Monday, June 11, 2018

Honest Abe, January 1979

Today's scans might be the only two featuring interior shots from "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln"! This venerable attraction had been in Disneyland since 1965 (after debuting at the 1964 New York World's Fair) - it's interesting to think that two versions of the show were running concurrently on each coast. A Disney first. 

Here we see Abe himself. There are stories floating around that claim that folks could hardly believe their eyes when confronted with this Audio Animatronic figure - could it actually be an actor? I suppose that in those less-sophisticated days that might be true, but his movements (while fascinating) were a bit stiff and robot-y. I don't mean to take away from the technical achievement, since I loved the attraction when I saw first saw it.

I wonder if this is one of the original AA figures, or if they were updated on a regular basis this long ago?

As Mr. Lincoln finished reciting his inspiring words, the lights were lowered, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" swelled, and the curtain opened to reveal the Capitol Dome as the evening sky took on a distinct resemblance to Old Glory.


Nanook said...


Some mighty-fine indoor images you've got here. Lincoln would be proud.

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

"There are stories floating around that claim that folks could hardly believe their eyes when confronted with this Audio Animatronic figure - could it actually be an actor?"

Gotta love Disney promotional writing. It reminds me of when "Space Mountain" opened and in Disney promotional material it was stated that Gordon Cooper was hired as consultant on the attraction to make sure that Space Mountain's overall experience would give riders a realistic feeling of actual space flight. Really-?!

These are some nice interior shots. The evening sky image is my favorite. Thanks Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

This would have been the version of "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln" that I grew up with and loved. I did not like how they shortened his speech in the 1980's, or the other changes that were made to the show at that time. Unfortunately, Lincoln's speech has never been restored to it's full length in any of the rehabs that have come since then. I chalk it up to the dumbing down of the population and also their inability to sit still for very long. Why else would Disney have also shorten the Enchanted Tiki Room show and most recently, Country Bear Jamboree at WDW? Or is it all just a plot to get people out of the theaters sooner, so they can buy more churros, Dole Whips, and Light Sabres?

K. Martinez said...

TokyoMagic!, I heard they shorten these attractions due to guests walking out mid-show, so it's probably because of people not having the ability to sit still for very long like you said. As attention spans get shorter, content gets even shorter. Personally I've never had a problem with the original length of these shows. I mean, what's the rush?

I'm amazed this attraction is even still around with today's climate at the Disney company. Perhaps over time they will introduce the screen-projected Mr. Lincoln. I'm sure it would be cheaper to maintain.

Chuck said...

Guys, I'd love to read your comments, but they're just too long. Reading and thinking interferes with my aimless scrolling on Bored Panda. ;-)

I remember seeing people walk out of Tropical Serenade during the now-removed Offenbach piece as far back as '93, and, if I'm honest, I also remember getting pretty restless and squirmy during that segment when I was 6 and 7. Which makes me wonder...have our current forms of entertainment and communication shortened our attention spans to that of a 6- or 7-year-old boy?

Chuck said...

Forgot to mention...the "Banner in the Sky" was a fairly well-known art motif in Civil War and post-Civil War-era America, so it translates well here. I've always loved its inclusion in both this show and WDW's Hall of Presidents.

JC Shannon said...

Hi all, I never got to see AA, but I do remember Animatronics from the 64 Worlds Fair. I was ten at the time and we went to see The Carousel of Progress. We were all blown away by the show. I was amazed at the technology and impressed with how realistic it was. It seems dated now, what with automomous robots and such, but in 1964 it was full of the wow factor. Thanks to Major for the scans.

Anonymous said...

Fine images of a great show. It should be required viewing in schools.

I'm not sure how old I was when we saw this first, but I remember my Dad remarking how he was sure it was an actor, not a robot, before the monologue began, since the figure was tapping his fingers and moving it's head slightly. The idea of mimicking even the nervous movements of a real person was real foresight on the part of the programmers.

Afterward, Dad walked it back and praised the show and the technology. We didn't see it every trip, but I know we went more than once.

Nothing like this show will ever be done again.


Tom said...

When we saw this in 1969, my older brother tried to convince me that Abe Lincoln was a robot - that he noticed how he "floated" out of his chair, and his movements weren't right. I wasn't convinced, but I was somewhat spooked that they could make robots like that.

K. Martinez said...

Here's Garner Holt's development of their Abe Lincoln head. They were responsible for Knott's "Calico Mine Ride" and "Timber Mountain Log Ride" refurbishments. Not sure if Disney has utilized this Lincoln piece, but it's pretty cool.

Stefano said...

In the Eisner era it was announced that a Muppet extravaganza would replace President Lincoln in the Opera House, but there was a storm of protest from park visitors, even making a article in the LA Times.
The idea was scotched, and that has always been a lightly-attended attraction; maybe if enough men had roared, the auction scene in Pirates of the Caribbean wouldn't have been neutered. I don't even want to look at the changes on YouTube.

Matthew said...

