EDITORIAL: It’s Time to Close The Hall of Presidents

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Editor’s Note: This editorial contains the opinions of the author, Nathan Hartman. These opinions may or may not align with those of WDWNT LLC. Please feel free to voice your own thoughts in the comments section below.


Boom. Fingers have flown to keyboards. Some grit their teeth while others grin.

“He couldn’t be more right!”

“He’s just envious of who’s headlining the show!”

Rest assured that the idea of closing down The Hall of Presidents has little to do with who gets their moment to shine in the show, even if some will accuse of such bias anyway (without even reading the article possibly). But that politically sided gut reaction, to a Disney ride no less, is precisely why it’s time to say goodbye to this opening day attraction.

Downhill from the Start

There are few people in American history that exemplify the post-war boom of American innovation and culture like Walt Disney and he embraced the red, white, and blue every step of the way. There was never a question what side Walt was on. In 1947 he met with Joseph McCarthy’s Un-American Activities Committee and testified that Communists were the ones behind a strike at his studio.

While 80 of the “Hollywood elite” would denounce the hearings, friend and future Hall of President figure himself, Ronald Reagan also testified against the “red menace.” Reagan would go on to be one of the hosts of the opening of Disneyland in ‘55 and though the whole theme park was a gamble, families now flush with new jobs and GI bills embraced Walt’s new form of park entertainment.

From Main St. USA, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and even concepts like Liberty St. that never got off the ground, Disney always found ways to honor and evangelize the boot-straps American ideals that got him from a warehouse in Kansas City to the center of Hollywood. As the Carousel of Progress would later say…

”He himself was probably as American as anyone could possibly be.”

But as Disney reached his final years, America’s perception of itself had already begun to sour. By 1964, over 16,000 Americans had been deployed to Vietnam and, according to the Pew Research Center, the public’s trust in the government was taking a nosedive. In ‘66, Disney found himself in a hospital bed, working on an experimental city that he hoped could fix the ills of a country that no longer looked like the main thoroughfare of his park. He’d never see it through.

(C) Pew Research

By 1971, the Magic Kingdom opened and, with it, one of Walt’s last patriotic dreams – the Hall of Presidents. Basically a more robust “Mr. Lincoln,” the show concluded with a roll call of all presidents past and present, ending with Richard M. Nixon. In two years, this president would find himself embattled in Watergate and, from inside the Contemporary Hotel of all places, infamously told America he wasn’t the crook he’d turn out to be. It’s amazing to think that almost fifty years ago, there’s a good chance that somebody booed the animatronic of Nixon as his name was announced. 

For a long time, that was as much as one could do, but then Imagineering came up with an idea that rubbed their shoulders too close to those in power and blurred the lines between educational entertainment and pandering. In 1993, Bill Clinton was the first current president to give a speech in the show and the tradition continues to this day to the enjoyment of the party in power and the disgust of the other side.

Why is this so polarizing? One could say because the person who occupies the most powerful position in the world may have yet to prove his worth, but still gets to have the final say in a show featuring giants already deemed great by history. Current moods toward Presidents could be at all time lows and yet they get to be the show’s closer several times a day like clockwork.

But there are other reasons beyond a slipping of American morale and current show structure that mark this attraction as a thing best left to the past.

It’s a Bigger World After All

When the Hall of Presidents opened in ’71, the world was a much smaller place and, for the majority of Americans, access to the history of these men was regulated to the library. But in this digital era, the magnifying glass on the lives and decisions of these men is far greater and modern audiences have a much harder time accepting a show that honors them for simply holding a seat of power, their actions aside.

Some might go as far as to say there is an element of deification to the whole concept and certainly other artforms (especially the video game Bioshock: Infinite) have recognized this for satirization.

Motorized Patriot – Bioshock Infinite (C) Irrational Games

Beyond changing views of history, we must also remember that The Hall of Presidents came before the entirety of EPCOT and its take on history with “The American Adventure” – a show the features animatronics representing all walks of life, including those laid low by American expansion. The Hall of Presidents operated as edutainment before there was a whole park dedicated to such a thing and now, surrounded by a haunted mansion and some Muppets, it’s an odd fit for the park it now finds itself in.

