Top 10 Things You May Not Have Known About The Hall of Presidents-A Celebration of Liberty’s Leaders
The Hall of Presidents is the singular Magic Kingdom attraction that does not seek to take you into a fantasy experience. It seeks to take you on a journey through history. It begins with the location, Liberty Square, and the building itself. The year over the entrance is the year the US Constitution was ratified, 1787. The attraction is a red brick building that combines the historical meeting houses of Boston and Philadelphia, where the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were created. Inside you will be taken from the humble beginnings of a new world, through its tumultuous history to modern day. It never once asks you to use your imagination except for what might be ahead for this great nation and what your role in it may be. Anyone of us can become the President of the United States.
The office of the President has been filled by men in many walks of life, many educational levels, and the opportunity for a woman to step into that role may be soon at hand. Liberty Square, is a place where free people may assemble, as in the colonial days, at the birth of this country. The Hall of Presidents was created to reconnect the citizens of the United States with their history, to never forget where they came from. As you enter Liberty Square from the Cinderella Castle Hub, you cross into Colonial America, just as the Revolution has begun, and as you make your way west into the American Frontier, you experience Frontierland. This little area known as Liberty Square is rich in historical cues. Check out the numbers on the buildings, those are the years in the 1800’s that that type of architecture was built, check out the rifle in the window that signified the man was home and ready to fight when called upon, and don’t miss the two lamps in the windows signaling Paul Revere that the British were coming, by sea.
10. Authenticity of Liberty Square: There is an enormous effort on the part of Disney Imagineers to make this area historically accurate. There are no restrooms in Liberty Square, as was the case in Colonial America (Except for ones required by modern day health codes in the full service restaurant Liberty Tree Tavern). Walt Disney wanted Liberty Square to be authentic, as much as possible. The restrooms in Columbia Harbor House are at the far end, which makes them technically in Fantasyland (Europe), not this new land in Liberty Square. Notice the brown gravel “river” in the streets? That represents the flow of waste from chamber pots that were tossed out into the streets. Notice the Liberty Square Tree across the courtyard from the Hall of Presidents? It has 13 lanterns hanging from it to signify the original 13 colonies. The Cast Members wear traditional Colonial period clothes.
9. James, one of the Hall of President’s Cast Members, is full of knowledge of the Presidents. Thanksgiving weekend visitors learned which President instituted Thanksgiving, which was Abraham Lincoln, who, James tells us, is oddly the only President who also had a pet Turkey! James has interesting and humorous stories on almost any US History subject, but especially those of the American Presidents. Look for him when visiting the attraction!
8.An attraction that changes every 4 to 8 years: Each time a new President is elected the speech must be recorded, the roll call done again, the positions of the previous Presidents shift and of course the new President must be sculpted and dressed. Every President from Washington to George W. Bush were sculpted by Disney artist Blaine Gibson. His protégé Valerie Edwards sculpted Barack Obama. (Gibson was 90 years old at the time.) The finale changes to feature the new President.
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7. The queue is inside and air conditioned. You will find some benches around the outer walls to take a seat, but the paintings and displays are interesting. The rotunda holds an authentic Oval Office Seal of the President circular rug, which literally took an act of Congress to get it there. It is otherwise only seen in the White House. There are displays of three First Lady gowns, accessories, portraits, and artifacts. You will also see artifacts from some of the Presidents, such as George Washington’s tea caddy and George W. Bush’s cowboy boots that he wore during the Inauguration.
6. The show is enjoyable and of interest to almost any age and is narrated by actor Morgan Freeman. The theater is large and has comfortable seating. You will rarely wait more than 15 minutes. Guests can remain in wheelchairs or ECV’s. The show begins with a film using historical paintings represent the early years up to present day clips to tell the story of the United States before the curtain rises to reveal all of the commanders in chief. The stage with the Presidents on it is 100-feet wide and can be seen from any seat in the theater. The Presidents are introduced individually and nod to the audience. It is somewhat fun to watch their mannerisms as the roll call is done. They shift their weight, tap their foot, one may whisper to another nearby, or just plain fidget, making them feel even more lifelike. The film contains over 130 pieces of artwork providing us a picture of American History. It is very exciting that one of the first things a newly elected President does is record his own speech now for use in the Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World!
5. Hall of Presidents uses some second generation Audio Animatronics that allows for more fluid movements, making it even more lifelike. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington Audio Animatronic figures are representative of this higher level robotics. It is reported that for every 1 second of movement 8 hours of difficult programming has to precede it. Franklin Roosevelt’s legs even include his leg braces. Bill Clinton was the first US President to record his voice for the attraction, giving a short speech in the White House written specifically for the Hall of Presidents. George W. Bush also gave a short speech recorded specifically for the attraction. Barack Obama repeats the Inaugural speech given by every President. He also gives a short speech written specifically for the Hall of Presidents, following the example set by the two preceding Presidents. Disney outdid their previous AA’s with President Obama adding more facial expressions and subtle movements not achieved before. Abraham Lincoln stands and delivers his famous Gettysburg Address.
