Walt Disney was a true American icon who embodied the values of hard work, creativity, and patriotism. Throughout his life, Walt demonstrated a deep appreciation for the United States of America and its leaders. In honor of President’s Day, we’re taking a look at Walt Disney’s favorite President, Abraham Lincoln, and how the Disney Parks honor our United States Presidents to this day.
Walt Disney’s Patriotic Nature
Walt Disney was born in Chicago in 1901 and grew up in Missouri, where his father owned a small farm. Even as a young boy, Disney had a deep love for his country. In his autobiography, Disney wrote, “I grew up on a farm in Missouri, and there was always a feeling of patriotism and love of country around me.” His love of this country and his unwavering patriotism was often featured in his early work through patriotic themes in his films and television shows. For example, the “I’m Proud to Be an American” segment from the 1942 film “This is America” featured a rousing rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and showcased the beauty and diversity of America. He was always eager to showcase the best of America, whether it was through his animated films, the creation of Disneyland, patriotic-themed attractions, The American Adventure pavilion at Epcot in the World Showcase, and with a special “land” inside Walt Disney World called “Liberty Square.”
One of the earliest examples of Walt’s patriotic nature was in 1942, during the height of World War II. Walt created a series of animated shorts titled “The Spirit of ’43”, which encouraged Americans to pay their income tax to support the war effort. This was just one example of how Walt used his creativity to serve his country and rally its citizens. Walt’s patriotism was also evident in his personal life and his pride was echoed in the American Flag at Walt Disney World located at Magic Kingdom, on Main Street USA. It flies on a 65-foot-tall flagpole in the town square area, known as Town Square Flag Pole. The flag is a massive 12 feet wide and 18 feet tall, making it one of the largest American flags in the world. The flag is raised and lowered each day by a team of cast members known as the “Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat.” This ceremony is held daily at 5:00 p.m., includes a patriotic medley performed by the Main Street Philharmonic and a special tribute to veterans for their service, sacrifice and dedication to protecting our country.
Walt Disney’s Favorite President: Abraham Lincoln
Walt Disney had a deep admiration for Abraham Lincoln, often referring to him as his favorite president. Disney felt a strong connection with Lincoln’s values of perseverance, hard work, and the importance of dreaming big. He was also inspired by Lincoln’s leadership during some of the most challenging times in American history. For the 1964 World’s Fair held in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in New York City, Walt Disney took his admiration to the next level, but creating the attraction “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.” This exhibit, sponsored by the State of Illinois, featured an audio-animatronic figure of Abraham Lincoln, which gave a stirring performance of some of his most famous speeches, including the Gettysburg Address. The exhibit was a groundbreaking achievement in animatronics and a major hit at the World’s Fair, attracting millions of visitors.
After the World’s Fair, the “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” attraction was moved to Disneyland, where it was installed in a specially-designed theater on Main Street. Today the attraction is called “The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” and it continues to draw large crowds. Is has been updated over the years to include new technology and a revised script. The attraction is still a beloved part of Disneyland and a tribute to both Abraham Lincoln and the pioneering work of Walt Disney and his team of Imagineers.
The Hall of Presidents & Liberty Square
Liberty Square in Walt Disney World is a themed land designed to resemble colonial America during the American Revolution. It was created by Disney Imagineers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with a strong emphasis on historical accuracy and attention to detail. The centerpiece of Liberty Square is the Hall of Presidents, an attraction that features an audio-animatronic figure of every U.S. president, from George Washington to the present day.
The Hall of Presidents was a significant undertaking for Disney, as it required extensive research, design, and engineering to bring the presidents to life in a convincing way. The attraction opened in 1971, just a few years after the completion of the Magic Kingdom. It quickly became a popular destination for visitors to Walt Disney World, and has since been updated several times to incorporate new technology and presidential figures. Read more about The Hall of President’s Story on D23.com’s blog.
Today, the Hall of Presidents remains a beloved attraction at Walt Disney World, drawing visitors from around the world who want to learn more about the history and traditions of the United States. It is a testament to the enduring legacy of the American presidency, a reminder of the importance of our leaders and the role they play in shaping our country’s future, as well as a tribute to the creative vision and technical innovation of Walt Disney and his team of Imagineers.
Walt Disney’s patriotic nature and reverence for the office of the President of the United States is observed throughout his legacy. His admiration for Abraham Lincoln turned feat of engineering in The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, the commitment Walt Disney World shows in how they treat the American Flag and honor our veterans, the curation of Liberty Square, and of course the Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World, are just a few examples of how The Disney Company continues to honor America through their parks. As we celebrate President’s Day, let’s remember the values that made our country great and the leaders who helped shape our history.
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