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History and Genesis of the Hall of Presidents in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
The first new land Walt wanted to add to Disneyland was an area devoted to America's founding principles. Plans for the land go back to 1956.
It was to be called "Liberty Street" and was going to be located off of Town Square on Main Street
The main attraction was going to be called "One Nation Under God" with its finale to be a Hall of Presidents with an animated, life sized figure of each President with Abraham Lincoln being the focus.
President Lincoln was one of Walt's childhood heroes
The technology wasn't advanced enough in 1956, and audio animatronics weren't developed by WED Enterprises (Imagineering) until 1961, and not used in an attraction until 1963 in the Enchanted Tiki Room.
Walt was approached to create attractions for the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair
Walt’s sponsors at the Fair funded the development of major technical advancements such as Audio-Animatronics technology and the PeopleMover system that he could implement at Disneyland
And they helped demonstrate to Walt that there was an east coast audience for his brand of themed entertainment
When Walt invited the head of the Fair (Robert Moses) to tour the studio, he was so impressed by the One Nation Under God concept, he insisted on including it in the Fair
Walt knew that he would not be able to complete the entire show within the given timeframe, and a show based on Lincoln was created for the State of Illinois pavilion.
During the "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" show, a seated Abraham Lincoln stands, gives a speech—made of excerpts of different Lincoln speeches—and sits back down.
The show was a hit. So much so, that Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln opened at Disneyland on July 18, 1965, and was running on both coasts during 1965
When Walt Disney World was being designed, the Imagineers brought back the idea for Liberty Street and the Hall of Presidents.
The Hall of Presidents was an opening day attraction on October 1, 1971 and opened with audio animatronics of all 36 presidents
The show starts with a film presentation of the history of the US, then the screen lifts up and the Presidents are shown and introduced, with each giving a nod or wave.
Lincoln then stands from his chair and gives his speech from Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
As new presidents were elected, a new audio animatronic figure was added to the show.
During Bill Clinton's term, the show was changed to include a speech by Clinton, and the narration was changed slightly.
Each president that followed (Bush, Obama, Trump) were given a speaking role as well.
The show is currently closed and the official word from the Walt Disney Company is that they are going to install President Biden into the attraction