A handful of events mark our lives and shape who we are. Who would have guessed that a ride at a Theme Park would have such an impact on mine…
When I was 5 years old I told my mom that I wanted to work at Walt Disney World. When I was 13, I knew that I wanted to work at the Great Movie Ride. Having visited the parks nearly every year of my life growing up, I knew all the rides and attractions quite well. But something gravitated me towards GMR. I was fascinated by the action, adventure, suspense and thrill of it all. I loved movies (so it was the perfect job for me), and I loved acting. Later in my teenage years I started to ask the Cast Members how they got their roles, and that’s when I discovered the Disney College Program. When I was finally at a point in college where I could take off a semester, I interviewed for the Program. I told the recruiter that I only wanted to work at the Great Movie Ride and recited a few lines from the attraction. To my delight, I was scheduled at GMR and thus began my great adventure!
I was so excited that I learned the entire 62-page script by the end of my first day of training, but I could not officially “check out” until my 2nd day (I had to learn all those shift cues, block lights, hand packs, queue line ropes, door buttons, etc.). Looking back, I honestly don’t know how I learned so much so fast. One of my most vivid memories of my life was putting my handprint on that wall. I doubt many people outside our GMR family actually know about the handprint hall. This hallway is probably everyone’s favorite part of the attraction (even though it is backstage) because it is the piece of us that we all left. It is all of us showing that we are proud and humbled to have been a part of such a magnificent family of Cast Members. I’m grateful that photos of our handprints are going into the Disney archives, but we all wish we could cut them out and bring them home.
Many people don't understand our sadness and say “but it’s just a ride”. To us Movie Riders, it’s not a ride; it’s a magical journey into the movies! It’s home. It’s family. Every one of us eagerly wanted to come to work…maybe not every day, but most days. Nothing could compare to the thrill of a show, or the simple bliss of taking a dead show. There was nothing better than walking the track in the morning and saying hello to Gene Kelly, Julie Andrews, Harrison Ford, Humphrey Bogart, Judy Garland and the rest. There were so many roles to play including Tour Guide, Bandit, Gangster, Head Usher, Side Usher, Casting Director, ADA and ADB. There were magical moments to be made, handprints to be found, and smiles to make. But most of all, there were friendships. I was friends with my fellow CP’s as well as those who had worked at the ride long before me. I realize now that some of my fellow Movie Riders that I worked with were actually the ones who inspired me to strive for that role.
The friendships were stronger at this attraction than most. I think that’s because we all knew how special our home was. Everyone had to audition to work there, so those of us who made it were proud of our roles, and our love for our attraction bonded us. There are even quite a number of Movie Riders who fell in love, were married and now have little movie fans. Amazingly, we didn't tire of each other at work and still found time to hang out during our little spare time.
On July 11, just a few days before the D23 announcement, I ventured to Hollywood to see the real Grauman’s Theatre. I was instantly overcome with emotions. The scale was exact to my beloved ride! I must have taken 50 selfies to try to get the best angle. That day, my love for GMR was instantly ignited again…just to be heartbroken a few days later at D23, hearing the news in person.
With less than a month to plan, incredible, selfless movie riders took upon themselves the massive task of planning our biggest and last GMR Oscar party. On Friday, August 11, 300 Movie Riders past and present from all over the United States (and a few abroad) gathered together to pay tribute to the Greatest Ride to ever grace Walt Disney World. The party was equipped with a fitting red carpet and step-and-repeat, as well as gowns, tuxes and red hats!
And because Movie Riders go big or go home, we had a second major event at Hollywood Studios to properly say goodbye. First was dinner in Epic and group photos. All the tables were adorned with tons of swag that our talented GMR family created.
Then we gathered at GMR to walk the track one last time. An instant flood of memories came gushing back. There’s something more surreal about walking the track versus riding. I suppose it brought me back to the days of walking on stage and performing. I took TONS of photos in every scene...and selfies with my besties!
You would think those two events were the highlight of the weekend, but the actual day I will treasure most was closing day, Sunday August 13. Tons of movie riders gathered in the courtyard just to hang out and spend time together. It felt like a scene from a hospital room, where family waited for a loved one’s passing. We meet Movie Ride family that we’ve never seen before, we hugged, told stories and laughed. We took photos and shouted “Once a Movie Rider…Always a Movie Rider!”. We saluted and yelled “Ready when you are C.B.!”.
My last ride was with my Movie Ride family…surrounded by those who I worked with. We took it all in, we said “hi” to all the stars, we gasped as the gangster hijacked the vehicle, we warned the gangster not to get the jewel, we cheered when our tour guide returned, we gave the most thunderous applause I’ve ever heard and we cried when it was over. At the end of the night, Vanessa and I hugged the building and said goodbye. We didn’t want to wait for the marquee to go out because we want to remember GMR in all its glory. It went out strong, with wait times reflecting its glory days, surrounded by friends and family.
So no, it’s not just a ride. It’s so much more. My words probably reflect my fellow Movie Riders, as everyone has been writing their final thoughts. I’ve never seen so many people affected by a ride closing, and I’ve never seen a family as strong as ours. But “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”. Although our ride is closed, we gained many new friendships and kindled old ones. This past weekend will forever live in our hearts. I could end this memoir with “that’s a wrap!”, similar to many other post about the closing. But I prefer to end with “Ready when you are, C.B.!”, because we will always be ready to perform another show.