Top 10 Reasons to Visit the Hall of Presidents
by Michelle Scriber-MacLean
AllEars® Feature Writer
This article appeared in the September 13, 2011 Issue #625 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
I am not a history person. Sure, I was lucky enough to grow up in New England, surrounded by history. I've enjoyed my share of walks on the Freedom Trail, visits to the Old North Church, and a trip or two to Paul Revere's house, but being a science person, I'm more likely to be found looking at bugs in my garden or visiting a science museum.
Having said all that, I have a confession. I just love the history-themed attractions at Walt Disney World, and at the top of my list is the Hall of Presidents. I know that people often breeze by Liberty Square, often skipping past this attraction that has been around since the 1970s, but I'm here to make a case for revisiting the Hall of Presidents the next time you're in The World. Here's my Top 10 List for Why I Love the Hall of Presidents.
10. The building itself: I grew up right outside of Boston and the outside of the building looks very colonial. Also, having recently visited Philadelphia for the first time I can see the resemblance to Constitution Hall. I learned that the 1787 atop the entrance to the building signifies the year that the Constitution was adopted (love those Disney details).
9. Preshow artifacts: Arrive a few minutes early and you'll be delighted to see interesting paintings related to the presidents, replicas of First Lady dresses, and other artifacts.
8. Comfortable theatre: I have to admit, I love the opportunity to get off my feet during a long day at the Magic Kingdom. Walt Disney World has invested a lot of money in this theater -- it's huge, the screen and the sound system are amazing, the seats are comfy, and there isn't a bad seat in the house.
7. The script: I'm a teacher, a writer, and I edit other people's writing all the time and I'm here to tell you that the script is pretty darn terrific. It's interesting, engaging, not one bit cheesy, and grabs your interest right away. The transitions are natural... before you know it you've learned a lot about 200 years of the presidency. The paintings, photos, and videos used illustrate parts of the story beautifully.The part that impresses me the most is how the script brings one's patriotism to the surface. At the end you feel very proud to be an American and very curious to learn more about the personal lives and professional accomplishments of these remarkable individuals. Very well done.
6. Andrew Jackson's story:He is portrayed as one of the people: no formal education, laughing at those who didn't think he deserved the presidency, and shaking hands with the 20,000 citizens who came to see him inaugurated (in fact, they had to put tubs of punch on the White House lawn to give the poor fellow a break)!I really enjoy this idea that the president can be one of the people.
5. The narrator: Although there has been a long history of other narrators, the current iteration of the Hall of Presidents features Morgan Freeman. My first experience with Mr. Freeman was as a child watching him on the Electric Company... and I've witnessed him become an amazing and well-respected actor over the years. His telling of the story of our presidents is absolutely perfect.I get goosebumps every time I hear him speak.
4. George Washington's story:The father of our country is described as modest, brilliant, and the overwhelming choice as the first leader of the country.I am so moved each time when he chooses to limit his time as president to two terms, deciding that another should take over the presidency as Washington took his place again with his fellow citizens. This current version of the Hall of Presidents, revised in 2009 when Barack Obama took office, features a short speech by Washington just before the end of the show.
3. Lincoln's Struggle: Listening to his torment about the division of the country during the Civil War moves me to tears. Watching and listening to animatronic Lincoln reciting the Gettysburg Address is a special experience. I imagine myself as a citizen on the battlefield of Gettysburg listening to the speech for the first time. Wow.
2. The animatronic presidents:It is somewhat surreal watching more than 200 years of history pass by in the space of a few minutes.As the presidents are introduced you can see hairstyles and fashion change, but every time I see this I think of what was going on during the space of each presidency. I think of how Franklin Delano Roosevelt provided strength and guidance during the Depression.I think of John F. Kennedy's assassination, which happened before I was born, but I remember how it affected my parents.
1. Barack Obama Reading the Oath of Office:It is so fitting that George Washington introduces the Oath of Office and the fact that every sitting president has repeated these words. When Barack Obama starts to recite these 35 words, I think of Lincoln's struggle with the Civil War and the fact that our first African American president is standing alongside Lincoln... how could anyone not be moved by that?
There are other things that are worth mentioning that didn't make the list. For instance, the way that the presidents glance at each other while they are being introduced... very cool. Also, there is a segment where several recent struggles that our country has endured are mentioned: the Challenger Disaster, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the events of September 11th. Video footage of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George Bush shows how each strove to provide the country with hope and strength. Very moving.
So... I'm not a really history buff, but I make time to see the Hall of Presidents each and every time I'm at the Magic Kingdom and I learn something new every time I'm there. If you find yourself tempted to walk by the next time you're there, please take 25 minutes out of your day and be inspired.
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Hall of Presidents attraction page:
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History of the Hall of Presidents:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Scribner-MacLean is a college professor by day and a Disney fanatic in every other bit of free time. She first visited WDW when she was a teenager and now is a DVC owner who visits Walt Disney World two or three times per year. Michelle lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two boys and loves roller coasters, the fantastic food at Disney, and always cries when she sees IllumiNations. She is also a Disney podcast addict and adores WDW Today.
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.