Hello, friends! Well, it’s a sad week for the Best Week Ever crew. In case you haven’t been plugged into Disney news lately, last week Universe or Energy and The Great Movie Ride closed their doors forever. As an 80s kid that means I lost attractions that I held pretty close to my heart. It seems only fitting that we pay tribute to each this week, starting with the Universe of Energy.
Everyone noticed the mirrored building front, but around the sides were colored walls. It seems like just yesterday these were being repainted to their original colors. I only have vague memories of the original Universe of Energy, but I frequented Ellen’s Energy Adventure when it took over in 1996.
Want to take a look inside each of these attractions? Click to read more. 🙂
Just inside the entrance was this amazing tile mosaic with a countdown clock to the next show. The image represented our sun and a tiny dot on the wall represented Earth. I don’t know if something like this could be saved, but I hope so much that this mosaic can be preserved to live on somewhere else.
When entering the pre-show you’d find a large, open space with benches lining the walls. In this area we were introduced to Ellen, Bill Nye, and their Energy Adventure. I can honestly say I was a big fan of this attraction. I went to see this show every time I was at Epcot by myself. But, I can understand that it didn’t appeal to most people. Just two days before the announced closure this was the waiting area.
I was the first person to board the moving theater, but I was only joined by about 20 other people. The ride vehicles were so unique. The entire theater rotated and the vehicles would run single-file through show scenes. Of course, the highlight was the dinosaurs!
The trouble is that those dinosaurs were sandwiched in between about 30 minutes of very dated video footage. Because of that, I’ve decided to share photos of the dinosaurs and ignore the rest. These were the most stunning show scenes! I’m secretly hoping that maybe these beauties will make an appearance in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy attraction.
Another thought is that Disneyland has dinosaur scenes along their railroad. Maybe with the Tron construction they can find room on the WDW railroad for these guys? I’ve seen lots of attractions come and go, but I hate to lose these beautiful figures. Here’s hoping that Disney has plans for them!
I zoomed out to give an idea of the scale of these figures. It really felt like you were rolling through a prehistoric world. It’s a shame this was only a small part of the ride. While this attraction never attracted big crowds, many people did turn up to ride one last time before it closed forever. By the time I was leaving for the day the pre-show area was filling.
There were so many different dinosaurs to see along the way. These guys would spit water into the ride vehicles! I think they were my least favorite because of the number of times they spit on my camera. 😉
The last show area had deep red and orange lighting with pterodactyls. Some time ago there was an Ellen animatronic and a scary looking dino, but that was retired. This attraction was a bit of a time capsule. While I found that charming, I understand why it needed to be replaced. I’m hopeful that the new Guardians ride won’t be too scary! What do you think? Are you tired of slow-moving educational rides and hoping for thrill rides instead?
Now, a replacement that I may never understand is The Great Movie Ride. To say I was surprised about this one is an understatement. This has always been one of my favorite rides and that starts out front with all the exquisite details. Just that a look at all the painting and sculptures. I’m hopeful at least the facade will live on.
The Great Movie ride used similar ride vehicles to Universe of Energy. With both of these attractions closing, these are now a thing of the past. I always liked the idea of a moving theater and I’m sad these won’t exist anymore. What do you think? I am the only one that thought these were cool?
To begin your journey into the movies you’d roll under this gorgeous neon sign while “Hooray for Hollywood” played over the loud speakers and your guide welcomed you. In recent years this welcome was a recording of Robert Osborne, but I’ll always remember when the cast member in vehicle delivered the full script.
The first scene was the Busby Berkeley film Footlight Parade. Overhead bubbles would float down into your ride vehicle. I’ve always heard that when the park opened these figures spun in circles and sprayed water. I don’t remember ever seeing that, but I was just a kid. Was anyone lucky enough to see this in the original form?
Also, I have to extend enormous thanks to WDWNT.com. They hosted an event where we were allowed to walk the track of this ride and take photos. I don’t know that I could properly put into words what this meant to me. I’ll be forever grateful for this last experience and the photos I’m able to share with you because of it.
Next was Gene Kelly in Singing In The Rain. The animatronic was so fluid and I still remember being amazed as a kid that actual water was used. I’d never seen this movie when the ride sparked my interest, and now it’s one of my all-time favorites. I’m sad this classic ride won’t be around to introduce other kids (and adults!) to older films.
