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Never mind about Obama's inaugural address. Mickey wants Barack to record his HOP speech ASAP

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Never mind about Obama's inaugural address. Mickey wants Barack to record his HOP speech ASAP

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While all eyes will be on Washington D.C. today, as Barack Obama takes the oath of office and thus becomes the 44th President of the United States ... Down in Orlando, the Imagineers are eyeballing the calendar. After all, there's less than six months now 'til the robotic version of our next Commander-in-Chief is supposed to be unveiled at the Hall of Presidents. And there's still plenty of work that needs to be done before this Liberty Square attraction can re-open on July 4th.

Mind you, an awful lot of this work is being done out of the public eye. Take -- for example -- the asbestos abatement that's taking place right now in the non-public areas of this Magic Kingdom theater. Backstage, the removal teams have stripped this structure down to the bare walls (As for the public parts of the Hall of Presidents ... Not to worry. The theater itself as well as the pre-show rotunda area underwent this asbestos abatement procedure 8 years ago, just before the George W. Bush AA figure was added to this show).

Up in the projection booth, those old 70mm projectors have been hauled away to make way for a brand-new digital-video projection system. And just above the stage itself, the HOP's old lighting rigs have been completely overhauled. So now each robotic Chief Executive will look a little brighter during the Hall of Presidents' roll call sequence, thanks to all of the new LEDs that have been installed overhead.

As for the theater itself ... For nearly 40 years now, if you had a member of your party who was seated in a wheelchair and/or riding on an electric cart, they'd be forced to enter the Hall of Presidents through the theater's exit. The physical set-up of this building (i.e. the theater's steep aisles) made experiencing this show extremely difficult for Disney World's differently-abled Guests.


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Well, that all changes come July. The Imagineers have worked overtime to make HOP much more ADA compliant. They're ripped up rows at both the top & the bottom of the theater as well as creating lots of new level parking spots for wheelchairs & carts. The end result is a Hall of Presidents that will now allow differently-abled Guests to stay with their group as they enter this theater. More to the point, thanks to the HOP's new physical set-up, these groups can now be seated together. And -- due to the grading  work that's being done in the aisles in order to reduce steepness -- those seated in wheelchairs and/or on electric carts will now be able to move about this theater with ease.

"Okay. Enough with the physical improvements to the theater," you say. "What sort of show am I going to see here when the Hall of Presidents re-opens in July?," you ask. Well, I'll told that Valerie Edwards (i.e. WDI's Director of Sculpture) has done a superb job with her Barack Obama bust. And if all goes according to plan, our next Commander-in-Chief will speak (as will the robotic versions of George Washington & Abraham Lincoln) in the brand-new version of HOP.

The only problem is ... Barack hasn't recorded his HOP speech yet. The way I hear it, the President-elect has had the script that the Imagineers crafted for him (which is made up of excerpts from various speeches that Obama has made over the past few years) for a week or more now. And he definitely seems interested in helping Disney out. But the guy's in a serious time crunch right now.

So when might Barack actually get around to recording his dialogue? Back in 2001, George W. Bush was able to get his speech for the Hall of Presidents recorded within two weeks of taking office. But then again, Bush had a bit more free time back then than Obama does right now. I mean, the economy's in the toilet. Hundreds of thousands of people are out of work. Plus there are two wars being fought overseas.


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With all that's already on his plate, finding time to record dialogue for a theme park attraction -- especially during his first few weeks in office -- may be a bit tough for Barack. That said, given his daughters' affection for the Jonas Brothers (as well as the fact that Michelle Obama served as the co-host of last night's "Kids' Inaugural: We Are the Future" on the Disney Channel), Mickey is hoping that Barack will cut the Mouse some slack. Record his bit for the Hall of Presidents as quickly as possible. So that Obama's AA figure can then be ready for this Magic Kingdom's previously-announced grand re-opening on July 4, 2009.

But until that recording session actually happens ... There are some very nervous Imagineers back in Glendale. Who are -- even as we speak -- discussing all sorts of contingency plans should Barack really not be available to record his HOP speech anytime soon. These could include a replay of what happened back in July of 2001, when (because the George W. Bush AA figure just wasn't ready for installation) an interim version of this Liberty Square attraction was opened for several weeks. Once the Imagineers finished programming the Audio Animatronic version of our 43rd president, the Hall of Presidents was then briefly closed in the late summer of that year. Dubya was quickly installed. And then in October of 2001, HOP finally officially opened to the public.

WDI really hopes that it doesn't have to do something like that again. But until Obama actually records his speech for the Hall of Presidents, everything else related to this Magic Kingdom attraction is kind of on hold. I mean, without knowing what the precise timing of Barack's speech is, it's impossible to lock down HOP's soundtrack, finalizing lighting cues, etc. You get the idea, right?

