Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
In 1960 Walt told his gathered staff about an idea he had for the 1964 New York’s World Fair. He told them that the American Corporations won’t even know why they are doing it, but sense the other corporation are there, they will need to keep up with the Joneses.
He said that WED had proved they could build something that stands out like Disneyland and that it would be a great opportunity for the company to grow.
Walt sent teams out to visit many of the US’s top companies offering Disney’s services for the World Fair. Four took up Disney on his offer:
and of course the State of Illinois.
Illinois was supposed to get a hall of lifelike animatronic presidents. Lincoln was the only one completed.
After a rough start Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln was one of most popular in the fair. Now most people think Eisner was crafty and managed to get the most money out of corporate relations, but listen to this sweet deal that Walt came up with. According to Just Disney.com “the studio applied a fee of one-million dollars for the use of the Disney name, and technology. At the end of the fair, however, Walt made an incredible off to the exhibitors. “If the two corporations established their exhibits at Disneyland, the million-dollar fee could be applied to moving expenses.”
So with that, Disney advanced theme-park technology in a short period of time and Disneyland received two new attractions with minimal cost to the company. He also stretched his Imagineers creativity and many valuable lesson were learned.
BTW, that $1,000,000 would be $6,035,595.36 in 2005 dollars!
On July 18, 1965 a couple new thing debuted on Main Street at Disneyland, The Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln opens at the Opera House and the Plaza Inn Restaurant. The Disneyland version was setup with a new Lincoln figure and most of the original show intact. The State of Illinois did not continue as the sponsor, so Gulf Oil took over. And since the State of Illinois was no longer the show sponsor, the show was cut to speed up running time and to edit out most of the references to the State of Illinois.
It was one of the first free attractions at Disneyland. Walt felt it was important for the young and all alike to see the show.
Lincoln’s first run ended on January 1, 1973 just 7 and 1/2 years after it’s debut and was replaced by the Walt Disney Story. This caused a barrage of negative feedback.
Just 2 1/2 years later Lincoln would return as a combined attraction with the Walt Disney Story on June 12, 1975. The attraction was renamed The Walt Disney Story featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
In 1984 Lincoln has a huge technology update. He became even more life like. With a whole new structure but the same basic message, the show was shortened again. Lincoln's speech was even cut down, removing his references to "Divine Providence". Most of the Buddy Baker score was left intact. The "Two Brothers" sequence from Epcot's The American Adventure about two brothers fighting on opposite sides in the American Civil War, was inserted just before the segue into the finale. The finale itself, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", was dumped and replaced with "Golden Dream", the theme song from The American Adventure.
In the late 80’s rumors abounded that Lincoln was going to be replaced by the then new Jim Henson’s Muppet Vision 3D from the Disney-MGM Studios at WDW.
By 2001 Lincoln was in need of refurbishment and not only received one, but also a show upgrade and title. The new show Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, The Journey To Gettysburg. A new binaural sound system via headsets were added to the show which makes the audience part of the show. The new shows has none of the other three shows elements other than the return of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Rather a sitting President that rises to speak with you, Lincoln is standing and has glasses on and notes in his hands. He refers to these not as he speaks to the audience. The set know resemble the place in which Lincoln gave the Gettysbeurg address, though the pillars from the previous set are sill present.
On February 20, 2005 Lincoln again closes. this time to make room for a new temporary attraction: Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years hosted by Steve Martin. Well the 50th celebration is over and Lincoln is nowhere to be found. The First 50 Magical Years movie is still running. Some thing Lincoln will not return, but a cast member friend told me that the Imagineers had something special in mind for the attraction to coincide with a Lincoln anniversary of some type. His 150th birthday is still 4 years away so i am not sure what anniversary we are coming up on. It’s just a castmember rumor.
The original voice of Lincoln was character actor Royal Dano. He also portrayed Lincoln on stage, films and TV. He was tall, dark, lanky and gaunt-looking with squinty, but piercing, eyes, high cheekbones and a smoky, mellow sounding voice. Many came to believe that Lincoln must have sounded exactly like Dano and he often was cast as Abraham Lincoln in films and on television. Walt was present to direct Royal’s performance. Everyone thought it had gone well. All expect Walt. Walt had Royal perform again again until hie was quite tired. He did not think he had done a good job. But Walt thought that was the one. He figured Lincoln would have been a tired stressed man and therefore would have spoken in a tired tone.
