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Walt Disney World News Roundup

Posted on June 27, 2009

Disney has released a few press releases over the past couple of days pertaining to different things going on around the Walt Disney World Resort right now. First up, 1,000 immigrants that will be sworn in as American citizens on July 3rd not only get that honor, but they will also get to preview the updated Hall of Presidents attraction:

In a stirring celebration of citizenship, more than 1,000 immigrants will gather on Main Street, U.S.A. July 3 to be “sworn in” as American citizens.

And as the country kicks off Independence Day weekend, these brand-new Americans will attend a premiere performance of the newest Walt Disney World attraction, a re-imagined Hall of Presidents, now featuring a lifelike Audio-Animatronics figure of President Barack Obama.

From more than 100 countries and ranging in age from 18 to 82, the immigrants will take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States during a Friday morning ceremony jointly hosted by Disney Parks and Resorts and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

USCIS’s highest-ranking official will preside over the ceremony on the forecourt of Cinderella Castle.  The event will feature a welcoming address by Walt Disney World Resort President Meg Crofton, the presentation of the colors, the national anthem, the Oath of Allegiance and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Actor Andy Garcia – a naturalized citizen himself – will deliver a keynote address during the ceremony. Garcia, originally from Cuba, is an acclaimed actor known for roles in films as diverse as “The Untouchables,” “The Godfather: Part III” and “Oceans Eleven.”

“This year, Disney parks are asking our visitors, ‘What will you celebrate?’ ” Crofton said.  “And on a weekend when our entire nation celebrates its independence, we are honored to host – and celebrate – 1,000 individuals who are embracing American citizenship.”

New Citizens to Preview Revised Hall of Presidents

To cap a star-spangled morning, the new citizens and their family members will get to preview the Hall of Presidents attraction – which reopens July 4 in the Liberty Square area of Magic Kingdom.  The attraction has been closed since Election Day last November for a makeover that included installation of a lifelike Audio-Animatronics figure based on President Obama.

The recently installed figure of the country’s 44th chief executive – which comes to life with recognizable mannerisms and makes comments that were recorded recently at the White House – is only part of an eight-month makeover so significant that the iconic attraction in the park’s Liberty Square has been retitled Hall of Presidents: A Celebration of Liberty’s Leaders.  Other updates to the “re-Imagineered” attraction which has been entertaining Magic Kingdom guests since 1971:

A re-programmed Abraham Lincoln delivers arguably the greatest speech in the history of the presidency – the Gettysburg Address.

For the first time in the attraction’s history, George Washington stands and delivers a stirring speech.

Developed with the assistance of Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, the show now tells a moving story of the bond between the presidents and “We, the People,” focusing on the chief executives who have guided America through trying, turbulent times.

“Our goal with every major Disney attraction is to completely immerse our guests in a compelling story,” said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.  “The stories associated with the American presidency are some of the most engaging and relevant our guests will hear while they are with us.  And, like all great stories, these stories inspire, motivate and teach us to appreciate the challenges and personal triumph that comes with overcoming adversity.”

True to Walt Disney’s vision, Hall of Presidents features the appearance on stage of every United States president – life-sized, three-dimensional and fully animated. Seven presidents have been added to the “Hall” since the attraction opened during the presidency of Richard Nixon.

The figure of President Barack Obama is not only the seventh addition but also the most dynamic figure Disney has ever created. Disney Imagineers, who’ve been refining Audio-Animatronics technology since 1963, have discovered new ways to integrate an array of subtle movements and facial expressions into the figures. Imagineers also worked closely with White House staff to create realistic clothing and accessories worn by the figure in the show, right down to a lapel pin and watch.

Kathy Rogers, senior show producer for Walt Disney Imagineering, says the show pays particular tribute to the strength of the bond between the people and the president “that led us through the most troubling times in our nation’s history.

“We still present that ‘mighty cavalcade of history’ that Walt Disney originally envisioned,” Rogers says, referring to “headline moments” of America’s past that are depicted in the film, “but it is viewed through the lens of the presidency.”

The 25-minute show begins with the story of George Washington and the struggle to build a new nation. It continues through today, highlighting presidents who have reached out to the people during times of strife. Disney senior show writer and director Pam Fisher, who worked closely with Kearns Goodwin to develop the story, describes the revised Hall of Presidents as “a very human story – one that we hope strikes a chord with all guests.”

A soaring new musical score written by Emmy-winning composer Joel McNeely adds another emotional dimension to the experience.

The show’s impact is bolstered by the stirring performances of actor David Morse, who voices Washington, and the late veteran actor Royal Dano, who voices Lincoln. Morse played Washington in the award-winning HBO miniseries, “John Adams.” Dano was selected by Walt Disney himself to voice the first animated Lincoln figure, which debuted at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and later became part of the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction at Disneyland in California. Obama’s speech, recorded in the White House Map Room, includes the presidential oath of office and his thoughts about “the American dream.”