So here's hoping -- once he recovers from attending all 10 of those official inaugural balls -- that Barack Obama finds some time to mike up for Mickey and then records his bit for the Hall of Presidents.

What's that you say? You don't like the idea that today's JHM article ends on such an uncertain note? Well, here. In honor of today's inauguration, let me offer up a bit of good news. Survey teams were spotted just last week inside of Soundstage One at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Which suggests that construction should begin shortly on that theme park's new "Monsters, Inc." -themed family coaster.

"And who's the lucky sponsor of this soon-to-be-officially announced attraction?," you ask. I'm working on it. And when I know, you'll know.

Your thoughts?

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  • I went to the American Adventure tonight and frankly the Imagineers have a lot of work to do to get the HoP in shape.  

    If they're using excerpts from ole speeches then why not just edit the sound clips together?  Sure it'd be better if Barack did it fresh but frankly there are WAY more important things I think he should be concerned with at the moment.  Otherwise, things sound good Jim.

    Now how about the rumors that corporate is ticked about how Pleasure Island looks?

  • I think Mr Obama should get his priorities straight and record his speech as soon as possible.  Guests at the Magic Kingdom need somewhere to fall asleep in the air conditioning and they're being denied!

  • I'm kind of surprised that Disney is going ahead with having speeches from the current president as part of the Hall of Presidents attraction.  Wasn't there an article not too long ago about how awkward this proved to be when you had guests listening to an animatronic figure whose real life counterpart was not exactly the public's favorite person anymore?  Obama is certainly popular now and I sincerely hope he remains popular, but there are no guarantees that he or future presidents will always be someone Disney guests will revere rather than boo.

    This may be a fairly big concern for come of the Disney crew, but overall, I'm guessing the Disney company cares less about our new president recording dialogue for a single park attraction and more about him getting people confident enough about the economy and their job security to plan trips to the Disney parks.

  • MalDragon:  I got the same impression from reading JHM's 3/3/08 article:

    http://jimhillmedia.com/blogs/jim_hill/archive/2008/03/03/does-wdi-plan-on-gagging-our-next-commander-in-chief-as-part-of-the-2009-redo-of-wdw-s-hall-of-presidents.aspx

    The idealist in me says Obama will put on his "head of state" hat and get the recording made in the near future.  The cynic in me says most politicians would jump at the chance to get a sound bite of their choosing on a continuous loop. ; )

  • The plan to "gag the next president" was made before Obama was elected.  I think that the people in Glendale are big supporters of the new president. Apparently Tony Baxter wants to add him to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland.   I'm surprised no one saw this coming.

  • I don't think it's great PR to stop the talking president on any significant First.

  • You can't tell me Obama sees this as important. he will get to it at some point. And DISNEY look other companies just want to rush into everything and get it done now. It is a little disrespectful to ask the man to do it now or even soon.

    On the other hand I love HOP and his addition should be a nice touch.

  • I think Tomoyo may have got it right; Disney may have realized that any problems they might have down the road if President Obama has a popularity crisis similar to his two predecessors would be pretty minor compared to the potential negative publicity if Disney were to end the speech from the current president gimmick just as the first African-American president in U.S. history was coming into office.

    Still, given that Jim's last report on the subject was along the lines of "No more speeches from current presidents" (thanks for finding the article I was thinking of, RLS Legacy), I kind of wish this article has also clarified why the Imagineers had a change of heart from their earlier stance.  Even if I have my suspicions, it'd be nice to hear it from a source a little closer to the Mouse's mouth.

  • Wasn't that article written before the party nominations were decided, too? I think that was a big part of it- that a faction in Imagineering was aiming to end speaking presidents due to divisive guest reactions and current presidential approval ratings. And I think we may still see this come to pass- the question is when. I think it's about 50/50 that Obama's successor will be another First.

  • I'm with Tuckenie...why can't they edit past speeches together as a contigency plan? And for a politician it would be pretty tricky to take the time to record this now. While you and I might see it has a fun thing to do that would help a great Disney attraction, there will be plenty of nay sayers who will make it a point to highlight that "Obama takes time to record Disney speech but not to (fill in your blank here)."

  • Perhaps the money spent on all those inaugural balls could have been spent to help the poor that Obama says he wants to help. Hmmph!!

  • What does this particular recording process entail, anyway?

  • Just *please* Sound Recording Imagineers... Do something to reduce the amount of whistle that Obama puts into his S's at the end of words!  It's like fingernails on a chalkboard annoying!

  • Wouldn't have made any sense to drop the tradition of speaking presidential AIs at a time when we actually have  popular president, not to mention a historical one.

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