From there we were whisked to the rooftops of London to visit Mary Poppins. These two would sing “Chim Chim Cheree” as we rolled past and into the seedy underbelly of the gangster world.
Depending on which ride vehicle you were in, you might have been hijacked by a Gangster in this room! As you entered a traffic light would either stay green, allowing you to pass, or turn red causing your host to stop. Almost immediately after stopping you’d encounter trouble as a Gangster approached and a shootout ensued. It was a crazy experience and something I’ve never seen before or since! The scene ended with the Gangster taking over control of the ride vehicle and driving into the next scene with our original guide nowhere to be found.
The next scene was the old west where we’d encounter John Wayne. If you hadn’t been stopped by the Gangster then here you’d encounter a Bandit (or Cowboy) that was robbing the bank. Again, they would threaten our guide and steal the ride car as their escape vehicle. What made this incredible was that the Bandit would throw dynamite into the bank. It caused an “explosion” and real fire came through all the bank windows! For this reason, when the ride wasn’t busy only the Gangster scene was run. As the ride aged it became tougher and tougher to see the Bandit in action.
You’d also see Clint Eastwood as you moseyed along through the old west. If your car had already encountered the Gangster, the animatronics in this scene would still come to life accusing them of robbing the bank. The Gangster always had pretty funny responses and it encouraged the car to hurry along through the scene to catch up with other cars.
Now, after dealing with your ride vehicle being taken by a Bandit or Gangster you’d think Disney would have a little down time. Think again! You were immediately submerged in the word of Alien. As a little kid this scared me to death. I covered my eyes for years through this scene! It wasn’t just the gritty appearance that was off-putting, but alarms would sound saying the ship would self destruct.
Here you’d also see Sigourney Weaver hiding from the Alien. Behind her you could see “drool” falling through the ceiling while just awful Alien noises played in the background. Years before ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter opened at Magic Kingdom this was the scariest thing I’d ever seen at any Disney park!
Then you’d actually encounter the Alien! Depending where you were seated you might see this one pop out from a wall or one plunge at you from the ceiling. All the while, the Gangster or Bandit would make funny remarks about this odd adventure they’d found themselves on. The experience really was stunning and as an adult I still felt a little bit of the amazement I felt when I rode as a kid.
Next you’d see Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Of course, the scene was covered in snakes!
After Indy, you would come to another show scene where the Cowboy or Bandit would decide they needed to steal a large gem from a statue of Anubis. A cloaked figure warned not to disturb the treasure, but was ignored. From a puff of smoke it was revealed that our villain was now a skeleton and our original tour guide had been hiding under the cloak. Now that’s what I call movie magic! 🙂
With our original tour guide back in place we continued through the horror genre. Many skeletons would surround the car and some even appeared to be leaning in towards the vehicle. Luckily, this was the end of the really scary stuff! 😉
On the other end you would emerge to see Tarzan, Jane, and Cheetah. Tarzan would actually swing back and forth between the trees on the right.
Next was Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the finale scene from Casablanca. The plane in this scene was cut in half to be used in two different places in the parks. The front was here in The Great Movie Ride. The back half was dropped into the Jungle Cruise at Magic Kingdom.
Just past this was a screen playing the Sorcerer’s Apprentice scene from Fantasia. I didn’t include a photo so I can gush a little bit extra about The Wizard of Oz. This was easily the largest set in the entire ride. As you entered the munchkins would start singing “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” while all the ride cars caught up to each other. You’d then encounter The Wicked Witch of the West. Even as an adult my husband thought she was a real person and not an animatraonic his first few rides!
After fending off the Wicked Witch, the munchkins would sing “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” as you moved along to the final scene of the ride. There you’d see Dorothy and her friends getting their first glimpse of The Emerald City. In one last room a montage of movie clips was shown encouraging guest to go find their own great movies. I know it inspired me to do just that! 🙂 I’d love to hear your favorite memories of either of these two rides in the comments below.
With that I’ll say goodbye to a couple of my old favorites and look forward to the future with all of you. What new attraction are you most excited about? I tried the new RELAUNCHED! Mission: Space and enjoyed the new, calmer experience on the green side. I’m hopeful Disney has more of these less thrilling experiences in their plans.
That’s it for this time. Thanks for joining me for another week of fun! Please let me know if you have requests next time around. Until then – I hope you’re having the best week ever.