Tarzan, but is an inarticulate figure that looks like it was formed out of silly putty and hardened to an inhuman sheen really a worthy tribute to him or to the magic of Disney Imagineering? And what about relevancy? The Tarzan jungle scene is awful to me and I remember watching all those films on a Saturday afternoon as a kid.

How bad must it seem to someone who’s never seen one?

I also wonder if the content problem is at least in part a licensing problem? To get such a wide range of non-Disney properties installed in a Disney attraction must make for a contractual nightmare. And perhaps the frozen, museum-like nature of the lineup is a legal necessity whereby the changing of one property would mean many others would fall out of contract.

And if they could or would swap some of the older movies for newer ones, what kind of Sophie’s Choice would you make?

Which scenes would you replace with which newer films?

On the execution side, the reason this attraction holds a special place in my heart is because of the richly themed environments.

Sure, the thatched roofs of Munchkinland are a little dusty if you’re looking for that sort of thing. But it’s Munchkinland, folks. And you actually get to go there.

Dimensional sets and stagecraft, animatronic characters, physical props and effects, theatrical lighting and atmospheric soundscapes have always held that spark of Disney Magic for me far more effectively than a projection on a video screen ever could.

And while attractions with more virtual elements such as Toy Story Mania may be far easier to update, nothing thrills and transports me like dark rides with tangible, traditional elements such as The Great Movie Ride.

But a theme park isn’t a museum and surely the state of the dark ride art has advanced enough that Disney could do better than the trip through Uncanny Valley this ride presents.

Munchkins should be cute and fun not freaky and murderous, right?

The Great Movie Ride is a spiel ride like Kilimanjaro Safari or Jungle Cruise and, also like those rides, the experience is affected positively or negatively by the quality and ability of the tour guide. But unlike the intended authenticity of the safari guides or the post-modern, self-aware groaners from Jungle Cruise skippers, GMR CMs are expected to act.

Sometimes it works out.

But most of the time it doesn’t. All too often I get in the ride vehicle and three words into the narration realize the next twenty minutes are going to be filled with cringe-inducing, community-theater-level theatrics.

But that doesn’t mean the tour guide conceit can’t work.

The astonishingly good Gina hosted the first of my tours the day I was preparing for this commentary.

She can recite all those cruddy lines and somehow sound genuine and authentic, like she just came up with them extempore.

But Gina is, unfortunately, an all-too-rare exception and most of the time the ride might be much better if they went with the Studio Backlot Tour approach and just played back a prerecorded narration. But is it more important to have the human touch, however flawed or misguided, than to present a more palatable and professional show? Personally, I don’t think the problem lies in having human guides but rather what they are asked to do and how they are expected to do it. Which brings us to tone.

The outdated Disneyana cheese of it all is truly astounding.

It hearkens to a time without Internet-mobilized fans or extra features. It represents the more innocent frame of mind of late eighties film fans that were amazed by movie magic and less able to access anything behind the scenes of Hollywood that wasn’t pre-packaged and served up by studio publicity departments. Case in point, watch this vintage news report on the sound effects in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The narrator in this quaint making-of clips says, “It would be easy to assume that someone with a microphone and tape recorder simply recorded the sound of the engine. Not so!”

Would you expect anyone today except for the youngest child to be surprised at all by this supposedly earth shattering revelation? And that’s my point.

The, “Aw, shucks, folks I’m a movie fan, too” innocence of it all, the theatrical wink, wink, nudge, nudge of gangster shootouts and outlaw holdups, the “Lights, Camera, Action!” fairy dust feelings we’re supposed to get from the soundstage and marquee conceits are all stale dinosaurs that serve only our most embarrassing need for nostalgia.

Let's face the music, here, folks. The Great American Movie Ride is now at Universal and it’s called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It captures hearts, minds and imagination and generally has a two-hour wait. Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Great Movie Ride is typically a walk on. Unless it’s raining of course. Then it’s a twenty-year-old, multimillion-dollar umbrella for the damp throngs seeking shelter.

So what do you think? Gut and replace? Refresh and renew? Or just keep it going just as it is and every now and then add another Disney film to the final montage? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Children five and younger can now explore the wonders of Africa and the depths of the ocean for FREE with the new SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Preschool Pass.

The Preschool Pass offers unlimited admission to both SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa for all of 2012.