The Hassle

Beyond any of the reasons above, one must ask a simple question – “Is any ride worth the need of police officers standing by?” When the attraction reopened in late 2018 in its current iteration, both park security and Orange County police were on the scene. Not to mention decorative spikes were added to the stage to prevent any guests from tackling the current robot-in-chief.

That’s a bad state of affairs and, while the show’s presence can be justified by some even with the hostile environment, from Disney’s perspective they must ask if this is all really worth it. Would anyone not go to the Magic Kingdom because their favorite show is gone? Probably not. Is it worth the press if an incident occurs? Probably not. Is it even the best of the two American history shows at Disney World? Probably not. Following in the steps of one of America’s greatest capitalists, they must ask what Walt would have done.

Never a Good Time

There is little doubt that the closing of the Hall of Presidents would make for another uproar. Another set of grit teeth and grins. Sure one could suggest reworking the show to once again not include the current president, but there lies the entire problem – from its origins onward, The Hall of Presidents has slowly grown out of sync with the public’s opinion of the office it showcases and the polarizing culture surrounding it. Instead why not provide entertainment that does what Disney does best – bringing people together?  It’s time to close the attraction, not because of who’s at the White House, but because of what could be in Liberty Square.

 


Read more from Nathan Hartman including…

EDITORIAL: 5 Parks Related TV Shows Disney Should Make

EDITORIAL: Four Reasons Why Animal Kingdom Is The Best Park at Walt Disney World

EDITORIAL: Five Fixes for Magic Kingdom (Over) Crowding

 

Works Cited

About the author

Nathan Hartman

A sunshine state resident, Nathan is an avid Disney parks wonk as well as a university film professor.

Twitter: @somestuffisaid

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C
Guest
C

It would be great if they could put the Muppets in there… additonal scenery,music etc to add to their great moments in history stories.

J Ames
Guest
J Ames

Was just thinking that as I read this. The Muppet show outside is way better than the HoPs. Personally, I’d love to see them just move that show inside and add to it a bit. At this point no one is really going to the HoP to learn anything. It’s just some AC.

Ken Gatchaman
Guest
Ken Gatchaman

Wrong.

Indy Jonze
Guest
Indy Jonze

your points border from illogical to downright ridiculous. basically, the attraction must be shut down because 1. people are animals and can’t behave themselves, 2. nobody needs to learn anything in person since you can learn everything online and 3. nobody respects the office of the president. for point 1, i don’t really know what to say. there are other attractions in magic kingdom alone that have been known to throw ppl into fits of wild rage (it’s a small world comes to mind). so the answer, rather than to hold ppl accountable for their actions and reasonably prevent such… Read more »

Donna
Guest
Donna

Thank you so much for your response. It is very well stated and exactly what the majority are thinking. To close it is ridiculous and absurd. American needs to grow up and respect one and another and the office of the President no matter who it is.

Jon
Guest
Jon

When we return to a President that respects those whom they govern, then yes I think America will return to a common respect for the office being held.

Rich
Guest
Rich

I agree with you and thank you for posting this. I was reading this article and was why this person works for WDWNT with such a negative attitude about an attraction at WDW. I would not have been so polite or PC as you were in your response so thank you for that. We all have opinion but opinion as this article should be and should have been kept to himself and not posted out there. I realize he covers his a$$ but saying the opinions are of his and not WDWNT. But doesn’t anyone as WDWNT review articles before… Read more »

Rick
Guest
Rick

I attended the attraction last week. No police, the auditorium was packed, quiet, then cheered and applaused at its conclusion.

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

AMEN!!

(Also, you can also “go to work” via your VR headset with games like ‘Job Simulator’ so there’s actually no reason to even HAVE a real job!! And, see, that works out for people like US because with that “logic” that just means there will be one less person in the parks! And that’ll just make our visits less crowded! 😂😂)

Rich
Guest
Rich

Funny only hating liberals needed a police officer, never a problem with Obama in office

Ryan B
Guest
Ryan B

Let’s eat Grandma.

