August 13th, 2017 was a pretty big day at Walt Disney World - I am a little sad I wasn't able to be there. It saw the closing of two major attractions, one the last opening day attraction of its respective park. So join me today as I spend a little time reminiscing about our lost friends - Ellen's Energy Adventure and the Great Movie Ride.
Starting with Ellen's Energy Adventure - I have very vague recollections of this attraction when I was very young, when it was just the Universe of Energy. Being as young as I was, I am sure you can imagine what I remember: dinosaurs. This was the dinosaur ride long before Countdown to Extinction ever opened up, and I loved it for it.
In 1996, I remember reading in a Disney magazine of the time that they were updating the attraction - the dinosaurs were staying, but Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy were taking over. Being a huge fan of Bill Nye, I was pretty stoked, and the fact that the dinosaurs were staying was a huge bonus. Over the years, it slowly turned into "that ride you went on for a nice, long air conditioning sit down," but I still loved it. The quirky humor and education were exactly what Epcot was always meant to be, and let's face it... who doesn't love Alex Trebek putting Jamie Lee Curtis's "Stupid Judy" in her place when she fails at Double Jeopardy?
Now that I'm older, I can see some of the flaws - the Exxon sponsorship lead them to put an emphasis on how pretty much every other form of energy apart from petroleum was "experimental," "expensive," or "controversial." Still, it was a fun way to learn all about how energy is progressing into the future, even if it became a bit outdated. I hold out some small hope that the theme of the Universe of Energy will come through somehow in the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction, but I am really not holding my breath.
Next, an attraction that was a little more near and dear to my heart, although the one picture I found in my person archives of the sign is kind of rubbish. The Great Movie Ride - a tour of some of cinema's greatest moments. It was, much like Ellen's Energy Adventure, a product of its time - it opened back when Disney-MGM Studios opened as a direct answer to the thrilling Universal Studios, where guests "rode the movies" in new and exciting ways.
Never before had Disney put their guests so much in "danger" - not just animatronic natives flinging spears, but actual real, live people, as your tour guide was pulled from the vehicle and you were hijacked by either a gangster or a Western bandit. The details in each scene were spectacular, and I will always remember the first time I saw the xenomorph pop out from the ceiling. I was a very young tyke, and it was terrifying - which was great, because I can't recall any other attraction giving me that "scared" feeling. It didn't need big drops or loops to thrill, it did it through the power of story.
There were always occasional rides where the cast members were less than enthusiastic, or the awkward times near the end where for some reason they loaded the back two cars and not the front, so someone who was not your personal tour guide went through the attraction for no other reason but to confront the Wicked Witch, but I always loved the ride - my favorite bit was always the "twist" when your tour guide showed back up after your hijacker met their fate, showing that "anything can happen in the movies!"
Now, a Mickey Mouse attraction will be taking its place, and I am going to miss all the old animatronics and fun with the tour guides, but such is progress. I am very glad they're keeping the Chinese Theater front, as we have only just gotten it back from that darn hat, and I'm also glad that the theme of "going into" the movies is still sticking around with a classic Disney character.
Call me a pixie duster if you must, but I am always excited to see what Disney is doing in the future, as much as I may miss the past at times. So farewell to these classic attractions that have been with me for most of my life... I look forward to revisiting you thanks to the magic of YouTube as I anticipate years of fun with your replacements!
Until next time, everyone, stay magical!