This week United States citizens elect their next President. The last year and a half of campaigning has been disturbing enough to turn stomachs on both sides of the aisle. So, while the rest of the country goes out to vote and fires up their Twitter and Facebook accounts to engage in verbal Civil War, I thought I’d look at The Hall of Presidents inside Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom theme park and maybe bring to light some fascinating things you may not have known about this majestic, often overlooked attraction.
1. The Hall of Presidents is the only place outside of The White House where the Presidential Seal is displayed.
The Presidential Seal, depicted as the Bald Eagle holding an olive branch and a stack of arrows, has come to represent the President of the United States of America. It can be seen in The Oval Office, above the door of The Blue Room, on the podium when the president does a press conference, Air Force One and, Marine One to name a few places. However, the only place you will see it outside of The White House is in The Hall of Presidents. Congress had to formally act in order for Disney to get approval to display it on the carpet inside the entry to the lobby of the theater, where The Hall of Presidents runs each and every day.
2. It is one of the oldest attractions still running and being updated in Walt Disney World.
The Hall of Presidents was up and running on opening day in Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971. This makes the attraction 45 years old. This attraction may be old, but it receives an addition and/or update at least every 4 to 8 years, depending on whether a new president is elected in the U.S. When you think about another old attraction, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, an update every 4 to 8 years sounds downright awesome for a show that’s been consistently running for 45 years.
3. Walt Disney originally envisioned a Hall of Presidents-type attraction being more of a wax museum attraction.
Walt’s original idea for an attraction that paid tribute to American presidents was more of a wax museum attraction. However, the 1964-1965 World’s Fair in New York saw him unveiling an audio-animatronic figure of his favorite president, Abraham Lincoln in “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” as part of the State of Illinois pavilion. “Mr. Lincoln” was moved out to Disneyland, and in 1971, after Walt Disney passed away, The Hall of Presidents opened in Walt Disney World with audio-animatronic presidents instead of wax figures.
4. Imagineers are meticulous with details of the presidents.
One thing Disney fans can never get enough of with Disney is the amazing attention to detail their Imagineers exhibit with their attractions, and The Hall of Presidents is no exception. All of the clothing on the audio-animatronic figures is correct to time period. Franklin Delano Roosevelt even has braces on his legs, even though they’re not noticeable from where the audience sits. Another example, the George W. Bush audio-animatronic has a Timex Indiglo watch he was known to wear. It is even inscribed with his first inauguration date on the back. Obama’s audio-animatronic has a wedding ring that was recreated all the way down to the braided design that the actual ring has. Even the chair that George Washington sits in is a copy of the chair that he sat in during the 1787 Constitutional Convention.
5. Legendary Disney sculptor and Imagineer Blaine Gibson sculpted all of the Presidents except for one.
Blaine Gibson is a legendary Disney Imagineer, who worked on The Hall of Presidents, as well as other classic Disney attractions like Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. He passed away at the age of 97 in 2015, but before he retired at the age of 90, he held the astounding distinction of having sculpted all of the presidents in The Hall of Presidents. When it came time to sculpt the nation’s 44th President, he handed over the reins to Valeria Edwards, his protégé.
6. The lobby contains a ton of presidential artifacts.
If you happened to find yourself disappointed that The Hall of Presidents wasn’t more of a museum, you might be thrilled to find that there are actually a treasure trove of presidential artifacts displayed in the lobby. Here, you can find items such as portraits of George Washington, Ronald Reagan, and Thomas Jefferson, dresses worn by first ladies, a microscope owned by John Quincy Adams, Woodrow Wilson’s golf club, a powder horn used by Teddy Roosevelt, and even a beer mug belonging to George Washington!
7. The building that houses The Hall of Presidents was designed to resemble Independence Hall.
Disney Imagineers paid homage to the history and patriotism of the United States when they designed the building that houses The Hall of Presidents to resemble Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA. The building is not a replica, but merely resembles the iconic Independence Hall, where the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were both debated and adopted. The numbers on the outside of the building are “1787”, which is the year the U.S. Constitution was signed.