4. Hall of Presidents
By 1971, the 1964 New York World’s Fair had already dramatically impacted Disneyland. The State of Illinois Pavilion’s Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln had garnered headlines for its spookily realistic recreation of the American president.
Yes, that seems a bit ridiculous today, but AAs were the closest thing to viable robots in existence at the time. A life-like Abraham Lincoln, a full century after the Civil War, blew people's minds.
The introduction of Hall of Presidents represented the culmination of longstanding plans from Walt Disney. He’d plotted to expand Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland with a patriotic section that would include wax figures of all American presidents.
The creation of AAs altered those plans. Imagineers suddenly could build robot versions of presidents. And the show at Magic Kingdom became a fitting tribute to Uncle Walt, who had died in 1966. It honored his wish to celebrate the titans of American government. Oddly, history suggests that it wouldn’t have been his favorite Magic Kingdom show, though.
3. Country Bear Jamboree
You simply cannot imagine how much Audio-Animatronic technology excited Walt Disney and his time during the mid-1960s. They deemed it a revolutionary innovation that would fundamentally alter the nature of theme park attractions. History has proven them right.
Perhaps the silliest usage of AAs is Country Bear Jamboree, a goofy, hilarious performance of quirky country music. And Walt Disney loved everything about it. He’d planned it as the anchor attraction at Mineral King Ski Resort, a project that fell apart.
During Disney’s final days, Marc Davis, one of the funniest Imagineers ever, showed a few illustrations from the show to his boss. According to Davis, Uncle Walt laughed uproariously, said good-bye, and then left. The two men would never see each other again.
Technologically, I don’t see much to distinguish Country Bear Jamboree from Hall of Presidents. I also can’t decide which one has a more significant historical footprint as a theme park attraction. Both claim massive recognition, after all. So, I favored the bears because I adore that Walt Disney anecdote.