Little ones can experience kid-size thrills, get up close to their favorite animals and see shows brought to life in ways that only SeaWorld and Busch Gardens can.

At the park’s restaurants, kids’ meals are now just $5.99, including a drink, making it even more affordable to not only entertain, but also feed your little ones at Busch Gardens and SeaWorld.

The FREE SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Preschool Pass is an online-only offer, exclusively for Florida residents ages 5 and younger. Click here to register online!

Over near the entrance to Cheetah Hunt, an automated kiosk has been set up for guests to purchase Quick Queue tickets. Quick Queue lets riders bypass lines on all the roller coasters and select other attractions. There are two options: regular Quick Queue, which allows bypassing the line one time for each attraction that offers the service, or Quick Queue Unlimited, which provides all day "front of the line" with unlimited use.

The walls are down and the new Animal Care Center is just weeks away from its grand opening to the public on January 23.

Over at the Desert Grill, a new show called "Mystical Mirage" now performs several times a day for guests. This new show features belly dancers, drummers and an acrobat act.

About an hour and 20 minutes from Walt Disney World is the most unassuming animal sanctuary, Giraffe Ranch. An ecotour adventure with way more than just giraffe's, my family and I had an up close and personal experience of a lifetime.

Giraffe Ranch is a licensed working ranch that specializes in exotic species as well as domestic cattle and horses. Learn about exotic animals from an expert guide from the comfort of specially designed 4-whee drive vehicles. We'll show our conservation efforts and how we are helping to preserve species that are extinct in the wild.

At the end of a dead end road, across some railroad tracks, led us to a gated farm with a nicely decorated sign letting us know we had arrived at our intended destination.

After parking in the grass and checking in, the owners (man and wife team), sat all of us down at the picnic tables to go over some of the things we might see on the farm, as well their background and how they came to running the location.

From left to right: Giraffe leg bone; Giraffe skull & Zebra Skull

After the brief introduction, those of us who paid to feed the lemurs were asked to come with them (which we did). En route to the lemur enclosures you pass many other animals that showcase the variety they have at this location.

Ducks, goose and chickens oh my!

For those of us that were feeding the lemurs we were herded into a small cage and had to squeeze in nice and close before they opened the interior access to the lemurs. Kind of made me think we were the ones on display for the animals but not a horrible experience as we weren't in there very long and as soon as she handed out the grapes to us we were "let loose".

And boy did they look hungry!

I have to say that this was probably our favorite experience of the entire day, for a creature that looks sort of mean it was surprisingly tempered and delicate when taking food from us, like an excited cat when it's time for a special treat.

While we were in the cage with some lemurs, we started to have a few line up from the enclosure right next door along the fence.

With that face, how can you say no?

This particular lemur grabbed my husband's hand and refused to let go while he was feeding, he said he was surprised by how delicate they were as they grabbed the food from us.

Leaving our well fed lemurs behind, we proceeded to the safari vehicle to start the rest of our adventures with the larger animals on the ranch.

Right inside we're greeted by the largest ostrich I have ever seen! Or it may have seemed larger as this was the closest I've ever been to one.

Not long after the zebra's starting coming out of the bushes as they knew it was time to eat. The owner then threw down a line of feed on both sides of the vehicle and proceeded to talk about zebra's and their role in the wild.

As we left them eating, we proceeded to the giraffe area and if their hurried trot was any indication, they were very happy to see us. We were then handed various produce and tree branches for an up close feeding with the animals.

There was this couple sitting in front of us with their 2yr old daughter, whom I was afraid would be picked directly out of the vehicle but the giraffes handled themselves rather gently.

We proceeded on past some cattle and a unique creature caught our attention. The owner informed us that a zebra fell in love with a donkey, creating a Donkra or Zebroid.

After this we proceeded to visit with a very friendly camel who was very foamy at the mouth, unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the vehicle to get any good photos but given the amount of latte foam coming out his mouth I'm not sorry I missed it. It was, however, one of the funnier moments on our journey.

Next, we stopped briefly to learn about a family of wart hogs (Pumba!) and discovered that they are incredibly intelligent animals. The wife informed us that one of their dogs liked to torment the mother warthog and one night she hopped on top of a barrel of hay, over the fence, ran up to their home, tried every door, only to get in and attack the dog in the kitchen. That's one heck of a wake up call in the middle of the night! (If you're wondering the dog was just fine)

We rounded out the adventure passing some pygmy hippos sleeping in the sun (they are nocturnal) and a brief discussion of the zebra breeding grounds. Apparently there is one zebra that is good with all the ladies who likes to take them to the same place far removed from the herd for fun.

