Hall of Presidents Reopens

I was invited to a special preview of the new Hall of Presidents show today (June 28, 2009). The actual grand opening is July 4th. Here’s what I experienced.

Hall of Presidents

The first thing you’ll notice is that the name of the attraction now has a subtitle -“The Hall of Presidents – A Celebration of Liberty’s Leaders.”

Hall of Presidents Sign

Hall of Presidents

Hall of Presidents Sign

Beneath the porch is a new “countdown” clock indicating how many minutes until the next show begins. Hopefully this will save the cast members from having to answer this question innumerable times a day.

Countdown Clock

I didn’t really notice any changes to the cast member’s costumes, but to be honest, the old ones weren’t burned into my memory so I can’t be sure.

Hall of Presidents Costume

For the most part, the interior waiting area has not changed significantly. As always, the first thing you’ll notice upon entering this room is The Great Seal of the United States.

Waiting Room

Great Seal of the United States

On the back wall you’ll find the new title of the show.

Hall of Presidents - A Celebration of Liberty's Leaders

When you visit, be sure to check out the display cases that contain actual artifacts from previous presidents. One of the many items of interest is a Tea Caddy/Game Box used by George Washington at Mount Vernon.

Presidential Display Case

Washington Tea Caddy

Many of the same portraits that we’re familiar with still hang on the wall.

Presidential Portraits

Presidential Portraits

The biggest change to the waiting room is the addition of a display showcasing dresses of three first ladies, Nancy Reagan, Edith Roosevelt, and Elizabeth Monroe (dress pictured).

First Lady Display Case

Monroe Dress

In the past, those traveling in wheelchairs entered the theater first to allow them a chance to get situated before the rest of the crowd. Now, wheelchairs line up on the right side of the waiting area and enter the theater with everyone else and are directed to a special area toward the back of the room.

Because this was a preview, Disney asked that no photography of any kind be used during the performance. So, from this point on I have no pictures to share with you. Once the show has its grand opening, things will return to normal and photography should be allowed as long as you don’t use any flash equipment.

Spoiler alert! I’m going to do my best to describe the new show. For me, there was one “surprise” that caught me off guard and moved me to tears. If you want to experience this unexpected moment for yourself, stop reading now.

President Obama


First, the movie is digitally projected. In other words, there is no film to become scratched and faded. The movie is crystal clear and the colors look vibrant. Next, the sound system is all new and everything was digitally recorded. Once again, voice and music sound better than ever.

Morgan Freeman narrates the show which begins with a brief discussion of the war for independence and George Washington. We’re told that by Washington refusing to become king and then stepping down after his second term, he helped set our country in the direction that any man, not just the gentry, could rise to the highest office in the land.

To prove this point, the next president highlighted is Andrew Jackson. A common man that played a pivotal part in our country’s early years.

Next slavery is discussed, and with this, Lincoln becomes the focus of the film. After several minutes, the center screen rises and we see an Audio-Animatronics figure of this great man, sitting all alone on stage. He rises and delivers the Gettysburg Address. This was a stirring moment and I wasn’t the only person wiping the tears from my eyes. At the conclusion of his speech, the screen lowers and the movie continues.

As the film progresses in time, paintings are replaced by photographs and then videos as Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush are all briefly discussed or highlighted. A sharp eye will notice a picture of a high school-aged Clinton meeting Kennedy.

Many of the paintings used in the film are familiar to us from the previous show, but many of them are new. Also, only three of the five screens are used in this new feature, but that’s entirely okay. You don’t miss them at all.

When the film concludes, the curtain rises on all 43 presidents. As always, this is awe inspiring. The roll call commences and the new lighting system highlights each president. Their position on stage has been rearranged so the audience can follow the introductions better.

When the roll call concludes, George Washington stands and talks about the importance of the presidential Oath of Office that all of the men here on stage have taken. He then gestures to Obama who recites this oath. Interestingly, this was recorded in the Map Room, the same room he retook the Oath of Office after a slight mishap occurred during the actual inauguration.

