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Dinner with the Stars: The Great Movie Ride Dinner

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On Saturday, July 17, my husband, son and I attended the Great Movie Ride Dinner, hosted by Tables in Wonderland, Disney's dining program that offers members restaurant discounts and access to special culinary events.

The price tag was a hefty $155 per person plus tax, but the prospect of dining INSIDE the Disney's Hollywood Studios attraction with animatronics and movie sets of famous films was enticing. There were only 80 spots available so we decided quickly to try to make reservations and were thrilled when we learned that the event had not yet sold out.

So on Saturday night, dressed in "casual evening attire", we arrived at the Studios. Park admission was included in the price of the dinner, so we found the cast members at the turnstiles, who checked our names off their list and allowed us into the park. We then proceeded to the courtyard in front of the Graumann Chinese Theater, home to the Great Movie Ride. The event wasn't due to start until 7:30 p.m. so after checking in with the cast members there and getting wristbands, we had some time to kill. We spent it looking around the courtyard at the handprints and footprints of celebrities who had left their marks. It was surprising to see some stars of today scattered among those of yesterday, like Samuel L. Jackson and Tom Cruise, whose feet are apparently much smaller than those of my 18-year-old son's!

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Just a few minutes after 7:30, once all (80) members of our party had checked in, we were welcomed by "Director" Otto von Bonbon, who, after jokingly protesting that he wanted "no pictures," led us into the theater:

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Have you ever seen the lobby of this attraction empty? It was almost eerie, especially since the movie montage preshow was still playing on the screen.

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After a brief introduction as to what the evening would entail, we were all allowed to wander into the attraction itself. It was interesting to note that the path was smooth -- the ride's trams clearly don't travel along tracks.

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We passed by the Busby Berkely scene, and Gene Kelly Singin' in the Rain, then past Mary Poppins and Bert. It was rather dark along here so unfortunately I wasn't able to get great photos. It was absolutely cool to be able to see these animatronics up so close, though, and to spend a few minutes examining them.

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Once we passed Public Enemy Jimmy Cagney, we settled into the Gangster Scene, where we were greeted by Louie ("The gun isn't loaded, but I am! and you never know when I might go off!) and his moll, who helped us locate our place cards with our seating assignments.

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There were a few cocktail tables positioned around the Gangster Scene, and near the big garage-type door there was a piano and a bar, with a great bartender pouring soft drinks, beer and wines (Columbia Crest chardonnay and Canyon Road cabernet, disappointingly low-end for such a nice event). Needless to say, most people congregated in this area, as it was also where Louie serenaded us with a song and the servers entered with their trays of hors d'oeuvres.

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The trouble with this arrangement, though, was that if you weren't standing in this area, the goodies never made it all the way back to you -- the folks "up front" gobbled them up. Luckily for us, Otto noticed this and made sure to collar a few servers before their trays were emptied, and brought them back to where we, and several folks on scooters, were hungrily waiting.

The hors d'oeuvres included:
-- Bugsy's Fire-roasted Duck with Cherries
-- Dillinger's Seared Shrimp with Dill
-- Bonnie and Clyde's favorite Chive-stuffed Potatoes

I managed to get two of the shrimp and one of the duck, and found both to be quite good. I never saw the potato canapes at all -- though my son said he'd enjoyed one, but that it was "microscopic."

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After about a half-hour or so, the big doors opened and we made our way to Clint Eastwood, John Wayne and the Western Scene.

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Tables covered in red-checked cloths stretched from one end of this scene to the next, bearing the names of famous cowboys and legends. We hunted for our table, Wyatt Earp, and found it to be at the furthest end of the room. We were seated with 8 others (11 total at our table), directly across from the elevated portion of the room on which our musical entertainment was performing. (They called themselves "Ma's Boys," but I recognized them as The Banjo Brothers and Bob from the Magic Kingdom.)

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At the other end of the room was the piano player, who had followed us from the Gangster Scene and performed when "The Boys" took a break.

"Ma" herself was on hand to get things rolling, and she circulated around the room throughout the meal to make sure folks were satisfied, occasionally bantering with her boys on the stage.

