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When "Ride the Movies" Works


Well-Known Member
Relying too much on the guests’ detailed knowledge of the events of a movie can be a hindrance on the ride if they are unfamiliar. When Snow White’s Adventure opened in 1971 it was near impossible to see the Snow White movie in its entirety. Disney only re-released the movie to theaters once every 7 years on average, refusing to sell such an important movie (and cash cow) on video or show it on television, beyond select clips. Coincidently, the year the ride was changed to more closely resemble the movie’s plot and visual design was the same year it was finally sold on VHS and laserdisc. The original design team took advantage of this by creating a nightmare of an attraction deliberately removed from the original animation. Some of the film’s most memorable scenes and songs were discarded entirely in favor of new moments so that the Witch would be a more direct threat to riders.

While Jaws was released to VHS just 5 years after its original theatrical run, and has never been out of print on home video, not everyone who goes on the ride has seen it, particularly children too young to watch it. Jaws the ride has only passing references to the movie’s originally characters and wisely ignores the many sequels spun off from the blockbuster. It also understands that while the original terror of the movie was being trapped in the middle of the ocean on a tiny boat far from shore, this cannot be replicated in a land locked theme park in central Florida. The shark instead is a stealthier creature, able to somehow hide from sight in shallow waters or inside a boat house. The logic doesn’t matter or register in such a short experience. Like many a movie monster, his abilities are endless and part of the ride’s suspense is anticipating what he may do next.
I think in both cases....you're perhaps thinking about both from the prism of a 2020 perspective. Few of us were alive when Snow White was originally released, but I was certainly alive before the days of DVD. I did not see Jaws when it was originally released, but I knew ALL about it!

Society had more of what is sometimes called the common canon. Today, we have so many entertainment options, that we only had small tidbits of that old idea. In years past, to be part of American culture was to be aware of that common canon - more or less. Snow White and Jaws were both part of the common canon. If not the Disney version, almost everyone knew Snow White via a copy of Grimm's fairytales.

When WDW was young, and Disney re-released a movie, it kinda didn't matter if the film was new. Children weren't flooded with electronic entertainment like they are today. If any kid movie was playing at a local movie theater, that was the only choice, and it was a treat to have even animated film playing at all. There was never TWO kid movies playing at the same time. Just one or none.

Most folks only received like maybe 4-5 television channels on their televisions- tops - with fuzzy reception. You'd maybe get one ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, and changing the channel = spending 10 aggravating minutes adjusting your reception then accepting the reception would be very fuzzy/intermittent. People only had one television, so the whole family watched television together.

When Jaws hit theaters...it was game changing. Jaws was everywhere. Prior to Jaws, people didn't often go to movie theaters in the summer. It was that big. The jaws attack music was just something everyone knew.

In short, fewer options = more commonality. Snow White was part of the common canon. Even if you hadn't seen Disney's version, and didn't own a copy of Grimm's Fairytales, you likely had borrowed a copy of the fairy tale from your library, or a family member had told it to you as a bedtime story.

Admittedly, I also listened to a few fairytales, notably the story of Rose Red, from vinyl EP records that were handed down to me. i was allowed to play those on my own when ever I had free time. I also had a Viewfinder, and a GE Show N' Tell contraption that simultaneously played a 45 and a little film strip at the same time.

Sunday night was World of Disney. While not everyone watched the television show every week, likely most families watched it at some point. It ran for 36 years, and as there were only about 3 channels to choose from, if people were watching television on Sunday nights, about 1/4-1/3 were watching WoD.

In some ways most folks came to WDW with more background knowledge than they do today. though not the same kind of instant recollection they have today. Mostly everyone knew the story of Snow White. They hadn't binge watched it on the plane ride to WDW, but they knew the story.

Same thing with Jaws. The summer it came out, references to it were everywhere, so like it or not, it changed how people went to the beach, and sadly, how they fished for sharks.


Well-Known Member
Interesting point here... one can notice that the approach Jaws used is not always a guaranteed hit, thanks to Incredicoaster. While it did try to tell a new story, the story was far too thin to be compelling, even by theme park standards. (Which is why gnashers tend to call it “Chase a Baby”) Additionally, the false sense of security isn’t set up well.

A better approach would have been to use a more concrete threat that looms at every corner, and have the intro to the ride seem normal and disarming, in order to make the thrills more shocking.


Well-Known Member
I think that the challenges of making a theme park attraction for a park like Disney or Universal (let's say, as opposed to a regional amusement park) are similar to some of the challenges of putting on a play or musical. The argument being that you have to offer something that beats the movie experience... by a long shot. When you go to theme parks, or go to a lot of plays/musicals, you see the inherent advantage that movies have: you film something once, put a lot of money into that, but the cost of delivering that experience to a customer is just somebody pushing "play." Obviously plays/musicals don't do as much as a movie, but every time there's a performance, live humans are doing something, and raw materials are used. A lot of people won't see why they need to pay $150 to see it when they still complain about paying $17 to see a movie in theatres. A lot of people love it though, so its just a niche market. Movies are great, but nothing compares to seeing live drama or a fun musical in front of you.

Similarly, theme parks where you're asking people to fly a lot of miles, get hotel rooms, take time off, suffer through the heat, and pay thousands of dollars need to blow the movie experience out of the water too. Which is why I think its weird that parks are getting so into using the screens as much as they do. Similarly, "book reports" are kind of a silly idea too. You can use IPs, but make sure the ride is media in and of itself, that its spectacular, and it gives the "real" and "raw" feeling that you're coming to Florida for. I guess the concept is that these guests are adventurous enough to not just want to stay home and watch Netflix, but I guess not adventurous enough to have a real adventure (whatever that may be, actually climbing mountains, actually backpacking through Chile, actually going through the jungles of Africa, etc.). So you're finding that middle ground.

You're finding that balance between cost effectiveness and capacity vs. quality and enough of an upgrade over movies. So I don't really like framing it as "riding the movies" because its a simulation by its nature, its inherently synthetic. Movies are synthetic. Calling it a simulation of a movie is just really deviating from a real experience.

I'd say that if you use an IP, make it kind of vague, or make it a sequel of some sorts. IMO, there's nothing wrong with no storyline as long as its captivating, visually appealing, and has some substance to it.

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