When Obama finishes, Morgan Freeman gives him a second, more elaborate introduction. Obama then delivers another short speech about the significance of the American dream. The show concludes with a stirring rendition of “America the Beautiful.”

At this point, the theater erupted into applause and many were wiping tears away. I knew a number of people in the audience today. After the show, we discussed what we had just seen. It was unanimous. Disney has done an outstanding job of reinventing this attraction. The Audio-Animatronics figure of Obama is stunning. Please, please put this on you “must see” list on your next visit to Walt Disney World. You’ll be glad you did.

For more information about how this show was created, click here for an official Disney press release.

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63 Replies to “Hall of Presidents Reopens”

  1. I have never missed seeing the Hall of Presidents in the many,many times I have been to Disney. I love history. I wish our politicians in Washington could see this exhibit to remind them where we came from and how hard those who came before worked to make this country what it is today. They have forgotten. Thanks to Disney.

  2. The HOP is updated and great! It was my 4th time in 30 years and it left me with the least amount of inspiration since Obama concluded the show. Even though the slanted presentation was there, I let my children form their own opinions about what they see and hear. There are shows at Disney with great content that you can’t get anywhere else!

  3. We just came back from our 6th visit to WDW. HoP was the one attraction we always had to force our 4 children to go to. Now they all LOVE it. Not only did they ask to see it a second time, but they ran to get front row seats. Just amazing!

  4. I am so glad to know that HoP is reopening. We went in January and were so disappointed that it was down for repairs and updates. This is one of our favorite attractions and it always has been since I was a teenager and first started coming to WDW. Now my husband, a history major, and I are returning in November with our daughter and son-in-law, so we will get another chance to see this wonderful show.

  5. I would love to see the renovation as this used to be one of my favorite attractions…but every time we went during the last decade there would always be people making rude comments or noise during various portions of the show.

  6. Thank you for a superb review of the new and improved Hall of Presidents. While reading your review, my eyes began to tear. I will bring some tissues with me the day we visit Hall of Presidents. Jack, you wrtite so well about WDW, you shoud write a book.
    Thank you again for your wonderful description.

  7. Thanks for the report. Our family is visiting Lincoln sites and state capitols on our way to WDW from Oregon. HoP will be a fitting end to our adventure. Our 7-yr. old loved studying presidents this year in school, and Lincoln was his favorite. I can’t wait to see it with him for the first time.

  8. I don’t know why Disney doesn’t sponsor some educational field trips to the various parks for kids in the middle to high-school ages so they could “see” & “hear” everything from animatronic presidents at MK to real animals at AK. Kids might be bored when they go with their parents, but it beats the heck out of just reading about them in a textbook. As a former teacher I always wanted to take my students, somewhat selfishly so I could go too. =)
    Take your kids – someday they’ll thank you!

  9. I visited the newly opened attraction on the 4th for the first time ever. I was at WDW 2 years ago on the 4th and did not make it to the attraction.

    It was indeed nicely done. As an Oklahoman, I got goosebumps when the film got to the part about the OKC bombing. There were indeed lots of cheers and clapping from the audience during the presentation. It appeared to be well received.

  10. I’m really looking forward to seeing this in September. The description nearly had me in tears too – and I’m English.

  11. I was in WDW for the Fourth of July weekend and revisited the HoP. It was AMAZING! It had been many years since we had been, even though we travel to the World every summer. It was as moving as Jack stated and received many cheers. Bravo to the Imagineers!

  12. I can’t wait until my mom and I go in Oct to see it. It sounds fabulous.

    I remember going to the HoP on my very first trip when I was 8 y/o (now 31), it’s educational for kids, I think it’s a must see.

  13. Thanks for the great review and info! My family and I will be going to Disney @ end of July and I can’t wait to see the re-vamped exhibit!