Overall it lasted about 2 1/2 hours, filled with interactive moments and plenty of information provided by the two caretakers that obviously love what they do and that's evident by the careful way they respect the animals with such care in all they do there. If you're looking for a change of pace from the busy theme parks, this is a reservation only system, so space is limited and the groups are small but that affords everyone an opportunity to interact at some point. For more details or to make a reservation, I recommend visiting their website.

Giraffe Farm Tours Home

Safari Vehicle Tours:
Children Under 2: FREE
Children 2-11: $49.99
Adults 12 & Up: $59.99
Seniors: $54.99

Please note that the camel rides, lemur and bird feedings do cost extra. (but well worth it)

Last week our park hoppers were in a location where they took the following picture...

Congratulations to Robbie-Nobby
for guessing where this was

"the Temple of Heaven in the Chinese Pavilion of Disney World's Epcot Center"

Where were the Parkhoppers this week? Look into the magnifying glass and see if you can figure it out. Post your guess in the comments area below. If you are the first to guess the answer you will be featured in next week's update. GOOD LUCK!

Want to meet up with other Disney fans while at Disney World? Several of the Orlando Parkhopper team members are part of a group that meets every weekend. Join the public Facebook group and get notified of events (the locations are different every time). Drop by to visit the "attraction of the day" with us. Newcomers are welcome!

If you appreciate this column, share this page with your friends and don't forget to click that Facebook thumbs up button at the top of the page (it give us the encouragement to bring you even bigger and better updates)!

We want your photos! Contribute to the Orlando Parkhopper by emailing [email protected] with your submissions. We welcome volunteers for single contributions as well as permanent "Parkhopper" staff.

Please join us in thanking the fantastic and talented crew of writers, photographers and news contributors who worked so hard this week to bring you the latest information from the parks. This week's team included:
Thank you for reading, we hope you've been inspired to explore Orlando's many wonderful attractions. We'd love to hear your comments below.

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Updated 01-10-2012 at 09:56 AM by Dustysage



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  1. 71jason's Avatar
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    The only way to make it truly timeless is the make it strictly Disney movies. Could then salvage some scenes (obviously Poppins and Fantasia, but could do an easy Jungle Book overlay in Tarzan, for instance). If you want to keep the hijacking element, make it face character villians, e.g. Cruella de Ville (underworld could become 60s London easily) and Capt. Hook (more work, but need Pan in the ride).

    As is, not just the movies are outdated--entire genres are. And I agree the pre-DVD extras vibe of the ride is dated as well. The ride is an anachronism kept solely for its hourly throughput, like Carousel of Progress.
  2. rob-bttf's Avatar
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    I still love the GMR too, and wouldn't want to see it changed too radically.
    Maybe change a couple of scenes (at most), but I agree that the overall script and message should be updated.
  3. ashmonster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dustysage
    Today's Imagineers are attached to John Lasseter and PIXAR with an umbilical cord. You can bet that whatever ends up going behind that Chinese Theater facade will be something related to Pixar.
    Unfair attack on Lasseter. Since coming onboard Disney let's not forget he has been the executive producer on Princess and the Frog and Tangled. Let's be honest, before those movies Disney hadn't created a classic animated movie in ages. Plus cars land isn't the only remodel going on over at DCA, the new entrance and mccarthay theatre look fantastic. While Lassester was once heavily focused on Pixar that can't be said today. He's just as much involved in Disney as Pixar.
  4. Dustysage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ashmonster
    Unfair attack on Lasseter. Since coming onboard Disney let's not forget he has been the executive producer on Princess and the Frog and Tangled. Let's be honest, before those movies Disney hadn't created a classic animated movie in ages. Plus cars land isn't the only remodel going on over at DCA, the new entrance and mccarthay theatre look fantastic. While Lassester was once heavily focused on Pixar that can't be said today. He's just as much involved in Disney as Pixar.

