Thursday, May 30, 2013

Disneyland Review: Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: History and animatronics
Cons: Nothing to entertain those only interested in thrills
The Bottom Line:
Not a must visit
Show's very patriotic
I always enjoy

The Little Known Patriotic Stop in Disneyland

Walt Disney loved America.  That love is seen in many things he did over the course of his career, but a lasting part of his patriotic legacy is Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.  This attraction has finally returned to its rightful place in Disneyland, and I'm thrilled.

This attraction started out as part of the New York World's Fair in 1964.  After the conclusion of the fair, it moved into its new home, the Opera House just to the right of the town square after you have first walked into Main Street USA.  It has gone through several changes over the years and was removed temporarily in 2005 to make way for a new film celebrating Disneyland's 50th anniversary.  It finally returned in December of 2009 for Lincoln's 200th birthday.

You actually want to allow plenty of time to wander around the pre-show waiting area.  When you first walk in the door, you'll find an area dedicated to Walt Disney and Disneyland.  The movie featuring Steve Martin and Donald Duck that was created for the 50th anniversary is actually showing in this room.  They also still have a replica of Disney's office and models of the original park.

The next room features things related to US history.  There is a model of the Capital building in Washington DC.  There are several portraits on President Lincoln and a bust.  These exhibits and their accompanying plaques are interesting to read.  But if you want to relax, there is seating as well.

When the doors to the main attraction open, you enter a 500 seat theater.  I've been in this attraction many times over the years, and I've never seen it full.  A couple months ago, it was very empty, although that was at 11PM on a day with hardly any crowds, so I'd bet that wasn't a normal crowd.  My main point is even on the most crowded days, I doubt you will have to wait more than one cycle to get to see it.

The most recent version of the show features some of the highlights of the various versions.  It starts out with a brief recap of American history before giving a brief biography of President Lincoln and talking about the Civil War.  Several songs are included in this part of show like "America the Beautiful."  I was thrilled to see "Two Brothers," taken from American Adventure at EPCOT, back in the mix.  "Golden Dreams," also from American Adventure, is back as well.

Then the curtain opens and the real reason we're here appears.  They have created an animatronics version of our 16th President.  He stands and gives a speech.  They've gone back to the original recordings by Royal Dano and cleaned them up a little.  This is not any one speech that President Lincoln gave, but lines taken from many different speeches.  They fit together in a seamless whole.  Finally, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" plays as the doors on the other side of the auditorium open and you file out.

All told, this show takes about 15 minutes.

As you wander back to main street, you pass through galleries of other great Americans.  It includes entertainers like Walt Disney (surprise, surprise), Lucille Ball, and Michael Jackson; inventors like Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs; and politicians like President Obama.

I must admit as a child, this was not my favorite part of a Disneyland visit, but I'd go along with my parents.  I've grown to appreciate the attraction more as an adult.  You can't help but leave feeling good about our great country, but it also makes you stop and reflect on all we have had to overcome to reach where we are today.  Frankly, it feels like the patriotism I used to feel in the park has shrunk quite a bit, so I enjoy this last holdout.

The animatronics figure has gotten quite an upgrade, especially his face.  It is the most expressive it has ever been.  The gestures he makes during the speech as well as his standing and sitting are a bit robotic, but they are also more fluid than in years past.

I will admit I miss the headphones from the version in the early 2000's.  Those headphones immersed you in a world is sounds coming from all around you.  I do think this version is better, but the sound tricks and gimmicks were fun.

I don't have to stop and see Mr. Lincoln every time I visit Disneyland, but when I do, I enjoy it all over again.  If you want a nice, out of the way show in the middle of a crowded day, give Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln a try.  You just might find yourself moved and inspired.

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