I remember you used to be able to go to "Carefree Corner" (before it became The Main Street Photo Supply Co.) and besides signing the Guest Book (wish they would bring that back), you could also receive a free brochure about Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. The best part of the brochure is it told you what speech, and year, each sentence came from. Thus explaining why it was called "Great Moments..." A highlight real about liberty, The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence and what makes us uniquely American.

@Chuck - Oh my gosh that was funny! "... there just too long. Reading and thinking..."

@K. Martinez & Chuck - When I working the Tiki Room I noticed that some people would leave during the Offenbach piece, so to prevent that I added a little more to the Spiel... which eventually found its way up to WDI and back again.

I always felt that if you just simply explained to people what they were about to see, most everyone would remain. I can't say it worked a 100% of the time but it sure worked 99%+.

Always your pal,
Amazon Belle

Matthew said...

Oh... P.S.

I also thought it was time to move Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln to Frontierland. I always thought it would have been an amazing show if they somehow incorporated the Frontierland Train Station as a cuing area, I thought they could have done multiple Lincoln figures appearing on stage at different times, with different backgrounds and at one point have him appear on the back of a train that would pull away.

Just thought the theme was a little more in tune by moving Mr. Lincoln to the West side of the park.

Always your pal,
Amazon Belle

Melissa said...

Hey, Chuck, how do you format your hyperlinks here? Blogspot always rejects my HTML in comments.

I've never gotten to see Great Moments in person, but I've always been a big Hall of Presidents fan. And just like JG's Dad, the first thing that amazed me was the realness of the robo-fidgeting.

It also makes me happy to have Royal Dani's voice restored. Every the he turns up on an old Western, I have to call my sister and say, "Mr. Lincoln's a preacher on The Rifleman!" or whatever.

The second picture is particularly gorgeous. As advanced as technology gets, it's good, old-fashioned stagecraft that puts it over.

TokyoMagic! said...

Ken, now the Lincoln in that Garner Holt video has to be a real actor! ;-)

Stefano, I remember that announcement for a Muppet film/show in the Opera House. They also announce that they were going to paint the Matterhorn green. Thank goodness NONE of that actually happened. And yeah, if you are a little hesitant to even watch video of the new auction scene in Pirates of the Caribbean, I say don't do it. It's pretty bad and once you watch it, you can't unsee or unhear any of it.

Matthew, When the Steve Martin film replaced Lincoln for the park's 50th anniversary, and then remained there for five whole years, I thought that they should have just moved Lincoln to the Golden Horseshoe in Frontierland. That area of the park does seem like a more appropriate setting for him. And I have that pamphlet that mentioned. I posted it back in 2010. You can see it here: Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln brochure.

K. Martinez said...

Matthew/Amazon Belle, I like your idea. I never understood Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln being on turn-of-the-century Main Street when it clearly makes more sense to have Lincoln in the American Frontier/Civil War era in which he lived.

TokyoMagic! said...

Oh, and Matthew...I'd like to know what it was that you said to keep people from leaving during the Tiki Room's Offenbach song! I wonder if it would work with today's guests?

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, “Mr. Lincoln” was definitely not an attraction that inspired most people to haul out their cameras!

K. Martinez, that Gordon Cooper story sounds familiar. It’s pretty ridiculous too, as you pointed out! “Space Mountain” is an excellent and very fun roller coaster with great theming, but to suggest that it is anything like actual space flight is preposterous. I hope old Gordo got a sweet paycheck, however!

TokyoMagic!, I never experienced the “headphones” version of Mr. Lincoln, but have heard some of the audio. The “getting a haircut” stuff is SO DUMB. “Guys, we have to do something with sound technology. But what? I know, a realistic haircut!”. It’s enough to make one weep.

K. Martinez, maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I would never walk out of an attraction. Even one that I was less than thrilled with (“Country Bear Jamboree” in my case - and even though I don’t love it, I can still appreciate it). I’ve actually heard complaints that Lincoln’s original speech was “too inflammatory”. ZOIKS. I’m happy that we can listen to the original tracks, either on CD or on YouTube. I think they can do a combined screen projection Lincoln - an effect similar to the bride in the Haunted Mansion. Just use a static dummy, and project a weirdly-distored moving face onto the noggin.

Chuck, I didn’t see the Tiki Room until later in life, and by then I guess it had gone from amazing, to kitschy and embarrassing, to fun and nostalgic. The guests seemed to be having a great time, and so did I, I’m happy to say. And yes, I believe that they are tailoring attractions to appeal to the lowest common denominator, that being teen or pre-teen boys.

Chuck II, whoa, I’ve never seen that particular painting by Frederic Edwin Church. I thought it was a background to the Porky Pig film, “Old Glory”!

Jonathan, oh man, you got to see the original Carousel of Progress in New York! That’s very cool. It’s not surprising that it seems dated now, over 50 years later, though “dated” can also mean “charming” at a certain point.

