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Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln

Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln is the name of an attraction that was originally showcased as the prime feature of the State of Illinois Pavilion at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. It was created by both Walt Disney and the Imagineers of WED Enterprises.

World's Fair

This original version of the attraction opened with the rest of the New York World's Fair on April 22, 1964. It and the rest of the Fair closed with the first season on October 18, 1964, then reopened for the second and final season on April 21, 1965 and closed on October 17, 1965. The State of Illinois Pavilion, both its exterior and interiors, were demolished and removed. The same can be said for the other exhibits within the Pavilion, including "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln". Only valuable artifacts, collections, and exhibits made their way back to the State of Illinois or elsewhere around the world. For many years, all that remained of the original version of "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" are the memories of those who saw it, and the photos, audio and film recordings.

While the second and final season of the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair was continuing in Flushing Meadows Corona Park (the spring, summer, and fall of 1965), a duplicate of the attraction was being made by Walt Disney and his Imagineers.

Years after the duplicate was created, it was discovered that the original Lincoln figure had been packed in a crate, shipped back to California and mysteriously forgotten for decades. After it was unearthed it formed the centerpiece of a 2005-2006 traveling exhibit entitled "Behind the Magic: 50 Years of Disneyland" where it was exhibited along with its packing crate. The figure was displayed without clothing or skin except for the iconic head. This original figure had never been seen by the public since its appearance at the New York World's Fair and had been believed lost.

Disneyland show

This second version of the show and attraction "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" opened on July 18, 1965 at the new and specially constructed Opera House on Main Street USA at Disneyland Park, at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA, USA.

The exterior and interiors were new in both construction and theme. This was also reflected in the entrance, preshow, postshow, and exit. These areas reflected generalized Abraham Lincoln and Walt Disney exhibits, displays, and films. This was due to the fact that the second version of "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" was no longer sponsored or influenced by the state of Illinois. The second version of "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" was presented by "Lincoln Savings" and was free of charge, requiring no ticket of the "A" through "E" ticket system that Disneyland used from 1955 until 1980. Both the sponsorship from "Lincoln Savings" and "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" ended and closed on January 1, 1973.

The new attraction that opened in the place of "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" was The Walt Disney Story. A similar version of this attraction appeared also in a newly-constructed building on Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom, a theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA. Both were free of charge and did not require a ticket.

The Disneyland version of "The Walt Disney Story" opened in the spring of 1973. While the exterior and interior remained the same with the exception of new signage, the entrance, preshow, postshow, and exit were all changed and redesigned so their exhibits could reflect the history of Walt Disney, the Disney company, and Disneyland. A new preshow film was created because of this. The main theater, originally housing the main portion of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, looked the same, but the stage where an Audio-Animatronic Abraham Lincoln and other props and set pieces were originally showcased were either removed, or remained in place covered up by the newly added motion picture screen added to show the tribute film to Walt Disney. The film, which lasted 23 minutes, stitched together archival film and audio footage that made it appear Walt Disney was doing an autobiography of himself.

While "The Walt Disney Story" was a fitting tribute to Walt Disney, who had died on December 15, 1966, the show received a great deal of public criticism by those who were angered by the removal of "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln". "The Walt Disney Story" closed in the spring of 1975, and reopened in the summer of 1975 as "The Walt Disney Story Featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln". This was the second version of Disneyland's "The Walt Disney Story" and the third version of "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln".

All the exhibits along with the entrance, preshow, postshow, and exit remained the same with the exception of new signage and the fact that the preshow film and 23-minute feature film were eliminated; a new, revised film about Walt Disney became the sole preshow production. The motion picture screen in the main theater was removed, and the theater was restored to its original form as it had been during the second version of "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln", including the show itself. The reason why it was considered the third version of "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" is due only to the fact that the entrance, preshow, postshow, and exit no longer featured exhibits on Abraham Lincoln, but rather Walt Disney.

In 1984 a new version of "The Walt Disney Story Featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" debuted. The exhibits from both "The Walt Disney Story" and the original "Walt Disney Story Featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" remained the same in the entrance, preshow, postshow, and exit, but the revised film on Walt Disney, seen only in the preshow, was removed and replaced with a new preshow film.

"Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" appeared in its fourth version. A completely new Audio-Animatronic Abraham Lincoln was created and installed, using the movements and facial expressions programmed for the original figure, as well as new movements and facial expressions created for the new figure. New skin was created, as was a new costume. The animatronic Mr. Lincoln could now hold a piece of paper for his speech in his hand. There was also a redressing of the props and set pieces on stage.

