I remember Movie World blowing my mind when I first visited at 9 years old (a quarter of a century ago – OMG!). Wandering around the park the other day, it occurred to me just how much it has changed since then! Sure, new favourites like The Superman Ride and Scooby Doo replaced a lot of old favourites. However, I can’t help but feel nostalgic about a few shows and attractions and wish they would bring them back! I know you can’t stop progress, but do any of you old schoolers out there remember these?
#1: The Looney Tunes River Ride (Studio Tour)
This one left fairly recently, in 2011. However, anyone who has been to Movie World at all since it opened in 1993 will remember it! It was a dark water boat ride. A park attendant took you into a room and welcomed you to Hollywood. He or she explained that all the Looney Tunes characters were trying to film a movie. Problem was, Bugs Bunny, the star, had thrown a tantrum and tunneled all the way to Australia.
Our mission was to jump in a 4 row, 4 seat boat and tunnel underground all the way to Australia. We’d find Bugs Bunny there, chase him through Australia and bring him back to Hollywood. It was mostly a tame, family-friendly boat ride, with a mini rollercoaster at the end. This one was a real family favorite for us. I’m still sad that it’s gone. The indoor kiddy car ride they have zooting around in its place fails to do The Looney Tunes Ride the justice it deserves.
#2: When there was SO much more at the parks than just DC Comics and Looney Tunes
Now, PLEASE don’t get me wrong here. Anyone who knows me knows I am an avid DC fan and I grew up with Looney Tunes, but these days that’s really all the parks consist of. You might get to see Marilyn Monroe, or perhaps Austin Powers if you’re lucky. Other than that though, Looney Tunes and DC saturate the park. Back when I was a young whippersnapper, there was a lot of variety. Other Warner Bros franchises like Lethal Weapon, Police Academy, Beetlejuice, Gremlins, Dirty Harry, and Maverick had a presence in the park too.
Now okay, they may not be that relevant to the new generation. I get that perhaps Warner Bros isn’t as big a distribution company as it was back then, or is it? More recently, Warner Bros has been responsible for Harry Potter, The Hobbit, The Great Gatsby, Yogi Bear, The Lego Movie and Mad Max: Fury Road. We could have seen some great theming around those films. For example, we have to travel all the way to Universal Studios Tokyo to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It’s Warner Bros’ movie, for crying out loud. Where’s OUR Wizarding World of Harry Potter? They used to have a cool Diagon Alley exhibit at Movie World but they took that away. There’s just an arcade there now.
I miss the days of “Hollywood on the Gold Coast”, instead of a saturation of two franchises.
Update 2018: The last time I went to Movie World, I was pleasantly surprised by the increase in frequency and variety of characters walking around. I saw Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Edward Scissorhands, Austin Powers and Tweety Bird. Perhaps we’re seeing a gradual but steady return to the Movie World of yore.
#3: The Maverick Show and the Wild West area
Probably my favourite “land” of Movie World was the Wild West area. You could dress up and get a vintage photo taken and explore the cemetery (complete with animatronic tombstones). And of course, there was The Maverick Grand Illusion Show, based on the 1990s film starring Mel Gibson. Man, I loved it. There were horses, gunfights, stunts and magic tricks. It was so well done. Once again, it captured the “movie magic”/”Hollywood on the Gold Coast” glamour that Movie World used to do so incredibly well. Okay, you newer millennials might not know who Maverick even is (if you don’t, you need to educate yourself because it’s a modern Western classic), but the show was always a must-see on our list when I went. Regardless of whether you know the movie, the show was a standalone fun, clever attraction.
The old Wild West area is looking a bit skeletal these days by comparison. Half of it has been re-themed into a DC villains ride. There’s a sideshow with carnival games (at a premium additional cost, mind), and the shops are all closed. With the Wild West Falls Adventure Ride temporarily closed the whole area kind of has a bit of a creepy, abandoned theme park edge. (Don’t worry, folks, Wild West Falls will reopen on 26 December 2017 – yay!) (June 2018 Update: Wild West Falls is open).
Call me old-fashioned, but I do love a good Western. I think audiences would still respond favorably if a little bit more life was re-injected into the Wild West area.
#4: The Great Gremlins Adventure
Far be it for me to bad mouth the current Scooby Doo ride, which is one of my all-time faves, but The Great Gremlins Adventure was fun family entertainment. The attraction was based on the classic Gremlins movies. You went into a theatre, ostensibly to watch some movie outtakes. Halfway through the viewing, it appeared as if the gremlins had invaded Movie World and were in the projector room, destroying the film. You were then ushered on a slow-moving ghost train ride to escape.
The ride took you through a variety of movie sets in which animatronic gremlins were wreaking havoc. Beetlejuice popped up occasionally for some random reason, and then you were escorted out of the building past two crashed police cars from the Police Academy show.