Jthoya
Guest
Jthoya

“Flush with… GI bills”? Either you don’t understand what the GI Bill was or your ability to convey concepts through writing is very poor. The Hall of Presidents was intended to be a partial introduction to our nation’s leaders and has been a nice corrective toward the Howard Zinn view that all American history is negative history of oppression and exploitation. I’m not gainsaying Such oppression occurred, but for too many, that’s the only part of the story they hear. The lack of understanding of American history and our common values has lead to our political disharmony, which has lead… Read more »

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

I totally agree with you.. except I’d go with FDR instead of Lincoln.. ☺️

Progressive Music Lover
Guest
Progressive Music Lover

This is one of the more revolting articles that I have had the displeasure of reading. How dare you suggest the closure of this attraction that features the wonderful President Obama as well as the brilliant President Clinton! Such cretinous attitudes are the reason behind this polarization that you speak of. Obviously you don’t like Trump or this ridiculous idea would have never made it’s way to this site. Obviously patience isn’t a strong point for you, in 2 years we will be blessed with the presence of Bernie Sanders in this wonderful attraction.

Ronald D'Anna
Guest
Ronald D'Anna

The best way to do it is announce before the next election that the sitting president will no longer speak. It needs to be done before hand.

This has been an issue since the Clinton years, where some of my-coworkers had Lewinsky jokes made at them and people were leaving cigars around the place

PJ
Guest
PJ

Rename it “Hall of Great Presidents of the United States”, so that Trump would have to be removed, but everyone else can stay. Problem solved.

Sideshow Bob
Guest
Sideshow Bob

So they have to then remove Obama, bush and Clinton a well right ? Because they were equally terrible. President Trump is actually doing a good job for our country. If you only open your eyes and broaden your perspective you might realize he’s a pretty good president.

MB
Guest
MB

Name 3 things that he’s done that are great…

FunnyHaha
Guest
FunnyHaha

1) Ivana

2) Melania

3) Stormy

They’re all pretty great.

Nick
Guest
Nick

If you had learned history, you would have learned that Lincoln was vilified by the press all thorough the Civil War but emerged as one of our greatest Presidents. If you had learned history, perhaps you wouldn’t make a comment like that.

Masta Gracey
Guest
Masta Gracey

But then what will they do with Obama?

Frank W
Guest
Frank W

He could headline a new Muppet’s show?

Han
Guest
Han

It’ll be closed anyway when they put Trump in jail!

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

Not every president that we’ve had has been “GREAT”, so way more than just Trump would have to be removed.

However, doing so is so far from the intention of this attraction and; therefore, an absolutely ignorant thing to suggest!!

Brendan
Guest
Brendan

I do not understand what has happened to this website. I understand that Tom wanted to expand and be able to cover more parks, topics, and areas of the world. These editorials over the last few weeks have been downright silly and some of the reporting on entertainment topics have been mind numbing. A lesson in life is never to bring up a problem without also bringing up a solution. – Why not have a section here with a little armchair imagineering about what could go in that space? – Shouldn’t WDW NEWS Today just focus on news? – How… Read more »

Tom clickless
Guest
Tom clickless

It’s all about da clicks man.

Paul Tibbitt
Guest
Paul Tibbitt

I agree with Indy, plus I would add that for the adults in the room (which is the majority regardless of what the rowdy minority lead the author to believe), it DOES bring us together. It’s a reminder that we’ve had ups and downs, good presidents and bad, and that we get through it despite the hysteria of the moment.

Mark
Guest
Mark

BoP is a great afternoon nap location. Cool, quiet and dark.

Keep HoP. The current (or recent) presidents should not speak except for the roll call. A minimum 50 year waiting period should be about right.

Rob
Guest
Rob

It’s a good idea, so in 2022 shut it down. Shutting it down now would only look like Disney is pandering to half the country.

Lea
Guest
Lea

I disagree. To close the show would be to disrespect our country and leadership. The fact that Disney respectfully educates all who choose to attend is more than enough reason to keep it. Respect is something sorely lacking today and I applaud Disney for leading by example. If someone finds this attraction uncomfortable then they should be adult enough to not participate in this one.

Becky
Guest
Becky

I don’t like Small World so I don’t go in. Why can’t you just not go in HOP if you think you’ll be triggered? You’re an adult, right?