Royal Dano died in Los Angeles, California on May 15, 1994 of a heart attack at age 71.
The current voice for Lincoln is Warren Burton. He started with the Journey to Gettysburg version of the attraction. He is best known as a daytime soap opera actor who in 1980 won a Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor and since 1990 he has been working as voice over talent for video games.
Disney sculptor Blaine Gibson created a bust that the mask of Lincoln’s face would be molded from by ways of a copy of a life mask created in 1860 by Leonard Volk that he had obtained a copy of.
Paul Frees narrated the World’s Fair and Disneyland’s original show. He was also most of the other voices used. The newest show is narrated by Frees sound a like Corey Burton.
Lillian Disney would later say that Walt would tear up at the end of every show he saw and he saw many. Sometime he would try to cover and say he had something in his eye. Walt keeps his man card. Something in his eye, thats a good one. Way to go Walt.
The original Lincoln speech is actually composed of several speeches made over his lifetime. They were composed by Disney Legend James Algar.
When I worked for Security many years ago we had to do animation inspections and had to turn keys in a clock we carried so that we could prove when had been in areas of the park on our patrol and the time. We basically had this box with a clock in and a key hole that had a strap on it that we would lug around the park, We would be assigned different AP’s or Area Patrols each night. This took place on graveyard and second shifts if the park was closed. My first AP at the park was AP1 which include Main Street. One of the keys I had to hit as we called it was in the Lincoln Theater behind the stage. You could reach it without really looking at the Lincoln AA, but since I was a huge Disney fan I would always visit the President.
The first time I saw Lincoln I was taken back a little. He was slumped over in his chair and it was a little scary and chilling. I had thoughts of the Ford Theater and John Wilks Booth. I will never forget the first time I saw Lincoln that way. I never reacted to any other life like AA’s the way I reacted to Lincoln’s. I guess it was that he was a real historical figure, not just some made up pirate or ghost.
Some other Security Officer’s first visits with Lincoln went a little more Twilight Zone like. One female office told me she had to change her underwear because the maintenance guys thought it would be funny to power up the President while she was doing her inspection.
The inspections by the way were for leaks, mischief and basically anything that may not look right. The older figures use hydraulics and would sometimes spring a leak. I was told and I am not sure if its true that the two middle fingers of the figure were locked together under the skin and moved together because they used to find some the AA giving the bird and wanted to make sure that guest never experienced that side of Disney.
When I was about twelve and in junior high I convinced my teacher that our class play should be this story that I crafted almost word for word form the Hal of Presidents. I even listened over and over to my 33 rpm record to transcribe the Lincoln speech which was the same as Disneyland’s first version I believe. I of course talked her into letting me play Lincoln. I have not done this in 31 years, but here it goes.
Lincoln's Disneyland Address
"The world has never had a good definition of the word "liberty". The American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty. But in using the same word, we do not all mean the same thing.
"What constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence? It is not our frowning embattlements, our bristling sea coasts. These are not our reliance against tyranny. Our reliance is in the love of liberty, which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.
"At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some trans-Atlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us in a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected?
"I answer that if it ever reach us, it must spring from amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we ourselves must be the authors and finishers. As a nation of free men, we must live through all times, or die by suicide.
"Let reverence for the law be breathed by every American mother to the listing babe that prattles on her lap. Let it be taught in the schools, in the seminaries, and in the colleges. Let it be written in primers, in spelling books and almanacs. Let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And in short, let it become the political religion of the nation. And let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes, and tongues, and colors, and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly at its altar.
"And let us strive to deserve, as far as mortals may, the continued care of Divine Providence, trusting that, in future national emergencies, He will not fail to provide us the instruments of safety and security.
Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, or frightened from it by menaces of the destruction to the government, nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might. And in that faith, let us to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."
Great Moments with Mr Lincoln will always be one of my favorite attractions. I am fiercely patriotic, deeply respectful the office of the President and I am moved when I see shows like this.
The original Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln gets a IMW “E” ticket. The newer Journey to Gettysburg get and IMW “D” ticket. It’s still a good show, but some of the binaurel stuff seems out of place with type of show. I do like that Disney continues to refine this show. Sometime not so good, but they are looking to keep up to date for the audience. If this kind of attention could be applied to other older attractions, the sky’s the limits.