The Hall of Presidents is an attraction located in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. The attraction is a multi-media presentation and stage show featuring Audio-Animatronic figures of all 44 U.S. Presidents. It opened with the park on October 1, 1971.
One Nation Under God
Walt Disney had originally wanted an attraction similar to the "Hall of Presidents" called One Nation Under God at Disneyland Park at the Disneyland Resort. After Disneyland had become a huge success, Walt Disney proposed an extension of Main Street, U.S.A. called Liberty Street at Edison Square. Walt originally wanted wax figures of all the U.S. Presidents, and later decided to try and make them animated figures. But the technology that Walt Disney wanted for this attraction did not exist or fully meet his desire. Walt Disney decided to collaborate with his fellow Imagineers of WED Enterprises to try and make the first Audio Animatronic figure in a human form. It would be of Walt Disney's hero: Abraham Lincoln.
Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
With all its ups and downs, Walt Disney and his Imagineers were able to create a successful Audio Animatronic figure of Abraham Lincoln. Incidentally, Walt Disney and his Imagineers were given the blessing from both the World's Fair Commission and the Government of the State of Illinois to present this concept in the form of a prime feature for the main exhibit of the State of Illinois Pavilion at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. Disney would also present three other attractions at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair, but none of the Audio Animatronic figures were as advanced as Abraham Lincoln. The show proved to be one of the most popular at the Fair.
The show consisted of a pre-show film on a screen with a depiction of paintings done to represent Illinois. The Illinois state song could be heard during this time, as was narration by Paul Frees. The voice used for Abraham Lincoln, that of Royal Dano was also present in the preshow. Guests then entered the main theater where the theater curtains eventually were removed to reveal an Audio Animatronic figure of Abraham Lincoln sitting in a chair. He rose out of the chair, stood up, and gave a 5-7 minute oratory consisting of a collection of his famous speeches. The show concluded with more theater curtains revealing the Rotunda of the United States Capitol Building. An abstract image of the American Flag was eventually revealed behind the Rotunda as a backdrop, and a rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" could be heard. The overall narrative and purpose of the show dealt with inspiration, justice, and the meaning of the United States, its Constitution, and its citizens. It was meant to evoke celebration and inspiration in the guests in the theater.
While the original version of the show that played in New York during its showing at the Fair was eventually dismantled and demolished, a similar version was created even while the Fair was going on in 1965. Great moments with Abraham Lincoln was closed down for Disney's 50th anniversary, and currently has no plans to be reopened.
After Walt Disney's death on December 15, 1966: plans were moving ahead for the (still under construction) Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida USA. Since there was going to be another Disneyland-style theme park, this time officially known as the Magic Kingdom, Imagineers that felt one of the various changes that would differ between Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom should be in one of themed lands. The Imagineers inferred that since Florida was in close proximity to the real New Orleans in Louisiana, having a New Orleans Square in the Magic Kingdom was a bit superfluous. The old designs and concepts for Disney's Liberty Street at Edison Square were reviewed and revised, and what became of it was Liberty Square, that served as the alternative to New Orleans Square. The Imagineers also thought that, as a follow-up to "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln", they could finally create Walt Disney's concept of "One Nation Under God", and thus the "Hall of Presidents" was created.
- Discover the unique relationship between the President and the American people during this rousing presentation.
- Enter the pristine Hall of Presidents in the heart of Liberty Square—modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia—and make your way beneath an awe-inspiring grand rotunda. Peruse an authentic artifact collection nearby featuring such treasures as George Washington’s dental instruments and Abraham Lincoln’s leather portfolio.
- Stroll into the 700-seat main theater, home to 5 massive projection screens and a grand proscenium. As the lights dim, sit back and enjoy an original film—developed by a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian—relaying the dramatic story of the United States of America.
- During the presentation, revel in America’s enduring origins, the formation of our Constitution and the hard-fought struggles along the way—such as the American Revolution and the Civil War. Listen to the stirring words of John F. Kennedy echo throughout the theater and watch Abraham Lincoln—in attendance on stage—deliver his Gettysburg address.
- Then, witness a very special display as the curtain rises to reveal each and every United States President, together for the very first time—followed by stirring speeches about the American Dream delivered by Presidents George Washington and Barack Obama.
The original show
The show begins with a film presentation of the history of the United States of America. It shows that the American way was forged through conflicted and many long years of struggle. The main idea of the film is that the United States is not free from improvements. It is certain changes that prove necessary over the years. The film also celebrates the liberties of the American people, the American Constitution, and the progress of America in its early years.
With the help of paintings from the era, the Constitutional Convention is reenacted. George Washington (voiced by Disney veteran Paul Frees) and Benjamin Franklin make speeches to the Convention. They assured all that this government was going to be different. After the formation of the Constitution, the first test of the new republic was the Whiskey Rebellion, which proved that the government would use force to "ensure domestic tranquility".