In the tradition of earlier versions of the show, the rewritten story begins with a large-format movie, but this time it is projected in crystal-clear, high-definition video. Imagineers digitized many of the huge scenic paintings of historic America made for the original movie by Disney legends including Herb Ryman and Sam McKim. In addition, the team combed through the National Archives, Library of Congress, museums and private collections to acquire more than 130 new images ultimately woven into the show.

Imagineers enhanced the soundtrack with digital production and state-of-the-art speakers; they also upgraded the lighting with energy-efficient LED technology.

The new Hall of Presidents experience begins in the pre-show lobby, which has been transformed into an expanded gallery of presidential artifacts. The inaugural exhibit showcases the women behind the presidents. Large display cases exhibit dresses and personal objects worn by several First Ladies, including Edith Roosevelt (Teddy’s wife), Elizabeth Monroe and Nancy Reagan. The historical gallery also displays presidential portraits of Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and other chief executives, plus two cases filled with personal artifacts of presidents including Gerald Ford, Franklin Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover and George Washington.

Presentations of the Hall of Presidents show will take place daily and are included with Magic Kingdom admission.

Here’s a look at what special entertainment you’ll be able to find on July 4th throughout the Walt Disney World theme parks:

Guests celebrating the Fourth of July at Walt Disney World Resort will have a choice of fireworks shows as Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios present special pyrotechnics and Epcot adds a patriotic “tag” to its famous “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” spectacular. Here’s what’s in store:       

  • Magic Kingdom – “Celebrate America Fireworks” will fill the sky at 9 pm. July 4 (guests who’d like to begin the celebratory weekend a day early can enjoy the special fireworks on July 3 at 9 p.m.). After the fireworks, guests can enjoy a performance of Disney’s “SpectroMagic” parade of lights, music and magic at 10:30 p.m. on July 3-4. Park hours are 9 a.m.-11 p.m. on July 3-4.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Special fireworks will be presented at 10 p.m. on July 4, providing guests with a bonus nighttime entertainment extravaganza to complement “Fantasmic!” (which will be at 9 p.m. and 10:45 p.m.). Park hours on July 4 are 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
  • Epcot – “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth,” which features dazzling special effects, colorful lasers, brilliant fireworks and fiery torches all choreographed to a musical score, becomes even more dynamic on July 4 as the normal show is supplemented with a patriotic finale. The performance begins at 10 p.m. Park hours on July 4 are 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom – No fireworks here (we wouldn’t want to disturb the animals’ rest). Guests can enjoy all the regular attractions and shows on July 4 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Macys recently held a competition, “Celebrate Mom”, which included a visit to Disneyland and Walt Disney World:

Moms from every state took part in the biggest Celebration of Moms in the history of Disney Parks. Winners of the Macy’s “Celebrate Mom” Sweepstakes traveled coast-to-coast on this magical adventure which began Monday June 22, 2009 with a sunrise breakfast on Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland Resort in California and ended Thursday June 25, 2009 with a sunset dinner at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Finally, a look at The Pirates League boutique, which is set to officially open on June 29th:

Calling all scoundrels, rogues and ne’er-do-wells – Captain Jack and the crew of the Black Pearl want you.

Starting in late June, the Pearl drops anchor in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom for The Pirates League, recruiting and training Walt Disney World guests ages 3 and up in the scurrilous ways of buccaneers.

Each guest checking in at the plunder-filled pirate’s lair gets an official pirate name.  Then it’s off to Muster Station for applications of beards and eye patches, scarves and scars, earrings and gold teeth – all done with the savvy skill of a veteran pirate who shares his own tales of sea-sailing adventures.

After the new buccaneers recite a sacred pirate oath, they are officially part of Captain Jack’s motley crew, leaving their old identities behind.  Past a hidden portal and into the treasure room, the shipmates have their “pirate portrait” taken before being turned loose on an unsuspecting Adventureland – and no doubt feeling right at home at the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.

Guests can choose from three daily pirate packages:

  • First Mate Package: Includes bandana; choice of facial effects; scars; tattoos; fake teeth; earring and eye patch; sword and sheath; pirate coin necklace; one 5×7-inch photo; and personalized pirate oath — $49.95 plus tax.
  • Empress Package: Includes bandana; shimmering makeup; face gem; tattoos; nail polish; earring and eye patch; sword and sheath; pirate coin necklace; one 5×7-inch photo; and personalized pirate oath — $49.95 plus tax.
  • Captains Package: Includes choice of costume/outfit from selection; choice of facial effects; scars; tattoos; fake teeth; earring and eye patch; sword and sheath; pirate  coin necklace; three 5×7-inch photos; and personalized pirate oath — $124.95 plus tax.

Newly donned swashbucklers can test their pirate prowess on the streets of Adventureland where they search for clues and discover treasures.  And for mateys who need a little more training, learn the secrets for survival by the captain himself during “Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial.”

Boys, girls and grownups ready for the pirate life can start the process by calling 407/WDW-CREW.  For more information about The Pirates League, visit disneyworld.com/crew.

To cap off this roundup, here are some press photos from The Pirates League:

Pirates League “crew members”

A kid getting a Jack Sparrow make-over

Another kid getting a complete skelleton pirate make-over

Don’t worry though, girls can get a pirate make-over too

Even dads can get in the act

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