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Hall of Presidents: Original Show
Hall of Presidents: Original Show
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Walt Dated World extends thanks to Eric Paddon for contributing this section and script on the Hall of Presidents. He is a college history teacher in Illinois who has also written feature stories on the New York World's Fair, including ones on the original versions of "Carousel Of Progress" and "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln" at www.nywf64.com. He has also contributed the scripts to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, WEDway PeopleMover, Mickey Mouse Revue and Mission to Mars at Walt Dated World.
Hall of Presidents: Original Program
The Hall Of Presidents, an original WDW attraction, grew out of a concept Walt Disney first designed in 1958 for Disneyland called "One Nation Under God". A short film on the themes of American greatness, embodied in the principles of the Constitution, would climax with life-size figures of all the presidents on-stage, with a speech from the Abraham Lincoln figure. Technological limits prevented this program from ever appearing at Disneyland, but by 1964, a scaled-down version was developed for the Illinois Pavilion at the New York World's Fair and then Disneyland's "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln". This 22 minute program focused on the 16th President's life and climaxed with a single Audio-Animatronic figure of Lincoln giving a speech.
By 1971, advancements in Audio-Animatronics technology had reached the point where the original "One Nation Under God" program could now be presented, and the Hall of Presidents was born. The filmed portion of the program touched on such seminal moments in American history as the Constitutional Convention, the Whiskey Rebellion, the "Nullification" Crisis of 1832, the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, the Civil War, and America's progress as a nation in the century since, climaxing with a Saturn V rocket launch to the Moon.
The original film was narrated by Lawrence Dobkin. Paul Frees did many voices in the program, including George Washington, Stephen Douglas and Governor Mifflin. For the finale, all of the Presidents were presented on stage and a solemn roll-call to the strains of "Hail To The Chief" took place. The Audio- Animatronic figure of each president was carefully designed according to meticulous standards of historical accuracy, right down to the clothes they wore. A speech by Abraham Lincoln (voiced by Royal Dano, reprising his role from "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln) used real Lincoln quotations that touched on the theme of what America needed to do to remain strong as a nation, and for the principles of liberty the nation was founded upon to endure. A triumphant chorus of "Battle Hymn Of The Republic" closed the show.
The Presidential Seal in the lobby of the building required an act of Congress in order to get permission to use and the lobby contains some of the original artwork used in the original film. The Hall Of Presidents was one of three attractions unique to Walt Disney World (the others being the Mickey Mouse Revue and the Country Bear Jamboree) when the park first opened. All three shows were highlighted in the "Grand Opening Of Walt Disney World" NBC-TV special that aired on October 29, 1971.
Except for the addition of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush to the roll call, the program that debuted in 1971 remained unchanged for the next 22 years. When ride coupons were still used, the show required an E ticket.
In June 1993, the program was closed for a major overhaul in program content. A new script, narrated by poet Maya Angelou focused more on matters of racial tension through the years than the original program had and was praised by some for being more enlightened about the negative aspects of American history. Others criticized it for being too politically correct. A new Lincoln speech closed the show with Pete Renaday replacing Royal Dano as the voice of Lincoln. The most significant change was having the Audio Animatronic figure of Bill Clinton deliver a speech in the President's own voice. This new tradition was retained when George W. Bush and Barack Obama became President. J.D. Hall replaced Angelou as narrator of the film portion of the show during this time.
A 1972 LP release that can still be found on e-Bay auctions still preserves the complete audio soundtrack of the original 1971-1993 program, which is regarded by many to be the best of the three shows that have played at WDW over the years.
Hall of Presidents Script
(After the cast member spiel about no eating, smoking, drinking, or flash photography, the lights in the theater dim and the sound of a drumroll and brass fanfare indicates the beginning of the program. Behind the curtains, the Presidential seal is visible on the center screen. At the conclusion of the fanfare, we see on the three screens the silhouettes of people in Colonial attire.)
People: We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
(The preamble to the Constitution just recited now appears on the screen.)
