Editor: Last week, my friend, Lisa Battista, author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers shared Part One of her recent experiences at a very special event. This weeks she concludes her delicious review.
In May, I received an email inviting me to “The Great Movie Ride Dinner at Disney’s Hollywood Studios” for Tables in Wonderland members. I rationalized the expense ($165 per person plus tax; gratuity included) as being a combined birthday / Father’s Day gift for my husband. Never mind that I was attending as well. I also assuaged my guilt by using Kelly’s tip to save 5% on the event. I used my Target REDcard to purchase Disney gift cards at Target, which I then used to prepay the dinner.
Last time I shared a look at the event’s food and today I’d like to bring you into this rare experience itself.
In true Hollywood fashion, the director welcomed guests in the courtyard of “The Great Movie Ride” and invited us inside. When the event’s invitation said “We’ve cleared the track for you to walk through”, it meant just that. The first thing that struck me was that the wooden floor was smooth and unobstructed; there was no metal track for ride vehicles to follow.
Act I: Passed Reception in the Gangster Scene During normal operation of The Great Movie Ride, gangsters hide in the shadows as ride vehicles enter the Bugby scene and the atmospheric lighting was no different for our special event. This mood-setting dimness was partly to blame for what I found to be some of the shortcomings of this opening reception.
Tall tabletops dressed with black tablecloths dotted the area and a bar was placed in the center of the space, should you want something besides the signature cocktail. The placement of the bar impeded the flow of traffic from one end of the room to the other as dinner guests waited in line for their libations.
We picked up our drinks and soaked up the rich details of the attraction but I couldn’t help but wonder where the finger foods were. After a while, I saw a lone server passing hors d’oeuvres, and like other guests headed straight for the half-empty tray. That’s never a good sign. From my vantage point, it seemed as if the problem was a combination of things. First, I don’t think there were enough servers circulating with food. I felt lucky that I was able to try one of each of the passed foods. Secondly, it appeared as if the servers only entered from one location so they never made it to the other end of the room with food still on their serving tray. The location of the bar didn’t help if you were at the top of the space; with the line at the bar obstructing the view down the length of the room, it was tough to even know food was being passed. The last problem was the lack of light. With no explanation from the servers, I didn’t really know what I was eating until I came home and reviewed the invitation.
During this part of the evening, entertainment was provided by Tony and his dame Tootsie Malone, who would become his bride-to-be before long. The talented actors stayed in character and entertained the crowd. Job well done!
Act II: Plated Dinner in the Western Scene We were seated at the Sundance Kid table with four other groups. United by our love for Disney (three of the groups at our table flew in for one night to attend this special event), the company and conversation couldn’t be better.
“Ma” hosted us during dinner while a Western trio provided the musical entertainment. Ma’s jokes were corny and I still don’t understand why she was wielding a huge turkey leg prop, but the character was appropriate for the setting.
Act III: Dessert Buffet in the Land of Oz My favorite surprise of the night was Glinda the Good Witch making an appearance during dessert and taking photographs with guests. My regret was that her entrance was so subtle that I almost missed that she was in the room (and I’d wager many other guests didn’t notice her as well) until the night was almost over.
The Review I would love to tell you that the Tables in Wonderland’s Great Movie Ride special event was worth every penny and then some but like most things Disney-related, it depends on your perspective and what you were hoping to take away from the event. The Great Movie Ride Dinner” was a very enjoyable splurge and one that I’m grateful I had an opportunity to enjoy it with my husband. The company was fantastic and being with Disney fans was one of the highlights of the night. The food was very good but not high end. There was no short supply of alcohol. The entertainment was nice but less elaborate than I expected; for me, having an Imagineer or Cast Member describing design decisions and revealing little secrets of the ride would be more entertaining. The opportunity to leisurely walk the entire length of the Great Movie Ride track and take photos was rare indeed. And, there were some missteps along the way, particularly in the appetizer and dessert courses.
At $165 per person (plus tax; gratuity included), I don’t think the food itself justified the expense. But then again, guests were paying for the overall experience of being immersed in this tribute to the movies. It was quite magical to have that feeling that I was doing something wrong, but knowing I wasn’t, when I prodded a piece of crumbled newsprint that was blown into the corner of the gangster set. I almost giggled after realizing it was actual paper that was not nailed down. Sure, almost no one would notice if this small detail was moved from one ride to another but I loved discovering that some elements of the attraction are dynamic.
If you love the movies and are looking for a special night out, or even just backstage access to take in all the rich details of a Disney attraction, you’ll enjoy Tables in Wonderland’s The Great Movie Ride and will feel as if you got your money’s worth.
Lisa M. Battista is the author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers. When she’s not chasing after her little ones, you can most likely find her at the beach or in the kitchen trying her hand at a new recipe. You can follow her on Twitter @DisneyExplorer or become a fan of Beyond the Attractions on Facebook.