  14. Jack,
    What a wonderful review of one of my favorite shady spots in Magic Kingdom. I was so disappointed when HOP was closed in November last year. My husband and I are history geeks and we absolutely love this attraction. I got all misty just reading your review, I can’t wait to see it in December!

  15. I was so happy to read your review. My family have been coming to Disney since our Daughter was six she is now 40. HOP has alway been a must. We were at WDW Nov’08 and was sorry it was closed. We look forward to seeing it in 2010.

  16. HoP has always been one of our favorites, so we were so disappointed when we booked our recent trip and found out HoP would not reopen until after we left. You can imagine how thrilled we were when we passed by on our last day and were invited in for a preview! It was a wonderful bonus to an already wonderful trip. I think it’s even better than before. I didn’t see a dry eye as we left-and I still get goose bumps thinking about it. Disney magic is more than just rides-it reminds us why we should be proud to be an American!!

  17. My husband and I also got the privilege of viewing the soft opening of this attraction on Wednesday, June 24th. I will be honest, this was the first time I ever saw this particular attraction, but I was greatly moved by it. The film was crystal clear and the sound very good. There was one glitch while we were viewing the attraction, during the roll call, the spotlight was hitting the red curtain above, sending a red shadow on everything. Other than that, it was incredible. And yes, Obama’s speech was FANTASTIC!

    Jack’s Comment:

    The fact that you saw a glitch is exactly the reason Disney has “soft” openings. It enables them to get the bugs out before the “official” opening. That’s also one of the reasons why they request no photography during the soft opening. They don’t want malfunctions showing up on the internet.

  18. I have not been to this attraction since I was 7 years old and I am now 41. I won’t miss it my next trip to Disney World! Thanks for the update. Your blogs keep me coming back. god Bless

    “THE Disney Fanatic”

  19. We will be visiting the Mouse in August. My daughter just finished doing a wax museum last month. Her focus was on Martha and George Washington. She can’t wait to see what is instore after reading your update. This is one exibit we will be sure to put on top of the TO DO LIST IN DISNEY.

  20. Thanks so much Jack! People frequently ask me how I continue to be interested in a Disney World trip after having been there more than 8 times. My own mother has accused me of forcing my kids to go there year after year. My kids have told me they want to live there, so that shows you what she knows! Well, this is why I keep going back. Great attractions that keep getting better. I love the Hall of Presidents, if the kids are a little bored well, too bad! Disney is for all of us. Put up or shut up. I go to The Tower of Terror with them and they(reluctantly) go to HOP and various favorite EPCOT spots with me. The more times you go, the more all of us get to experience our favorite things. I was waiting for this update and I wasn’t surprised to see your name on it, thanks for always doing such excellent reporting.

  21. I wrote to Guest Relations before my trip asking if non-Passholders could get in on Sunday. I received a very nice voice mail stating that I could not. (I didn’t know about Vacation Club.)
    So, on Monday, I “camped out” in front for over an hour on the chance that they might be running “tests”. I was thrilled to get in and see it at shortly after 1:00. It was so deeply moving that I turned around and went to see it a second time just so that I could absorb it. I read at Hollywood Studios that Walt Disney, starting in the fifth grade, would put on a rather primitive costume and go around his school, reciting a Lincoln speech. I think guests would be interested to know about the great love that Disney had for Lincoln.

  22. Are the doors closed for the duration of the show or is one allowed to leave early?

    Jack’s Answer:

    All theater shows at Disney World allow guests to leave during the performance. The exits are clearly marked and the doors are not locked. This option is intended for those with emergencies or parents with misbehaving or crying children.

    I hope you’re not asking this question because you’re afraid that you might not like the show and are looking for an escape route.

    I have been in shows where people got up and left in the middle of the performance. I’m sure they had a very good reason, but it was distracting, none the less. First, they passed by those guests still seated, disturbing them and the audience behind them. Then, when they opened the exit door, light streamed in and everyone turned around to see what was going on.

