Turner Classic Movies is entering into a sponsorship/strategic partnership with Disney, one that will include a sponsorship of the Great Movie Ride in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, as well Walt Disney Studios providing TCM with vintage movies and episodes of TV series like “Disneyland” and “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” for a periodic programming block on the channel called “Treasures From the Disney Vault.”
The first change under the sponsorship will debut in early 2015, with the films in the pre-show theater queue and finale of the Great Movie Ride receiving a refresh thanks to Turner Classic Movies. Additional changes have not yet been announced, beyond some new branding (see poster below) and TCM to “inject brand authority” into the attraction, whatever that means (also see below). TCM will also attempt to encouraging guests to explore the world of classic film once they leave Walt Disney World.
There are a ton more details about the partnership in this New York Times article, but since I don’t see value in regurgitating info press release style here, I’ve covered only the salient details above. You can read that article for more specifics. Instead, I want to offer commentary focusing on why I think this is a big deal.
Actually, at first blush, it may not seem important at all. Perhaps even bad, if you love the pre-show film and its infinite quotability, as I do. No changes to the substance of the attraction have been announced, so this really might end up being a non-story.
I think that’s a fairly cynical view, although I can understand why Disney fans might be cynical about anything good happening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I am not quite this cynical…
Besides my excitement about seldom-seen Disney content finally being broadcast on Turner Classic Movies (you have failed us, Disney Channel), I’m really enthusiastic for the future of Great Movie Ride. Yes, the changes coming in early 2015 are only stated to be to the films that bookend the attraction. To me, this seems more an issue of getting the fruits of the sponsorship off the ground as quickly as possible rather than doing the bare minimum with it.
Switching out movies in the show scenes would be very difficult on such a tight schedule, especially since it would require closing yet another attraction in Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the busy Christmas season at Walt Disney World. So, although there has been no announcement of a substantial change to Great Movie Ride as a result of the sponsorship, I’m cautiously optimistic that one will come in the not-too-distant future.
With that said, I’m just as excited about this means should not change about Great Movie Ride. For years, I have heard people call for a change in Great Movie Ride to make it more relevant. Movies I have heard people propose for addition include but are not limited to the following: National Treasure, Pirates of the Caribbean, Saw, Spiderman, Transformers, 300, Titanic, and The Avengers.
These suggestions make me cringe. Nothing against (some of) these movies, but they are not classics. They are films that are currently (or at one time in the last few years were) popular. Most of them are popcorn flicks. I have nothing against popcorn films–I enjoy watching them, but I think they don’t really have a place in an attraction focused on great movies.
That has long been my stance, and if you surveyed the general public on this, I am almost positive I would be in the minority. There’s a reason the Transformers sequels keep being made despite each one being worse than the one that preceded it, and that’s because the general public loves this garbage for some reason.
Heck, the latest Transformers movie made nearly $250 million at the box office despite scoring 18% on Rotten Tomatoes. By contrast, the most ambitious film of the year, Boyhood, scored 99% on Rotten Tomatoes and only made $.6 million (quick aside: if you have good taste in films, make sure to see Boyhood). The general public isn’t concerned with concepts like “greatness” or “quality” so much as with “things exploding” and “lots of action.”
It’s sort of like the Big Sorcerer’s Hat (BAH) that obscures Grauman’s Chinese Theater that showcases the Great Movie Ride. I have explained at great length why the BAH is not thematically appropriate for the intersection of Sunset and Hollywood Boulevard, which is an area representing the Golden Age of Hollywood. Yet, despite this, in response to the news that the Sorcerer’s Hat was being removed, many people simply declared: “ZOMG, HOW DARE THEY TAKE SORCOR HAT FROM DISNEY PARK. MICKEY=DISNEY=MOVIES!!!1!!!1!” People don’t care about ambition or thematic integrity in a theme park. They simply want more of what they know that they like.
People have always been like this to a degree, but lately, it seems like Disney has been pandering to this type of thinking, going for the low hanging fruit rather than giving people what they never knew they always wanted. (I’m pretty sure a famous visionary once said something along those lines with regard to his theme parks, but I can’t locate a quote to link. This quote is way too poignant for someone like me to have thought it up…) The best Disney theme parks were not originally designed by appeals to the consensus or prevailing public opinion, but people loved them anyway, even if they could not articulate why the thematic elements and ambition contained allure. Whether they know it or not, people do like to be challenged and intellectually stimulated.
