I realize that The Hall of Presidents is sometimes characterized as a great place for a nap. And it may be for some people. It is definitely a great escape from the heat of a summer day in the Magic Kingdom. But, I have a family full of history-loving geeks, and Presidential history is among their favorite topics. The Hall of President is a must-do for my family nearly every trip and you will most likely find us in the front row center (you do get a great view of the audio-animatronics here). Here are 8 things I find totally cool about the Hall of Presidents:
8. The Audio-Animatronics
As the narrator calls the names of each President watch them as they move about and articulate. When their name is called (you’ll know which one by the spotlight on him) they acknowledge the audience usually with a gesture common to their time in history. But watch the rest of the Presidents too—they all move about and acknowledge each other. They don’t stand statute still but shift and move and look around like people would.
7. Clothing & Accessories
Each President is clothed in the fashion of their day. But it is much more than that. Even though you can’t get close enough to tell, they all have painstaking details to make them as accurate as possible for their time period. The fabrics from which their clothes are made are accurate, the accessories they wear from shoes to shoe buckles, belts to jewelry is accurate to that President and his time. My son and I once did one of Disney’s Youth Education Series classes on American History that took place in the Magic Kingdom (told you we are geeks), and we had the opportunity to walk upon the stage with the Presidents. It was amazing how detailed each costume is, even when the general audience member can’t see it.
6. Artifacts in the lobby
If you arrive early to the show you will have time to walk around the entrance lobby and take a look at all of the artifacts on display that relate to various Presidents or belonged to them while they were in office. I’m not sure there are too many places outside of Washington, DC that you can see this many artifacts assembled in one place that represent a range of Presidents.
The audio-animatronics in the Hall of Presidents are really remarkable. Each one is sculpted from portraits, photographs, video, and life to present as accurately as possible a representation of each President. With those who take on speaking roles other elements are taken into account including his mannerisms and speaking patterns. This can make it difficult for the sculpture to be a complete ringer for the actual President since the sculptors and Imagineers have to take into account the movements that the audio-animatronic figure will be going through as they speak. I remember when Barack Obama has first unveiled everyone was critical of his appearance just as they were with Donald Trump. Disney Legend Blaine Gibson sculpted all of the Presidents through George W. Bush and then his apprentice Valerie Edwards took over with Barack Obama.
4. The New Film
I always enjoy the documentary the Imagineers put together to begin the show before the Presidents are unveiled. The collection of photographs and the weaving of the story of America’s history and the office of the President are well done. In the latest version, I particularly like the evolving image of the White House as they progress through the years of Presidents.
3. Presidential Speeches
Beginning with Bill Clinton in 1993, the sitting President has recorded a speech to accompany his new audio-animatronic figure in the Hall of Presidents. This gives an actual voice to the representation and allows the President to put his own spin on what the Presidency means to the United States and its people. I am sure the Imagineers are very excited to get each speech recorded and have that level of accuracy for the attraction.
2. Opening Day Attraction
The Hall of Presidents was one of the attractions that opened with the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971. Having that little bit of seniority among Magic Kingdom attractions is pretty special. And though it changes with each new President, the Hall of Presidents has withstood the test of time.
1. The History
Walt Disney was always a fan of American history. Starting with Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at the 1964-65 World’s Fair he put that love of history into action as an attraction to experience for many people. The first attempt at Hall of Presidents was to be at Disneyland in the form of a show entitled “One Nation Under God,” but it wasn’t until the technology to produce a life-like audio-animatronic was developed for Abraham Lincoln in Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at the World’s Fair that it would be possible to create a production of this scope. Walt Disney passed away shortly after the World’s Fair in 1966, and plans to put this production into Disneyland as an extension of New Orleans Square were never realized. But in the plans for Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Liberty Square was developed which proved to be the perfect fit for Disney’s original inspiration. Through the years the show has evolved and changed with the times, but it has always presented a relatable portrayal of important moments in American History.
Do you enjoy the Hall of Presidents? What do you think is one of its best features?