Years later, President Andrew Jackson was the first to deal with secession by the Southern states. Luckily, the talk was quelled and Jackson escaped the threat. The film then segues to the time of Abraham Lincoln, when secession was a real threat. These paintings and vocal performances are similar, if not identical, to the same episode in the "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" presentation.
The American Civil War portion of the presentation is based on the "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" presentation, including a nearly identical script. Although, to fit the much bigger screen of the theater, rather than the much smaller one at Disneyland, new paintings were required to fill the screen. The Constitution survived the conflict, making America a real unified nation.
A huge era of progress occurred after the war. All the while, the Constitution remained the tent pole of the country. The film then turns toward the future, saying that the leaders of tomorrow have to be committed to the Constitution and its principles, if the country is to survive. A Saturn V rocket takes off, and the screens then lift up, and the U.S. Presidents take center stage.
After the curtain lifts, all (then) 36 presidents are called, in chronological order. (At the time the attraction opened, the roll call ended with Richard M. Nixon. Over time, each newly elected President has had an Audio-Animatronic added to the show in their likeness. Each one responds to their name with a nod, wave, or other sign of acknowledgment. During the presentation, the Presidents fidget, talk to each other, look around:all the while making the illusion seem quite real. Abraham Lincoln then stands and takes center stage. His speech is remarkably similar to the speech he gave in "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln". After his speech, the show concludes with a rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", (the same rendition used in "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln." A rounded applause came as the curtains came down and the 23 minute program ended.
The Hall of Presidents Change
The original show remained mostly unchanged from 1971 until October 1993. The only features that changed before 1993 was the removal of a dialogue from a man in NASA's Mission Control Room who said "There's Fire!" during the segment in the show where the Saturn V Rocket lifts off the ground and heads into space. Also changed was the original adaptation of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" that served as part of the finale of the show. It was the same adaptation used in "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln". The adaptation was done in a lower key, and instead changed for a revised adaptation in a higher key. Also changed was the needed addition of Audio Animatronic U.S. Presidents since the show began. The roll-call, though narrated by the same man who had done the original in 1971, Lawrence Dobkin, continued to be redone and expanded with the addition of every new U.S. President.
In 1993 the biggest changes came to the "Hall of Presidents", and the majority of those changes remain in some way, shape, or form to this day. The change to the show is credited to Eric Foner, a history professor at Columbia University. He was able to persuade various Disney executives, most notably then CEO of the Disney Company, Michael Eisner that a new adaptation of the show was needed. Foner is responsible for completely rewriting and changing the script of the show in order to focus more on slavery and other ethical and civil related issues in the United States of America. He is also responsible for rewriting Lincoln's speech, which was originally nearly identical to that which Lincoln gave in the original version of "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln".
While the format of the show remained in the sense of the photos, films, and other features used in the film and elsewhere in the presentation, the speed at which the films played, and what was shown on them was redone to fit the changed script. The changed script, possibly historically inaccurate, created very different feelings for the same material being shown before guests dating back to 1971. Despite this, it covers generally the same events shown in the original film (omitting the Whiskey Rebellion).
Also no longer would prominent members of the Disney Company narrate parts of the film. Lawrence Dobkin no longer narrated the film or did the roll-call of the U.S. Presidents. Paul Frees and Royal Dano also no longer narrated the character's voices. Instead, African American Poet Maya Angelou narrated the revised script and gave the roll-call of the U.S. Presidents. New amateur actors provided the voices of the characters in the film.
For the first time, the current U.S. President would give a speech. Foner is responsible for writing the speech which President Bill Clinton would read and tape at the White House. Followed by the current U.S. President's speech, President Lincoln would give his completely revised speech, also done by Foner. Lincoln also now wore eye glasses, and held a piece of paper used to glance to and from his speech. Some objected to this, saying that it dumbed down the depiction of Lincoln as a prominent and iconic figure.
For the 2001 update to the show, adding President George W. Bush and his speech, actor J.D. Hall replaced Angelou as the narrator, but he read from the same script as the 1993 version. The Audio-Animatronic figure created for President Bill Clinton in 1993 was recycled and used for President George W. Bush; Clinton is now a lesser Audio-Animatronic figure.
Before the 2009 updates to the show, including the addition of President Barack Obama, the Hall of Presidents was closed between October 31, 2008, and July 1, 2009, to undergo an extensive renovation to upgrade its audio and visual effects and systems. When Obama recorded his speech for the updated show on March 4, 2009, in the White House Map Room, he also recorded himself once again reciting the Oath of office of the President of the United States. According to Pam Fisher, the senior show writer for Walt Disney Imagineering, "it is quite an experience to arrive in the White House and actually be present when the president records his speech for the Hall of Presidents." Morgan Freeman replaced Hall as narrator for the 2009 revised show and George Washington was added as a third speaking president. All the other legacy voices and features used in the 1993 show remained unchanged in the current show and Royal Dano's original Abe Lincoln voice recordings were reinstated. However, the clip of the Saturn V launch was replaced with footage showing the first launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia. This footage had been recycled from the original version of Universe of Energy at Epcot.
