Great Movie Ride Cowboy Scene Hides One Last Undiscovered Detail

After sending Universe of Energy¬†off into the sunset, it’s time to turn our attention to that other incredible traveling theater ride — and the rarely-glimpsed Great Movie Ride Cowboy Scene.

The Great Movie Ride truly lives up to its adjectives. Like a fading Hollywood star stuck with a bad script, it may have lost some of its luster, but there is still an aura about it. It rewards repeat viewings with intricate layers of detail — many of which are never spotted until the second, third, or hundredth time through.

Small, obsessive little things. Parkeology has spotted its fair share over the years.

We care that Indy’s whip is in the wrong spot. And that there is a complicated microphone dance going on in the Gangster scene. And the surprising reason why your hijacker in the Great Movie Ride Cowboy Scene has a hat and a gun.

Snakes and the bandit hold up your guide in the Great Movie Ride Cowboy Scene
Hint: It’s not because he’s a cowboy.

You know, they just don’t seem to run that Great Movie Ride Cowboy Scene much anymore…

I get the Gangster Scene nine times out of ten. I’m sure this is just another artifact of the ride’s waning popularity. I took in the Great Movie Ride swan song last week — and once again, it was Gangster. The ride doesn’t close for another few days, but I have a feeling I’ll never see the Great Movie Ride Cowboy Scene again.

The last time I got the Great Movie Ride Cowboy Scene was probably a year or so ago. Hard to believe that was my last time ever. But on the bright side, I noticed something very interesting — small, obsessively interesting — that I had not noticed before.

Solo hijackers don’t work. It’s not called Snake on a Plane. They stick to the buddy system.

In the Gangster Scene, Mugsy runs around with those two guys hiding behind the trash cans (whom I always call Horace and Jasper after Cruella’s bumbling goons in 101 Dalmatians).

In the Great Movie Ride Cowboy Scene, the hijacker partners up with a guy whose name actually is Snakes.

If this was a movie about the guy from the Great Movie Ride, it would instantly become the best Disney attraction movie ever.

Of course, the only reason the guy is called Snakes is so that the cowboy hijacker can crack a dumb joke about all the snakes in the Well of the Souls a few scenes later. Like I said, the script could use some work.

Regardless, Snakes is a cool customer compared to those idiots in the Gangster scene. He wears a bandana. He talks in a low growl. He’s the master of the inappropriate cock.

Seriously, the actors in LOST came up with that term. It means cocking a firearm for purely dramatical purposes. There was a special on the DVD and everything.

He’s also a legitimate bank robber in his own right. When the Gangster car cruises through the scene a few minutes later, Snakes is the guy you see trading bullets with the Sheriff.

Just as the Gangster Scene has its epic shootout complete with bullets ricocheting everywhere, the Great Movie Ride Cowboy Scene has its own signature special effect — When your cowboy hijacker tosses a stick of dynamite through the bank window and sets everything ablaze.

Great Movie Ride Cowboy Scene dynamites the bank
Going out on a limb here… maybe this is why the barn is smoking when you drive through.

But the effect I’m drawn to is much more subtle.

It starts when your tour guide driver leaves the vehicle and ducks down to avoid being seen by the other live performer — the cowboy or cowgirl — exiting the bank. This is when Snakes makes his appearance, popping up from behind some feed bags and uttering his immortal line:

“Hold it right there, hombre.”

Your guide stands up and there’s some banter with the cowboy. Before too long, dynamite is exploding and bullets are flying. But just before the Sheriff shows up, your guide takes a few steps to his or her right.

And all the while, Snakes is covering them with Ole’ Betsy.

For some reason, I find this fantastic. Snakes is a programmed robot. His performance is the same in every show. So logic dictates that this movement by the tour guides is choreographed. They thought it up ahead of time and some ride programmer had to build it into the show. And guides would be trained on this, because they have to match it exactly — same timing, same marks on the stage — or Snakes himself looks ridiculous.

That’s a whole lot of work for something that nobody even realizes is happening.

It took me 25 years to spot this, but now I can’t unsee it. In the video below, you can see that the guide’s timing is actually a little off. Snakes starts pivoting his rifle to cover him before the guide actually goes anywhere. Then the tour guide quickly moves over to his mark and the shootout ensues.

By the way, Snakes may be a crack shot, but he is not good at recognizing the ladyfolk. This video shows a female guide, but Snakes still calls her “hombre.”

On my very first trip through Great Movie Ride way back in 1990, I distinctly remember that the guide hijacked in the Gangster scene was a girl, and the guide in the Great Movie Ride Cowboy Scene was a guy. I wonder if Disney initially cast gender-specific parts for these roles, which went by the wayside over the years. Or it could just be total coincidence.

Snakes’s job is coming to an end, so it doesn’t matter. But for his next gig, maybe he could learn a few pointers from the Rock n Roller Coaster pre-show, which has a pretty nifty trick for getting around this problem.

Comments (25)

  1. Here’s an undiscovered detail. The top wanted poster on the right (below the painted word “FOOD”) is from the TV show “Alias Smith and Jones” (1971 – 1973) for the character of Hannibal Heyes. The Heyes part was ripped off, but the first name was there and as a fan of the show I could recognize the poster.

    Anytime I was on the ride, I would always try to get a seat on the right to check if the poster was still there.