Narrator (Voice of Lawrence Dobkin): These immortal words when first they were written, proclaimed to the world an idea new among men. They expressed a shining wish for a better way of life. This was the American dream. But that golden goal was not to be had without cost. It was born in adversity, tested by time, perfected and proven only after long experience and trial. This is the drama of a new concept of freedom, of the inspired code of law creating that freedom.
(Muted brass sounds as the curtains open, revealing a painting of 1787 Philadelphia. The camera slowly moves in on Independence Hall at the center.)
Narrator: It was the year 1787. In the city of Philadelphia, the Constitutional Convention was in session. After four long months of debate and discussion, a new Constitution to replace the old and ineffectual Articles of Confederation had finally been written.
(A scene of the delegates in Independence Hall is shown.)
Narrator: It was the mutual effort of the best minds in the land. Men long experienced in the human art of government. By unanimous consent, George Washington had been chosen president of the convention.
George Washington (Voice of Paul Frees): Gentlemen. The warmest friends this Constitution has do not contend that it is free from imperfections. But there is a constitutional door open for change. I think the people can decide on the alterations and amendments which time may prove necessary. Besides, they will have the advantage of experience on their side.
Benjamin Franklin: General Washington, Sir.
Washington: Mr. Franklin.
Franklin: Fellow delegates, having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged to change opinions which I once thought right. The older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment. I cannot help expressing a wish that every member of this convention who may still have objections to it, would with me doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.
Narrator: This was the moment of decision.
(Paintings of the delegates coming forward to sign the Constitution.)
Speaker: New Hampshire. Massachusetts. Connecticut. New York.
[Note. Rhode Island was excluded from the roll call since it was the only state that never formally ratified the Constitution]
Narrator: When the ceremony was over, thirty-nine delegates had come forward to write their names. Only three withheld their signatures. Thus, on September 17, 1787, a new Constitution to govern the American colonies was signed at Independence Hall. This newly created government was unique. In a world of kings and emperors, would it actually work?
(Scene shifts to a Pennsylvania farmland.)
Narrator: The first test was not long in coming. It occurred in George Washington's second term as president, an incident known as the Whiskey Rebellion. In colonial times, corn was an abundant crop but difficult to transport. And for convenience was often converted into distilled spirits. Since this important byproduct was shipped from state to state, the Federal government saw fit to levy a tax upon it.
(Scenes of angry farmers rioting against the tax.)
Narrator: But the people objected in principle, and before long their opposition had flared up in riots. Here was the first challenge to the federal authority.
Governor Mifflin (Voice of Paul Frees): The question remains whether the President has any legal right to use force.
Washington: As to the legality of it, Governor Mifflin, I have here an opinion from Justice Wilson advising that the courts of your state are unable to deal with the crisis through ordinary judicial proceedings. Under the law this would empower me to use the Federal militia.
(Painting shows Washington on horseback, leading the Federal troops.)
Narrator: Fortunately, the rebellion ended without bloodshed. The mere size of the militia overawed all further opposition. Washington had shown his people that the government was prepared to ensure domestic tranquility when necessary.
(An ominous chord sounds as the scene shifts to one of wild, enthusiastic crowds in South Carolina.)
Narrator: Some forty odd years later, President Andrew Jackson would know the threat of secession.
Speaker (Voice of Paul Frees): The Federal Government's Tariff Acts are hereby declared null, void, and no law in the State of South Carolina.
(A cheering noise goes up from the crowd.)
Speaker: Should force be used to execute the measures declared void, such efforts will be regarded as inconsistent with the longer continuance of South Carolina in the Union.
Andrew Jackson: Tell them from me that they can talk and write resolutions and print threats till their heart's content. But, if one drop of blood be shed there in defiance of the laws of the United States, I will hang the first man of them I can get my hands on to the first tree I can find.
Narrator: With the people behind him and Congress supporting him, Jackson stood by the Constitution. For the moment the crisis passed. But it would come again.
(Scene shifts to 1858 Illinois. In a river town, there are banners indicating the pending debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. One banner reads "The Little Giant Chawing Up Old Abe." Another says, "Abe The Giant Killer".)
