Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A First Look at Animatronic Obama

On July 4, the historic Hall of Presidents exhibit at Magic Kingdom will reopen after the biggest makeover in its 38-year history. But in meantime, the New York Times got to have the first look at the exhibit's latest addition: an animatronic President Barack Obama, or as the folks at Disney like to call it, Robobama.

The 44th President of the United States has been recreated in animatronic form for his induction into The Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World, which pays tribute to each of the presidents in an entertaining and educational show. Lincoln, Carter, Bush - they're all present in robotic form in the attraction, and former presidents Bush and Clinton even provided their voices for the presidential 'roll call.' But as the Times learned, Obama not only provided his voice, but even his measurements for his figure, which DIsney says is the most lifelike president they've created yet.

Supposedly, when President Obama saw renderings of the figure, he said Disney Imaginaeers made the figure "better-looking than he was."

Similar to presidents before him, Robobama will have a speaking role in the attractions. He'll recite his oath of office in addition to a newly drafted speech written by Disney writers and tweaked by Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau. President Obama recorded the speed in March inside the White House Map Room, which was apparently the best room for recording in Disney high-definition sound.

Joining Robobama in speaking to the crowd will be Abraham Lincoln, who has always had a speaking role in the Hall of Presidents. However, after the July 4 unveiling of the attraction, Lincoln will be delivering the Gettysburg Address in its entirety. Also, George Washington will have a speaking role for the first time ever.

These are just a few of the new additions to the attraction, which will also feature a new film narrated by Morgan Freeman. The hall itself will also get an upgrade, including new digital-video projection systems and new, longer spotlights for each president with modernized controls.

And of course, former president George W. Bush will be added to the attraction in the form of a less sophisticated animatronic figure. Robobama is actually the same figure as the old Robobush, simply recycled, reprogrammed, and given some significant plastic surgery.

However, one would never guess that Robobama was once another president, as the Times reports that Disney has gone to great lengths to accurately convey not only the President's expression, but his mannerisms as well.

"Thus the audio-animatronic Obama purses its lips to pronounce its b's and p's in a way frighteningly evocative of the real one, and raises its hands, open-palmed, while shruggiong its shoulders, in a way that can only be described as Obamaesque. Even the president's wedding ring, with its braided design, has been recreated," wrote Jacques Steinberg.

One of Disney's oldest attractions, the Hall of Presidents was first conceived by Walt Disney himself when he produced a "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" attraction for the 1964 World's Fair in New York. The Hall has been featured in Magic Kingdom since the park opened in 1971 and features all 43 presidents of the United States in a celebration of American history.

The Hall of Presidents officially reopens on July 4, a very appropriate day for the reintroduction of the most patriotic attraction at Disney. In addition to all the other Independence Day festivities at Disney, you won't want to miss seeing the latest Presidential figures in action. Check out Walt Disney World tickets on now to come face to face with President Obama - Robobama, that is.


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