What's Next for Walt Disney World's Hall of Presidents?

November 7, 2020, 2:28 PM · Looks like Walt Disney World has another to decision to make about an attraction refurbishment.

With major news organizations now calling the 2020 U.S. Presidential election for former Vice President and now President-elect Joe Biden, it's clear that there will be a change of administration in Washington, DC. And that means a change in the Magic Kingdom's Hall of Presidents.

But what will that change be?

Will Disney simply continue its tradition and install a Joe Biden Audio Animatronic in the Hall of Presidents, or will Disney take this opportunity to make some other change for what, frankly, is one of Disney World's least popular attractions?

We raised this question last Fourth of July, when we asked Is It Time for a Change at Disney's Hall of Presidents? That's when Disney+ was debuting its recording of Broadway's "Hamilton," and we suggested that might provide a less partisan and more popular alternative to the HOP.

Ever since Hall of Presidents opened with the Magic Kingdom in 1971, its roll call of presidents has elicited varying reactions from the audience. While many visitors simply use the show as an opportunity to catch a quick snooze in a dark, comfy, air-conditioned theater, a few will cheer or boo specific presidents. The reaction typically grows as the roll call progresses and we get to presidents that most people actually have heard of, but for the first 20 or so years of the show's operation, it rarely amounted to much.

Starting with the Clinton administration, Disney has been recording a speech by the current president and having his animatronic deliver that speech during the Hall of Presidents show. Before then, only the animatronic President Lincoln spoke at length during the show. The change has put more of a focus on the current president, which inherently gives the show more of a partisan edge than it had originally, even if the current president's speech is vetted to be as non-partisan as possible.

But with the election of President Trump, what had become an uncomfortable experience for some became divisive to many. Given that, and the fact that Disney loves theme park attractions that support its own IP, many have wondered when Disney would decide to pull the plug on this attraction and replace it with something promoting a Disney franchise.

Disney+'s acquisition of "Hamilton" provides one such opportunity that would fit well the theme of the surrounding Liberty Square land. But how to fit a two-hour-plus live Broadway musical into a theme park attraction? Walt Disney World just laid off most of its musical theater performers. It's not about to write a bunch of checks to stage a multiple-times-daily abridged production of "Hamilton" in the Magic Kingdom.

In fact, given the current lull in attendance due to the pandemic, I suspect Disney's most likely action with the Hall of Presidents will be to close the show for "refurbishment" just after the holiday season, then leave it closed until attendance recovers at the resort. Disney can save a few bucks on its operation and punt on making a decision about the show's future until it has a better idea on what theme park resort income is going to look like over the next few years.

But, at some point, it will need to make a decision. It could send a crew to record Biden and continue as usual. Or it could add a Biden animatronic and dump the president's speech, returning to the roll call's original script. Or it could change the attraction entirely.

The easiest way to slot "Hamilton" in the space would be to cut a 20-30 minute version of the Disney+ show and project it in the theater. That wouldn't be the best look, though, given the ultra-wide dimensions of the theater, plus the fact that most "Hamilton" fans would have watched the whole thing on Disney+ already.

Maybe Disney could throw a few extra bucks at Lin-Manuel Miranda to record an introduction to the show where he gave some extra historical context to Alexander Hamilton's story. That at least would give Liberty Square something fans hadn't seen before. Or Disney could use live actors in a restaged production, but create something like what Universal did with its Jason Bourne stunt show, filling the space with media and just a few actors up front.

Or Disney could opt for a different franchise entirely. Remember, Disney already has a Liberty Square show featuring one of its franchises ready to go. It just plays outside the HOP theater.

Maybe the Muppets would draw more if fans could watch the show sitting inside a nice comfy theater, rather than standing out in the hot Florida sun? It would mean recalling the cast and re-staging the production for the HOP theater, but that would likely be much, much cheaper than licensing "Hamilton" for the same.

The election might be over, but on this question, it's time for us to vote again.

Let's see if we can keep the comments here focused on attraction development opportunities.

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Replies (42)

November 7, 2020 at 2:44 PM

My choice would be replacing HOP with “The Muppets Perform ‘Hamilton’,” but I am not to be trusted with such decisions. :-)

November 7, 2020 at 2:57 PM

I feel like they should keep the show, animatronics and speech, but still completely revamp the show, trying to make it somehow less... Boring.

November 7, 2020 at 4:22 PM

Disney has already had attractions dedicated to the Muppets. I’d like to see them do something else. Hamilton would be interesting...it would certainly fit into the area.

Maybe they could do something where Disney characters, such as Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy perform Hamilton, rather than the Muppets. They could make it 4-D, like Shrek, in Universal Orlando.

