Florida Guide > Magic Kingdom
The Hall of Presidents, Magic Kingdom.
It was on June 28th, 2009 that “The Hall of Presidents” was reopened, following a major revamp. Sited in a stunning replica colonial building in Liberty Square at Magic Kingdom, you cannot miss this attraction. Outside the attraction there is a new sign which says ‘The Hall of Presidents – A Celebration of Liberty’s Leaders. ’ You may well see some of the cast members outside in their delightful costumes, complete with white mob caps, which are typical of the period. A new addition is a ‘countdown’ clock which tells you how many minutes you have to wait until the beginning of the next show, which takes approximately 25 minutes and which is repeated every half an hour. The attraction was the brain-child of Walt Disney himself, and he regarded this as ‘a grand cavalcade of history. ’
For me, the first thing I always notice as I enter is the Great Seal of the United States, on the floor, with the American Bald Eagle taking pride of place. It is protected by railings but you can still get close enough to see the detail. On the wall there is a display with two American flags, and a welcome to the attraction in gold letters. We are always fascinated by the display cases along the walls which hold many fascinating artefacts including the Tea Caddy/Game Box which was used by George Washington at Mount Vernon. There are also many portraits on the walls which are interesting to look at, but my favourite exhibit is the showcase which displays the dresses of three First Ladies – Edith Roosevelt, Elizabeth Monroe and Nancy Reagan. These dresses showcase the fashions of the time.
The short patriotic movie traces the history of the United States of America’s Constitution as well as early presidential milestones, and includes photographs and videos of several presidents. The film is narrated by Morgan Freeman, and amongst other things it features Lyndon Johnson speaking after the assassination of John F Kennedy, Bill Clinton, speaking after the terrible Oklahoma City bombings, and George Bush addressing the people, following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. They remind us that each president has faced many challenges, guiding America and its people through often turbulent times. It also shows us that it is not an enviable task to be the leader of the most powerful nation on earth. The film begins with a discussion of the War of Independence and George Washington, who it is said helped the country to ensure that anyone could rise to the highest office in the land, regardless of background. Andrew Jackson, the next president is highlighted for his pivotal part in the building of the country as it is today. Of course, Lincoln and slavery are also discussed. At this point an Audio-Animatronic figure appears on the stage – he then delivers the Gettysburg Address which is a stirring moment for all Americans. The film itself is digitally projected which enables it to be crystal clear and vivid. The sound, too, is digitally recorded for top quality.
The finale is when the curtain rises on all 43 presidents, and the new lighting system highlights each president in turn. President George Washington then talks about the importance of the Presidential Oath of Office and then he beckons to President Obama to recite his oath. Of course, President Obama made a slight mistake at his inauguration when he first took the oath, and it had to be retaken in the Map Room.
Morgan Freeman then introduces President Obama, who delivers a short and very moving speech about the significance of the American Dream, which he recorded at the White House:
‘The American dream is as old as our founding, and as timeless as our hopes. It is reborn every day in the heart of every child who wakes up in a land of limitless possibilities, in a country where we the people means all the people. We may come from different places and believe in different things, but what makes us American is a shared spirit, a spirit of courage and determination, of kindness, of generosity of spirit grounded in the wisdom of the generations that have gone before us, and open to the unimagined discoveries and possibilities along the horizon that lies ahead. Let’s enjoy it, cherish it, defend it and pass it on to our children as the bright and beautiful blessing it is - this enduring American dream. ’
How appropriate that this speech should be heard in the very place where dreams can come true!
The show then concludes with a stirring rendition of America the Beautiful. It is at this point that even we non-Americans feel a lump in our throats, and looking around it was amazing to see that many Americans were wiping a tear away. It is quite an emotional moment.
The Audio-animatronic figures are amazing, with great care taken to authentically reproduce the clothes, and hairstyles of the presidents, as well as their mannerisms. The meticulous detail even includes the braces on the legs of President Roosevelt. It is fascinating to realise that each of the first 43 presidents was sculpted by the Disney artist Blaine Gibson. However, he is now 90 years old, and when it was necessary to create the new President Obama figure his protégé, Valerie Edwards took over the job, but under Blaine’s supervision.
We find it a intriguing insight into the history of the United States of America, but it is probably not a good choice if you have young children, as they may well get bored. For those who have an interest in history, and particularly the emergence of modern day America, it is a wonderful experience. It’s also quite nice to sit down in the cool 700 seat theatre, with its comfy seats, when you need a break.
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