  23. Great job Jack.

    I was going to try to take my 16 year old son to the new Presidents if it worked out next week, but after reading your piece, we will definitely make a point to see it.

    I am a little bit nervous because I some times I tear up when I am really inspired. You know I can’t let my son or anyone else see me crying in public, so I’ll pretend my glasses are dirty or something.

    Thanks Jack

    Jack’s Comment:

    I’ve used the old “my glasses are dirty” ploy many times. 😉

    I hope your son enjoys the show. I feel that Disney has quickened the pace of the attraction without sacrificing dignity and quality. I feel this faster pace will appeal to the younger generation more than the old show did.

  24. My Wife and I come down 3 to 5 times a year [sometimes with our kids and sometimes Grand kids.]I think the Hall of Presidents is the BEST thing at W.D.W. .I go see it every time we come down.And who is ever with us, I tell them before we go that they MUST go in to see it, with me at lest once.I can not wait to come July 30- 09 to see the all new show.And also our 40th Ann.I tell everyone that asks me about W.D.W. that the Hall of Presidents is a MUST SEE when you are there at the MK..Please keep up the Great work you all do here.
    Thank You,
    Bruce Henricks
    New Berlin WI.

  25. DH and I saw this show yesterday and LOVED it!

    Being history fanatics, this has always been a regular stop for us- so, we were thrilled when we were able to get in yesterday, as we expected to have to skip it this year.

    We both agreed that Disney did a terrific job with updating this show without sacrificing any dignity or tradition. (Sometimes the effort to “appeal” to younger generations results in diluting something past its worth- not here!)

    The sensations I felt while Lincoln recited the Gettysburg Address were almost overwhelming. For our show, there was a split second of total silence in the theater while “Lincoln” retook his seat- and then the audience burst into loud and sustained applause. It was truly thrilling.

    The whole rest of the show is also terrific. I am so grateful that we were able to see this- it is one of the highpoints of our trip!

  26. loved your report and i look forward to seeing the HoP. just a small boo-boo. the picture of Bill Clinton and President Kennedy was taken in 1963 when Clinton was in high school.

    Jack’s Comment:

    Thank you for pointing out my error. I have changed the blog to reflect this.

    I hope you can see the show for yourself in the near future. I’m guessing you’re a history buff since you knew that Clinton met Kennedy in ’63. When you do see it, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

  27. I love the HOP it is one of my favorite things to see, I will be there in Sept/Oct cant wait to see the changes, even though some changes I dont really care to much for but what do you do. I think the HOP is one of the most interesting things at Disney one that will send chills down your arms and a tear in your eye and make us feel proud to be americans..God bless the USA…Thanks Disney

  28. This show has suddenly become a must see for me every time I go to the Magic Kingdom. I saw it on Sunday also and was extremely impressed with the new show.

    However I was very unimpressed with Disney for opening the show to all on a day set aside for an AP and DVC members only preview. We were not able to spend any time in the very crowded lobby looking at all the new stuff there (and yes there was quite a bit new stuff there).

  29. Really looking forward to the new show, thanks for the information!

    When I was about 8, my mom “lost” me at WDW while in a mad rush to see the HOP on the 4th of July. Luckily, I just stayed put and she eventually came back and found me. We never let her live it down. 🙂

  30. Thanks for the review! Can’t wait to see it for ourselves in September. Overall, I’m really glad that Disney decided to include the speaking portion for the president. I remember a rumor that they didn’t want to include Obama’s speaking portion to limit political reaction from guests. It was a real world class move to do what they did. I’m excited to witness the latest in Oba-matronics! I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be excited to sit though HoP for more than a great napping opportunity! We’ll still hit Haunted Mansion first…. but we’ll be spending more time in Liberty Square during our upcoming trip for sure.