- The "Battle Hymn Of The Republic" Renedition has been changed a number of times since Gerald Ford was added to the show in 1974.
- The building which the attraction is being housed resembles the Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
- The film used in the show was shot in 70mm format using a special process created by Disney Legend Ub Iwerks. It was made to take up the audience's natural field of vision.
- The finale of the show is unique in that it must be re-recorded every time a new U.S. President is elected. A new roll-call recording must be made and the current U.S. President (since 1993) records a speech. The figures of the U.S. Presidents also must be shifted in order to accommodate the new position of the new U.S. President.
- All the Presidents were sculpted by Disney Legend Blaine Gibson. All the faces were based on paintings and/or photographs of each President.
- Royal Dano was the original voice of Mr. Lincoln, as he also was in the World's Fair and early Disneyland versions. When the show was redone in 1993, Dano had become ill and Lincoln was voiced by Pete Renaday.
- President Bush's speech was recorded in the White House Library in May of 2001. The Imagineers said that President Bush only took six minutes to record the speech.
- Each one of the Presidents has his own wardrobe. The Imagineers went for total accuracy, picking out clothes that were close to what the men actually wore, and keeping with the style of their respective eras.
- President George W. Bush's suit is based on his preferences, complete with his red tie and flag lapel pin. It had to be specially made to accommodate the mechanics of the figure.
- The figure of George W. Bush has a replica of the wristwatch that the real President Bush wears. It is a Timex Indiglo, inscribed with "George W. Bush - President - January 20, 2001".
- Both Presidents Lincoln and Bush are A-100 model Audio-Animatronic figures, a line of the most advanced, lifelike, and expressive human figures WDI has ever built.
- J.D. Hall, who took over the narration in 2001, can also be heard as Frederick Douglass in the "Journey to Gettysburg" version of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland.
- In America's Funniest Home Videos, a video showing this attraction features Lincoln, while doing his speech, falling over. It is not revealed, however, if the attraction was stopped. The Lincoln animatronic was soon fixed.
President Clinton's speech
- President Bill Clinton recorded this speech for the attraction. The animatonic representing him was outfitted in clothes from his wardrobe, and even wore a wristwatch that had belonged to him.
My fellow citizens, we are the heirs of the great American Revolution. As this millennium draws to a close and the 21st century approaches, let us pause to honor the very idea of America. America mirrors the world's diversity, yet it remains united in the struggle to uphold fundamental freedoms. We believe our nation's happiness still evolves from liberty, from opportunity and from the vision of equality set forth by our country's Declaration of Independence. And today our nation stands as a symbol of freedom and inspiration to people all over the world. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America. And there is nothing wrong with the world that cannot be cured by the ideals that America represents. Those principles have no borders, and we look forward to a day when those principles, extended beyond our borders, will have circled the globe. The quest for democracy must continue until all of the people of the world enjoy the freedom we must always fight to preserve. The spirit of America is as bright and hopeful today as it was in July of 1776. And we are ready to carry our great national experiment forward into the next millennium.
President Bush's Speech
This is the speech that President George W. Bush recited in the version of the Hall of Presidents that ran from 2001 through 2009.
"My Fellow Americans, when we look back on the history of this country, we see a record of almost unbelievable energy, sacrifice, hard work - of impossible dreams that our ancestors dreamed and made real. We see injustice, too, that weighs on our hearts even today. But for every injustice there has always been a voice crying out to right it. And America has always listened to those voices.
"We're listening today. And perhaps it falls to us, to this first generation of 21st century Americans to say, once and for all, that no child, no race, no creed, no ethnic community will ever again be left out of the American dream. Through education, through the opportunity to work and to enjoy the fruits of that work, we can open every closed door. We expand the horizons of every American.
"Again and again we return to the same simple principles - freedom, equality; the freedom to create, to prosper, to dream; Equality before the law, in the workplace, and the chance for a better life. And each time in the process America grows stronger. The beacon of democracy grows brighter. The world looks with new astonishment at what free people can do. We the people are just getting started."
President Obama's Speech
This is the speech that President Barack Obama recorded at the White House for the version of this attraction that has run since the summer of 2009.
"The American dream is as old as our founding, but as timeless as our hopes. It is reborn every day in the heart of every child who wakes up in a land of limitless possibilities, in a country where "we, the people" means all the people. We may come from different places and believe different things, but what makes us American is a shared spirit; a spirit of courage and determination; of kindness and generosity. It is a spirit grounded in the wisdom of the generations that have gone before us, but open to the unimagined discoveries and possibilities on the horizon that lies ahead. Let us enjoy it, cherish it, defend it, and pass it on to our children as the bright and beautiful blessing it is: this enduring American dream."
- This ride was parodied in a video game Bioshock Infinite as "Hall Of Heroes", a racist attraction that describes the game's main villain Comstock as a brave hero that fights enemies of America, instead of who he really is.
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