November 7, 2020 at 4:27 PM

Maybe have a few speeches, from both sides of the aisle, talking about unity and respect?

November 7, 2020 at 5:00 PM

Given that Hall of Presidents is the least popular of Magic Kingdom's four animatronic performances, they've got a superior patriotic show over at Epcot, COVID has decreased the feasibility and demand of theatrical shows, and the office of president has become such a controversial issue, I think it might be time to retire this one rather than investing the money in a refurbishment (especially with all the budget cuts happening now). This would likely result in leaving the attraction dark for a couple years, then coming up with a replacement once attendance recovers. However, given their waning popularity I'm not sure Muppets would be a satisfactory draw, and Hamilton doesn't fit within the Magic Kingdom one bit (plus it would be expensive to license). If Disney wants to preserve the history aspect, I think they need to lean on something more fictional (National Treasure?) rather than trying to put a non-fiction presentation in the Magic Kingdom. However, I wouldn't mind if that aspect is completely discarded and it becomes some other sort of Disney attraction.

Ah, who are we kidding, it's Walt Disney World...we'll probably have "Meet Disney Pals as Colonial Politicians at Liberty Hall."

November 7, 2020 at 5:45 PM

Robert, you are on to something with having the Muppets perform Hamilton...

But short of seeing that come to fruition, scrapping the entire attraction for a 20-30 minute version of Hamilton would be the best idea. But as shows are not happening right now, that’s not going to happen.

Stick with tradition: get the Biden animatronic designed and give him a speech. And to save time and money later, go ahead and start designing a Kamala Harris animatronic and record her speech in preparation for her to become #47 within the next four years.

November 7, 2020 at 5:45 PM

They took away one Muppet history show already. I will forgive them if they make another one.

November 7, 2020 at 6:37 PM

Nah, Hamilton just doesn't fit, I think it's fine putting in Biden but maybe back to Lincoln (a President both sides can admire) doing the speech much better.

November 7, 2020 at 8:10 PM

Rename it the "Hall of the Presidents and Chewbacca". Have only Chewy speak. Have all of the Presidents nod up and down and occasionally agree or laugh.

Won't offend anyone.

November 7, 2020 at 8:20 PM

@FliesLikeAnArrow you made me laugh out loud and then contemplate it seriously.

Hall of Rapping Presidents?

November 7, 2020 at 8:24 PM

The time has come to retire the Hall of Presidents. Given Biden's age and he said he would only serve one term and the cost of updating this every 4 years is crazy. If WDW wants to keep a Hall of Presidents, then it should just be Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln and the 2 Roosevelt's. They should all have a speaking role and tell of the issues they delt with. then have a movie showing all the Presidents but not speaches.

November 7, 2020 at 10:11 PM

What would be the point of taking out HOP at this time? It's a great attraction, still very popular, has very low operating cost (2-3 staff at a time and no special effects), and the most controversial president of our time has been voted out of office.

Country Bears on the other hand...

November 8, 2020 at 12:01 AM

Replace it with Muppets! The Muppets need more attractions/shows! Have Sam the Eagle be the host.

November 8, 2020 at 3:29 AM

They should move over the Walt Disney Presents exhibit from DHS and maybe add an animatronic Walt.

November 8, 2020 at 5:59 AM

I am a huge fan of the Hall of Presidents but accept I am in a dwindling minority, probably a rapidly dwindling minority. I also accept that there is a threshold between history v entertainment and Hall of Presidents is dry to many. I would loathe to see it devalued by being replaced with anything to do with the Muppets. Come on, your Presidents and/or Liberty Square deserve better! Hamilton is en-vogue at present but for how long? Let's be blunt, most Americans, never mind tourists, didn't even know who he was until popularised in the musical.

If it is to be changed, and taking into consideration it is in Liberty Square, an attraction based on the Founding Fathers, minus Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzy, Gonzo et al, would be my suggestion. Many great men and women integral to America's independence to pick from, including Hamilton.

Or, completely retheme Liberty Square to a new "Land" and have a clean sheet of paper....?

November 8, 2020 at 6:38 AM

I simply like this attraction as is and see no reason to invest capital on making a change other than adding the president elect Add the new president-elect and give him his speech. I find it as a good piece of history that fits perfectly in the liberty square section of the magic kingdom.

November 8, 2020 at 6:39 AM

I’ve always enjoyed it...it’s also a nice break from the heat & general craziness of the MK.

So my vote is to keep it, and update accordingly.

The Country Bear Jamboree should be used a penalty box, for guests violate the mask policy. Make them sit through back to back shows of the CBJ, and they’ll start being reluctant to remove their mask even to take a drink.

