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Friday, July 3, 2009

Hall of Presidents featuring #44


On Sunday, June 28, I had the pleasure of attending a special sneak preview of the newly refurbished Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square. The highlight of the new attraction is our 44th President, Barack Obama, however the speech by George Washington was equally as moving. The most moving of all, honestly, was the opening video narrated by Morgan Freeman. His deep, strident voice lended a sense of importance and authority to the story of how our nation's presidents came to find themselves in the White House.

Much as I wish I could bring you photos (the photo above is from Disney), I was told by a castmember when entering that no photography and video of any kind would be allowed. I decided to respect this request, though it appears others didn't get the same request. AttractionsMagazine.com has video and photos of the new show (animatronic portion only). Disney has released some video on their YouTube channel.

The opening video is a bit shorter than the previous video and quickly moves through the history of our presidents. There is one new bit that I most appreciated in the video portion -- the Abraham Lincoln animatronic makes an appearance isolated by a red curtain curved around his chair. Much like Disneyland's Great Moments with Mister Lincoln, our 16th President stands up from his ornate chair to deliver the Gettysburg address. Afterward, the lights dim and the video continues highlighting Lincoln's efforts to hold the nation together during the Civil War.

In the final scenes, the film shows the now famous video of President George W. Bush standing aside firefighters at ground zero in New York City saying "we can hear you!" Those scenes are still chilling to see and I was gratified that Disney decided to include a reference to 9/11 in the film. The last shot is the space shuttle taking off and as it does, the curtain rises to reveal and introduce all 43 presidents.

After the introductions, George Washington makes a brief speech about how he was honored to serve as the nation's first president and how he did so by taking a short, but ever so solemn oath. President Obama then "takes" the oath of office and continues with his speech about the American dream and the need for tolerance and a shared spirit.

The attraction closes with dawn breaking over the Capitol and the U.S. presidents. It's a very moving visual tableau and leaves you proud to be an American (similar to the end of the American Experience at Epcot).

A few days later I ran into Alex Carruthers, art director for the Magic Kingdom and Eric Jacobson, senior V.P. for Walt Disney Imagineering. They told me they were gratified to see how guests have responded to the newly refurbished attraction.

I'm not a big fan of President Obama, the person; but I am a huge fan of President Obama, the animatronic. Imagineering did a wonderful job of capturing Mr. Obama's mannerisms, stance and gestures. You really get the sense that this is our 44th President. In a similar manner, presidents Washington and Lincoln are equally stunning. The sight of our first president and newest president standing on opposite sides of President Lincoln makes a great picture.

So go and see the new Hall of Presidents -- it's much more than a place to beat the heat or rain. It's an attraction that will remind you what it means to be an American and will help fill you with pride for the U.S.A.

1 comment:

Go said...

Thanks Chuck!
I too am glad to hear that the 9/11 reference is in the opening video.
I also look forward to the advances in animatronics making their presence known throughout the parks in the near future.