4. The 43 Presidents have their own wardrobe. Wait, 43? Barak Obama is our country’s f 44th President so why are there 43 figures? Because one of those men was elected to be our 22nd President and then elected again in a separate term as our 24th President. It was Grover Cleveland. As each new President takes office, a team goes to the White House to record a speech by the new President and uses it to program their robotic counterpart. They also meet with White House staff to look at clothing, jewelry, hairstyles, etc. in order to produce the most life-like Audio Animatronic. Each President has clothing from their own wardrobe. Some needed the clothing carefully recreated for that period but that could accommodate the mechanics of an audio animatronic figure. George W. Bush made sure he was wearing his favorite suit, red tie and flag lapel pin. Bill Clinton’s figure is wearing one of the President’s own wristwatches and clothes from his closet.
3. Hall of Presidents exists only in Walt Disney World. Walt’s friend Ub Iwerks, who we know as the first animator of Mickey Mouse, created the three large side by side screens, which still exist today. He created the 70mm film device, the solution to fit his 18-feet high by 30-feet wide screens. You may recall that Walt Disney premiered the first Audio Animatronic, Abe Lincoln, at the New York 1964 World’s Fair and he was a bit rigid in his movements. Walt Disney directed the recording of the Gettysburg Address for that Fair in 1963. It is the same recording that this new higher high-tech Lincoln Audio Animatronic delivers in the Hall of Presidents. The voice is that of an actor named Royal Dano. Lincoln was the only AA President to talk, until the debut of the Bill Clinton figure. Following the Fair, the Lincoln Audio-Animatronic was returned to Disneyland and the attraction opened as “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln”. At the time of Walt Disney’s death, December 1966, the Florida Project (Walt Disney World) was well under way and the idea for the Hall of Presidents was switched to Florida since there was plenty of space to fully develop it there. It became one of Walt Disney World’s 23 opening day attractions.
2. The attraction highlights the profound power of the words of the President to lead the country ahead in times of great distress such as those uttered by George Washington repeats part of his second inauguration speech focusing on the importance of the Presidents’ adherence to the Constitution to keep the American dream alive, Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression, Lyndon Johnson following John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Bill Clinton following the tragedy of the Oklahoma City bombing, and George W. Bush with that now famous megaphone speech in the rubble of the buildings following 9/11. Barack Obama repeats the Inauguration speech and after checking notes on the table nearby gives his thoughts on the American Dream. The office of the President is one of great power, undoubtedly, but the great ones who hold that office are humbled by such events and the country looking to them for hope. Hall of Presidents focuses on how anyone of us can rise to the highest office of the land. George Washington wanted to show how he was just like everyone else, and he voluntarily gave up the office to return to his farm after two terms as President. He would not let anyone make him the King of the United States.
1. The Hall of Presidents was an idea that Walt Disney personally wanted to see in the park. In fact he was very excited about adding it to Disneyland. He was thrilled by the Disney film Johnny Tremain and he was afraid current generations were forgetting about the greatness of our Revolutionary period and our founding fathers. He wanted to remind guests of all ages about the rich history of the United States. Walt was going to name the attraction “One Nation Under God” and have the 33 Presidents walk and talk for the audience. As is typical with Disney, his imagination was way ahead of technology. Designers could only deliver wax dummies at that time, which was not what Walt Disney wanted so it was put aside until he could create the technology needed to deliver his idea properly. Walt was a true patriot who loved his country and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1968 in honor of all he had done during his career in support of the United States. Walt Disney is quoted to say “If you could see close in my eyes, the American flag is waving in both of them, and up my spine is growing this red, white, and blue stripe.” Walt began the work that led to the creation of The Hall of Presidents, but it was his brother Roy Disney who saw it to completion.
These are my top 10 list about The Hall of Presidents attraction. What are your favorite parts of the attraction? Please share with all of us in the comments below.
Something funny: When Spaceship Earth needed audio animatronics, molds of the presidents were used for expediency. Teddy Roosevelt is recreated into an Egyptian priest and again as a senator in Rome. James Buchanan was made into Johannes Gutenberg with his life-changing printing press. Eisenhower is the lute player and the sculptor is actually from the mold of Ulysses S. Grant. Franklin Pierce and John Tyler are scholars.
20-minute show, begins every hour and half hour
Doris Kearns Godwin, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and noted Presidential historian, worked with Disney Imagineers on the 2009 updated Hall of Presidents
740 seats in the theater
1956-work began on creating this attraction
1969-sculptors began work to create Presidents from George Washington to Richard Nixon
October 1, 1971-opened with Magic Kingdom’s Grand Opening
Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan and George Bush were added as they were inaugurated.
November 18, 1983-President Bill Clinton is added along with major refurbishment
2001-President George W. Bush added
2009-show was updated, adding President Obama.