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November 23, 2013

Magic Kingdom - The Hall of Presidents


Centrally located in Liberty Square, you'll find an ornate building that looks an awful lot like Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Within that building is The Hall of Presidents, a remarkable show that combines stage and screen elements in a dramatic 23 minute display. There's a great deal of history behind this attraction... and I'm not just referring to the 431 U.S. Presidents appearing on stage!


This incarnation of The Hall of Presidents debuted on Magic Kingdom's opening day in 1971. The original idea for the attraction was born at the 1964 New York World's Fair, in the form of the "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln" exhibit. Walt ran with that one and came up with One Nation Under God, an attraction conceived for his California park. This was the pattern that Florida's Hall of Presidents would utilize as well - an elaboration on the Lincoln exhibit. Walt was disillusioned by the lack of life in wax figures. He knew that he and his crew of gifted Imagineers could do better, even though technology of the time inhibited them. This was the conflict that gave rise to the very first audio-animatronic figure. Appropriately, this "prototype" device was created in the image of Abraham Lincoln himself. 


When they saw the results they set out for, those crafty little Disney elves ran with that ball! Similar figurines were created to represent each individual U.S. President. Their specific features were carefully duplicated as accurately as possible, including great efforts to reproduce their wardrobe styles with examples authentic to their representative time periods. Though there isn't a great deal of movement by the Presidents themselves, their gestures are natural, fluid and surprisingly realistic. As each President is introduced, notice their interactions and nods.
When you first enter the attraction, you'll arrive in a stately pre-show, waiting area. There are a few small benches along the walls, but you really should opt to stroll around and soak up the history surrounding you here. Peppered throughout the waiting area, you'll find displays of Presidential memorabilia and Americana. 


The theater is immense, and breathtaking! I am still in awe every time I enter this area... it's just beautiful! A pleasant side note... there's plenty of room in this air-conditioned theater, 700 plush, cozy seats, to be precise! The beginning portion of the show takes place on a screen that surrounds half of the theater. This film (narrated by Morgan Freeman) details the challenges of an early America struggling to define itself and establish a foundational government for its growing populace. We're then introduced to each of our Presidents as they appear on the stage that has been revealed in place of the screen. Speaking roles go to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln (the Gettysburg Address) and Barack Obama, who personally recorded his contribution at the White House. Absolutely an impressive sight during this portion of the show - the Lincoln figure actually rises to deliver his speech, and then returns to a seating position; and he does so smoothly and realistically! 

Beyond just being a well-thought-out reminder of what America is all about, The Hall of Presidents is a hauntingly brilliant, moving performance. If this one doesn't make you emotional, proud, nostalgic and ambitious, sit through another performance because you missed it!



Can you find this hidden Mickey? Check George Washington's sword on artwork in the attraction's pre-show area!


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