Narrator: By 1858, the cause of Sectionalism had grown stronger and much more bitter. The burning issues of the day were brought into national focus by a series of debates between the glib and talented Stephen A. Douglas and a self taught lawyer named Abraham Lincoln.
(The scene shows Abraham Lincoln, standing in front of a large American flag with Washington's picture at the top. A large crowd of dignitaries and spectators surround him on all sides.)
Spectator #1 (Voice of Paul Frees): Hooray for Honest Abe Lincoln! Give it to him good, Abe!
Abraham Lincoln: Judge Douglas says he, he doesn't care whether slavery is voted up or voted down.
Heckler #1: Neither do we, Lincoln, you know-nothing!
Lincoln: Well friend, I may not know much, but I think I know right from wrong. Now you say that you don't care whether slavery is voted up or down. Now any man can say that, who does not see anything wrong in slavery. But no man can logically say it who does see wrong in it. Because no man can logically say he doesn't care whether wrong is voted up or down.
(The crowd cheers.)
Lincoln: I say this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
Heckler #2 (Voice of Paul Frees): That's what you think, you long drink of water!
Lincoln: Yes, my friend, that's what I think. That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silenced.
(Applause. Next image shows Stephen Douglas before the crowd.)
Stephen Douglas (Voice of Paul Frees): As I say, I have known Mr. Lincoln for twenty-five years. He is a fine lawyer, possesses high ability, and there is no objection to him. Except the monstrous revolutionary doctrines which he conscientiously entertains and is determined to carry out if he gets the power!
Spectator #2: Don't worry, he ain't gonna get it!
Spectator #3 (Voice of Paul Frees): Never! No never! Not that hillbilly railsplitter!
Douglas: Why didn't I tell you, that this doctrine of Lincoln's declaring that men are made equal by the Declaration of Independence and by Divine providence is a monstrous heresy!
(Next image shows Lincoln again before the crowd.)
Lincoln: My countrymen, if you have been taught doctrines conflicting with those great landmarks of the Declaration of Independence, if you have listened to suggestions which would take away its grandeur, if you are inclined to believe that all men are not created equal in those inalienable rights enumerated by our chart of liberty, let me entreat you to come back. Think nothing of me. Take no thought of the political fate of any man whatsoever. But come back to the truths that are in the Declaration of Independence. You may do anything with me you choose, if you will but heed these sacred principles. You may not only defeat me for the Senate, but you may take me out and put me to death. Do not destroy that immortal emblem of humanity. If that Declaration is not the truth, let us get the statute book in which we find it and tear it out.
(An uneasy rumble emits from the crowd.)
Lincoln: Who is so bold to do it?
Spectator #3: No one!
Spectator #4: I won't!
Spectator #5: Not I!
Lincoln: If it is not true, let us tear it out!
Spectator #3: No! No! Never!
Lincoln: Then let us stick to it then! And let us stand firmly by it.
Narrator: Abraham Lincoln lost that election of 1858, but in losing, he won. For the people couldn't forget this plain-spoken man from the prairie, and two years later they sent him to the White House.
(On the center screen, we see Lincoln, his head bowed, standing alone in the White House. As he talks, the other screens are first dark but then show the images of a Confederate army on the left side and a Union army on the right, with Lincoln alone in the center.)
Lincoln: Without union, the Constitution is only a piece of paper. I know there is a God, and that he hates injustice and slavery. I see the storm coming in. I know his hand is in it. If he has a place and work for me, and I think he has, I believe I am ready. I am nothing, but truth is everything, and with God's help, I shall not fail.
(The sound of a cannon erupts.)
Narrator: April 12, 1861. Fort Sumter. The canon spoke for war. Civil war, bitter, violent and devastating.
(For the next minute, the images alternate between the Union and Confederate forces with many close-ups to indicate the ongoing battles. The bold and bombastic music score accompanying these images occasionally inject snatches of "Dixie" and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home". Finally, the scene shifts to Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox and the music changes.)
