The Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. On Monday, an animatronic version of President Trump was added to the exhibit.CreditDisney
LOS ANGELES — President Trump has finally arrived at Walt Disney World.
And, yes, he speaks.
After a delay that prompted online conspiracy theories, the most common one being that Disney was trying to silence Mr. Trump, Disney World unveiled an audio-animatronic robot in his life-size likeness on Monday as part of its famed Hall of Presidents exhibit.
The revamped 25-minute show finds Mr. Trump, or at least a silicone-skinned version of him, joining his 43 presidential predecessors. He stands next to a seated Abraham Lincoln in the center of the stage with his signature hair, his suit jacket unbuttoned and his tie dangling extra low.
“Above all, to be American is to be an optimist — to believe that we can always do better — and that the best days of our great nation are still ahead of us,” the Trump figure says.
The Hall of Presidents, in the Liberty Square area of the Magic Kingdom, one of four theme parks in Orlando, Fla., that constitute Disney World, was closed on Jan. 17, three days before Mr. Trump’s inauguration. “Currently being prepared to welcome our new president,” a red, white and blue sign at the entrance has read since.
The attraction, which tells the story of the United States and the men who have governed it, with an emphasis on bedrock values, was initially supposed to reopen in late June, in time for the Fourth of July holiday. In a blog post on June 27, the company gave a new date — “late 2017” — and indicated that Mr. Trump had not yet recorded the dialogue for his robot.
“We have been working closely with the current White House — just as we have with previous administrations — and the president’s recording session has been scheduled,” the blog post said. “Despite some media reports to the contrary, President Trump will have a speaking role.”
The Hall of Presidents has been a hagiographic fixture at the Magic Kingdom since 1971. Visitors enter a theater inside a building that resembles Independence Hall in Philadelphia and watch a short historical film. An animatronic Abraham Lincoln then gives a speech. The program culminates with a museum-style diorama that appears to come to life. Animatronic figures of every other president nod or wave at the audience during a roll call.
In the original version, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” played as visitors left the theater. As the show has gone through different updates over time, that song has sometimes been replaced by “America the Beautiful.” Presidents are added as they are elected.
Starting with President Bill Clinton in 1993, each new leader has been given a speaking role in the show (during their stay in office) and asked by Disney to record his own dialogue. The remarks have largely been about unity. “We may come from different places and believe in different things, but what makes us American is a shared spirit,” the figure of President Barack Obama said. “A spirit of courage and determination, of kindness and generosity.”
Speculation that Mr. Trump would be muzzled may have sprung from a Change.org petition that was circulated around the time of his inauguration. The petition, which drew support from more than 15,000 people (falling short of its goal of 25,000), demanded that Disney break with precedent and not allow of Mr. Trump to speak — citing his history of making “degrading, insulting and demeaning” comments.
Disney Imagineering, the company’s research and design division, goes to extraordinary lengths and expense to build animatronic figures of the presidents that look as lifelike as possible. As it did with Mr. Obama, Disney asked the White House to provide Mr. Trump’s exact measurements.
Along with Mr. Trump, the reopened Hall of Presidents features an upgrade to its theater, including a new sound system, lighting and high-definition projection system, Disney said.
Like some of other long-running attractions at Disney World (the Country Bear Jamboree, for instance), the Hall of Presidents has lost some of its thrill over the years. It’s hard for robotic presidents offering a history lesson to compete with “Star Wars” rides and “Toy Story” parades.
But for parkgoers willing to brave the Florida heat, the Hall of Presidents does have one big thing going for it: The theater is air-conditioned. (nytimes)