Disney World Reveals Reopening & Details for Hall of Presidents with Joe Biden
Walt Disney World has revealed the reopening for Hall of Presidents, sharing details of the refurbished attraction and photos of the newly-installed President Joe Biden Audio Animatronics figure and more. In this post, we’ll cover the announcement and offer some commentary.
To quickly recap, Walt Disney World quietly closed Hall of Presidents on inauguration day. The Liberty Square attraction was last open on the eve of inauguration, and has been down since January without a reopening date on the official Walt Disney World calendar. A statement on the Walt Disney World website simply indicates: “The Hall of Presidents is currently closed for refurbishment.”
Today is the first time Disney has addressed the closure beyond that, offering a sneak peek inside the attraction at the new President Biden AA and other details about the project. Let’s start with Walt Disney World’s official announcement regarding the Hall of Presidents refurbishment, followed by our commentary on the changes…
Info & Photos
Since opening day of Magic Kingdom Park in 1971, The Hall of Presidents has brought to life the heritage of the United States and shared the symbolic importance and uniqueness of the office of the President. Almost 50 years later, the story of liberty’s leaders continues to be told and retold to new generations as Walt Disney originally envisioned.
For the past few months, work has been underway to add President Joe Biden to the stage as the 46th President of the United States. As Disney Imagineers are putting the final touches on the show, which will debut to guests in August, we’re sharing a behind-the-scenes look at the latest update.
Just as Walt envisioned, creative teams have been busy programming an Audio-Animatronics replica of the President, pairing it with a delivery of the presidential oath of office recorded at the White House by President Biden himself just for the attraction.
Every detail comes together to create a realistic and symbolic glimpse into the office of the President through the years, from the carefully tailored clothing to the props, documents and furniture placed throughout the stage.
Next time you visit, you may notice the table next to President Biden is adorned with a few special items.
Each have their own significance to President Biden, including peach blossoms to represent his home state of Delaware and a pair of aviators as a nod to his proclivity for the sunglasses.
And for those who are curious about what happens to presidents at The Hall of Presidents after their term has ended, the Audio-Animatronics figure of former President Donald J. Trump will take its place on stage among those who have previously served.
So take your seat in our stately theater beginning next month as we share the incredible story of the American presidency, and watch as the curtain rises to welcome back all the Presidents.
Not a ton to say here–perhaps the biggest surprise is that Walt Disney World announced this at all, given that the closure occurred on inauguration day without any advance announcement or press release.
It’s hard to fault Disney for this approach. Four years ago, there was an announcement, which was followed by an extended closure and rumors of in-fighting between Imagineering’s Glendale leadership and Team Disney Orlando. Those stories weren’t confined to Disney fan sites, but rather, spilled out into the mainstream news and prolific pop culture sites.
A quiet refurbishment could avoid the headaches of high-profile controversies over what’s ultimately a low-profile Magic Kingdom attraction. It’s a smart move, even if Disney fans might like to know what’s happening and when Hall of Presidents will reopen. With that said, it’s also good to have balance.
While Walt Disney World doesn’t need to tease Hall of Presidents’ return with weekly updates on TikTok, it would be a bad look if one day in August, Hall of Presidents were just open again without any prior statement. Even though the attraction has become a powder keg of controversy, that’s merely a reflection of society the the times–it’s not Disney’s fault, and the company certainly should not act ashamed of a historic, viewpoint neutral attraction that is patriotic to its core.
Speaking of which, although Disney indicates that this is what Walt Disney envisioned with Hall of Presidents, that’s not entirely true. What is true is that Walt Disney was as patriotic and he himself was probably as American as anyone could possibly be.
The attraction Walt Disney envisioned was Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, which debuted at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and still exists at Disneyland. The Hall of Presidents built upon the show’s legacy—expanding it to all Presidents—when it opened in 1971. Walt Disney had no involvement in its creation, but undoubtedly would’ve approved of the longer and more ambitious production.
