Like Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln -- which was created for the 1965 New York World's Fair and later moved to Disneyland -- the Hall of Presidents attraction features an Audio-Animatronic Abraham Lincoln. The difference, though, is that the Hall -- at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Liberty Square -- also includes 40 of the other 41 Presidents.
The show is exhibited in a fairly large theater that seats a couple hundred people. The building it's housed in, like all of Liberty Square, uses a colonial architecutral style. The lobby, where guests wait before being allowed to enter, has several paintings, documents, and other exhibits dealing with the Presidents.
Inside the theater, which is air-conditioned and has quite comfortable seating, the show begins with a film playing on a three-paneled screen in the front of the theater. It's a shamelessly patriotic film, but that's the whole point; it is, at least, educational, giving a brief history of the country and the role its chief executives have played.
Toward the end of the movie, curtains recede to the left and right, revealing two more panels that enlarge the screen area. The result is a very wide, panoramic view. After the film ends, the five panels move out of the way to reveal forty-one Presidents sitting or standing on stage.
Bill Clinton checks his watch as the screen in front of him rises. All of the Presidents blink, shift their weight, and glance around. An announcer begins reciting their names, starting wtih George Washington; each one acknowledges the brief spotlight, usually with a nod.
Then Abraham Lincoln stands up from his chair to speak. Stands up. This was, at the time, an amazing acheivement for an Audio-Animatronic character. Mr. Lincoln gives a brief speech (taken from his writings), then sits. Mr. Clinton then also gives a brief speech -- one recorded by the real President specifically for this attraction. Finally, the curtains return as patriotic music plays, ending the show.
It's not a stretch to figure that George W. Bush will soon be added to the tableau of Presidents. Mr. Clinton, who took office in January 1993, had been added by the time I watched the show in April 1994.
I don't know who thought of having Mr. Clinton check his watch as the screens rise, but it's a subtle detail representative of the effort that went into creating the attraction. All of the Presidents move and react realistically to what's going on, an impressive acheivement when you consider that each one had to be programmed individually.
The attraction makes no excuses for its enthusiastic patriotism, but that's okay. It's still educational, technologically intriguing, and -- yes -- even inspiring, at times. Where else could you see 41 former chief executives all in one place?