Friday, January 15, 2021

Walt Disney World's Hall of Presidents

With the inauguration of our 46th U.S. president just five days away, I thought this would be a good time to publish this "Hall of Presidents" post.

(Note:  This is not intended to be a complete history of the attraction.  I'm just featuring some magazine articles and souvenirs from my personal collection, as well as some other items, which I came across on ebay.)

We will start with the original attraction poster for "The Hall of Presidents," which was an opening day attraction at the Magic Kingdom.

 

This article about the attraction, appeared in the Winter 1972-1973 issue of Disney News Magazine.  The Hall of Presidents, and the park, were only one year old at this point.

 

The magazine's previous issue (Fall 1972), had included the photo below, in an article about WED and the Disney "staff shops" of sculptors, model makers, painters, etc.  Disney artist, Blaine Gibson, is shown sculpting a bust of Richard Nixon, prior to the creation of Nixon's audio-animatronic figure for the Hall of Presidents.  Nixon was the current president, at the time of the attraction's opening.


Gerald Ford was added to the Hall of Presidents, after Richard Nixon resigned as President of the United States, in 1974.  This article appeared in the Spring 1975 issue of Disney News Magazine.

Blaine Gibson is shown below, sculpting the bust of Ford.


I was pretty sure that Disney News Magazine had featured an article about the addition of President Jimmy Carter to the attraction in 1977, but I could not find one in any of the issues. Here is a fairly close-up photo of his Audio-animatronic figure, inside the attraction.


And just for kicks, here is a shot of the real President Carter, going for an early morning run through Disneyland.

Ronald Reagan was added to the HOP, in 1981.  This article appeared in the Spring 1982 issue of Disney News Magazine.  Once again, Blaine Gibson is pictured.

(Note:  This 1982 article mentions that Mr. Gibson had sculpted "more than half" of the presidents within the attraction, up to this point.  That was incorrect, because he is actually credited with sculpting all of the presidents up to 2001, with Barack Obama being the first president that he did not sculpt.)

Again, I somehow thought that Disney News Magazine had featured articles over the years, about the creation of some of the other presidents, at least up until the time when the magazine stopped being published, which was in 2005.  However, the "Ford" and "Reagan" articles appear to be the only ones written on new presidential additions to the attraction.

Blaine Gibson retired from Disney's WED Enterprises (now called Walt Disney Imagineering), in 1983.  However, he returned to sculpt the likenesses of Presidents George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton, and George Bush Jr.

Bush Jr. was added to the attraction, in 2001.

When I visited Walt Disney World for the very first time, this "welcome" banner was still hanging over the entrance to the attraction, even though he had been added the previous year.

Barack Obama was added to The Hall of Presidents, in 2009.   The Disney artist credited with sculpting his likeness, is Valerie Edwards. The photo below (from Disney), shows the Obama figure being programmed.


This is pretty cool.  It's footage of President Barack Obama actually recording the audio track for his animatronic figure, in the Map Room of the White House:




 

Now, let's take a look at some "Hall of Presidents" souvenirs, from the last forty-nine years:

This souvenir record of the attraction's soundtrack was available for purchase, beginning in 1972.



 


Back cover of the record album:

In the seventies and eighties, there were a couple different sets of Hall of Presidents souvenir slides available.

The captions on the slides are as follows:

"Exterior"

"Presidents on Stage"

 "Lincoln Speaks"

  "Washington to J.Q. Adams"

 "Lincoln and his Predecessors"

 "Jefferson, the Adamses, Madison"

 "Grant and Three Predecessors"

 "Hayes (Right) to McKinley (Left)"

 "Van Buren and Recent Presidents"

Over the years, there have been various HOP postcards.  Note in this first postcard, the entrance portico had not yet been added to the building's facade.

 

This postcard shows the original "cast," with Nixon being the newest/current president.

In this postcard, Reagan was the newest addition.

A set of "trading" or "collector's" cards was released in 1996, to commemorate the Magic Kingdom's 25th anniversary.  The Hall of Presidents was represented on card #15.

Back of card:

Pewter figures of all the presidents were available at one time.  Rutherford B. Hayes is pictured below.


 

 

I'm not sure of the exact time period that these figures were sold.  They all have "Walt Disney Productions" stamped on their bases.  That would date them to sometime in the seventies or early eighties, because after the mid-eighties, all Disney merchandise was labeled, "The Walt Disney Company" or "Disney."  Having said that, the most recent president I could find while searching online, was Gerald Ford.

 Vinylmation figure of Abraham Lincoln, released in 2011:




Pressed Penny from 2014:


 

Over the years, there have been multiple "Hall of Presidents" trading pins.

This pin (with the image of the HOP's attraction poster), was part of a special "Liberty Square" set of pins.  The set was released in 2011.

 Trading pin from 2005:

Trading pin from 2009, celebrating the attraction's "re-opening" and welcoming President Barack Obama to the Hall of Presidents:

 

"Tiny Kingdom" mystery mini pin, Walt Disney World Series 1, released in 2019:

From the "Twenty Eight & Main" mystery pin series, released in 2017:


And here is a Walt Disney World "20th Anniversary" pin, from 1991.  (This pin is actually from before the days of the official Disney "Pin Trading" program.)


We will end today with this fun publicity photo from ebay, of the Martin Van Buren figure having his hair styled: