SWERVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (10)
August 2, 2021
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite unfinished masterworks, legendary obscurities and cherished almost-weres.
The author pictured with the unreal James Cagney and getting to touch his actual tux — which he didn’t wear in The Public Enemy but his family donated when they decided his robot double needed a zhuzh!
THE GREAT MOVIE RIDE THAT NEVER WAS
I once found myself on the arm of James Cagney. I was killing it in a sleeveless black gown with peekaboo lace at the bodice, satiny cinched waist, and uneven hemline. Mr. Cagney stood stiff yet dapper in a tuxedo with a white silk scarf draped over his shoulders and pale pink carnation in the lapel. I was working my way through college at The Great Movie Ride in Disney World. James Cagney was an audio-animatronic in Gangsterland, delivering lines from his 1931 film The Public Enemy on a loop.
When Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened on May 1, 1989, Michael Eisner described what was then called Disney-MGM Studios as “The Hollywood that never was but always will be.” Not a location on the map but the idea of Hollywood, a faded postcard of a promise tucked into our collective consciousness. A Hollywood that conjures You dirty rat in conjunction with Cagney even though he never said those precise words.
Movie Riders prided themselves in recreating magical movie moments for park guests. A typical Tuesday included escaping a shoot-out between rival animatronic gangsters, blowing up the town bank, ducking Alien goo, and trading barbs with the Wicked Witch of the West before following the yellow brick road to the grand finale. The Great Movie Ride, the last of the original MGM Studios attractions, closed on August 13, 2017. But I still ponder The GMR that never was but always will be…
I marvel that the room initially intended to be the tornado that whisked Dorothy away to Oz had been redesigned as the storm from Fantasia because of licensing issues. I thought it was odd having a whole section dedicated to a cyclical clip of Mickey and the buckets, but I never put it together that the film was projected onto a curved screen because it was meant to be the cyclone. I simply appreciated the humidity break provided by the wind tunnel.
The original finale was also imagined to be far grander than the ride’s vehicles pulling into a darkened theater for a three-minute movie montage of classic films. My favorite version of the possible alternative finales featured the floating head of the Wizard of Oz. Then the curtain would be drawn back to reveal a room filled with audio-animatronics of the stars who appeared throughout the ride. I like to picture park guests rubbing simulated shoulders with these icons. That finale may have given them the chance to feel how I did the night I climbed into the ride’s shadowy street corner during an after-hours event to pose for a picture with James Cagney — like I was the star of my youth.
Perhaps that feeling is why, years after the ride’s closing, so many Movie Riders continue to connect in a Facebook group eloquently summed up by its catchphrase: Once A Movie Rider, Always A Movie Rider. Many of us are strangers bound only by our shared love of a simulated experience, which is, of course, the true magic of the movies.
SWERVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM: SERIES INTRODUCTION by Adam McGovern | Luc Sante on WARHOL’S WALT WHITMAN | Peggy Nelson on THE CURSE OF QUIXOTE | Adrienne Crew on POOR DEVIL | Bishakh Som on KATE BUSH BOOTLEGS | Douglas Wolk on BIG NUMBERS #3 | Devin McKinney on THE ORIGINAL OF LAURA | Mandy Keifetz on BACKFIRE | Heather Quinlan on TRANSITIONAL DISNEY | Michael Grasso on STEELY DAN’S 2nd ARRANGEMENT | Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons on THE GREAT MOVIE RIDE | Josh Glenn on LE HIBOU PHILOSOPHE | Lynn Peril on 70, GIRLS, 70 | Ron Wimberly on SHIRATO SANPEI | Holly Interlandi on LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT |Stan Chou on TYRAEL’S MIGHT | Nikhil Singh on JOURNEY TO IXTLAN | Brian Lozano on BLOWN BANNER | Adam McGovern on THE LEON SUITES | Sajan Saini on BRISCO COUNTY | Heather Kapplow on LORD OF LIGHT | Greg Rowland on SOLARNAUTS | Christopher-Rashee Stevenson on FLEDGLING | Crystal Durant on TURN-ON | Ran Xia on BYRON’S FRAGMENT | Carolyn Raship on BURNT BRONTË.
NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM (4Q2021): TIME | THE POST OFFICE | ARDUIN | PAGE EDGES | SUMMATIONS | & 20 other nerdy passions. SWERVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (3Q2021): WARHOL’S WALT WHITMAN | 70, GIRLS, 70 | TYRAEL’S MIGHT | SHIRATO SANPEI | THE LEON SUITES | & 20 other never-realized cultural productions. FIVE-O YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2Q2021): DARK SHADOWS | MANNIX | GET SMART | THE ADDAMS FAMILY | I DREAM OF JEANNIE | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) TV shows. FERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (1Q2021): STEVEN UNIVERSE | TOP CAT | REN & STIMPY | SHE-RA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER | DRAGON BALL Z | & 20 other animated series. CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2020): “Sex Bomb” | “Going Underground” | “Soft South Africans” | “Typical Girls” | “Human Fly” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) punk singles. KLAATU YOU (2020 weekly): ZARDOZ | METROPOLIS | DARK STAR | SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | SOLARIS | & dozens of other pre-STAR WARS sci-fi movies. CONVOY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2019): THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE | ROLLERBALL | BLACK SUNDAY | SORCERER | STRAIGHT TIME | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) action movies. SERIOCOMIC (2019 weekly): LITTLE LULU | VIZ | MARSUPILAMI | ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | HELLBOY | & dozens of other comics. TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2018): LOONEY TUNES | THREE STOOGES | THE AVENGERS | ROCKY & BULLWINKLE | THE TWILIGHT ZONE | & 20 other Fifties (1954–1963) TV shows. WOWEE ZOWEE (2018 weekly): UNISEX | UNDER THE PINK | DUMMY | AMOR PROHIBIDO | HIPS AND MAKERS | & dozens of other Nineties (1994–2003) albums. KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads. GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) new wave singles. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other Thirties (1934–1943) fantasy novels. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.