Monday, July 4, 2011

A Walk Around The World With Ridge--Hall of Presidents

“Welcome to the Hall of Presidents”

You may remember that line from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” when the boys were studying for their history presentation. While I don’t think Mr. Lincoln ever actually said that, the Hall of Presidents is still one of my favorite attractions.

Setting the scene, the attraction is located in the Magic Kingdom between Frontierland and Fantasyland in Liberty Square. If you are like me (a huge history fan) then you will want to look at the surrounding buildings. All are stunning recreations of 1780s-1790s Boston architecture and, with Disney flare, use trompe l'oe (to trick the eye, thanks Reading Rainbow) and forced perspective to make the buildings seem larger than they really are. Disney uses these effects all over the place; they are masters of the techniques.

When crossing the bridge from the Hub into Liberty Square, the Disney magic comes out and with a little eye for detail you can really see all the effort that goes into creating the theme for each land. Around the bridge are ropes, crates marked tea and other sundry items you were likely to find in a Boston harbor town of the Revolutionary War period. The lamp posts have eagle finials adorning them and they are illuminated at night. In the middle of the square is a reproduction of the Liberty Bell, installed in 1989. The large oak next to the Liberty Bell is the Liberty Tree and the plaque next to it tells how the tree was a used in colonial times as a meeting place for the planning of the Revolution. The tree has 13 lamps hanging from it to symbolize the original colonies and their struggle. Seeing the tree always makes me think of the Thomas Jefferson quote: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Anyway history lesson aside, directly opposite the Liberty Bell and Tree is the reason you are reading this, the Hall of Presidents. It now also bears the subtitle, “A Celebration of Liberty’s Leaders.” The outside of the building is marked with the date 1787 for the year the Constitution was first signed; it wasn’t ratified till 1788, then the first Presidential election under the Constitution was held in 1789 (sorry, more history lessons).

The HoP, as we call it in my family, is an attraction that grows every four to eight years, with the addition of each new President. The pre-show area holds items on loan from the National Archives and from the families of the Presidents themselves. The personal effects include those of Washington, Ford and Bush 41 & 43. The boots 43 wore to his inauguration were in the display at one time. The current display also includes dresses from several First Ladies. The center piece of the rotunda is the Great Seal of the United States. It is the only official seal outside of Washington D.C. and it literally took an act of Congress to get it there (ok, so they signed a resolution to allow it… close enough.) There are portraits on the walls and usually there is a cast member offering details of the artifacts in the room. If you are lucky enough to get to meet James, listen carefully. James has to be hands-down the most knowledgeable cast member I have ever had the pleasure to talk with and I have been able to do just that on my last two trips to the World. I am a history buff and James told me several things I had never heard. The show itself is about 20 or 25 minutes and runs every half hour but don’t be afraid to hang back and look around when everyone else goes inside.

Once it is time to enter the theatre please move all the way to the end of the row. Believe me there is usually plenty of room once everyone is seated to move around if you just have to sit in the middle. The theatre is also ECV accessible so don’t be afraid taking it in. Once seated, you will notice right off that this is a very large theatre. The stage, after all, has to accommodate 43 people or the likenesses thereof. Now I know you’re saying 43 people? Ridge, there are 44 Presidents, and you would be right; but please remember civics class and the fact that Grover Cleveland served two nonconsecutive terms as the 22nd and 24th President so he is only counted once.

In the latest update of the show there is a new film, centered on Mr. Washington, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, JFK and the 9/11 tragedy. Basically the film is about some of the Nation’s greatest Presidents and the struggles they faced. There is new narration with Morgan Freeman, although my sister is adamant that they should have Maya Angelou come back and do it. Mr. Lincoln gives the Gettysburg address alone onstage. Also new this year is a standing and speaking George Washington, voiced by David Morse, the same actor who portrayed Washington in the HBO mini-series “John Adams.” When Mr. Washington has completed his speech the Presidential roll call begins and each President is highlighted. The end is capped off with Barack Obama giving his Oath of Office and a short speech about his ideas of the American dream. Curtain closes, house lights go up, if you have been napping in the air conditioning, sorry it’s time to go; there is always the Haunted Manson to continue the cool. All joking aside, the Hall of Presidents tells a short but stirring tale of “Us”, We the People, where we came from, how we as a nation struggled and the men we have selected to lead us forward. To see even more of the story of “Us” I highly recommend heading over to EPCOT to American Adventure.

originally appeared 5/2/10

1 comment:

  1. I love that you wrote this article! I have wanted to see this attraction the last 8 trips to the world and I never quite made it in to see it. Your article has convinced me that on my next trip, it is a MUST DO! I love that you can see presidential artifacts---I never knew that. To me, that adds to the attraction. I love Disney and how on every trip I see at least a few new things. This will be one of my new ones on my next trip for sure! THANKS!


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