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Our plated dinner began with a Creamy Free-range Yard Bird Corn Chowder with Grilled Flatbread, followed by a salad of Wild Greens tossed with Cactus and Cilantro Vinaigrette and topped with Carrot Tumbleweeds. The soup was flavorful and hot, and the salad very fresh, but they must have run out of flatbread, as plain Italian bread had been substituted on a few guests' plates. A chef moved from table to table to ensure that everyone was happy with their food, so I took the opportunity to ask where they had prepared the meal. Surprisingly, she told me that most everything had been prepared at Epcot's hub kitchens, then transported to the Studios. She added that some of the food was being finished or heated in the back. She also shared her secret for making the soup so tasty -- she had put her fingers in it! I wasn't supposed to tell -- don't let her know I spilled the beans!

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Speaking of beans, our entrees featured some:
-- Mesquite-grilled Beef Filet with Herb Butter
-- Truffle Mac and Cheese and Molasses Pinto Beans
-- House made Roasted Onion Bread with Butter

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The beef was as tender as could be, but I have to say the portion could have been a bit larger (remember, we'd paid $155 per person). I'm not the biggest carnivore around, but even I found the size of the filet to be on the way too small side. You can imagine what my son thought! The mac and cheese was delicious, though, and the beans were a nice, cowboyish touch.

The bar had been wheeled to follow us, but there were empty wine
glasses set on the table, so we all assumed that servers would come
around to fill them. After the soup and salad, we realized that wasn't going to happen, so we decided it was time to go to the bar and get our drinks ourselves. It's not that we minded doing it, but it would have been nice to have been told that we were supposed to -- maybe a few additional servers would have helped avoid this situation. Never mind, the bartender (who we think has a future as a stand-up comic) made it all right in the end.

These were minor annoyances, because as we finished our entrees around 9 p.m. Otto and Ma made their rounds through the room again, and it was time to move on to dessert... in Oz.

After we left the Western Scene behind, we passed through Alien -- the creatures even fumed and shrieked for us:

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And then a personal favorite, Raiders of the Lost Ark, where we spent way too much time looking at all the snakes (so realistic even up close), Indiana Jones, mummies and the Hidden C3PO and R2D2:

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Then Tarzan:

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And Casablanca:

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And then we saw it... the beginning of the Wizard of Oz scene! Ooops, looks like someone dropped a house on her!

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I can't even begin to tell you how excited I was to be actually
walking through this scene from one of my favorite films of all time. As we entered Munchkinland, we found small tables strewn around the path, with buffet tables covered with Munchkin-sized desserts in all the brilliant colors of the movie set surrounding us -- with a special emphasis on bright green as we were so close to the Emerald City!

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The bar was again stalking us and there was also coffee and tea service to go along with the delectable mini desserts, which included cannoli, small cheesecakes on a stick, mint mousse atop chocolate cookies and fresh fruit. As if eating sweets in one of the sweetest settings imaginable wasn't enough, who should appear to circulate amongst us but Glinda the Good Witch! She sweetly posed for photos and just generally made sure that everyone was enjoying themselves.

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All too soon, it was 10 p.m. and we were treated to a surprise appearance by the Wicked Witch, followed by a rousing send-off by the munchkins singing, "You're off to see the Wizard..."

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It perfectly fit the theme -- yes, we got the hint that it was time to go, and sadly we shuffled out of Oz and back into the reality of Disney's Hollywood Studios... but not before we snuck another few sweet treats, including one of the Tootsie Pops placed in the bowls on the tables, as well as a quick photo op with Glinda, and Dorothy and company...

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We found ourselves back in the night air by about 10:15 p.m.

Despite some of the criticisms we had (the small filet, the low-end wines, the disorganized hors d'oeuvre service), we all agreed that the evening overall had been well worth every cent. How often does one get to dine in such a magical spot?

After speaking with a Tables in Wonderland cast member at the event, we learned that they are exploring the possibility of offering other similar events, perhaps in other attractions. If they are of the same caliber as this Great Movie Ride dinner, sign me up!

The previous post in this blog was New "Spirited Beasts" Exhibit in Epcot's Japan Pavilion.

The next post in this blog is Festival 15: The 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival.

Comments (23)

Emily OP:

Great report--thanks DebK! We'll definitely sign up for other events after this review. :)

That is amazing. This is one of my daughter (age 9)'s favorite rides and this would so delight her. :) Thanks for sharing.

scott:

Nice info. Thanks for posting this. Is this event offered regularly? If so, could you post a schedule or how did you find out about it?

Scott

Deb Koma replies: Hi Scott, as I said in the blog, this was
a special event offered through Tables in Wonderland -- they have offered it before, but I have no idea when or if they will offer it again.