With rumors of Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the cusp of a billion dollar plus “DHS 2.0” style overhaul, I have had considerable concern about the future of the Great Movie Ride. My concerns ranged from it being removed completely due to “relevance” or going for the low hanging fruit and adding presently-popular films like those referenced above. Since it’s not called “The Currently Relevant Movie Ride,” I would rather see it removed completely before featuring movies that are popular today, but have a good chance of not standing the test of time.
This sponsorship should mean at least two things. First, that the Great Movie Ride is not going anywhere as a part of any potential Disney’s Hollywood Studios 2.0 wholesale park makeover. Second, that any changes made to the Great Movie Ride will be respectful to the original aim of the attraction, and not just go for the low hanging fruit of what’s popular now. Although the “inject brand authority” bit above sounds like marketing fluff, it’s absolutely true. TCM has a reputation as delivering quality, classic content, and I can’t imagine this brand having input (as will be the case) in Great Movie Ride and suddenly the attraction becoming a mess of new Michael Bay films.
For me, that alone was a major “phew” moment when I learned of the sponsorship. I became more giddy when TCM stated that an explicit goal of the sponsorship was to “pique the curiosity of visitors, encouraging them to explore the world of classic film once they are home.” This sounds like the type of lofty goal originally present in EPCOT Center (that park was at one time to include a “Great Moments at the Movies” pavilion until the concept was expanded to an entire park of its own) and it is refreshing to hear of this ambition for an attraction.
Those are the two main reasons I’m excited by this seemingly insignificant announcement, but there are plenty of other potentialities. A big one that could also debut with the 2015 changes and would go a long way into breathing new life into the Great Movie Ride would be a script change. There are far too many cringe-worthy moments in the current script, which talks down to guests and includes a number of corny lines that would feel more at home in the Jungle Cruise than in the Great Movie Ride. There’s absolutely no reason this has to be a dry, matter-of-fact “learning” attraction, but there’s also no reason the attempts at humor have to be awful. Also, is horror really the favorite genre of every tour guide? Talk about one heck of a coincidence.
Another possibility this opens up is the inclusion of films that are not currently represented in the Great Movie Ride. Conspicuously absent from the attraction is Citizen Kane, a Warner Bros film. Warner Bros and TCM are both owned by Time Warner, so this should open up all Warner Bros films for the Great Movie Ride. In addition to those films, TCM has solid licensing agreements with other major studios. Although I doubt these licensing agreements extend to theme park usage at present, the existing relationships and the gravitas of TCM’s name when it comes to classic films might open some doors that otherwise might have been closed.
As for the substance of the scenes themselves, I think it’s far too early to speculate on what (if anything) will change as a result of this sponsorship. However, since I’m sure the rumor mill will start to go crazy with other fans conflating their own desires for what will happen, I’d like to go on record and say that I would be game for the removal of Footlight Parade, Tarzan, and the ‘horror’ genre scene, replacing those scenes with Citizen Kane, The Godfather, and a ‘Hitchcock’ mash-up scene. If it meant something truly ambitious (think the crop duster from North by Northwest swooping over the ride vehicles), I would also be fine with the longer Wizard of Oz scene being removed in favor of the Hitchcock mash-up. Maybe if enough of you repeat my wish list as a bona fide rumor, it will come true! 😉
In not-so-much a nutshell, that’s why I’m excited about TCM sponsoring the Great Movie Ride. Not only is this a rare sponsorship that makes complete sense and should be mutually beneficial for both sides, but it should also guarantee the future integrity of an attraction that has seemed ‘lost’ on today’s guests. Here’s hoping TCM can give Great Movie Ride the shot in the arm that it needs, and fulfill its mission of getting guests excited about classic cinema.
What do you think? Do you agree that this is a promising sponsorship for Walt Disney World? Do you disagree with my take on the Great Movie Ride needing to stick to classics, or is my opinion an archaic idea of an ‘old fart Disney fan’? Please share any questions or thoughts you have in the comments!