The Hall of Presidents at the Magic Kingdom was recently given an overhaul, including new advanced audio-animatronic versions of US Presidents Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Barack Obama.
Here’s a look at Washington and Obama as seen in the attraction, followed by my thoughts on the new show:
I visited the attraction today and was quite impressed by not only these new animatronics but also the show as a whole. The previous version, which ran for roughly the duration of George W. Bush’s terms in the White House, was, in my opinion, on the boring side. It opened with a lengthy film and spent far too little time on the highlight of the show: the presidents.
In the new version, the show still features a movie and all 44 presidents “live” on stage, but it is all integrated together much more smoothly. The movie is comprised mostly of still photographs and paintings telling a brief overview of the history of US Presidents, beginning with Washington’s reluctance to take the office all the way through video of Bush speaking into a megaphone post-9/11. Actor Morgan Freeman replaces the previous narrator, Maya Angelou J.D. Hall [see comment for edit explanation]. Freeman’s narration is clear and concise, allowing the audience to focus on what is being said rather than how it is said. It’s edutainment at its best.
Midway through the movie, the audio-animatronic version of Abraham Lincoln is revealed, seated alone in the middle of the stage. He smoothly stands up and recites the entire Gettysburg Address (the same recording that was used in the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction at Disneyland in California for many years). This is easily one of Disney’s most lifelike animatronics they have produced and the best representation of our 16th president that I’ve ever seen.
After the movie ends, the screens shift aside to reveal all of the presidents – some seated, some standing. The lights dim and the presidents are individually introduced by name, each giving a head nod toward the audience as they are illuminated by spotlights.
All of the animatronics look incredibly lifelike in person (much better than in the video above). I saw the show twice today, once from the middle of the theater and once from the front row. The lighting is rather dim throughout the show and I found it difficult to see well from the middle of the theater, so I highly recommend staying to the left as you enter the theater to secure a front row seat.
Whether you voted for Barack Obama or not, you will enjoy seeing him in person, even if only in audio-animatronic form. Any American will receive a strong sense of patriotism in seeing the newly-updated Hall of Presidents. Disney has done a fantastic job replacing a once-boring show with an entertaining and informative presentation featuring state-of-the-art technology that is sure to excite Americans and international travelers alike.
The newly-updated Hall of Presidents officially opens on Independence Day, July 4, but has been running previews for several days. I highly encourage you to go see it.