Hall of Presidents

The Hall of Presidents

The Hall of Presidents is an attraction located in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom in the Walt Disney World Resort. The attraction is a multi-media presentation and stage show featuring Audio-Animatronic figures of all 42 U.S. Presidents. It opened on October 1, 1971 with the rest of the Magic Kingdom and Walt Disney World's Opening Day Celebration(s).


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 in Anaheim, California USA. 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 to 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 to 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 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.

Liberty Square

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 close 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.

The attraction

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 conflict 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 segment 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 truly 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 in 1971, 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, and 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."

The Hall of Presidents Change

The original show remained virtually unchanged from 1971 until 1993. The only feature that changed before 1993 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. A new music score was also introduced. 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 gave 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.

In 2001, African American singer, and actor J.D. Hall read the script that Maya Angelou read in 1993. He also performed the roll-call of the U.S. Presidents. The voices, and all other features used in the show in 1993 remained the same. Also in 2001, President George W. Bush gave a speech as the current U.S. President. The Audio Animatronic figure created for President Bill Clinton was recycled and used for President George W. Bush. President Clinton is now a lesser Audio Animatronic Figure, and the same is expected for President Bush when he leaves office. The Audio Animatronic used for the current U.S. President is expected to remain as such, but it is unknown how the show will change when a new U.S. President comes into office in 2009.

Attraction Trivia

  • 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 takes office. 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 Renoudet.
  • President Bush's speech was recorded in the White House Library in May 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.
  • This attraction is mentioned in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure when Bill and Ted are attempting to write part of their speech on history.
  • The attraction is mentioned on the Saturday Night Live skit, Debbie Downer when she says that it is her favorite ride.

President Bush's Speech

This is the speech that President George W. Bush recites in the finale of the Hall of Presidents.

"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."


  • Walt Disney World Press Release for George W. Bush Addition, 2002.
  • Birnbaum's Walt Disney World, 2006 Edition.

See also

External links

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