While the original 1964-1965 World's Fair audio recordings were still used for the narration and speech by Mr. Lincoln, there was a new song added to the production. The song, "Two Brothers", came from "The American Adventure", a show located inside the American Pavilion at World Showcase at Epcot, a theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA. A rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, used in the original finale of the show and in the 1964, 1965, and 1975 versions of "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln," was also eliminated in the 1984 version of the show. The new song used in the finale was "Golden Dreams", another song borrowed from "The American Adventure".

In 2001 "The Walt Disney Story Featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" closed again and reopened later in the same year as the new, third version of the attraction. "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" was in its fifth iteration. This version was quite different from the previous versions. The entrance, preshow, postshow, and exit were refurbished and redesigned to serve as the both the preshow and prologue to "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln".

Guests are introduced to American Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, and they assume the role of a fictitious Union soldier named John Cunningham. Guests then enter the main theater where they wear special earphones or headsets using binaural sound technology. Cunningham meets Brady in his photo studio, receives a haircut, goes back to battle, and eventually is wounded, but is able to meet President Abraham Lincoln and hear the Gettysburg Address in person. At this point, the curtains open to reveal Lincoln standing on the stage.

For this version the entire set was completely redone, with little to no reference to the previous versions of "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln". The 1984 Audio-Animatronic Abraham Lincoln remained the same, simply refurbished and reworked and now wearing eyeglasses. A new narrator was hired to provide the voice of Lincoln. Lincoln now performs only the Gettysburg Address, not the collection of speeches given at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair and in previous versions of the show. The current show concentrates on the American Civil War, not on a series of moving or emotional speeches Lincoln used to present to guests in the main theater.

On February 20, 2005, "The Walt Disney Story Featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" closed in order to be replaced with a temporary show and exhibit called Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years, which was a series of exhibits and a main theater film presented by Steve Martin and an animated Donald Duck. The film takes guests through Disneyland's 50 years of existence. It was part of Disneyland's and the Disney Company's Happiest Homecoming on Earth 50th anniversary celebration that lasted from May 5, 2005 to September 30, 2006.

Now that the celebration is over, "Disneyland: The First 50 Magic Years" remains in place. The Disney Company has reported that the show will eventually close and be replaced with "The Walt Disney Story Featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln." Whether this version of the attraction will be the 2001 version, a new version, or a previous rendition or version remains unknown, nor is there any certainty that the show will come back.

History

Mr. Disney and Mr. Lincoln

Walt Disney was always fascinated with the life of Abraham Lincoln. He even recited Lincoln's Gettysburg Address to his elementary class as a small boy. As Disneyland became more and more prosperous, Walt proposed an expansion of Main Street, U.S.A. in 1958, called Liberty Square.

Liberty Square would have been a look back at Colonial-era America. The centerpiece attraction would have been One Nation Under God, a stage presentation featuring figures of every single U.S. President. Walt even wanted all the figures to move; but limitations of the Audio-Animatronic technology of the era made it impossible. After Liberty Square was abandoned, the Imagineers concentrated their efforts on one president: Mr. Lincoln.

Mr. Moses meets Mr. Lincoln

In the early 1960s, Robert Moses approached Walt about contributing attractions to the pavilions of the 1964 New York World's Fair. Walt took Moses around the studio, showing him the new technology his Imagineers were working on. Nothing really sparked Moses' interest.

Walt then showed Moses a prototype electronic figure of Lincoln. Moses was astonished at the possibilities and told Walt that he HAD to have this figure at the Fair. Despite knowing that the figure was years from completion, Walt told Moses it would be ready. Walt and his Imagineers immediately went to work. Moses sought the State of Illinois as a sponsor to have Mr. Lincoln as the featured attraction at their pavilion.

The figure worked fine in tests at the studio, but ran into problems when it got to the site at Flushing Meadows in New York. Walt even had to cancel the press preview because of mechanical problems. Walt brought the Illinois sponsorship people to see Mr. Lincoln perform. During the performence, a valve for the hydrolic fluid that moved Mr. Lincoln broke, spreading red hydrolic fluid all over his white shirt and making him fall over. One of the viewer remarked that "[They're] recreating the assasination of Abraham Lincoln!"

Once the problems were solved, however, Mr. Lincoln performed very well and became one of the big draws to the Fair. Mr. Lincoln was the very first human Audio-Animatronic figure ever attempted by Walt Disney.

