The Hall of Presidents
(October 1, 1971 - present)
History and photos of The Hall of Presidents Audio-Animatronic show in the Liberty Square section of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
Located in Liberty Square in a building somewhat resembling Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is The Hall of Presidents, an Audio-Animatronic stage show that takes Magic Kingdom park guests on a brief history of the Executive Branch of our country's government.
The story behind Walt Disney World's The Hall of Presidents dates back to the 1950s and Walt Disney's American patriotism. After Disneyland opened in 1955 and was proving to be a rousing success, Disney began planning an expansion of Main Street, U.S.A. that would feature the colonial days of America. One of the planned attractions was something called One Nation Under God, a patriotic tribute to all of the U.S. Presidents. One Nation Under God was originally going to involve lifelike wax figures of the presidents, but that was changed to making the figures animated, being able to actually move and speak to the guests.
Unfortunately, technology at that time did not allow for such a concept to exist. The 1950s were still the beginning stages of robots being used in the theme park. Instead of trying to build animatronics of all the presidents, the Imagineers focused on building a lifelike version of Walt Disney's favorite president, Abraham Lincoln.
The Imagineers' version of Abraham Lincoln was so lifelike and impressive that it was decided to be used in a Walt Disney attraction at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair.
While the 1964-65 New York World's Fair may be best known for showcasing Walt Disney's attractions "it's a small world" and Progressland (later moved to the Magic Kingdom and renamed Carousel of Progress), Walt Disney also presented Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, a short stage show featuring an Audio-Animatronic version of President Lincoln reciting parts of his famous speeches. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln was a hit with the crowds at the world's fair, and a duplicate version of the show was quickly added to Disneyland. The Disneyland version of the show featured a more advanced version of the President Lincoln animatronic figure.
Fast forward a few years.
In the late 1960s construction was well underway for the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Unlike Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom would feature a land called Liberty Square, a section of the park dedicated to the colonial period of American history. While Disneyland had Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, the Florida park would feature The Hall of Presidents, the U.S. Presidents tribute show that Walt Disney envisioned back in the 1950s. The Florida theme park had the room for the show, and current technology would allow for it to finally become a reality.
It may have taken about fifteen years to transition from vision to reality, but Walt Disney's concept for One Nation Under God finally opened as The Hall of Presidents.
The Hall of Presidents is an original Magic Kingdom attraction that opened with the rest of the park on October 1, 1971. Although the show has been updated every four or eight years to add the next president to its cast, the show itself has carried on the same spirit and theme since it opened back in 1971.
The experience for The Hall of Presidents begins with walking through Liberty Square and past colonial and patriotic symbols such as the Liberty Tree and the Liberty Bell. Guests then enter a smaller replica of Independence Hall and visit a lavish waiting room. As guests are waiting for the next show to begin, they can browse the area and see dozens of paintings of U.S. Presidents as well as historic events in our nation's past.
Narrated by actor Morgan Freeman, the 2009 version of The Hall of Presidents takes guests on a brief history of America and the events that transformed the British colonies into an independent country. This is presented through a dramatic series of paintings. When the time period advances to the War Between the States (a.k.a. the American Civil War), the show reveals the Audio-Animatronic figure of President Abraham Lincoln. He makes his statements and then the history lesson continues, this time with more photographs than paintings.
When we reach modern times the curtain rises and we see all 44 Presidents of the United States, each of them dressed in appropriate period clothing. The role call begins and each president acknowledges his name in order of being elected, beginning with George Washington and ending with Barack Obama. At the end of the role call, both President Washington and President Obama make brief statements to the guests.
The Hall of Presidents is often an overlooked attraction by many Magic Kingdom park guests. Normally this show is busiest during the middle of the day when, A) The other attractions are busy, and B) People are seeking air conditioning and a place to sit. The Hall of Presidents also experiences spikes in attendance whenever a new president is added to the show.
Many people consider The Hall of Presidents as a secondary or an optional attraction. Much of the material presented here will probably bore children and young adults. The more you know (or desire to know) about American history, then the better you'll enjoy The Hall of Presidents.
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