Lincoln bicentennial a missed opportunity for Disney's theme parks
By Robert NilesTuesday Park Visit: (Well, should have been....) Thursday marks the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, considered by many America's greatest president. Walt Disney was among those fans of Lincoln; the first audio-animatronic figure Disney had built was of his fellow Illinoisan.
Published: February 10, 2009 at 3:39 PM
So what better way to commemorate Lincoln's bicentennial than watching him "come to life" at a Disney theme park, with either Disneyland's Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln or Walt Disney World's Hall of Presidents?
Well, those would have been nice ways to mark the day... if either of those attractions were open.
The Hall of Presidents is down for refurbishment until July and Disneyland closed Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln for a 50th anniversary film about the opening of Disneyland, which is still showing in Mr. Lincoln's old theater, three-and-a-half years after Disneyland's 50th anniversary.
Not having either of its Lincoln animatronics open for the bicentennial represents are rare missed PR opportunity for Disney. Yes, Disney needs to install a Barack Obama animatronic in Florida. But could you imagine the press that Disney would get if it had debuted the Obama figure not in July but on Thursday, Lincoln's 200th birthday?
Fate rarely deals more fortunate hands than that - to have, on Lincoln's bicentennial, the debut in the Hall of Presidents of the nation's first black president, who, like Lincoln, was a former member of Congress from Illinois and who also is married to the descendent of slaves freed by Lincoln.
Ya think maybe that would have gotten some airtime around the country?
Or Disney could have taken this opportunity to replace the 50th anniversary show at Disneyland, returning Lincoln to the Main Street Opera House on the occasion of his 200th birthday. That would have provided a local angle that Los Angeles-area media would have seized upon to mark the day.
I'm sure that the extensive rehab of the Hall of Presidents will impress when it opens this summer. But if Disney and his team could build the entire Disneyland park in one year, as the 50th anniversary film reminds us, surely Disney could have prepared its Obama animatronic in three months, to meet this bicentennial deadline? (And left the more extensive refurbishment for later in the spring.)
C'est la vie. At least there will be one place where folks can watch Mr. Lincoln come to life on his birthday: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. I've never been, but when I visited with attraction designer Bob Rogers last month, I got to see copies of some of the figures that went into that museum, which Rogers' firm helped design.
The museum will webcast a reading of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. Central Time (10:30 a.m. Eastern). It'll be a simultaneous reading with people participating from around the country. I hope you'll look in. I just wish that the Lincolns in Orlando and Anaheim could have participated, too.
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