The modern incarnation of the attraction adopted its current structure in 1993 when President Clinton was added. He became the first sitting president with a speaking role in Hall of Presidents.
Again, we can’t really fault the company’s invoking of Walt Disney here. It’s one thing to do it when announcing Frozen Ever After or picking the opening date for a Star Wars ride. That always merits a big eye roll. Here, using Walt as a shield is a bit more understandable as both a practical matter and given his unabashed patriotism. If the company announced Hall of Presidents would now have a glorious three-hour finale because that’s what Walt would’ve wanted, my response would be, “yeah, that checks out.”
I am mildly surprised that Walt Disney World chose to stick with the structure of the current president having a speaking role. Kudos to Disney for making that decision and not taking the path of least resistance. We love Hall of Presidents, a moving tribute to the presidency and how that office has shaped (and been shaped by) America since the nation’s founding.
Admittedly, we’ve been saying for a while now that it might be pragmatic to eliminate the speaking role of the current president, beginning with Biden. It would be unwise to make that change in the future for a history-making presidency or in a scenario that would give rise to even more controversy.
The removal of the sitting president’s speaking role is not what we want to see happen, it’s just the simplest option. That’s especially the case given that Hall of Presidents is a relatively low-profile attraction, but one that becomes a lightning rod for controversy each time a new president is elected.
It’s nice to see Walt Disney World not taking the easy way out. Hopefully that doesn’t backfire down the road, though.
Additionally, it’s refreshing to see Disney not going the intellectual property route with Hall of Presidents. Last summer, there were credible rumors that Imagineering might use the next refurbishment to make Hall of Presidents less partisan and polarizing. Ambitious ideas were tossed around, including injecting the Muppets or making the attraction appealing to younger audiences.
Honestly, I like several of those rumored concepts–especially if given the false choice between one of those and the Hall of Presidents potentially closing. Beyond that, I think Liberty Square needs something more to feel like a fully-fledged land on par with its Magic Kingdom counterparts.
However, I feel like the solution to that problem lies outside Hall of Presidents and in the land itself. To that point, Walt Disney World already did an exemplary job of edutainment in Liberty Square with the Muppets Present… Great Moments in American History (one of our favorite additions of the last decade).
This clever show did an exemplary job of incorporating actual lessons from American history with the trademark quick wit of the Muppets. Bringing that back or adding another atmospheric act outside Hall of Presidents would be great counterprogramming giving some life, levity, and edutainment to Liberty Square, while also potentially drawing more guests inside to see the full Hall of Presidents show. That’s the better option–not dumbing down a Magic Kingdom classic.
With that said, this seems like a pretty normal refurbishment. In recent years, the refurbishment duration for Hall of Presidents has varied widely, largely depending upon the scope of the work beyond crafting the new Audio Animatronics figure, as well as scheduling the recording of the new president’s dialogue.
The closures following the prior two elections were longer, but those projects were also more ambitious, with new films and other upgrades made to the theater. Nothing suggests that’s the case here, which is likely why Hall of Presidents is reopening after being closed for around 7 months.
Ultimately, the Hall of Presidents should unify Americans around our nation’s founding, the formation of our Constitution, and our hard-fought struggles along the way.
Hall of Presidents is about the office of the presidency, and not the current occupant of that office. It’s about showcasing how the United States has risen to common challenges and collective problems–not individuals or political tensions–through the lens of the presidency.
It’s understandable that many people want escapism out of Walt Disney World, and Hall of Presidents is a non-starter for them irrespective of their political persuasions. Beyond that, there has been a chorus of (apolitical) complaints for decades that Hall of Presidents is overly long, boring, and dry.
With that said, not everything needs to be thrilling or exciting, and not every attraction needs to cater to every guest. There are plenty of rides and shows we almost never do because they’re not for us. It’s perfectly fine that Hall of Presidents is not for everyone. So long as it has air-conditioning, it’s going to appeal to many Walt Disney World visitors!
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