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Fridays with Jim Korkis: The President Clinton Hall of Presidents Recording Session

By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on


By Jim Korkis

(For the first part of this story, see this.)

On Friday, September 3, 1993, Imagineers were in the Library room at the White House, waiting to tape President Bill Clinton for the Hall of Presidents. They had been warned not to touch anything because the room was filled with historical artifacts.

Dave Anderson, director of Television Services in charge of all media spots the president does at the White House, told the Imagineers, “Remember if you have technical problems, that’s fine but don’t try to direct the president. He likes to do one take only and he’s very good, so he usually gets it on the first pass. I’ll look at you and you tell me if there’s a problem during the first take, all right?”

President Clinton entered and warmly said “hello” to everyone and went to an adjoining room to change clothes while an entourage of aides fanned out in the Library. A Secret Service agent stood quietly, his gaze penetrating the room and quick to focus on any movement.

The president had six other things to tape that afternoon before his Disney speech. There were several re-takes on some of the earlier tapings and the president looked tenser at the end than when he first entered the room. When told he is now to tape the Hall of Presidents speech, he brightened up and told an aide, “Oh great! Have you seen this? This is a great show!”

Imagineers Rick Rothschild and Justin Segal took a moment to set the scene for the president, where his figure would be on stage, recapping what they wished to accomplish, how they would film his arm movements. The president was reminded that the narrator’s introduction is followed by a roll call and the announcement of his name and he would then command the stage.

The president stepped onto his mark on the floor. “I feel like I should sing a Disney song,” Clinton laughed as he playfully chanted softly “Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho” and “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Then a dead silence filled the room and he began talking very seriously in a tone unlike the previous service messages he had just recorded.

He ad-libbed several times, but the Imagineers found those changes suitable variations, and the president hit the necessary time (one minute and fifteen seconds) within a fraction of a second. “Can we do that again?” Clinton asked.

Rotschschild tells the president he doesn’t need to think about moving his arms since they already have that on tape but can concentrate entirely on his delivery of the material. When he finishes, the room bursts into spontaneous applause.

“That was a good speech…you want a job writing speeches for us at the White House?” Clinton joked and everyone laughed.

The Imagineers had several gifts for the president, including a Mickey Mouse baseball cap and making him an “Honorary Imagineer” with a WDI baseball cap. They also gave him a present for his daughter Chelsea, a Mickey and Minnie t-shirt with her name inscribed on it.

Handing the gift to a nearby aide, the pleased president said, “Please see that this gets onto her pillow by tonight.”

As the Imagineers turned to go, Clinton shook their hands and said, “That was fun! You were great! You guys did a great job!”

The Imagineers remarked on Clinton’s warmth, flexibility and imposing presence. They also noticed that during the taping of Clinton’s remarks that the president had very distinctive hand gestures. Instead of using an open hand when he spoke, he often marked his words with a closed fist, thumb-up gesture, a movement that had never before been done in audio-animatronics but that they were able to re-create.

The figure debuted in the attraction in October 1993.

*  *  *  *  *

Thanks, Jim! For the first part of this story, see this.

In the meantime, check out his books, including his new books Vault of Walt: Volume 10: Final Edition  Kungaloosh! The Mythic Jungles of Walt Disney World and Hidden Treasures of Walt Disney World Resorts: Histories, Mysteries, and Theming, much of the material for which was first published on this site.


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