Sunday, January 18, 2015

Bad postcard of the week: The Hall of Presidents and the lesser attractions at Walt Disney World

This bad postcard doesn't present the Hall of Presidents in its proper majesty.

OK, a lot has happened since we went on sabbatical.

We went back to the U.P., walked across the Mackinac Bridge, chaperoned marching band trips – including an awesome second-place, statewide finish at Ford Field -- volunteered on a campaign, met Chris Christie, planned college visits, celebrated being victorious on Election Day, celebrated Christmas, and celebrated Inauguration Day. Oh, and Mike Piazza got hosed, again.

We were dealing with a lot of heavy stuff!

The Inauguration was a fantastic celebration. And what do people do when they celebrate big victories? They head to Disney World!

And the best part of Disney World? That would be The Hall of Presidents, of course.

This week’s bad postcard just doesn’t do the attraction justice. The photographer’s attempt to get every president in the frame means we get lots of dead space on the top and bottom, and still only half of Andrew Jackson.

And that’s a shame, because the Hall of Presidents has all the thrills of Space Mountain without the motion sickness.

For those who are unaware, The Hall of Presidents is an attraction in the Magic Kingdom that includes a lesson about American history. The curtain pulls away to reveal moving figures of all 43 presidents.

Yes, Barack Obama is the 44th president. Grover Cleveland, with his twice-counting, non-consecutive terms, only appears on stage once.

So I’ve been looking forward to this magnificent and educational display of patriotism since we started planning the trip.

Disney’s gone all high-tech, and you can download an ap that does all kinds of things, including telling us the wait time on rides in real-time. In the weeks leading up to the trip, Caroline and I would check the times people were standing in line to get on the Pirates of the Caribbean or Splash Mountain.
The Gnome of Victory and Celebration  came along.

I can’t explain this, but there was never a wait listed for the Hall of Presidents.

I assumed the ap was malfunctioning, because even It’s a Small World had wait times while people were apparently walking right in to the Hall of Presidents.

It the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day – the busiest week of the year at Disney – the ap listed three-hour waits for some rides. And yet, people were still just walking right in to the Hall of Presidents.

The big day finally arrived and Caroline was in charge of plotting our plan of attack on the Magic Kingdom.   We started with the Seven Drawfs Mine Ride, but it was shut down for technical issues.

So we hit The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Space Mountain – twice! – the Astro Orbiters, the Tomorrowland Transit and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin before heading through Cinderella’s Castle on our way to the Haunted Mansion.

And, as we walked through Liberty Square, there it was, shining like a beacon of goodness among the “Frozen” t-shirts -- The Hall of Presidents.

Once we enjoyed the frights, my wife said the magic words: “We might as well get it over with. At least it will be warm inside.”

For the unaware, the Hall of Presidents technically started, like Shea Stadium and so many other good things, at the New York World’s Fair in 1964-1965. It was just Abe Lincoln then.

The rest of the presidents came with opening of Walt Disney World, at least through Richard Nixon. The show expanded with the arrivals of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

Bill Clinton became the first sitting president to have a speaking role, a feature that has continued with George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
President Obama had a speaking role, Franklin Pierce said nothing.

The show was overhauled in 2008, closing on Oct. 31 and not reopening until July 1, 2009. Can you imagine eight months of people charging into the Magic Kingdom, stopping dead in their tracks to discover that the Hall of Presidents was closed? Did they get a refund? Were there signs on the way in alerting them that the magical experience wouldn’t be quite as magical that day?

Amazingly, the 700-seat theater was only about a third full when we entered, which allowed for a seat right in the middle.

The show is just as wonderful as when I last attended, with Morgan Freeman as a new narrator. After Lincoln spoke by himself, the curtains pulled back to reveal the rest of our heroes. They all moved – nodding, fidgeting, looking around, and making fun of William Henry Harrison – as they were introduced.

Some of the Audio-Animatronic figures look better than others. But they are good enough that I could probably name them without the introductions. George Washington spoke, as did Obama, without a TelePrompTer.

It was all pretty glorious and I’m sure I wasn’t the only who got a little weepy. (Then again, I was busted getting weepy when Elsa covered Cinderella's  Castle in ice later in the night. It was really cool.)

I suggested that we try to set the record for most consecutive viewings. My companions suggested that record would be set by remaining in the theater for a second viewing.

With that, we proceeded to ride the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. On the bright side, I got to meet Tigger and he was really nice.


Section 36 said...

Can't believe I've never been to that show. Going to have to put it on the top of the list for the next trip!

Mets Guy in Michigan said...

Absolutely, Section 36! It's my favorite part of the Magic Kingdom!