It’s not so hard.

Giwreh
Guest
Giwreh

It seems that most people don’t go in. (Heared that from numurous sources, the venue is near to empty during many show moments on any day… !?) Disney always eliminated attractions when the attendance went critical low.
THUS, it’s time…. lol

DJ
Guest
DJ

Yeah, I felt the same way when Obama was in office. Funny how that works, isn’t it? The problem isn’t the attraction…the problem is people that have gotten so polarized and full of pure HATE that they cannot control themselves. I don’t recall the police having to be there when they added Obama to the show. Very telling that they did have to attend when President Trump was add. I have also never seen Disney do such a terrible job on an animitronic figure either. Perhaps you’re right, maybe it is best if they do close the attraction, since about… Read more »

Randyland
Guest
Randyland

The Hall of Presidents is NOT an Attraction which I go to see every time I am in the Magic Kingdom. As someone who has been going to the Magic Kingdom every year since it opened, (my visit in Spring of 1972), I can truthfully say that I usually attend the Hall of Presidents only once or twice a vacation, unlike many other favorite Attractions of whimsical fun…. However, the Hall of Presidents is an IMPORTANT Attraction. In a place where Mickey Mouse rules the Kingdom, I do not ever recall seeing Mickey within the walls of The Hall of… Read more »

Tj
Guest
Tj

Well said

Gailwisner
Guest
Gailwisner

Couldn’t say it better myself.

Giwreh
Guest
Giwreh

It’s simple. You’re from a different era. (Me too, but that’s not the point) The far majority of CUSTOMERS (not guests, but blunt customers) right now, pay for (a) FUN, (b) non existing privilages (every upgrade experience is fake and just a different price level in the standard WDW show), (c) cheap Chinese merchandising, sold with 500% or more profit… Do you really think, this ACTUAL average customer is interested in “deeper values” (whether politically correct or not ?) Citation …..// It was NEVER just an Amusement Park… It was about a Way of LIFE. …..// >> the most essential… Read more »

Randyland
Guest
Randyland

Giwreh, Are we ready then to just give up?? Throw in the towel and concede that there is nothing left of the Magic Kingdom, and Walt Disney World as we knew it?? Are there NO Guests left who still seek the Magic and something more then mindless thrill rides?? Yes, much has changed and not for the better, but I still believe that there is still the old Magic living in places if we look for it. One place you will still find it is in my heart.

TV Viewer
Guest
TV Viewer

I agree with this comment 100%. Keep the Hall of Presidents.

TV Viewer
Guest
TV Viewer

I agree 100% with Randyland. Keep the Hall of Presidents.

Denise Regie
Guest
Denise Regie

Great perspective. Thanks for your input. I appreciate your patriotism and align with your views. It’s not about tearing down a political party, it’s about supporting America and patriotism!

Larry
Guest
Larry

Yes, let’s get rid of more original attractions and replace them with IP’s

Tj
Guest
Tj

I think what he really wants to say is, “snowflakes are offended”. In the real world, and not someones basement, people deal with life everyday whether good times or bad so suck it up

Rasta
Guest
Rasta

No.
Grow up, Nathan

Ad-block enabled.

SJames
Guest
SJames

To your last point, “…[HoP] slowly grown out of sync with the public’s opinion of the office it showcases and the polarizing culture surrounding it,” is exactly why we NEED HoP! Public opinion CHANGES. Just because something is popular now doesn’t mean it will remain so. As you stated, they didn’t close the attraction during Watergate! The HoP is in LIBERTY square, and rightly so as it showcases the epitome of freedom: free election of the highest office in the land. It pays tribute to those who have given their lives for our country to be and remain free, that… Read more »

Steve
Guest
Steve

A good read and understand the point but respectfully disagree. HoP is not a slice of Americana and while it may have evolved – positively or negatively – from Walt’s vision, it has a place in MK. It is more than a way to escape heat or rain; it’s an opportunity for adults to be reminded of the history of men who were elected to lead (political affiliations and opinions aside); it’s an opportunity for discussion and a learning experience for parents to educate and communicate with their children as a postscript. Guests may not like all the men featured… Read more »