Once things get back to normal, and masks go away, the Country Bear Penalty Box can be utilized for the “seat savers” at the parades.

November 8, 2020 at 8:04 AM

If the news coverage of the election on ABC is a reflection of all of the Walt Disney Company, it would become the Hall of Biden. Back to seriousness, since Disney is concerned about the stereotypes in their old movies, Hall of Presidents is dead. With Obama and Trump, its hard to believe it lasted this long, but with several presidents that had hideous personal and presidential legacies, its time is over. Given the financial issues from Covid, expect it to be empty for a few years or a low cost replacement.

November 8, 2020 at 8:30 AM

Looking from the outside the US election an the political system is a joke so the Muppets history show would be fitting to replace this.

November 8, 2020 at 9:27 AM

Well Mr. Niles, I’ll have you know that I stand by my booing of Hoover. ¯\_(?)_/¯

November 8, 2020 at 12:11 PM

Shut it down. Gut it. Build an indoor outdoor counter service restaurant and bar. Build a stage. Serve pints. Add entertainment during the day.

November 8, 2020 at 4:51 PM

4 words: Haunted Mansion Dinner Theater

November 8, 2020 at 8:04 PM

What if Disney acquired Hamilton the Exhibition - which was an engaging walk through in Chicago, but located off the beaten path. Even taking 4-5 rooms of the Exhibition could teach more about the forming of a nation than a living portrait gallery, which is what HOP has always been. https://hamiltonexhibition.com

November 8, 2020 at 10:00 PM

This is honestly so short sighted. Yes, Hamilton is popular at the moment but 5-10 years from now it most likely won't have the same draw. The Hall of Presidents is a great tradition and adding a new president every 4-8 years gives the opportunity to add a new element and change things up a bit. Politics have become more polarized at the moment but regardless of who wins half the population will like seeing who they voted for added. If you didn't like Trump or you don't like Biden you don't have to sit through the show there is plenty else to do. Personally, I like the show regardless of who the current president is at the time. Everything doesn't need to be political, the show is about the office not the politics of the person. It's good to have a little education to mix in with all the IP attractions. I'd be happy to see them update the animatronics and the script but, I think it's important to have all the presidents brought to life.

November 9, 2020 at 6:00 AM

Well said ChuckFin!

November 9, 2020 at 6:02 AM

If anything needs updating the last segment of the Carousel of Progress is still rooted in the 20th century.

November 9, 2020 at 8:01 AM

The carousel of progress should be restored not updated. In order to truly update it you would have to redo the whole thing. It would be better to more or less restore it to the way it was in 1964. Just add some context of its history and the progress that has been made since 1964.

November 9, 2020 at 8:31 AM

I love Disney. But I don't usually agree with their political views. I don't mind if they add Biden into the show. As President he deserve that spot. But they could eliminate the speech part. I wouldn't mind if they could find a way to eliminate the political aspect of any show.

November 9, 2020 at 10:35 AM

I think HoP is a relic of an attraction that should have met its demise a decade or more ago. People do not go to a theme park to learn history (it does have a place within the theme of EPCOT though), which is why Disney's America would have NEVER worked. Trying to keep this attraction relevant without it further fracturing society is a difficult balancing act that is only going to get harder with the passage of time. We are living in a world where history is constantly being cast with a modern lens, which alters the way in which we view historical figures and events. Trying to keep the tone neutral while satisfying modern historical interpretation is just too hard to accomplish for an attraction that sees such a small throughput.

I agree with TH here that an expanded dining location with entertainment (Muppets or Hamilton - or BOTH, would be fine) is the way to go.

November 9, 2020 at 1:01 PM

Russell, THC - it is a sad, sad time when people would rather see the Muppets than seeing all 46 (inc Biden) Presidents, on stage, at the same time, fantastically crafted animatronics in luscious authentic period clothing in the most wonderful of theatres.

No speech = no politics, therefore, remaining perfectly neutral, remaining a showcase attraction.

The younger generations cannot only have their history, or their version of it. By replacing Hall of Presidents, Disney would be simply giving way.......... and I thought MK was for all ages, not just the under 7's?

Maybe the two most important questions we should ask are:
What would Walt want?
What would Walt do?

November 9, 2020 at 1:09 PM

I think what Walt would do is see that HoP just isn't that popular of an attraction and draws a fair amount of criticism from our increasingly divisive culture. He would understand that you cannot cling to the past and still progress into the future, and that an attraction that barely pulls in a couple thousand people per day is not worth the prime real estate near the center of the Magic Kingdom.