    Jack’s Comment:

    Obama’s speech is very non-partisan and non-political. I’m sure the last thing Disney wants to do is start some controversy over his remarks. In fact, his speech was written by an Imagineer.

  31. I actually loved this attraction as a kid. (I was pretty dorky… Epcot was my favorite park.) This update sounds absolutely wonderful! I was just at WDW in May and probably won’t be able to visit again any time soon, but this will be one of the first things I do when I get there! Thank you so much for the detailed report!

  32. Wow!! I can’t wait to see this when I head down at the end of September!!! It sounds like an amazing show. It’s been a little more than 8 years since I saw this show last, so I am looking forward to it. Thank you for such a wonderful description!!

  33. Wow, amazing Jack!!
    The Hall Of Presidents has always been one of my favorites, can hardly wait to see the brand new version!

    Thanks for the great report and pictures!

    Theresa Konno
    Greetings from Brazil! =)

  34. Well I have never been to the “Hall” during any of the 4 visits to Disney. During my honeymoon this October I can’t wait to bring my “new ” husband who loves stuff like this.

    Thanks, and I really enjoy all of the sneak peeks!!!

  35. I will be in the Magic Kingdom next week and I can’t wait to go. After reading your report I want to try and get in the front row.

  36. I am officially TOTALLY there come November! I was upset last Thanksgiving because it was being renovated and it was my daughter’s first visit so was hoping and wishing she would get to experience it. Now since we are going back this Thanksgiving….I cannot WAIT!! Thanks Jack!

  37. I love your blogs!! Especially this one- my dad is a history junkie and this is a favorite for him. Can’t wait to see pictures!
    Thanks for the preview!

  38. Jack- Thank you for this information. I have never seen this show, for one reason or another, each time we visited Disney, it just didn’t happen. But since it’s been updated and especially after your blog, this is a must see for all of us this fall visit. We love the American Adventure in Epcot. I’m sure, like you, this show will be pulling at our heartstrings and our American pride. Happy 4th of July!


  39. Thank you for the great review! At your suggestion I did stop reading because I want to experience it when there in December. I’ll be sure to have some tissues with me.

  40. now i really can’t wait to see the new show when i go in november!!! i’m going to make my husband go this time, instead of eating a turkey leg outside!!

  41. My parents love HoP as well as American Adventure. Mom recently passed and dad cries in each. I am sure when he sees the new HoP he will cry again. It sounds like something to be proud of.

  42. Hi Jack,
    I have never been a fan of this attraction until reading your review. I am definitely going to add this to my must see list on the next trip. I also think my son will enjoy it as well. Keep up the great writing!

  43. Hi Jack,
    Another great blog and I love History so I can’t wait to get back to DW to visit this attraction!

  44. Jack –

    As always, you bring the parks to me when I can’t go to them. Thanks for that!

    It sounds like the Imagineers have outdone themselves. Does this lift Hall of Presidents back up to the level of an E-Ticket (like it was when it opened) to you?

    Sounds like it has some of the power of The American Adventure now; I’m really looking forward to seeing it for myself in October!

    Joshua Olive
    Unrepentant Disney Fan

    Jack’s Answer:

    I still think the American Adventure is a better show than Hall of Presidents. But I certainly feel that the Imagineers have elevated HoP several notches. They took a tired attraction and breathed new life into it.

    Do I think it’s worthy of an “E” ticket? I grappled for an answer to this one. For my generation (baby boomer) definitely. Generation X, maybe a “D” coupon. Technically it’s worth an “E” but tastes have changed so much and attention spans have shortened.

    However, even though this new version of HoP is longer than the old, it is paced so well is seem shorter.

  45. Thanks for a great blog. I am truly looking forward to seeing that in August. I first saw it when my family visited shortly after it opened. My father actually thought Lincoln was an actor on the stage. We laughed about that for years. We lost Dad recently and he was a true patriot. He instilled those values in us, so I know we will appreciate the work Disney put into this attraction.

