“Disney’s Hall of Presidents” is as dull as the State of the Union Address

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First Posted: 3/30/2015

Aye, yi, yi! How many movies based on Disney theme park attractions can be released in a single year? Not only is “Tomorrowland” just around the corner but “Space Mountain: At Universal Edgity” – a film about a mountain that is accidentally shot into space and the pair of mountaineers that must somehow take control of it to prevent the massive foothill from destroying the moon –is due some time in August. But the film that has raised the most interest, if not controversy, remains this week’s “Disney’s Hall of Presidents” a troubling, borderline treasonous act that has caused Attorney General Eric Holder to dub it a “glittering carousel of piss” shortly before spitting on a photo of writer/director Jim Hall.

“Is it really that bad?” you may ask. Well, yes. In many ways the film lives down to its infamous teaser trailer that found a twenty dollar bill bursting into flames shortly after the eyes on the Andrew Jackson portrait glowed ominously. “Disney’s Hall of Presidents” is ill-considered and irresponsible. It’s, thankfully, the only film you’ll ever see in which the seventh president of the United States beats a baby with another baby. It’s sick.

According to the “Hall of Presidents” movie, the notoriously dull Disney attraction has been experiencing a number of technical difficulties as of late. The movements of the animatronic figures have become jittery and erratic almost as if the figures themselves have grown restless. Their voices slower and more distorted.

During an afternoon performance, the power goes out and the only thing the audience can see are 43 pairs of glowing red eyes. Led by Andrew Jackson (M.C. Gainey), the robotic presidents tear through their stage-bound constraints and carve a bloody swathe through the streets of Fantasyland. However, when Imagineer Blaine Gibson (Ned Beatty) created the attraction, he obtained the DNA of our nation’s greatest assassins because he felt it dangerous to have all of America’s presidents together in one place without an effective fail-safe system. Now the fate of the Magic Kingdom, and its guests, lies in the cloned hands of Lee Harvey Oswald (“Mad Men’s” Vincent Kartheiser), Leon Czolgosz (J.K. Simmons whose glowering, mute character, we’re told, smells overwhelmingly ‘like a hoagie’), Charles Guiteau (Eric Wareheim) and John Wilkes Booth (in order to make the character’s overt racism sweeter and less imposing, he’s portrayed by Emma Stone).

Assisting the clones in their mission are a robotic William Henry Harrison (the voice of Johnny Depp) who is shunned by his evil brethren because he was president for 30 days and because the Imagineers never actually bothered to make his animatronic body resemble the actual William Henry Harrison (they just slapped a beard on an unused Br’er Bear from Splash Mountain. They figured no one would notice or care).

Jim Henson (Sam Elliott), whose death was apparently faked by a shadowy cabal of Disney executives, is also on hand to train the assassins – which amounts to showing them how their Magic Bands work in obsessive, almost perverse detail – and craft their weapons (check out Czolgosz’s .38 which has a cleaver built right into the barrel).

Although mindless and patently offensive, “Disney’s Hall of Presidents” boasts surprisingly well-crafted action sequences. Most notably, where the assassins square off against a faceless Gerald Ford and James Madison (whose malformed Vice-President Elbridge Gerry occasionally emerges Kuato-style from his chest) along the man-made canals of It’s a Small World.

It’s full of mostly groan inducing in-jokes such as that William Howard Taft is trapped and eventually killed by a tub. But with all of that said, “Hall of Presidents” is mostly just disgusting. The film goes out of its way to portray our former and current commander in chiefs as psychotic monsters who constantly point at their own dicks and laugh.

Yet bizarrely frames the assassins as likable, mostly misunderstood patsies. A subplot reveals that Oswald is self-conscious because he thinks he stole all of the glory from the mysterious second gunman (later revealed to be Henson). Wilkes Booth even manages to be redeemed when it’s discovered that his mustache was telegraphing racist thoughts into his brain. It’s very off-putting and unnerving.

Of course, you may be asking why would The Walt Disney Company release a movie like this? Well, they didn’t. “Disney’s Hall of Presidents” was produced by Universal Studios partially as a way to promote their own theme park in Florida (the closing credits sequence shows the surviving assassins frolicking around Islands of Adventure drinking Butter Beer). Strangely, Disney doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with it. Although, it should be noted that “The E.T. Adventure Gave Me Herpes” is set to be released by Touchstone Pictures some time in 2016.