Nicole:

WOW! What a unique experience. Thanks for sharing this with us. I wonder what else Disney has up their sleeves! The desserts looked so yummy too.

Julie K.:

This sounds like an amazing event. Think there is any chance they would ever do something like this for us mere mortals? I would love to do this.

Jen Kizer:

Thank you so much for sharing! My daughters and I love this ride, and when we read about this dining event we thought it would be so cool to do. We wondered what it would be like! Sounds like fun, but a little pricey for us. :)

sandi:

My husband and I did this event not long ago. The characters in your pictures are the exact same actors, but the dinner was slightly different. WE LOVED IT. It was by far the BEST thing we have ever done in Disney (and we have done a lot) There is another event in the Great Movie Ride, but it is included with the food and wine festival 3-day event that is priced out of our reach. But I do hope that they have other events in other rides.

Cheri Weitkamp:

Just wondering - how did you hear of this event? I have Tables in Wonderland, but heard nothing about this event or others being offered. What am I missing? - Thanks!

Deb Koma replies: Cheri, Tables in Wonderland sends out periodic emails with their upcoming events. If you're not on their email list, give them a call at (407) 566-5858, Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern, or email WDW.Tables.In.Wonderland@disney.com

Lisa:

Wow! Sounds like you had an awesome time! This is one of my favorite rides because it encompasses so much of movie history - I even have my daughter hooked on it. I had no clue they even offered a dinner tour of this so thanks for guiding me to Tables in Wonderland and what they offer. Lisa

Joshua_me:

Very nice report ! Thanks for sharing it with us. I must say, though, for the price you paid I really think you got gypped on the quality of the food. For that amount of cash, the food should have fabulous and plentiful and the service perfection. Ahh well, Disney dishes it out and we take it. (I'd still go if I had the chance... lol )

DebK replies: We realize we were paying for the ambience. I mean, dining IN the attraction was really special. I think they could have put a little more quality into the food, but overall, yeah, I would do it again if I had the chance!

Terri:

Great write-up! I was at the dinner as well, with my husband (the guy who looked like santa claus) and son. I agree that the atmosphere was amazing, the 'characters' were a treat, but the food was a tad disappointing, especially for the price.

You did not miss much not getting a potato appetizer. As your son said, they were minuscule and cold and just sort of there. I never got my hands on a duck appetizer, but my husband said they were scrumptious. Son loved the shrimp, but I was not as impressed.

The sit-down portion of the meal was great fun-- an opportunity to meet other Disney food fanatics and to enjoy the antics of the "cook" and the music from the band and the piano player. The soup was the high point of the meal for me-- very creamy and delicious. The "flatbread" with it was just charred pita bread, nothing to write home about. The cornbread that was sitting at our plates when we first sat down, however, was yummy and everyone loved the mickey-shaped butter pats. Wish they had circulated with more bread as the meal progressed.

The salad was overdressed-- mine was swimming in dressing. The dressing was delicious, to be sure, but there was way too much. I was disappointed that what was described on the menu as "carrot tumbleweeds" was simply sprinkles of shaved carrot. I had pictured some adorably clever manipulation of the carrot-- and the mickey butter had led to further anticipation. Also, the advance menu said the salad would be prepared table-side, but it was not.

I agree that the beef was too small a portion. Our table was split over the mac-and-cheese. The woman beside me adored the truffle in the sauce; a man across the table said "I like truffle and I like mac-and-cheese, but I do not like them together." The beans were a bit toothy, imho. I noticed a lot of people did not eat their beans, which was a shame because they were still very flavorful. Our table, like yours, took a while to figure out that we would have to go get our own alcohol. (Well, to be fair, when we first sat down, the woman beside me corralled a waitress who brought her and her companions whiskey sours, but after that, the servers became scare and everyone resorted to going to the bar for more.)

Finally, the dessert section was well-laid out and I loved the table decorations of big jars filled with Tootsie Pops and giant suckers. Glenda was great fun, and a nice addition to the characters we'd interacted with all along. The desserts included some treasures-- my son was crazy about the little green mint bites and I loved the cheesecake sticks. But we all had some problems eating the two presentations that included pudding-type sweets in a two-sided container with a cookie-type stick. I guess you were supposed to dip the stick in the pudding-- there were no utensils, as everything was bite-size (we were in Lilliput, after all!). but once you took a bit of cookie stick, there was no way to dip down into the rest of the pudding/mousse/whatever it was. The container was relatively deep and the cookie relatively short, so that was a real disappointment.

