Today In Disney History ~ July 18th
Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln is a stage show featuring an Audio-Animatronic version of U.S. PresidentAbraham Lincoln, best known for being presented at Disneyland since 1965. It was originally showcased as the prime feature of the State of Illinois Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. One year after its debut at the World’s Fair, the show opened at Disneyland, where it has undergone several changes and periods of hiatus over the years. Today Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln is an element of the Disneyland attraction The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, which opened in 2009.
Walt Disney originally conceived of a show that would pay tribute to all U.S. Presidents as part of a proposed extension of Main Street, U.S.A. in the 1950s. However, the technology at the time would not permit a show on the scale Disney wanted, and the Main Street extension proposal was abandoned (the presidential tribute was later built as The Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom). Disney’s Imagineers opted to focus instead on creating a tribute to Lincoln, Disney’s boyhood hero. In 1962, Robert Moses visited Disney seeking ideas for attractions for the upcoming World’s Fair. Moses was intrigued by a prototype of the Audio-Animatronic Lincoln, and Disney agreed to build it. The show premiered at the World’s Fair on April 22, 1964, and consisted of a pre-show highlighting the state of Illinois, followed by a theater presentation in which the Audio-Animatronic Lincoln gave a speech that included excerpts from multiple speeches actually delivered by Lincoln. It ran for the entirety of both of the World’s Fair’s 6-month seasons, and closed on October 17, 1965.
During the second season of the World’s Fair, a duplicate version of the show opened at Disneyland on July 18, 1965. The show ran until 1973, when it was replaced by The Walt Disney Story, a biographical film on Walt Disney. Disneyland was criticized for this move, and in 1975 the show was replaced by The Walt Disney Story Featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, a hybrid of the two shows. The 1975 version of The Walt Disney Story Featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln underwent several minor changes over the years, and closed in 2000. In 2001, it was replaced with an attraction of the same name, but which had more of a focus on the American Civil War. This version closed in 2004, and from 2005 to 2009 the attraction was replaced with Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years, a tribute to Disneyland’s 50th anniversary which included exhibits on Disneyland in the pre-show and post-show areas and a film narrated by Steve Martin.
The present-day attraction features a pre-show and post-show consisting of exhibits on the history of Disneyland and incorporates several elements of Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years, including an abridged version of the Steve Martin film presented on a television screen in the lobby. The main show features a short biographical film on Lincoln and an updated version of the original show.