In honor of July 4th we are presenting a special SATURDAY SIX with a Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America). July 4th weekend brings out the patriotism in all of us, and nothing is more American than our favorite theme parks. Created with the opening of Disneyland in 1955, theme parks — along with comic books and jazz music — are one of the rare forms of art that we in the USA have given to the citizens of Earth. Thankfully, they are all so good that the world forgives us for everything else we’ve given them such as Zima, reality television, and the KFC Double Down. So raise Old Glory up to full staff, put Real American on the CD player, and let’s dive into some theme park American goodness!
# 6 – Voices of Liberty (Epcot)
Located at the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, the Voices of Liberty are an 8 person a cappella group that will have your heart swelling with pride as they belt out some of the most well known songs paying tribute to our country’s rich history. The playlist includes: “America the Beautiful,” “This Land is Your Land,” “This is My Country,” “You Raise Me Up,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
# 5 – Captain America (Islands of Adventure)
America’s super soldier, Captain America meets guests daily at Marvel Superhero Island. The origin of Captain America himself is tied to World War II and – in the pages of comic books – was fighting the Nazi army in Europe months before America itself officially entered the war in December of 1941. Draped in red, white, and blue, Cap is the living embodiment of everything many of us strive to be: courageous, loyal, selfless, and unshakably honest.
# 4 – Electrical Water Pageant (Walt Disney World)
One of our favorite parades is the incredible Electrical Water Pageant that takes place along Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon. We’re not sure what is more amazing: a parade taking place in a lagoon or the fact that it has been doing so in various incarnations for over 40 years! We all have our favorite floats (our personal favorite is King Neptune and the four seahorses), but the parade ends with the floats turning into American flags along with red, white, and blue stars while patriotic music plays. Now that’s how you end a show!
# 3 – The American Adventure (Epcot)
The American Adventure is a journey through American history narrated by audio-animatronic versions of Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain, two of our country’s most iconic figures. The Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II are briefly touched on as over 200 years of America are condensed into about 20 minutes. Using a combination of animatronic scenes and video, the American Adventure is amazing to watch just from a technical perspective. This is Imagineering bringing its A-game, brilliantly taking advantage of limited space and challenging subject matter and presenting it in a uniquely interesting way.
# 2 – Hall of Presidents (Magic Kingdom)
Located in Liberty Square, the Hall of Presidents is one of the most profound and moving experiences to be had within a theme park attraction. The animatronics of our 44 Commanders-in-Chief are among the best Walt Disney Imagineering has ever done and the speeches given (by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Barack Obama) transcend the usual whitewashing of history we see in many other theme park shows or attractions that try to teach us something. With narration by Morgan Freeman, the Hall of Presidents guides us through the forming of the Constitution, the issues behind the Civil War, all the way up to the challenges we face today. The reveal of the presidents themselves on stage is remarkable and you owe it to yourself to see Abraham Lincoln read his Gettysburg Address.
# 1 – Main Street USA (Magic Kingdom)
Nothing is more American than Main Street, U.S.A., in the Magic Kingdom. Nothing. You could take a picture of a bald eagle eating an apple pie on the top of Mt. Rushmore, and it still wouldn’t evoke the Americana feelings that come when Main Street, U.S.A., reveals itself as you walk under the Walt Disney World Railroad and into the Magic Kingdom. Main Street, U.S.A., sets the tone of your park day, as guests are transported to a different time and place, one in which you can leave your real world worries at the front gates.
A turn of the century small town American street should feel antiquated, but, all things considered, when you take the buildings (both inside and out), the period-authentic vehicles, the streetmosphere, the background music, the parades, and all the “little things” (such as the iconic Mickey balloons), Main Street, U.S.A., is a wonderfully immersive experience that all the theme park lands built afterwards have a hard time competing with. It draws us in without the lure of an E-Ticket attraction or a big movie tie-in and is a reminder of the visionary that Walt Disney was. Main Street, U.S.A., is a slice of America history that most of us today never experienced, but it feels as real as the streets we return to when we come home from vacation.
So there you have it: A SATURDAY SIX Salute to All Nations (But Mostly America). See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan)
If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following:
Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, the sommelier of Tony’s Town Square Brian Carey, photo wunderkind Mike Sperduto, TTA aficionado HintToSpy, the supreme leader of DVC Central Morgan Crutchfield, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with co-host Aengus Mackenzie and Meg’s Yeti To Be Named Disney Podcast.