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Cleansing the Past, Selling the Future: Disney’s Corporate Exhibits at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair
Unformatted Document Text:  Disney, 6 the Fair is the role he played in creating the historical and future narratives that most suited corporate marketing criteria. Smith notes that the car assembly process and the existence of autoworkers that was present in Ford’s 1939 exhibit had completely disappeared in the historical recollections of the 1964 Skyway. Disney’s design, which highlighted Ford’s newest product line, “implied that those shiny new Mustangs were helping to carry, not just their passengers, but humanity itself, out of the sulfurous mists of prehistory and toward a luminous, high-rise future.” 10 Both James Bierman and Mike Wallace share Smith’s critical approach in analyzing Disney’s creative and selective approach to history. Bierman looks at “The Walt Disney Robot Dramas,” 11 focusing on the significance of robots taking center stage for the two Disney exhibits at the Fair that featured Audio Animatronics, 12 the Carousel of Progress 13 and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. 14 He 10 Smith, 228. Smith is particularly interested in how the Disney’s work with corporations for the 1964 Fair was in many respects a model for Disney’s plans for future theme parks. Smith regards EPCOT center in Florida as Disney’s permanent World’s Fair installation, noting that it closely resembles the layout of the 1939 Fair in Flushing Meadow. Michael L. Smith. “EPCOT, Camelot, and the History of Technology,” in Bruce Sinclair, ed., New Perspectives on Technology and American Culture (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1986), 69-79. 11 James H. Bierman. “The Walt Disney Robot Dramas,” Yale Review LXVI (1976): 223-36. 12 Audio Animatronics was developed in an early form for Disneyland. Life-sized characters, both animals and humans, were made out a variety of materials (plastic, metal, concrete, etc.). Often only one body part (e.g. the head or torso) was “animated” allowing movement via mechanical arms inside the characters’ bodies. Prerecorded audio was added via speakers hidden nearby. For the Fair, and beyond, Disney wanted to develop techniques to make the characters “life-like” and “as real as possible.” 13 The Carousel enjoyed three runs: two years at the 1964 Fair, seven years at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and twenty-eight years in Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida. It was closed permanently at the end of 2001, a casualty of the new technology whose historical progress it was designed to celebrate. The Disney Corporation claims that the Carousel has been experienced by more people than any theatrical presentation in world history. Bierman, 23. 14 The Hall of Presidents was originally conceived in 1956 by Disney as a salute to the nation’s leaders, with particular focus on the framers of the Constitution. Paul Anderson. ed. Persistence of Vision: An Unofficial Historical Journal celebrating the Creative Legacy of Walt Disney. Issue 6/7. (Salt Lake City: Anderson, 1995), 83. The Hall was to be housed on Liberty Street at Disneyland. However, Disney wanted the Presidents to be more than talking mannequins, and when he heard about the upcoming New York Fair, he decided to concentrate his efforts on creating a prototype Lincoln robot for the Fair upon which to base the Hall of Presidents in the future. Anderson, 83. Both Robert Moses, the president of the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and Otto Kerner, the Governor of Illinois, visited the Disney studios before negotiations were made to bring “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” to the Illinois Pavilion at the Fair. Anderson, 89-91. The face for the Lincoln robot was made from a copy of an original cast of Lincoln’s face made in 1860. Disneyland Goes to the Fair, Walt Disney Productions Inc., 57 min., 1964, videocassette.

Authors: Lillie, Jonathan.
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Disney, 6
the Fair is the role he played in creating the historical and future narratives that most suited corporate
marketing criteria. Smith notes that the car assembly process and the existence of autoworkers that was
present in Ford’s 1939 exhibit had completely disappeared in the historical recollections of the 1964
Skyway. Disney’s design, which highlighted Ford’s newest product line, “implied that those shiny new
Mustangs were helping to carry, not just their passengers, but humanity itself, out of the sulfurous mists
of prehistory and toward a luminous, high-rise future.”
10
Both James Bierman and Mike Wallace share Smith’s critical approach in analyzing Disney’s
creative and selective approach to history. Bierman looks at “The Walt Disney Robot Dramas,”
11
focusing on the significance of robots taking center stage for the two Disney exhibits at the Fair that
featured Audio Animatronics,
12
the Carousel of Progress
13
and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
14
He
10
Smith, 228. Smith is particularly interested in how the Disney’s work with corporations for the 1964 Fair was in
many respects a model for Disney’s plans for future theme parks. Smith regards EPCOT center in Florida as Disney’s
permanent World’s Fair installation, noting that it closely resembles the layout of the 1939 Fair in Flushing Meadow.
Michael L. Smith. “EPCOT, Camelot, and the History of Technology,” in Bruce Sinclair, ed., New Perspectives on
Technology and American Culture
(Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1986), 69-79.
11
James H. Bierman. “The Walt Disney Robot Dramas,” Yale Review LXVI (1976): 223-36.
12
Audio Animatronics was developed in an early form for Disneyland. Life-sized characters, both animals and
humans, were made out a variety of materials (plastic, metal, concrete, etc.). Often only one body part (e.g. the head or torso)
was “animated” allowing movement via mechanical arms inside the characters’ bodies. Prerecorded audio was added via
speakers hidden nearby. For the Fair, and beyond, Disney wanted to develop techniques to make the characters “life-like”
and “as real as possible.”
13
The Carousel enjoyed three runs: two years at the 1964 Fair, seven years at Disneyland in Anaheim, California,
and twenty-eight years in Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida. It was closed permanently at the end of 2001, a casualty
of the new technology whose historical progress it was designed to celebrate. The Disney Corporation claims that the
Carousel has been experienced by more people than any theatrical presentation in world history. Bierman, 23.
14
The Hall of Presidents was originally conceived in 1956 by Disney as a salute to the nation’s leaders, with
particular focus on the framers of the Constitution. Paul Anderson. ed. Persistence of Vision: An Unofficial Historical
Journal celebrating the Creative Legacy of Walt Disney
. Issue 6/7. (Salt Lake City: Anderson, 1995), 83. The Hall was to be
housed on Liberty Street at Disneyland. However, Disney wanted the Presidents to be more than talking mannequins, and
when he heard about the upcoming New York Fair, he decided to concentrate his efforts on creating a prototype Lincoln
robot for the Fair upon which to base the Hall of Presidents in the future. Anderson, 83. Both Robert Moses, the president of
the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and Otto Kerner, the Governor of Illinois, visited the Disney studios before negotiations
were made to bring “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” to the Illinois Pavilion at the Fair. Anderson, 89-91. The face for the
Lincoln robot was made from a copy of an original cast of Lincoln’s face made in 1860. Disneyland Goes to the Fair, Walt
Disney Productions Inc., 57 min., 1964, videocassette.


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