Happy President’s Day! Has everyone visited the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction in Disneyland? If you haven’t seen the audio-animatronic presentation by our 16th president, then I highly recommend it.

To honor this holiday, I am presenting you with fun facts about the iconic attraction.

  1. The attraction opened to the public on July 18, 1965.
  2. Mr. Lincoln first appeared in New York City’s World’s Fair from April 22, 1964, to October 17, 1965. Robert Moses, who designed the World’s Fair, approached Walt and asked if he had anything he wanted to contribute. At the time, Imagineer Bob Gurr was designing Abe for the attraction and that is what Walt donated. They added it to the Illinois section at the fair.
  3. It was the first human Audio-Animatronic figure ever attempted by Walt Disney. One of the original designers was Imagineer and 2004 Disney Legend Bob Gurr.
  4. The actor to provide the voice of Abe is Royal Dano. Dano was best known for his acting in western films and for his portrayal of President Lincoln in the television mini-series Mr. Lincoln (1952-1953).
  5. Dano had to deliver his speech multiple times until he was worn out because it did not meet Walt’s expectations.
  6. The face of the animatronic Abe was copied from an actual life mask made from Abe himself in 1860 by the famous American sculptor, Leonard Volk (1828-1895). Mr. Lincoln sat and let Volk lay plaster strips on his face to harden.
  7. When the Imagineers were making the rubber face for Abraham Lincoln, they turned the face around so it was inside out and realized that the eyes would follow them from side to side because the face was concave. This is how they came up with the idea for the busts in Haunted Mansion, whose eyes follow the patrons to the loading platform.
  8. While the Imagineers were attempting to install Abe at the pavilion, they kept running into problems with the wiring and fuses malfunctioning. Marc Davis had said, “Do you suppose God is mad at Walt for creating man in his own image?”
  9. During a pre-performance, Abe again ran into difficulties which prompted Walt to say, “If you’re not ready, don’t open the curtain.” This would be one of the Imagineers mottos for decades to come.
  10. Before Abe was created, Walt wanted to add an extension onto Main Street, U.S.A. and call it Liberty Street. It was to be a look back at Colonial-era America. As the main showcase to this new land section, Walt wanted to have a Presidential Hall to showcase animatronic figures of all the U.S. presidents. Due to limited technology and resources, they scrapped the idea and focused only on Mr. Lincoln. Later, on October 1, 1971, The Hall Of Presidents opened in Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
  11. The attraction was originally sponsored by Lincoln Savings and Loan Association until January 1, 1973.
  12. In the spring of 1973, the attraction was changed. Abe was removed and was replaced with a movie screen that showed the 23-minute film, The Walt Disney Story, narrated by Peter Renaday. Peter provided the voice for Abraham Lincoln in The Hall of Presidents in Magic Kingdom from 1993-2008, until it was updated and archive recordings of Royal Dano were used again.
  13. At one point, they were thinking of adding in Mark Twain to have conversations with Mr. Lincoln, but it never came to fruition.
  14. In 1991, there were talks about adding the Muppet*Vision 3D show to this theater because it was new in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. After Jim Henson passed away, some of the deals he was making with Disney ceased. Later on, they were able to add the show into the new California Adventure, thereby leaving the Lincoln theater alone.
  15. Over the years, people complained about missing Lincoln, so on June 12, 1975, it was reopened as The Walt Disney Story Featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
  16. It was updated in 1984 with a completely new Abraham Lincoln Audio-Animatronic character. The same audio recordings were used, but some of the lines were removed.
  17. Cast Members would attend pre-screenings of Disney films in this theater. The tradition lasted until the AMC opened in Downtown Disney, which is where they go now.
  18. In 2001, the storyline changed by adding a segment before Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburg. Abe’s dialogue was then provided by voice actor Warren Burton (known for his voice work in 17 video games over the past 16 years and his appearance as the First Guardian in the recent Green Lantern film from 2011). The audience wore headphones while watching a movie screen and assumed the role of a fictitious Union soldier named John Cunningham. The headphones created surround-sound effects. John went to see Mathew Brady (a real-life photographer known for taking photos of the first 19 U.S. Presidents with the exception of the 9th president, William Henry Harrison) to get his photo taken before heading off to war. In the battle, John is wounded and is then able to meet President Lincoln and attend the Gettysburg Address. Then the curtains rose to show the Audio-Animatronic Lincoln present his speech. This version also had the opening narration voiced by Corey.
  19. It closed in February 2005 to make way for Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years, an informational film starring Donald Duck and the Main Street Magic Shop’s ex-employee, Steve Martin. This lasted until March 15, 2009.
  20. On December 18, 2009, Abe returned to the attraction renamed The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. The Lincoln Audio-Animatronic figure was replaced with an electronic Autonomatronic figure, meaning it can move and seem more lifelike. Disney found original recordings from the attraction’s beginnings and was able to have Royal Dano reprise his role.
  21. This is also the first use of a human electronic Autonomatronic character for Disney. This technology was also created by Disney Imagineers and succeeded in Audio-Animatronic technology.
Abe Animatronic
Bob Gurr with his blueprint of Abe
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I am a two time published author of Disneyland history and fun fact books. My second edition has over 3,700 fun facts in it about Disneyland and Disney movies. In my spare time, I work on my next book. I also design Disney Fantasy Pins. For a brief time, I was a co-host on the Magic Behind The Ears podcast. I am also the Public Relations Manager for Gina Rock, the longest flying Tinker Bell in Disneyland history. She flew across the skies for the nightly fireworks from 1983-2005. I had a booth at D23 in 2017 where I premiered my books 2nd edition. It was nicknamed "The Disney Bible" because it is 700 pages long. I basically stood from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm every day for 3 days straight just talking about Disney stuff. I love all things Disney. If you have any questions about Disneyland or Disney Movies feel free to contact me and I will try to answer all your questions. If you haven’t already picked up a copy of my book, you need to do so. www.DisneyGuy.org disneyguides@yahoo.com

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