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Fridays with Jim Korkis: Bill Clinton in the Hall of Presidents



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 yourfirstvisit.net.

BILL CLINTON IN MAGIC KINGDOM’S HALL OF PRESIDENTS

By Jim Korkis

President Bill Clinton made his debut as the first currently sitting U.S. president to speak in the Magic Kingdom’s Hall of Presidents on October 1993.

Veteran Walt Disney Imagineering sculptor Blaine Gibson came out of retirement to sculpt the Clinton bust, as he had sculpted virtually all the Hall of Presidents figures up to that point. He started work on the bust in late November 1992.

Gibson’s protégé Valerie Edwards spent time with Gibson at his home in Sedona, Arizona to observe and discuss technique, so that she could continue with future presidents.

Gibson acquired information on Clinton from sources as diverse as the White House staff, the state of Arkansas gubernatorial photographer, and numerous publications.

(c) Disney

“My goal in sculpting is to render the uniqueness of an individual,” said Gibson. “I read a lot about him, as much as I could find. A caricaturist would make Clinton’s chin jut out, but I didn’t want to create a cartoon. President Clinton is a man of persistence and tenacity and I tried to reveal some of those qualities.”

The Clinton bust was molded, cast in bronze, and attached to a marble base at an outside foundry under Gibson’s supervision, a process that took approximately eight weeks. The bust was later presented to Clinton.

For the audio-animatronics figure in the attraction, Gibson created another bust without hair. Like the other presidential figures, a hand-tied wig would be fabricated for the figure, making the figure look more realistic and the hair easier to style. Disney’s MAPO (Manufacturing And Production Organization, named for Mary Poppins) Plastics made a tooling to create the likeness and the hot-melt skin.

Walt Disney World Central Shops produced the plastic body sections for the final figure. These sections were shipped back to MAPO in California where principal animation designer Stan Abrahamson created the animation sheets that served as a function list that listed all intended figure movements and a parts list of mechanical equipment necessary for those movements.

The parts were fitted inside the plastic body shell. After the president recorded his speech at the White House, the hand movements had to be reworked, because Clinton did not speak with an open hand but with a closed fist thumb-up gesture.

Michael Horen, in charge of Head Animation Assembly, said “I studied Clinton on television and his lips slide toward the side of his face when he pauses between words. I had my doubts about whether I could approximate this expression because I don’t think we’ve tried to capture it on another figure before.”

Hydraulic values at the base of the figure were connected to the actuators that provide the figure’s movement. The wiring took four days. Once completed, the entire figure was monitored and re-calibrated for another ten days.

For the wardrobe, costumers fashioned a navy blue, single-breasted European suit and a red-and-white polka dot tie. Additional information was supplied by the White House staff on details such as shoe size (13D) and even the simple black sportsman’s watch Clinton preferred. The watch came with a 12 page instruction booklet and took hours to program.

When the figure arrived at WDW in mid-October, it went through an eight-day test-and-adjust session.

Imagineer Rick Rothschild said, “We walk a really fine line between showing the president as he looks in the media, the one we are familiar with on magazine covers and television, and the ‘real’ Bill Clinton, the person who looks different every day just like the rest of us. I’m aiming for somewhere in between.”

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Thanks, Jim! There’s more form Jim on Bill Clinton in the Hall of Presidents here and here.  And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

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 which was first published on this site.

 

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