    With ride now gone, I was looking for a video which showed the poster so was pleased to find this one.

    • So many great hidden details in those old rides. GMR will be sorely missed.

  2. I remember going on the ride in the early 90s. In fact I loved it so much that I went on it two days in a row. On the first day I got the gangster and on the second day I got the Cowgirl. I may be one of the lucky few who got to be hijacked by both.

    • Cowboy wasmore rare… good thing you got both!

  3. F*ck, I loved The Great Movie Ride, I’d even go as far to say it’s one of the most underrated dark rides ever.

    Shame on you, Disney.

    • The live guides were always the weakest part, because the quality could be so uneven. But the rest of the attraction is in the vein of those great Epcot dark rides. Epic, immersive, and with an emotional wallop. We’ll sorely miss this one.

      • Well the same could be said of the Jungle Cruise or any live performance. I think the very nature of the hijack was a bit silly and was never likely to work as hoped but the CMs generally put their all into it.

  4. If they’d just change it to classic Disney movies, it would be much more popular. They have so many that would fit right in with the current scenes: The Apple Dumpling Gang, Darby O’Gill and the Little People, George of the Jungle and, of course, The Black Hole, to name a few. Throw in Midnight Madness, Condorman and/or Popeye, and there will be 3 hour wait times.

    I’m sure the new ride will be fine, but I’ll miss this. My favorite was always the western scene with The Duke on one side and Eastwood on the other. I’m sure once the Pixar and Star Wars lands are both open, people won’t be too upset at losing this ride.

    • Btw, for anyone who has yet to encounter my odd sense of humor, of which the good people at Parkeology are well acquainted with, the first paragraph above is not to be taken seriously.

      • Nice try, Greg, but we know that you are 100% serious. You should never have sent us those pictures of the life-sized Ernest Borgnine and Don Knotts statues in your bedroom.

        • Yeah, well sadly, the dog got ahold of them and, being made of wax, they are no more. I have decided to replace them with the cast from the original Pete’s Dragon. I just need a Shelly Winters and a Mickey Rooney to complete the set. Hey, I just remembered that Shelly Winters, Red Buttons and Ernest Borgnine were in the original Poseidon Adventure. What a coincidence. I’m sure there’s some Kevin Bacon connection to be made there, but I need to get back to work.

  5. Hey Shane,
    I was an early member on GMR. The animatronic cowboys name is SNAKE, not Snakes. The gag in the Raiders scene about “Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?” is right out of the movie and both the Gangsters and Cowfolk say it.
    Back in the fall of 1989/ Spring of 1990 Men played both Gangster and Cowboy, women only played the Cowgirl.
    Oh and Mugsy’s friends are Beans and Squid.

    • Maybe it was off-script, but I have heard the Cowboy make multiple references to his old partner Snakes in the Raiders scene. I will defer to your expertise on whether he is Snake or Snakes. Again, I am pretty sure I have had experiences where the Cowboy referred to him as Snakes (plural). Could be I misheard or it was off-script again. Thanks for confirming the gender of both characters. Do you have any insight on whether the guides in the first car could only be men (hombre) early on?

  6. I rode GMR for probably the 10th time in my life (and unknowingly the last) in December 2016, and I swear it was the first time I had ever gotten Cowboy Scene. I didn’t even know it existed until then — I assumed at the time that they were trying to plus the ride! The lesson as always: I’m an idiot.

  7. This explains why we’ve seen the cowboy scenario once in all of our times on it. We will miss it.

  8. I never got to see the TCM overlay, and now Rosborne is dead. Bummers all around.

  9. I was told that the gangster or cowboy is determined by which car you load into, given that there are two loading areas. If you’re in the front, you get the cowboy; if you’re in the back, you get the gangster. Yet somehow, despite the statistically 50/50 shot, I’d say I got the gangster 90% of the time. Perhaps this is a Rosencrantz-and-Guildenstern-are-Dead-flipping-coins sort of thing?

    • This is 100% correct. The first car goes all the way through to the Cowboy Scene. Back car gets the Gangster. The problem is when they run reduced capacity, they just load everyone into the Gangster cars. So Cowboy Scene suffers.

  10. I just road GMR for the last time, but I was lucky enough to get the cowboy scene. (Actually on my last two rides I have.) and each time the guide has yelled “Woody’s here” when the cowboy shows up on the roof to the right of the vehicle. I have never noticed this before, and it makes me feel like they’re just throwing the script out the window. But I sort of love it.

    • Ha! I would not be surprised if on its last day, they are so far off-script as to be almost unrecognizable. I’m sure the Cast Members are feeling a mixture of “School’s Out” and “Time to Find Another Job.”

  11. I was fortunate enough to be in WDW from Chicago on the day after they announced the Great Movie Ride was closing. We rode the ride and we requested if possible the Cowboy scene specifically because we hadn’t experienced it in 15 years. I too noticed for the first time the amazing animatronic moving its gun to keep the guide covered. The loss of this ride is a great travesty, and the Mickey Mouse ride its being replaced with is scarier than anything in the GMR simply because of Mickey’s appearance (ragged fur and sharp teeth).

    • Completely agree. I think there was room for both a zany Mickey ride and a Great Movie Ride. They didn’t have to close this one. It has waned a bit in recent years, but it is very much an all time classic.

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