Attraction facts

  • Grand Opening: July 18, 1965
  • Designer: WED Enterprises
  • Re-Openings:
  • June 12, 1975
  • Closures:
  • January 1, 1973
  • February 20, 2005
  • Temporary Replacement: Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years (opened May 5, 2005, scheduled closure date this spring.)
  • Required Ticket: None
  • Ride System: Audio-Animatronic Theater presentation

Attraction trivia

  • Lincoln's voice was originally provided by American actor Royal Dano. Walt liked his voice and the fact that he bore an uncanny resemblance to Lincoln. In "The Journey to Gettysburg" version of the show, Lincoln's voice is provided by voice actor Warren Burton.
  • Lincoln's face was created by Disney sculptor Blaine Gibson. Gibson had obtained a copy of a life mask of Lincoln made by Leonard Volk in Chicago in 1860. He based Lincoln's likeness on the mask.
  • According to Imagineer Marc Davis, Mr. Lincoln would perform well at the Fair until the last thirty seconds of the show, when he would suddenly lurch and make some grotesque, inhuman movements. Presumably this was why Walt had to cancel the press event.
  • Lincoln's original speech was composed of various speeches made over his lifetime. They were composited by Disney Legend James Algar, who was also the main writer and producer of the show. One of the excerpts is from a eulogy Lincoln gave to honor the late Henry Clay.
  • While actor Royal Dano was recording his lines for the show, Walt was there to "direct" his performance. The first time Dano recited the speech, everyone thought it was perfect except Walt. Walt made Dano do it again, and again, and again. On the last take, Dano was so tired that he felt he had not done a very good job. Walt, however, thought it was perfect. Walt figured that Lincoln would have been a very tired, stressed man because of the pressures of the office and the troubles of war, and would have spoken in a tired tone.
  • Disney voice regular Paul Frees was the narrator of the World's Fair show and the original versions of the Disneyland show. He also voiced most of the auxiliary characters. The updated Disneyland show is narrated by Frees soundalike Corey Burton.
  • According to Walt Disney's wife, Lilly, and daughters Diane and Sharon, every time Walt saw the Lincoln presentation his eyes would well up with tears. There were several times he tried to shrug it off, saying that he had something in his eye.
  • Audio collage artists Negativland used a modified version of speech from the attraction on their album No Business, on the track "God Bull."
  • The morning of the grand opening for the new Mr. Lincoln show (the version where Lincoln holds a paper in his hand), animator Davy Crockett Feiten was asked to present the new show to a large press group. Feiten ran the new show from his computer console and everything ran perfectly, but the members of the press who were sitting behind him asked Mr. Feiten if he could do something more impressive for their cameras. Feiten then moved a few functions on Mr. Lincoln from his console. The press members were not happy and asked for something with more action. Just then Mr. Feiten accidentally pressed a console button with his elbow, causing Mr. Lincoln to fall back into his chair in one twenty-fourth of a second. Mr. Lincoln crashed through the chair, breaking an oil line and several other components in the animatronic body, and landed on his back. Just then someone from the audience yelled out,"He's Dead!" The press loved the demo and ran excitedly out of the room with the film footage, thinking it was all part of the show. Mr. Lincoln was repaired and opened later that day.

Mr. Lincoln's original speech

This is the speech that Mr. Lincoln gave during the show at both the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair and during the 1965, 1975, and 1984 versions of the show at Disneyland.

"The world has never had a good definition of the word "liberty". The American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty. But in using the same word, we do not all mean the same thing.

"What constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence? It is not our frowning embattlements, our bristling sea coasts. These are not our reliance against tyranny. Our reliance is in the love of liberty, which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.

"At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some trans-Atlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us in a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected?

"I answer that if it ever reach us, it must spring from amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we ourselves must be the authors and finishers. As a nation of free men, we must live through all times, or die by suicide.

"Let reverence for the law be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap. Let it be taught in the schools, in the seminaries, and in the colleges. Let it be written in primers, in spelling books and almanacs. Let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And in short, let it become the political religion of the nation. And let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes, and tongues, and colors, and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly at its altar.

"And let us strive to deserve, as far as mortals may, the continued care of Divine Providence, trusting that, in future national emergencies, He will not fail to provide us the instruments of safety and security.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, or frightened from it by menaces of the destruction to the government, nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might. And in that faith, let us to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."

See also

External links

References

  • Disneyland: The Nickel Tour by Bruce Gordon and David Mumford. Camphor Tree Publishers, 1995. ISBN 0-9646059-0-2
  • Remembering Walt by Amy Boothe Green and Howard E. Green. Hyperion Press, 1999. ISBN 0-7868-6348-X
  • Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln Guidebook for Guests with Disabilities by Disneyland. Disneyland, circa 1996.

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