We all loved walking through the ride, which was already our favorite ride in all the parks. We took a ton of pictures. I'd love to see them do something similar in other rides, but we wracked our brains trying to figure out where else it would work and there are fewer possibilities than you would think. I'd like to see something at The Land, perhaps (featuring foods grown there). It was great fun to have this special look at the ride, and I admit it felt cool when people would come up to the ride as we waiting to go in, only to be turned away with "It's closed for a special event."

They had the same event in January and will do it again next january, I was told. Then I noticed that it is also listed as an event during the Food and Wine Festival. I'd go back in the future, but only if they change the menu. The event was magical. The food, unfortunately, was not.

Kara:

Wow!! sounds like an amazing time!! This is my favorite ride at the studios! That is so cool to walk through! Love the pictures Deb K! Have you heard if they will do it again?

Thanks for the article!

DebK replies: Thanks! They are doing something similar
as part of a package for the Food & Wine Festival,
but no word yet on when they might do this exact
event again.

Donna:

sounds wonderfull How do you join tables in wonderland.

Deb Koma replies: Tables in Wonderland is open to Florida residents and Annual Passholders. You can find the details about joining here:

http://allears.net/din/dde.htm

Joe B.:

While at a conference a few years back one of the corporate vendors sponsored a similar dinner and drinks event at The Great Movie Ride. It was a wonderful experience to walk through the various stage settings and get pictures with Glenda and a couple of other mobster-type characters. I had no idea of the cost and looking back am happy to have had the opportunity since I likely would not have sprung for that on my own!

Jen S.:

Thanks for this review!! I didn't even realize this was available. I will look into it this experience next time I plan my trip to the World!!

Heather Joy:

Looks like a lot of fun. And such a great 'intimate access' experience. So you do walk through all the areas...WOW! Definitly a once in a life time opportunity.I love this ride...Can't wait to see what other attractions Disney adds to the list.
Thanks for sharing. *grin

julie:

My husband and I got married on the GMR in the Land of Oz. our guests got to walk through and see everything up close. Glinda was there to lead everyone out after. we had cocktails in the courtyard and made our own handprint with mickey and minnie. then dinner and dancing at the brown derby. that was 12 years ago and one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Your story and the pictures bring back wonderful memories. thanks for the post.

Al:

That sounded so cool. I do hope they do more of these events. Maybe allears can list these events as they become available.

Deb Koma replies: Yes, Al, AllEars does report on these
events when they're announced and there is enough lead time. Be sure to check the newsletter weekly!

Marina:

i have actually been in the ride where it was me and my husband with our two kids and no one else...it is very freaky to say the least...sounds like u had an awesome time...thanks for sharing this with us..loved it

Joni:

They did back a few years now a dinner at the Haunted Mansion (it was during the week) and at 2 hours away I skipped it. And an very sorry now I did. I think that would be so cool.

Too bad they don't have them more and could charge less. 155 for dinner (small portions) even in a themed ride it a bit overpriced. Being that they have so many world renowned chefs at their disposal I would think they could arrange a MUCH better dinner for that price. Then it would be worth it. A great classic ride and a wow over the top dinner and there would be sold out dinners as often as they wanted.

Anonymous:

I had a similar experience which was held in Hollywood Studios at Lights, Motors, Action. It was a travel agent event. The whole area was set up with food and a band and dance floor. It was a buffet so the food was more than enough. I walked through the garage where the cars are kept. I was later told i should not be back there.
Afterwards the dessert tables were set up at Toy Story Mania. The desserts were amazing. The best part was going on Toy Story Mania over and over and over and over. We finally had to stop because our arms were aching!! It was so amazing to see the street all decorated with little tables and bar stations. And let's not forget the green men all around!! Events like this are priceless.

I would love to do the Great Movie Ride. That sounds awesome.

TimWarp:

One advantage of the smaller filet is that it leaves you room for dessert. I HATE it when there are fabulous desserts and I'm too stuffed to enjoy them!

Sarah:

SOOO COOL! That would be so ridiculously awesome. I would definitely splurge for the Haunted Mansion event for sure!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 23, 2010 5:00 AM.

The previous post in this blog was New "Spirited Beasts" Exhibit in Epcot's Japan Pavilion.

The next post in this blog is Festival 15: The 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.