JG, I totally remember the moving fingers, and how Abe’s head would move a little bit, and that definitely “sold it” a lot more! I’m almost positive we saw “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” because my dad wanted to check it out. Knowing him (a Navy Commander, mind you), he probably got weepy!

Tom, yes, the sitting and standing movements were very floaty, as you said. When you think about the shifting of weight, the arms helping with rising or sitting, I guess it was just too complex for the era.

Stefano, if I had ever heard about the plans for the Muppets to replace Lincoln, I’ve forgotten about it. Supposedly there was talk of even putting a sort of Muppets Mt. Rushmore on the Matterhorn, which is quite possibly one of the worst ideas of all time. Don’t watch the changes on YouTube, “Pirates” has been ruined.

Matthew, I assume you could also get those brochures at the Lincoln attraction? It’s cool that they handed them out at the Carefree Corner, but as far as I know, I never set foot in the CC. I have a couple of Lincoln-related paper items, one of them must be the item you are talking about.

Matthew II, I could totally see Lincoln doing his thing in Frontierland! I admit that it would make me a little sad to see the Opera House without him in there, but it’s going to happen sooner or later….

Major Pepperidge said...

Good grief, I walk away from my comments for a few minutes….!

Melissa, I did not know that Royal Dano’s voice had been restored, that is good news. Sure, Joe Pesci is a talented actor, but he was completely inappropriate as Lincoln. ;-) Like you, I used to notice Mr. Dano in all kinds of TV shows and movies, it was like hearing the voice of an old friend.

TokyoMagic!, I’m sure you have seen the footage of the hyper-expressive Lincoln animatronic that Garner Holt has created. I realize that it is meant to be a “proof of concept” thing, but Abe always looks like somebody has poured red ants down his trousers. Presumably the Muppet show would have basically been “Muppets 3D”? And oh yeah, I have that brochure!

K. Martinez, I agree with you, although I like that the Opera House was used for the show, for some reason.

TokyoMagic!, it was probably along the lines of, “If any one of you stands up, I’ll kill you!” (screamed while waving a straight razor).

Matthew said...

Thanks Major for your comments. Also, I bet you do have that brochure... I may have seen it once on your site.

@TokyoMagic! - Thanks for posting your copy of the brochure. That made me so happy to re-read it.

@TokyoMagic! and @K.Martinez - So you both see it on the West side too! this would finally free up the space in the Opera House to do something new and preserve (and improve) the the Lincoln show.

@TokyoMagic! - I believe I said something like this, "Aloha, and welcome to Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, presented by our friends at Dole Pineapple. As a gentle reminder, please no eating, drinking, smoking or flash photography during our program today. We invite you take photos at the end of our show after the exit door opens, which is located across the way, and is now closing.

On June 23, 1963, Walt Disney opened the doors to our 18-minute tropical serenade. The show you are about to see includes 5 songs ranging in style from the classical music of Offenbach, to a bird national anthem, and the theme song, 'The Tiki Room' written by the Sherman Brothers. The same Disney song writing team who wrote the musical score to 'Mary Poppins' in which they won Academy Awards for just two years later. And now please sit back and relax as Dole Pineapple proudly presents, Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room."

I know the actual name of the song is... well... much longer. I also put in a shout out to our Florida counterpart... as they used that name to explain their show... so why shouldn't we use it to explain ours. : )

Always your pal,
Amazon Belle (or just Matt)

K. Martinez said...

Matt, Yes, I see Lincoln on the westside too. It's a better match and provides an opening up of the Opera House for something else.

Thanks for sharing the opening script to when you worked at the Enchanted Tiki Room. Great dialog there! I saw the attraction as a small child the summer of 1963 when it first opened. What stuck in my child's mind most was the towering tube fountain and the totem tikis chanting. I remember wanting to stick my fingers into the totem tiki mouths as they chanted but my mom made sure I stayed seated during the whole performance. Great memories they were! Thanks!

Matthew said...

K. Martinez - That is too funny! I have video tape from a WED presentation Marc Davis did explaining he wanted the chanting tiki totems to have a bass, baritone and tenor (which is why you see a lot of his concepts drawings with three chanting totems), but was afraid kids would stick their hands in their mouths! So it was built with only two in a row on each side instead of three. Even with two totems... kids still wanted to stick their hands in their mouths. Kudos to your mom!!! : ) She saved your fingers. ;-)

Always your pal,

Chuck said...

Melissa, I use this format here. The only time Blogger shouts at me is when I forget to close the link.

Matt, that spiel is perfect. Do you know if they still use some variant of it today (minus the Offenbach reference)?

Melissa said...

I'll never forget the first time I heard the chanting tikis behind me! I must have jumped a foot.

Matthew said...

@Chuck (I always wonder if I used that @ symbol correctly... I see others do so... I guess I'm doing it right.) - Thanks chuck for your kind words! Yes, I believe they do use a variant of it today... or at least the Cast Member who began the last show I sat in (2017) talked about how many songs and the Sherman Brothers.

Always your pal,