  46. I got teary eyed just reading this. The updates sound wonderful, and I can not wait to see the show in October. I have always enjoyed this attraction as well at the American Adventure in Epcot.

  47. Thank you, Jack. I cannot wait to see this in September.

    It brought tears to my eyes just reading about it so I’d better make sure I have kleenex with me!


  48. I cannot WAIT! This attraction reminds me so much of my dad – it was his favorite. When I was little and we visited WDW, he would always have his hankerchief and would be blowing his nose, red faced and crying at the end. He was forever a Patriot my Dad! Now, when I return to WDW in September, I can celebrate with my African-American husband and cherish the memory of my dad! I am so excited! I too have goosebumps!

  49. Jack!

    Another stunning blog report.

    Would you recommend this attraction as a “must see” to someone if it was their first (and only) trip to the Magic Kingdom?

    Jack’s Answer:

    This is a difficult question. If it’s just you and other adults, I would definitely say yes, this is a must see. However, many young adults and children find this attraction boring. Even with all the improvements Disney has made, American History isn’t on the top of most kid’s list of things to learn about at Disney World.

    If other readers would like to voice their opinions, I’ll be happy to post them.

  50. Totally agree with Brewer and have to largely disagree with John B….

    I think Morgan Freeman is an EXCELLENT choice for this role and I am sure does a spectacular job.

    Really looking forward to seeing the updated show!

    Thanks again!!

  51. I have been to the HoP more times than I can count and have always loved it. I have been counting down the days until the re-open. One thing I have always wondered. Who was the first President to lend his voice to the HoP?

    Jack’s Answer:

    Royal Dano was the first voice of Lincoln at the New York World’s Fair.

    Clinton was the first president to speak.

    Look for my feature article in the July 7th Allears Newsletter. I’ve written a complete history of the Hall of the Presidents.

  52. We too went yesterday to see this as DVC members… It was the first time we have every seen it and it was great.. I don’t have anything to compare it with though so I can’t say if it is improved or now. I thought it was very informative but my 11 year old thought it was boring. I don’t think she wanted a history lesson on summer vacation…

    We will definately be back.

  53. The Hall of President’s has been one of my favorite attractions since my first visit to Walt Disney World in the early 1970’s. I’ll be there on 4th of July to see the new show. Without having seen it yet, I can already say that I’m disappointed that Disney chose the much over-hyped and over-used Morgan Freeman as the narrator.

  54. My family saw the preview yesterday and it was great!! The animatronics are amazing – keep an eye out for the way President Obama moves during the roll call – it is so realistic! Disney has really otdone itself. This is a must stop in the Magic Kingdom.

  55. Thank you so much for the review. We weren’t too sure if we would be interested in seeing it anymore. It sounds like Disney has done a fantastic job. We will definitely be visiting HoP when we come in December.

  56. You make everything sound so exciting!!! I was moved just reading what you wrote!! I cannot wait until my next trip to see this!!!! Thank you!

  57. I never been to this attraction at all with all my visits to the World. I think it is finally time to make a visit. My youngest(8) will sit through it and she will be seeing a piece of history while at the World. Thanks for the great review, as always you did a great job.

  58. I re-discovered this attraction last year. We were forced inside because of TS Fay. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it (I remember really disliking the HoP as a child.).

    My husband, who is a British citizen, is really looking forward to seeing all of the upgrades when we go in August. He really likes the HoP.

    Thanks for the preview.

  59. I can’t wait go in July!
    I haven’t seen this show in quite some time and I am looking forward to this one.
    From what I have read, I better bring a box of tissues!

  60. Wow!!! I have goose bumps thinking about the updated show….I think the addition of Morgan Freeman is great (his narration in Shawshank Redemption is unparalleled.) Jack: no worries about the lack of pictures; your words did a better job of illustrating the show than pictures ever could!

    I can not wait to see the updated show…thanks (as always) for the wonderful preview.