Magic And Memories: Farewell To Two ‘Old Friends’

This post is about change, moving forward, embracing the future and sadly, saying farewell to two of my most favorite and nostalgic attractions ever at The Walt Disney World Resort.

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photo by Mike Thomas Imagery 2017

Upon my second visit to Walt Disney World was in 1984, two years after EPCOT Center opened. Among the many rides and attractions, one that became my favorite: “The Universe Of Energy.” I thought it was THEE coolest ride ever. It was powered (and still was up until today – the final day of operation ever) by solar panels on the roof. It had moving theater cars that moved sections of an entire seated audience in and around the show / theater. The main focus was on energy, how and where it came from dating back to the dinosaur era. The attraction also contained many audio animatronic dinosaurs, too. All around very cool ride that in it’s day was so advanced and high tech. It remained a nostalgic favorite all through the years even through several changes spanning the 35 years of operation. Well, I believe it was George Harrison that used the line in one of his songs (or maybe it was an album title – don’t remember and it’s not really the point), “All things must pass.” The Universe Of Energy’s time has now come and gone. As of Sunday August 13th, 2017, the attraction loved by so many is no longer. The Walt Disney Company has decided to shutter the doors to make way for a brand new attraction. Exactly what and when that new ride will debut is not fully clear yet.

greta movie ride, disney, walt disney world, Disney MGM Studios, Disney's Hollywood Studios

Now, as if that weren’t enough to break this old heart today, another major attraction that opened with the (then) Disney / MGM Studios Theme Park in 1989, “The Great Movie Ride,” has also been closed permanently  by Disney in order to make room for another new attraction themed around none other than Mickey and Minnie Mouse. I coincidently was there for the grand opening of The Disney / MGM Studios Theme Park on May 1st, 1989. I didn’t plan it but it just happened to turn out that way. I was there as a Guest and not working oddly enough. To be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed AT FIRST with this park. About 3 years later after some major additions and expansions, it was a different story and my feelings changed. That park was now pretty darn cool! That being said, there was one attraction that I fell in love with the first time I rode it on May 1st, 1989. Yes, it was The Great Movie Ride. Disney had just introduced 3rd (I believe) generation audio animatronics. The characters in the ride (John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, James Cagney and more) were so life like with their moves it was almost creepy – but great! There was also a human interaction as the Disney Cast Member that ride with you in your theater car told a story as you travelled ‘through the movies’. At one point, the Cast Member would either get thrown off the ride at (fake) gun point and later, everyone got to experience some ‘magic’ as that Cast Member would reappear in another scene / portion of the ride. I could go on and on. But alas, The Great Movie Ride saw it’s final trip around the theater Sunday August 13th, 2017. 🙁

To all the Cast Members, technicians, Imagineers and everyone else that helped keep that attraction running and made us all feel like we were part of the movies, an incredible heartfelt THANK YOU! I get it when it comes to growth, progress, change etc… Walt Disney’s dying words to his brother Roy were, “Don’t let my parks become a museum … change, grow and update forever.” Nonetheless, it really does put a lump in my throat seeing these two classic attractions go away.

Here’s to the future – whatever it may bring all of us!

Peace – Mike T.