A Letter to Disneyland: Mr. Lincoln's Wild Ride


One of my favorite parts of Disneyland in Southern California is Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, a 20 min show with a short film about the Civil War culminating with a speech from an audio-animatronic Abraham Lincoln. In the anteroom prior to entering the theatre there is a large model of the Capitol surrounded by paintings of the Civil War and Lincoln as President.



There is also a short film about how Walt Disney imagineered many of his early animatronic attractions and how the animatronic Lincoln was built, and how his body was sculpted based on some masks Lincoln had taken during his lifetime. Indeed from the skin and features, to the clothing and voice, Disney meticulously created this lifelike attraction that truly gave people an opportunity to experience some Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.


When the show begins you view a moving film about Abraham Lincoln's life and Civil War along with the story of two brothers in the war, told through the song below, and then Lincoln continues to reflect on the conflict.
The curtain is then parted to reveal President Lincoln speaking on the edge of a colonnade, resembling the White House, which has been furnished with historically correct pieces... or so they think.
With all of the work spent on research and presentation for Lincoln's body, clothing and voice, why has the setting been so flagrantly neglected. The main issue I have with Great Moments, inevitably, is their choice of flags. Lincoln did not use flags in his office, which was a notorious mess during the Civil War. Even if he did, the flags on either side of him are a modern fifty star American flag and Illinois state flag. You can always tell a fifty star design by the staggered positions of the stars, whereby older designs normally feature upright and lined up columns of stars. It's not a matter of budgeting but a matter of effort to have the proper number of stars on the flag. The flag should have between 32 and 34 stars depending on what year they are portraying. I want to go up on the stage and rip out 16 stars or so.

The Illinois flag shouldn't be there in the first place because they are portraying President Lincoln not Representative Lincoln thus the state flag is unnecessary. Even if it were necessary the Illinois state flag did not come into being until the early 20th century! It is very sad that this Disneyland attraction has such a half-hearted setting, when it has such an intricate central character. 
First Illinois Flag - 1915

The next logical step to replacing the state flag would be to use the Presidential flag, but someone actually did their homework on this one. The Presidential flag did not go into use until 1945, and even if they did use it in Disneyland, they would need to obtain special permission from the White House to use it! 




We end with the smallest abomination, the globe. When Lincoln stands to make his speech, compiled for the attraction in the 1960's, he occasionally motions to the globe, turned with the Eastern hemisphere facing the audience. The globe clearly shows modern borders, including Mongolia (which didn't come into modern existence until 1917) and the modern border divisions of Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. If attention to detail is a hallmark of this attraction, this is yet another point to be fixed.

Thus, Disneyland - fix this attraction. To everyone - this is yet another reason many large organizations require a resident vexillologist/herald, because you never know when youre putting out the wrong flag or emblem. It is a dead science, perhaps it has a place in this modern world where less and less attention is paid to symbols and the history behind them.