I have noted in my previous entries (many, many months ago) of my numerous responsibilities while working at WDW. Some have been memorable and others unbearable. I’d like to share with you now a time there that will forever be tops in my book as the greatest place to work, Disney MGM’s the Great Movie Ride.
I’m sure many of you know that GMR was the reason for MGM’s existence, as originally Great Moments into the Movies (its original title) was intended to be sandwiched in between The Land and Journey Into Imagination at Epcot. Luckily, Mr. Eisner in one of his few wise choices gave the Imagineers carte blanche in devising a new park to make this attraction fit. So Disney MGM Studios was opened in 1989, and the very 1st thing you would see is Grauman’s Chinese Theater looking at you all the way from the (at the time) back of the park.
I have had a fascination with GMR since its inception. At the time my sister was on the College Program and got to open the ride. She was even the bandit in the very first MGM guidemap; you can still see her picture on the Disney website! Anyways, I was about 12 and when we’d go visit her, I’d always haul ass to the Movie Ride and ride it 10 or 12 times.
This ride stuck in me in such a fantastic way; the history of old Hollywood, the stories the ride would tell, and the detail was, and quite frankly still unsurpassed. Every time you go, you can see something else brand new. The whole building is just magical, and just 8 short years later, it would be I, dressed in red suspenders and newsboy hat welcoming you aboard.
Luckily, through a friend, I was able to transfer to GMR from Journey into Imagination/HISTA in the winter of 1997. Never having a fear of speaking in front of large groups and quite frankly being a wiseass, I was more than excited to start. Little did I know that the next 5 years would be some of the peaks and valleys of my young adulthood.
I’m not going to bore you with the details of each show scene, heck there are about a billion sites that will do that. What I will share with you are some stories about some of the best people in the world, and maybe some near backstage secrets. This may get lengthy, so bear with me, hopefully my memories will be as captivating to you as they were magical for me.
When I started I was a bit overwhelmed, there were scripts to memorize, attraction positions to learn, how to drive the vehicles, etc. It was daunting, but I was bound to make it work. When you are new, you’re stuck in what’s called “Dock Rotation”, simply meaning you were not spieling on a vehicle until you do a sign off show. Dock consisted of Greeter, Pre-Greet (aka Head Usher) which loaded the pre-show, Pre-Con which spieled in the pre-show and opened the doors to dock, Load which loaded the vehicles, and sometimes Load-Con meaning you just stood around and helped. Let me tell you now, I absolutely hated these positions, hated! In fact, I used to do people’s shows and bump around them to break. Once I did 27 B shows (the gangster one) in a row just so I wouldn’t have to work Dock. That was all until I was character trained.
You see to be a Gangster/Bandit back then you had to loosely audition and get approved. Being a character was the absolute highlight to working there. Gangster shows were 8 minutes, Bandit shows were 4. There were always 4 Gangsters and 4 Bandits, and what we would do is 2 of each character would work for an hour and the other 2 would take a break. Sometimes, we’d get 5 Gangsters and I would do my 5 and then not work again for 2 hours, (we called it a “matrix” and it was great). At any rate, characters ruled the ride, it was something of the “A” crowd back in high school, and I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s not that we were jerks or lorded it over the Tour Guides, it was just prestigious and everyone knew it. The conditions up there were somewhat otherwise.
You see when they designed the ride, they left out 1 simple fact; the air conditioning did not cool the building, and up in Gangster/Banditland, it was hot, very hot! Gangsters had to wear wool suits with many layers and that didn’t help out at all. Bandits had it a bit easier in that I basically wore jeans, a light shirt and vest.
Gangster Alley wasn’t much to look at, but it was home. Basically, there were 4 theater seats attached to the floor, a bookshelf, and a water cooler; that was all there was room for, so cramped was an under statement. Banditland had it much nicer, two couches and an old vinyl thing you could sleep on right behind the bank, funny how you could sleep through all the gun play and explosions and not even flinch.
I won’t bore you with the details on how the show worked, but a few things are neat to know: we did use real guns Smith & Wesson/Taurus for the Gangsters, Rueger Blackhawks for the Bandits, the door we swung around in Anubis during the death scene is directly behind Gangster Alley, and the elephant in the Tarzan scene is hollow (I’ll get into that later).
So enough of all the insights as to a day in the life of a “Movie Rider”, let’s talk about some the great elements that I have the opportunity to experience behind the scenes……tomorrow.
I promise part 2 tomorrow!