The Original Concept
Although you'd never notice while on The Great Movie Ride, the original concept to the attraction brought guests full-circle from the opening sequence to the finish. Legal hashing, time, and budget all became concerns, forcing Disney to alter the attraction's original narrative.
The original version of The Great Movie Ride had quite a different fnale sequence than it does today. Today, the finale sequence leads guests into a large room with a movie screen in front, slightly above eye level. The tram enters the room and a montage of various films begins to play.
The original concept for this area was to have the guests continue their trip into the Emerald City, extending the previous sequence in which Dorothy and her companions following the yellow brick road.
The Original Ending
The last scene was built incredibly large because it was meant to be divided into two areas: one for track A (the gangster hijacker) and another for track B (the bandit hijacker). The tram would turn left or right as you entered the Emerald City into the Wizard's chamber. Near where the movie screen currently is, the Wizard's ominous head would be floating in bellows of flame. The Wizard would reenact the scene up until the line “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
At that moment, the live cast member (a gangster or bandit, depending on which track) would appear from behind the curtain and take a bow. The large platforms surrounding the room were to display various other animatronic movie characters seen previously in the ride. As if the entire ride had been a performance, the tram tour guide, the gangster/bandit, and animatronic characters would bow in unison to the guests while an roaring applause played on the sound system.
Above is a mock-up of a possible layout for how the final scene might have been placed. The image is compiled from various rumors and hints given to us by Disney cast members. Without any official plans or drawings, we're left to speculate as to what the original scene might have looked like. Below are a few still images from the film to help you imagine how Disney imagineering would have recreated this scene:
Re-scripting: The Disney and MGM Dispute
So why did this scene get altered? The dispute between Disney and MGM occurred when Disney started to move forward with their attraction, expanding the usage of the film's soundtrack and likeness beyond the Munchkin Village scene. Contractually, MGM had only given Disney the rights to use roughly 3 minutes of the film's audio. This included the Munchkins singing, dialog from the Wicked Witch, and a few lines of Dorothy spotting the Emerald City. When Disney's imagineering department decided expand the Wizard of Oz to include a tornado scene and the scene with the Wizard, MGM would not budge from their original contract unless Disney was willing to pay additionally licensing fees.
The Disney-MGM Studios was built on a tight budget. Additional licensing costs were not an option. The room that was meant to house the tornado scene had already been built. Rather than scrapping it, imagineers pulled from their existing film catalog and transformer the wind-blowing effect area into one that used Disney's animated classic, Fantasia. Instead of a flying house and a wicked witch flying by, Mickey Mouse in full "Sorcerer's Apprentice" costume, was shown commanding the enchanted waters.
The large space left by the lack of an Emerald City had to be resolved quickly. Instead of adding another film sequence, Disney opted to create a simple "theater in the stars" setting with a film that could be easily changed and updated.
Change for the better?
The changes fundamentally altered the narrative of the attraction. The original concept was built around the idea that to be “in” the movies, guests would also have to accept that every character is really an actor preforming a role. The hijacking bandit or gangster would return with a smile on their face; legendary characters would be seen out of context; the tour guide would also expose the illusion of film as false. Although the idea behind the Disney-MGM Studios is to bring people into the backstage areas, the original concept would change the spirit of the ride that brought guests into and out of the movies.
Today's version avoids the issue of reality and fiction and focuses on the guests' personal experiences with film. It airs film clips of popular movies in a loosely knit montage that evokes a sense of time and emotion towards the characters. Although this scene is simple compared to all other aspects of the attraction, it demands more of the individual guests' attention, which results in a greater response.
Where Is It?
Lobby and Props
Singin' In the Rain
The Public Enemy
The Old West
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Tarzan the Ape Man
The Wizard of Oz
The Original Concept
Gangster or Bandit?
Your Great Movie Ride
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