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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Trump is leaving office, but will he be leaving Disney's Hall of Presidents?

Posted By on Tue, Jan 12, 2021 at 10:24 AM

  • Screengrab via WDW Magic/YouTube
While the nation prepares to welcome Joe Biden as the new President, it's clear Trump's legacy is something the country will have to continue grappling with. The divisive politics fueled by Trump’s hatred and fear-mongering have had an impact on many traditions and pleasures the nation enjoyed before his Russian-fueled 2016 win, including theme parks.

The Hall of Presidents attraction at the Magic Kingdom became a microcosm of this in past years. The attraction requires live security guards, due to the heckling and derision the Trump figure attracts. Large spikes were also added near the stage to protect the animatronic figure. The Central Florida theme park has struggled to address political protests within its gates, with multiple incidents of Trump flags being unfurled on rides or buildings within the park.

Even prior to the addition of Trump, there were calls to close the attraction, but when Trump's animatronic debuted, it was mocked as one of the worst in the history of Disney. The Trumpbot's speech has also caused issues — former senior White House aide Cliff Sims claims Trump wanted to brag about his private real estate business and make inaccurate claims during the recorded speech.

Last year, during the Black Lives Matter protests movement, news broke that Disney was looking at developing an internal Diversity and Values team to review problematic attractions. The putative list that was leaked included numerous attractions that have racist references (ahem Splash Mountain) but notably, also included on the list was Liberty Square.

click to enlarge PHOTO VIA DISNEY WORLD
  • photo via Disney World
In the wake of last week’s incitement of insurrection by the sitting President, there are renewed calls for Disney to close the attraction. Even as the U.S. Capitol was being stormed by Trump supporters, in Florida the Trump animatronic was reciting a speech about how great America is.

The day before the attack, themed entertainment veteran Josh Young posted a think piece regarding the attraction. Posted on Young’s Theme Park University, an opinion site that regularly covers Disney and Universal news, the article lays out the problems Disney faces regarding the politically based attraction.

In the days since the attack, the piece has gone viral as others join the push to close the Hall of Presidents.

Reflecting on his timely piece, Young spoke to Orlando Weekly, explaining his view that the case for closing the attraction goes beyond retribution to last week’s actions by the President and his followers.
"As a place for escapism, I’d venture to say Presidential politics may be one of the top things people would want a break from these days. While the Hall of Presidents is specifically written in such a way to not lean to one side or the other, the mere mention of the name Trump or Biden will set people’s blood boiling. Maybe not because they disagree with their politics, but just because they are tired of hearing about it.

"Sure, this has been going on for years. Guests would say they won’t go in if Clinton or Bush are on stage because they disagreed with something that happened in their Presidency. The difference between today and then? Disney didn’t have to keep three security guards staffed in the attraction at all times, just in case things go sideways. That is a unique situation to any Disney attraction quite possibly in the history of Disney parks."          

Young noted the likelihood of even more security being added to the attraction now before asking, “At what point does Disney just throw their hands up and walk away?”

Others haven't been as apolitical in their calls to close the attraction. Themed entertainment designer and former Disney cast member Patrick Kling cut the chase with a tweet stating, "Every day that goes by that Trump is normalized in the Hall of Presidents is a disgrace to the Walt Disney company. Spare us your statements and close the Hall of Presidents."

Hours after the attack in Washington, Orange County Register theme park columnist Robert Niles wrote on his personal website, Theme Park Insider, "Make no mistake. This is an act of sedition — of treason — against the United States government. It is a dark day for America, and The Walt Disney Company should not celebrate it by continuing to give Donald Trump a voice in one of its attractions. Close The Hall of Presidents."

The push to close the attraction isn't limited to theme park industry professionals. Tom Weber, the husband of
Minnesota's lieutenant governor, took to Twitter, asking, "But seriously, what is Walt Disney World going to do about the Hall of Presidents?"

In response to a statement posted by Disney condemning the DC attack,
Jonathan D. Lovitz, Senior Vice President at the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, stated, "Remove him from the Hall of Presidents or don’t waste our time."

Disney was already rumored to be looking at how to properly close the unpopular attraction without it being viewed as a political statement. A month after the leak on the formation of the Diversity and Values team, various unofficial outlets with reliable insider knowledge began reporting that Disney had hired Lin-Manuel Miranda and Weird Al Yankovic to work together on developing a new version of the attraction.

The current iteration of the attraction, which includes a short speech by the sitting president, debuted with Clinton. Now, with two Democrats and two Republicans given a chance to speak in the attraction, the time may be right for a new version. The mere recognition of leaders like Trump and Nixon is enough for some people to call on Disney to replace the attraction altogether.

Last year, as Hamilton debuted on Disney+, fans pushed for the attraction to be replaced with one based on a Broadway musical, either via live performers or animatronics. There are also rumors that the Muppets may ultimately take up residence in the theater. A small Muppets-themed history show takes place in a set of windows nearby.

For now, Disney hasn’t indicated when or if they plan to close or update the attraction. Joe Biden will be sworn in on Jan. 20.

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