    That's hardly an "Attack" on John Lasseter. We love him and think he does great work. But there is no denying that his involvement with Imagineering has been heavily influenced by Pixar. Carthay Circle at DCA isn't an attraction, it's a thematic element to the park's new entry. His big contribution to DCA is Cars Land. As in Pixar's Cars. It will be amazing, and wouldn't have happened without his weight behind the project. But he could just as easily have pushed for a major project which wasn't Pixar related. The point is, Pixar is where his heart is, and since he's in charge of creative at Disney, we'll likely see a lot more Pixar in the years ahead.

    Now, who wants to guess what will be going in behind the Chinese theater facade in the Disney Studios park? I'd bet dollars to donuts that it is another major Pixar attraction. That isn't an attack. That's a logical guess (with a bit of hearsay added for good measure).
  5. FlippinBurgers's Avatar
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    I think the biggest issue with Great Movie Ride can be the Tour Guides or an overacting gangster or cowboy. But I see that the response of most people is to go online to bash their "performance" then to mention it to someone at the time.

    I doubt the Tour Guides are constantly being monitored and of those of us who have been on the ride have had bad and good experiences. But how many of us have said something to a manager or guest relations about the good and bad people? That's really the only way that Disney will improve their rides and shows, by having actual people standing in front of them saying "this isn't working up to snuff and it's really noticeable."

    How many people do you think have gone up to guest relations and taken the time to say "this needs work"? I had an excellent tour guide and gangster on my show and I let the manager know.

    As for updating the movies, I was told by my girlfriend at the time (she had gone on a behind-the-scenes tour of Great Movie Ride) the movies were part of a package deal made with Ted Turner (who owns the classic MGM library). And looking at the ride as a whole: you've got Musicals, Gangster films, Westerns, Sci-fi, Adventure, Horror (the mummy-like scene), another Adventure (Tarzan), Romance (Casablanca), Animation, and Fantasy - pretty much covering all standards of American cinema.
    The Tarzan scene is small (the front and back of the cars barely fit and it isn't that wide) but more importantly, for kids it gives that bright and non-threatening feeling after being attacked by an alien, surrounded by snakes, skeletons and watching someone "Die." I think if something was to replace Tarzan, it should keep the "hey kid, it's ok" aspect before plunging them back into the dark for Casablanca and Fantasia.
    Looking at the photos, either you take some darn good pics or they've been changing the lights since I last went on (but it still looks like the wall alien is still stuck in the "up" position). I'd love to see some more of Disney's cash go to tweaking the ride or at least updating the script. Years ago they had a good script and the one now feels a bit watered down. But in any case, with the 25th anniversary of that park coming up, it'd be nice to put some polish on the old girl and make her shine as the only ride still intact at that park for 25 years.
  6. DoubleD's Avatar
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    I have to admit that the Great Movie Ride has seen much better days. After 20 years or so, the script and performances have been done to death and lack any originality or style (and for me were always the weakest part of the ride). So much can be done to update and modernize this if Disney only made an effort.

    First off, remove the stupid Mickey Magic Hat that blocks the Chinese Theater and the GMR entrance. That is a travesty in and of itself. Next, although I love the movie theater line, the trailers themselves need some serious digital restoration work. After that, the ride itself should have some sort of a theme. Movies and genres are just thrown together in no particular order. Why not make it a trip through the history of movies? Start with some silent shorts, display the actual equipment used to make them, etc. Then take the guest through the history of film. Decide if the rooms are meant to be a complete immersion into the scene, or a "behind the scenes" look at it. Take the Wizard of Oz scene, looks great, but the ceiling is nothing but black metal girders. So are we on the set of Munchkin land or actually in it? If we are in it, then wrap the entire area and really immerse us into it.

    As for me, Id can the tour guides and mobster/Indiana Jones part. Again, you are completely at the mercy of the actors that day. We all know the ride and the shtick. Its like going to an old vaudeville comedian and seeing and hearing the same jokes for decades. I think that the Imagineers can come up with something completely different.

    I do remember at one time someone discussing the possibility of replacing the Alien sequence with something from Lord of the Rings. I know that licensing plays a huge role in all of this, but I cant believe that a company as huge and rich as Disney cant find a way to incorporate new movies into the attraction. I do have to agree that the closing film sequence has great potential, but I too remember myself thinking that if Three Men and a Baby is the most updated clip they have added, then this ride has many serious issues to correct. (It has been about four years since I last rode it so maybe there is more now).

    Like everything else in Hollywood Studios (save Star Tours), this entire park needs some much needed love and affection.. and a major overhaul.
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