The Hall of Presidents. All you need to do is utter those words to a Walt Disney World fan and they’ll probably have strong opinions about it. Some love this opening-day attraction and never want it to go away, while others find it to be too controversial and would love to see its demise. Regardless of where you land on that spectrum, one thing is for certain: political opinions in the U.S. are at an all-time high, causing this attraction to be problematic in current times.
This situation highlights a sort of strange dichotomy; on one hand, people visit the Disney Parks to escape reality. We want to visit a place that will make our daily struggles feel like a distant memory. On the other hand, political figures have been featured in the Disney Parks for a long time. It even began with Walt himself when he created the Abraham Lincoln Audio-Animatronic for the 1964-1965 World’s Fair, later bringing it to Disneyland. Then it happened again in 1971 with The Hall of Presidents and in 1982 when The American Adventure opened with Epcot. For better or worse, politics and Disney have been intertwined for quite some time.
In addition to these attractions, many presidents have visited the Disney Parks, including Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama. These visits have been well-documented and displayed to the public.
It’s pretty remarkable how important the Disney Parks are to this country, substantiating a visit from multiple U.S. presidents.
The problem with The Hall of Presidents is the fact that it features current politicians. Regardless of your political beliefs, most people won’t be offended by a politician who died many years ago – but bring in a current politician, and it can affect a lot of folks’ desire to visit the attraction. In current times, it’s even gotten to the point of needing extra security in the attraction to prevent any problems from arising. I’m sure this is something that Disney doesn’t really want to deal with anymore. The feeling that Disney wants us to have in a Disney Park is joy, not anger and potential fear over what could happen while inside an attraction. On top of controversy, there’s the added cost of adding a new Audio-Animatronic figure every four to eight years.
So, what if The Walt Disney Company did decide that they’ve had enough with the controversial attraction and that they want to put something else in its place? What could they do? After all, The Hall of Presidents really is the anchor attraction of Liberty Square. Yes, The Haunted Mansion is in this land as well, but I would argue that it could be worked into another land and theme fairly easily.
The Hall of Presidents truly is the heart of Liberty Square. Without it, would we really need the land? There is the argument that this area could be themed into something completely different if The Hall of Presidents were to be removed. I personally hope that doesn’t happen, considering its uniqueness to Magic Kingdom, and I doubt that Disney would want to make such an investment at this time.
That leaves completely changing The Hall of Presidents into a different attraction. Rumors have been swirling that Disney is looking to make a change. One such rumor is that Lin-Manuel Miranda is involved in the possible changes. Since Miranda is the creator of the smash-hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” some have felt that perhaps something “Hamilton”-related will take its place. “Hamilton” is available to watch on Disney+, but it has no relationship with Disney Theatrical Group as far as the stage show is concerned. That doesn’t mean that Disney couldn’t license it, but I’m not sure it’s the best fit despite its popularity.
With the acclaim for The Muppets Present…Great Moments in American History above the streets of Liberty Square, some have even suggested putting a Muppet-centric historical presentation inside the theatre. I’m sure this would make Sam Eagle very happy, but even I (who typically is for anything Muppets-related) am not so keen on this idea.
One of the things I love so much about historic Disney attractions is the fact that no other theme park could get away with the seriousness and majesty of these presentations. It is next-level and, frankly, impressive how they’ve worked them into the parks for so many years. These presentations are taken so seriously that it literally took an act of Congress in order to gain permissions to display the Great Seal of the United States in The Hall of Presidents lobby carpet. I would love to see this level of respect taken with anything that were to replace it – the Muppets don’t quite fit that bill.
If you’ve ever witnessed The Hall of Presidents, you’re aware just how powerful the finale scene is when the curtain rises to reveal an Audio-Animatronic figure of every president of the United States of America. I think anything that replaces the attraction should have an equally awe-inspiring moment.
If the folks at Disney were to come to me and ask what I think they should do, my first thought would be to keep a similar type of show in place but avoid current politics. This would tremendously decrease the controversy and also allow the show not to need to be updated as often. A moment in American history that would fit the theme of Liberty Square, keep the dignity of the presentation, and offer a grandiose finale is the signing of The Declaration of Independence in 1776. If you’re familiar with the final scene in the stage musical (and movie) “1776,” you know how impactful it can be to see our Founding Fathers on display during this historic moment in American history.
More so than the controversial decision to change the attraction and what to change it into, is the difficult choice of when to make the change.
Removing The Hall of Presidents is a big deal and no matter when it is done, there will probably be some sort of uproar. Whoever the sitting or soon-to-be-sworn-in president is at the time of its removal, I’m sure their attributed parties would not be happy with the decision and would try to point the finger of blame or favoritism at Disney. This is unfortunately a no-win situation for Disney, and I leave it up to them to figure out the “perfect time” to make said change if such a change is to come. The best-case scenario would be if Walt Disney World could get the sitting president to come down to Florida midway through their term to visit the attraction and bid it a fond farewell with their blessing.
What do you think? Do you want to see The Hall of Presidents replaced? If so, what would you like to see it changed into?
If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.