The Walt Disney Story
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Yesterland
The Walt Disney Story and Donald Duck, 1974
“Excuse me Donald, but where’s Mr. Lincoln?”

Step into the Main Street Opera House for a tribute to a truly great American... Abraham Lincoln? No. Walt Disney!

Before you enter the 500-seat theater, be sure to see the large collection of Walt Disney memorabilia in the lobby.

Relax in air-conditioned comfort as you watch a 28-minute movie biography of Walt Disney. The filmmakers assembled rare footage, such as scenes from early Alice comedies, tracing the life of the creative genius.

The Walt Disney Story poster, 1974
There’s no mention of Mr. Lincoln on the poster—because he’s not part of the show.

Not only is Walt Disney the subject the movie; he’s also the narrator. The filmmakers assembled the narration from various interviews made by Walt Disney during his lifetime. Hear Walt speak of EPCOT, his planned Florida city “where people actually live a life they can’t find anywhere else in the world.”


The Walt Disney Story opened in Disneyland’s Main Street Opera House in 1973, replacing Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. Walt Disney’s Audio Animatronic tribute to the Great Emancipator had been at Disneyland since July 18, 1965 (and originally at the State of Illinois Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair).

It was time for something new. Right?

Wrong!

Disneyland guests complained that the removal of Mr. Lincoln was an insult to the memory of Walt Disney (1901-1966)—never mind that The Walt Disney Story was supposed to honor Walt.

Cover of Fall/Winter 1973-74 Disneyland Guide (© 1973 Walt Disney Productions)
Cover of Fall/Winter 1973-74 Disneyland Guide
(© 1973 Walt Disney Productions)

A look at the “Free Shows and Exhibits” section of the Fall/Winter 1973-73 Disneyland Guide (below) confirms that The Walt Disney Story is about Uncle Walt, not Honest Abe.

Listing of Free Shows and Exhibits in the Disneyland Guide<br>(© 1973 Walt Disney Productions)
Listing of Free Shows and Exhibits in the Disneyland Guide
(© 1973 Walt Disney Productions)

In 1975, Mr. Lincoln returned.

Guests seated in the Opera House were treated to a double feature. After the movie about Mr. Disney, good ol’ Audio Animatronic Abe gave his speech. This long presentation had an appropriately long name—The Walt Disney Story featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.

The Walt Disney Story poster, 1996
Poster for The Walt Disney Story (1996 photo)

In 1984, the movie about Walt Disney disappeared; a more technologically advanced Mr. Lincoln replaced his predecessor; and the “Golden Dream” music from Epcot’s American Adventure replaced the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Although some of the Walt Disney memorabilia remained in the pre-show lobby, for all practical purposes The Walt Disney Story attraction of 1973 was history.

The Walt Disney Story marquee at Disneyland, 2000
Marquee with the incredibly long attraction name (2000 photo)

Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln was considered to be an important attraction—almost a sacred attraction—but that didn’t mean that guests regularly filled the theater. They were too busy running off to fun, entertaining attractions.

Gettysburg Address banner at The Walt Disney Story, 2002
A banner announces the switch to the Gettysburg Address. (2002 photo)

Disneyland management decided to make The Walt Disney Story featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln more entertaining. On July 17, 2001, the 46th anniversary of the televised opening of Disneyland, the park celebrated the Grand Opening of a new version.

The Walt Disney Story marquee at Disneyland, 2004
The presentation changed, but the marquee and attraction name didn’t. (2004 photo)

This time, Mr. Lincoln’s speech was preceded by a binaural sound show in the tradition of Sounds Dangerous with Drew Carey at Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios). The premise was that you identify with Private Cunningham, a Civil War soldier about to have his portrait done by famous Civil War photographer Mathew Brady. Wearing headphones, you even experience Cunningham’s haircut, just as guests in Florida experience Drew Carey’s haircut.

The Walt Disney Story, The Journey to Gettysburg, 2004
A poster in front of the Opera House for “The Journey to Gettysburg.” (2004 photo)

Finally, Mr. Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address, not the speech that he had been giving since the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

Abraham Lincoln in The Walt Disney Story, 2004
Audio Animatronic Abraham Lincoln wore eyeglasses in the 2001 version. (2004 photo).

May 5, 2005, Disneyland launched the 18-month “The Happiest Homecoming on Earth” celebration, marking the 50th anniversary of Disneyland. The Walt Disney Story featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln sign came down. Mr. Lincoln went on vacation.

The new show at the Main Street Opera House was The First 50 Magical Years, a film starring Steve Martin and Donald Duck. (Also in 2005, Steve Martin was named Disney Legend.) All sorts of Disneyland art, models and mementoes filled the Opera House lobby.

The plan was for a well-rested Mr. Lincoln to return right after the end of the celebration. However, guests continued to hear only Mr. Martin, not Mr. Lincoln, through March 15, 2009.

>Disneyland, The First 50 Magical Years, 2006
Disneyland, The First 50 Magical Years marquee (2006 photo)

On February 25, 2009, Disneyland Resort Public Relations announced that Mr. Lincoln would return. (In scheduling the announcement, they somehow missed Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday 13 days earlier.) However, The Walt Disney Story—the subject of this Yesterland article—would not be back.

When that sign came down in 2005, The Walt Disney Story went away forever. The new name would be the Disneyland Story, featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.

Mr. Lincoln returned to the Opera House on December 18, 2009. Guests can still catch the film with Mr. Martin and Mr. Duck, but it’s now on a smaller screen in the lobby.


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© 2007-2009 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated December 31, 2009.

Photo of The Walt Disney Story entrance with Donald Duck: 1974 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of The Walt Disney Story poster: 1074 by Werner Weiss.
Detail from Fall/Winter 1973-74 Disneyland Guide © 1973 Walt Disney Productions
Cover of Fall/Winter 1973-74 Disneyland Guide © 1973 Walt Disney Productions
Photo of The Walt Disney Story poster: 1996 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of The Walt Disney Story marquee: 2000 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Gettysburg Address banner: 2002 by Allen Huffman.
Photo of The Walt Disney Story marquee: 2004 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of “The Journey to Gettysburg” poster: 2004 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Audio Animatronic Abraham Lincoln: 2004 by Allen Huffman.
Photo of Disneyland, The First 50 Magical Years marquee : 2006 by Werner Weiss.