November 9, 2020 at 1:20 PM

Where is the "create HOP: The Movie starring Dwayne Johnson, after 3 sequels update the attraction with movie tie-ins" option?

November 9, 2020 at 1:32 PM

Russell, fair response but I may have to chain myself to it if they decide to replace it.

November 9, 2020 at 1:49 PM

“ Rename it the "Hall of the Presidents and Chewbacca". Have only Chewy speak. Have all of the Presidents nod up and down and occasionally agree or laugh.

Won't offend anyone.”

Sorry folks I’m late to the party here. Trying hard to understand why this isn’t the agreed upon solution. Full stop.
This may be the single greatest idea in the History of Everything

November 9, 2020 at 2:08 PM

Okay, I learned something today. I had always assumed that since the attraction had been open they switched out the current president to be the primary speaker. Since this isn't the case, I would think they should have Lincoln or perhaps Martin Van Buren (to appease the Van Buren Boys) be the primary speaker and just include the current president as part of the role call.

The last time I visited Disney was 2017 so I didn't have a chance to fall asleep through the current iteration.

I would put my full support behind a history lesson show with the Muppets as a replacement. Turning the building into another dining option seems more like a local's recommended replacement. Do we really need more dining on site in the parks? It has never personally been my reason to visit.

If it was up to me I would get rid of the America section of Epcot. It has always seemed like a self aggrandizing area of the park for Americans. I would rather have another country outside of North America in its place.

November 9, 2020 at 2:36 PM

Speaking only as a non US citizen I voted for getting rid of it. I've never been inside nor do I have any interest in ever going inside. I think many international travelers do the same.

Now if I were American I would say to continue the tradition and simply add Joe Biden and give me a speech like they've done in the past. There might be a small interest in the beginning and then the attraction would go back to being ignored like it did when they added Trump.

November 9, 2020 at 6:59 PM

I would rather they reduce it down from 25 minutes to 18 and focus a few big "Short" Presidential moments important in history: shift back and forth from screen to Animatronics

Again, have Morgan Freeman's classic voice narrate

Washington becoming the First President,
Lincoln discussing the 13th Amendment with his cabinet,
Woodrow Wilsons "Just and Lasting Peace",
FDRs "New Deal",
Eisenhower "....on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment."

Focus on the important moments in Presidency rather than on the Presidents and have a good pace to it.

November 9, 2020 at 7:41 PM

Just have Biden fall asleep mid speech and that should be pretty believable.

No in all seriousness I think Epcot does a much better job with American Experience and I would have to agree with TH on this one. This is just wasted space for the worlds busiest theme park.

November 10, 2020 at 9:00 AM

i agree that once they started having the "current" president speak, they may have ruined the attraction's heart. should have just keep the speech with lincoln as most americans agree he was a good man, and silently acknowledge the current one. either return it to original, re-do completely and move it to epcot or turn it into a muppet show (which was cute). i agree that hamilton will run its course and be outdated in a few years.

November 10, 2020 at 1:25 PM

You guys are seriously underestimating the staying power of Hamilton. It’s cemented itself as one of the greatest musicals in modern times and perhaps of all time. Right up there with Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera.

This is no passing fad. It’s already been around for about 5-6 years and appears just as popular as ever (first opened in NY off broadway before moving to broadway).

Clearly the release on Disney+ has demonstrated this.

As for hall of presidents — don’t really care what happens to it. It’s pretty boring as is. I guess removing Trump’s speaking role would be an improvement, but not by much. Don’t care if Biden speaks. Hamilton singing muppets could be fun.

November 10, 2020 at 5:30 PM

Disney doesn't own Hamilton, they just own the distribution rights to the filmed version of it. Lin-Manuel Miranda is never gonna agree to let Disney put Hamilton in a theme park or cruise ship as long as the play is still making millions every year in actual theatres around the world, which if it matches the success of something like Cats or Phantom of the Opera could be another 20+ years. (Unless COVID kills the entire industry, but without getting into unknown hypothetical situations the chances of Hamilton being at a Disney park are practically zero.)

As a non-American, the Hall of Presidents is easily the least interesting thing in the park. I'm not against an educational show based on the US Presidents, and I wish Disney had more educational attractions tbh, but the way it's presented is the blandest and dullest possible. I was always hoping they could do it an fun musical way similar to how the Animaniacs did it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oc3xTj3g9QQ

Of course, Disney doesn't own the Animaniacs, but The Muppets would be a great substitute.

November 11, 2020 at 10:08 PM

Sorry, but this "attraction" is a snooze. If it didn't fit in Liberty Square, they would've closed it long ago.

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