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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. Bronco21's Avatar
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    I am among those who was underwelmed by GMR. My tour guide sounded like she was reading the lines, when I went the effects were indeed broken, and the lack of familiar movies made it a very long ride that at first I was looking forward to. Honestly I hope WDI does get there shot at bringing the ride into the 21st century but I won't hold my breath.
  2. lighttragic's Avatar
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    Fantastic update! ITs great to see so much construction and refurbishment at Disneyworld, but the world needs so much more maintenance and upkeep. I also hope the great movie ride can gets its mojo back soon i last enjoyed it in 1998 and thought it was dated then, almost 14 years later no update! I think they can add new and classic movies and do it right... Thank you again for the OP updates!
  3. Jakester's Avatar
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    The hidden image is part of Stitches great escape.
  4. indianajack's Avatar
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    I love the Great Movie Ride, it's probably the best ride in the Studios for me. I agree though that the guide's spiel needs to be updated, or just have a recorded narration. They are a distraction on the ride and I do my best to ignore what they say and instead enjoy the themed environment being inside a famed movie milieu. I definitely do not want them to try to "update" the ride with recent movies, that would be a disaster with Twilight and the Chipmunks getting scenes over Casablanca and the Wizard of Oz. shudder....
    If you don't know the films then now you have a reason to go watch some great stories very well told, simple as that.
  5. Lem Siddons's Avatar
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    The Great Movie Ride is always a must for our family. It's one of the few rides at DHS that all six of us do together. It's hard to believe it's almost 30 years old. It does need an overhaul starting with the dusty, grainy 16mm-looking film clips in the queue. Wouldn't digital projection be the way to go (and for the finale as well)? Disney's audio-animatronics have advanced a lot. There's no reason that all of GMR's figures can't look and move like Jack Sparrow in the Pirates ride. As good as the Wicked Witch is, she can be even better. The characters do all seem too plastic. An argument can be made to replace some of the films but I think updating the technology (and re-writing the script occasionally) will make all of the difference.
  6. MrTour's Avatar
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    My grand daughter was like 8 before she saw Mary Poppins, Sound of Music, and the original Parent Trap. The generation of parents today are not raising their kids with the same movies some of us were raised with. But then, I would not feel comfortable raising a child in the kind of older "classic" car; no power windows, no seat belts or air bags, vinyl seats... Technology has desensitized us and taken away our innocence. I love the GMR, but then I was a huge fan of America Sings and ATIS. So the commentary seems to be less about the attraction and more about us as a society these days...
  7. a-net-fan's Avatar
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    SERIOUSLY?! I LOVE the GMR!! It is one of my top 3 favorite attractions in that park! The entire park is built around an Old Hollywood theme and this ride that takes you through clips of classic films is a perfect fit. To those who complain that some of the films represented are unknown to to many, that is the fault of that individual who hasnt taken the time or interest to familiarize themselves with some amazing movies from the past. Small updates and changes I am fine with but to suggest having newer films represented in this attraction that have not had time to prove themselves, I am strongly against. If we do add a scene...I would choose Titanic as I believe that has proven itself a modern classic that appeals to all generations.
  8. a-net-fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrTour
    My grand daughter was like 8 before she saw Mary Poppins, Sound of Music, and the original Parent Trap. The generation of parents today are not raising their kids with the same movies some of us were raised with. But then, I would not feel comfortable raising a child in the kind of older "classic" car; no power windows, no seat belts or air bags, vinyl seats... Technology has desensitized us and taken away our innocence. I love the GMR, but then I was a huge fan of America Sings and ATIS. So the commentary seems to be less about the attraction and more about us as a society these days...

    I guess that would apply to me. I was born in the 80s but was raised on classic TV shows and films along with the popular shows and films of the time. I am thankful that my parents did this as I have a broad taste, interest and respect for music and entertainment of every era. I think parents do a great diservice to their children when they do not expose them to the treasures of the past along with todays entertainment offerings.
  9. jmichael79's Avatar
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    Your GMR article is one of the most thoughtful and well put together essays that I have seen on this sight. I have no problem with the ride being a tribute to a bygone era of movies - perhaps an even greater emphasis on being transported back to the past is what this ride needs. It can certainly use updates to its animatronics. Every time I ride, I cringe at poor Gene Kelly, who looks like he's wearing a cheap Halloween mask.

    One tiny note. I think you meant to say that Johnny Weissmuller was the ultimate Tarzan, not the penultimate, which means next-to-last.
  10. BassBone's Avatar
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    "Weissmuller was the penultimate Tarzan"? He was the next to last Tarzan? I don't understand this sentence.
  11. JLindley2003's Avatar
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    The Hidden Parkhopper is from Stitch's Great Escape at MK.
  12. crankypage's Avatar
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    To take the guides out of GMR would be to make it lifeless and dull.

    The Great Movie Ride - Christgau Does Disney
  13. wdwprince's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BassBone
    "Weissmuller was the penultimate Tarzan"? He was the next to last Tarzan? I don't understand this sentence.
    How can anyone forget Miles O'Keeffe in Tarzan with Bo Derek in 1981. Come on people!
  14. ABOMIBOT's Avatar
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    Oops. "Penultimate" is clearly my Megan McCain moment. If I had an emoticon of intelligence it never would've happened.
  15. SummerInFL's Avatar
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    There is always a special place in my heart for the Great Movie Ride, as a lover of movies it's always a visual treat and a must visit when we go to DHS. BUT, I do agree that it needs an overhaul, an update in some areas would be perfectly acceptable (if licensing allows this of course). However, as someone mentioned, I would also be afraid they would not utilize new "classic's" but instead take the opportunity to throw in the Disney "movie of the week", which I think would take away from the original purpose of the attraction.
  16. Fairy Godmother Travel's Avatar
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    I like GMR, but would update the movie at the end, especially the "three men and a baby" section. The guide makes the ride, so I would vote to keep them.

    Love seeing all the rehabs going on at WDW!!

    Is it me or do the new T-shirts look like the alien bursting out of your chest?
  17. Fishbulb's Avatar
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    @SummerinFL You mean you don't want to be whisked through scene after scene of Disney Chanel flavors of the month? I can just see the I Carly scene with petulant teenagers and stupid adults. Or how about the magical Wizards of Waverly place portion of the ride where the tour guide disappears only to return as the lead in the high school musical finale.
  18. SummerInFL's Avatar
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    ^HAH, no. There has to be some new classics from the last 30 years that would fit the mold quite nicely.
  19. Dustysage's Avatar
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    Summer, thank you so much for the review of the Giraffe Ranch. We had a MiceDeal for the Giraffe Ranch a couple of months ago and I was curious about it. Sounds like a lot of fun.

    Fantastic photos and updates today from the whole team. But I've got to comment on the Great Movie Ride. To me, it is one of my favorite Disney attractions. But I can see how it has gotten frozen in time and just isn't relevant any more. I wouldn't be surprised if it is closed and replaced in the not too distant future.

    They 'could' fix it with some modern animatronics and effects, some new show scenes, and perhaps even a motion base to the ride vehicles. But Disney won't spend that kind of money to fix a failing older attraction when they can build something new and marketable. 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.

    It would be a real shame for the park to lose its signature attraction, but with low riders per hour, it is an attraction on borrowed time.
  20. Disneylandfan85's Avatar
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    In regards of the Great Movie Ride, I would definitely update the ride, if only to keep it fresh. One thing that can be scrapped is Tarzan. And I've read that the Imagineers have given up on the Footlight Parade scene, which is why it's the way it is now. That could be replaced, too, but with what?
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