…with liberty and justice for all

Being as I write about history, something that has always fascinated me is Walt Disney’s love of history as well. I guess in that, we have some sort of bond. Being on the verge of Walt Disney World’s 40th anniversary on Oct. 1st, I thought I’d revisit an attraction that was not only there from the opening of the Magic Kingdom, but also an attraction that is exclusive to Walt Disney World.  I’m talking about The Hall of Presidents within the confines of Liberty Square. Both the land and attraction are unique to Walt Disney World and were planned by Walt Disney for Disneyland initially.

Liberty Square was originally named Liberty Street and was planned to be an addition to Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland, but due to the lack of technology in the 1950s, this never occured. After the success of the Abraham Lincoln audio-animatronic figure at the New York World’s Fair in the mid-1960s, that attraction was brought over to Disneyland and another push for Liberty Street was made but the plug was pulled again, this time due to money being wrapped up in the creation of Walt Disney World. Although Liberty Street sat back on the bench and was later dropped altogether, Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom opened with the park on Oct. 1st, 1971.

When Walt Disney World was being built, Imagineers felt, with Florida being close to Lousiana, New Orleans Square wasn’t the novelty it was in California. They chose to create Liberty Square, a section that could be similar to New Orleans Square, even housing the Haunted Mansion, but distinctly different from its counterpart in California. To this day, Liberty Square is the only land in the Magic Kingdom that hasn’t been tampered with. Nothing new has been added and nothing has been taken away from it.

However, this article, isn’t truly about the back story of Liberty Square, its about The Hall of Presidents. An attraction, once designed for Liberty Street in Disneyland, but chosen as the perfect show to be included in Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square. It was an opening day attraction in 1971, and was unchanged all the way up to 1993. The original show consisted of a film presentation followed by a roll call of every president through Nixon, with life like animatronics of each president. The show ended with Abraham Lincoln giving a speech. (Similar to the speech the figure gave at the World’s Fair and at Disneyland.)

The film was a look into the revolution and evolution of the United States and its government. There are portions of the Philidelphia Convention, The American Civil War, and ending with the Saturn V blasting off as the curtain being projected upon lifts to show all of the animatronic figures. Changes to the film have occured over the years, including a musical score change, and narration changes with each new president being added. The original voice of the narration was Lawrence Dobkin, but Dobkin has been followed by Maya Angelou, J.D. Hall, and the current narrator, Morgan Freeman.

                  (Barack Obama recording his speech for The Hall of Presidents)

The second part of the Hall of Presidents show, which features all of the presidents represented in audio-animatronic form changed in 1993, when Bill Clinton was elected into office. (The show’s figures were all created by lead sculptor, Blaine Gibson until his apprentice, Valerie Edwards, took over for Barack Obama.) The original show only featured presidents up to Richard Nixon, despite there being several other presidents since then, so they were added into the cast as non-speaking animatronics. Bill Clinton was given a speech to record and his actual voice was added to the figure created in his likeness. That meant that along with Abraham Lincoln, Bill Clinton also gave a speech and took center stage in the theater. George W. Bush and Barack Obama have also recorded speeches for the attraction and have been added to the show (see above video), with the former president being added to the line of other presidents and being replaced with the current at center stage.

The attraction will continue to grow and change with the addition of new presidents, which excites me as a history buff. Its a chance to understand where we have come from, and as a society, where we are going. This attraction promotes the American experience and is presented in such a fashion, that it doesn’t feel like a 6th grade classroom.

Please, next time you visit Walt Disney World, stop by this attraction and take in the show. Yes, it is lengthy, I’ll admit that, but is worth every moment if you love America, the human spirit, innovation, or just a little bit of history.

Josh Taylor

Until Sunday!

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Posted on September 29, 2011, in Articles and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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