Okay, so it wasn’t the most exciting ride. It definitely was not as “scream out loud with delight” as Scooby Doo, but this was an attraction that the whole family could happily enjoy together. It was cleverly done. The rides design and sets were brilliant for their time and it contained a few iconic films in the theming. I am a huge fan of both Beetlejuice and Gremlins, and I often remember that ride when I am re-watching the films. It was an oldie but a goldie!
#5: The Police Academy Show
If you’ve been to Movie World any time before 2008, you’ll fondly remember this stunt show. The Police Academy Stunt Show was the park’s most popular show right up to its closing. It was also one of the longest-running stunt shows in the world. It had a hilarious, well-bodied script, great audience participation and the stunts were brilliant. Mad Mike, the mute policeman with the whistle, had the crowd in gales of laughter. He walked around the park through the day too, pulling playful pranks on unsuspecting passersby. (I’ll never forget the day Mad Mike, my dad, and Foghorn Leghorn skipped arm in arm down Main Street together).
All in all, it was such a fun, well put together show and experience. Everybody in the family enjoyed it, whether they viewed it for the first time or the hundredth. I was so sad the day I rocked up to Movie World to discover it closed. The current show, Hollywood Stunt Driver, just isn’t the same.
#6: Movie Magic Special Effects Show
Where my favorite ride in the park, The Superman Ride, now stands, there used to be an old Hollywood backlot tour which closed in 2005. You got in these studio buggies and they wheeled you all around the actual Warner Bros sound stages. You saw costumes and props from historic and iconic films and drove past actual sound stages. (I was once on a tour back in the 90s that drove past a sound stage where Street Fighter was getting filmed. It was pretty awesome to 10-year-old Rhi).
Following the tour, they took you into an effects studio. People from the audience were invited to participate in a demonstration of how Hollywood movie magic worked. You could be placed in front of a green screen to fly as Superman, recreate sound effects from a scene in Lethal Weapon, or recreate a scene from Memphis Belle. This was one of my family’s must-dos in the park. It was always entertaining and never the same experience twice. For a little girl who dreamed of being in movies one day, getting to be so close to a sound stage or a famous prop was an unforgettable experience.
#7: Batman Adventure: The Ride
Where Justice League Alien Invasion now stands used to be Wayne Manor. A park attendant took you into Wayne Manor and into Bruce Wayne’s iconic library. There, the park attendant explained that children were kidnapped by Penguin and Batman needed our help to save them. We went into the Bat Cave to ride along with Batman as he saved the children of Gotham. The ride itself was a motion simulator with a huge screen in front, where live-action scenes based on Tim Burton’s Batman Returns took place.
I used to really love this ride. They then upgraded it to Batman Adventure 2. It was the same basic principle but with an animated interface for the actual ride. I feel like it lost a lot of its appeal and realism with the update. It kind of didn’t have the same immersive effectiveness. The ride’s popularity then steadily declined until it was declared outdated and closed in 2011. I guess it is outdated now. However, for its time, it was a state of the art, thrilling ride. It would be cool if there were some way to upgrade it to make it relevant to modern audiences. Whilst I know that the new Justice League ride is popular with kids, it seems a shame that such an epic ride for its day is completely gone without a trace.
Looking back on the way the park was in 1993 and fast forwarding to now, Movie World offers parkgoers a completely different experience. Once upon a time, the park was more focused on entertainment for the whole family to enjoy. It created a world of suspended belief in movie magic that tied in with its theming beautifully. Now, however, Movie World has responded to the wants of newer generations of ticket buyers and are seeking to compete on a global market.
Where larger parks, like the Disney parks, can afford to have both thrill rides and “studio magic”/family fun attractions, Movie World only has a limited amount of space. It has to use it in the most profitable way possible. And what sells tickets right now? Roller coasters so terrifying even the most seasoned rider gets off looking a little bit pukey… and then something for the kids. The result is sort of forced segregation of families so everyone can do the things in the park that appeal to them. Your party splits in half so one can ride the roller coaster and the other can stand at the other end of the park and watch the kids putt around on a little electric car. There’s either rides for tiny tots or rides for thrillseeking adults with very little of the entertainment for all ages we used to see.
The experience used to be so different. When I was growing up, the family stayed mostly together to enjoy the park. I can see why Movie World has made a lot of the choices they have made. Nonetheless, I still get nostalgic for the “good old days”. I wish I could experience those attractions again… just one more time.
SHOP THE STORY
What favorite theme park attractions have gone that you really miss? Do you think Movie World is better the way it is now, or do you miss the good old days? Do you like that it’s roller coasters vs kid rides, or would you like to see it become more “family friendly” again? Let me know in the comments below.