Narrator: After four weary and wounding years, the conflict ended. The Union was saved. The Constitution had survived the fiery ordeal. America was one nation, finally and forevermore.
(Whimsical turn-of-the-century music now underscores the next images dealing with the century of progress and innovation.)
Narrator: In the century to follow, America would know a period of amazing achievement. A time of startling inventions, a time of unbounded creative energy. There seemed no limit to man's far-reaching horizons.
(The music continues as we see scenes of Thomas Edison in his lab, the Wright brothers, a turn-of-the-century auto race, and people going to movies at a nickelodeon. Then, the music grows serious as new images of the American landscape and Americans of the post-World War II era appear.)
Narrator: It was a time of transition, a time of progress. But the fundamental philosophy of freedom, the belief in the rights of the individual and the dignity of man remained unaltered. The Constitution was still the rock. Under its guarantees, men were free to speak, free to worship as they pleased, free to enjoy the fruits of their labor, and free to explore new dimensions of their universe.
(The first and only film image of the show now appears. We see the lower end of a Saturn V rocket at Cape Canaveral, about to launch for a flight to the Moon.)
Mission Control: Ten, nine, eight, ignition sequence start, six, five, four-
Mission Control 2: There's fire.
Mission Control: Three, two, one zero.
(The rocket launches and the clouds of fire and smoke now fill all three screens which begin to rise up into the ceiling.)
Narrator: Look to the stars, said a wise man. There lies the future. In remote and distant worlds lies the riddle of tomorrow. But where is its answer? If a free world is to endure, then the principles of self-government must be perpetuated. The Constitution is the rock, and the leaders of tomorrow must be as dedicated to its preservation as were the leaders of yesterday, as are the leaders of today.
(A stately brass fanfare sounds as the curtain behind the theater screens now rises and reveals before us the sight of all of the Presidents, recreated according to meticulous standards of accuracy in their appearance and dress.)
Narrator: In this Hall of Presidents, let us pay homage to the immortal men whose illustrious names have been indelibly inscribed on history's roll of honor.
(The soundtrack now plays an adaptation of "Hail To The Chief" as the roll call begins. As each President's name is mentioned, the spotlight shines on him and he nods his head in acknowledgment)
Narrator: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon.
(Subsequent Presidents were each added to the roll call of the original show as they were elected.)
(As the roll call ends, George Washington sits down in his chair, a duplicate of the one he sat in at the 1787 Constitutional Convention.)
Narrator: From these men the free world may take new inspiration and hope. And, if it be wise, new wisdom from old words of prophecy.
(The music rises as the spotlight now shines on the figure of Abraham Lincoln and then fades to a quiet underscore as he begins his speech.)
Lincoln: This government must be preserved in spite of the acts of any man or set of men. Nowhere in the world is presented a government of so much liberty and equality. To the humblest and poorest among us are held the highest privileges and positions. What constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence? It is not the frowning battlements, or bristling seacoast, our army and navy. These are not our reliance against tyranny. Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in us. Our defense is in the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism at your own doors.
At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge.
At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up among us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we ourselves, must be its author and its finisher. As a nation of free men, we must live through all time, or die by suicide. Surely God would not have created such a being as man, with an ability to grasp the infinite to exist only for a day. No. No. Man was made for immortality.
(The back curtain behind the Presidents opens to reveal the U.S. Capitol building. A choir begins to sing "Battle Hymn Of The Republic." As the music reaches its climax, the back lighting changes from a nighttime scene to an early morning dawn with the sky and clouds now taking the appearance of the American flag.)
Choir: Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword.
His truth is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah.
Glory, glory, hallelujah.
Glory, glory, hallelujah.
His truth is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah.
Glory, glory, hallelujah.
Glory, glory, hallelujah.
His truth is marching on.
Additions to the Roll Call
Gerald Ford was the first President to be added to the show when he took office in 1974. Each subsequent President has been added to the show.
Here is video from when Barack Obama spoke in the Hall of Presidents. Be sure to subscribe to the Walt Dated World YouTube channel for other Walt Disney World videos.
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