Vocal Talent

Royal Dano (Abraham Lincoln)

Royal Dano -Walt Disney knew that ultimately, if his Audio-Animatronic figure of Abraham Lincoln was to be a success, there was one element totally out of the hands of his Imagineers, and that was finding the right voice. According to Paul Anderson, many had pushed Walt to hire the actor most identified with the part of Lincoln to do the voice, which was Raymond Massey (1896-1983). Massey's performance in Abe Lincoln In Illinois (1939) had long been ingrained in the public consciousness as the definitive portrayal of the sixteenth president, and Massey had reprised the role in numerous television productions, as well as a cameo in the recent big-screen epic How The West Was Won (1962). But Disney was adamant in rejecting Massey, claiming that the actor's voice did not match the known historical descriptions of what Lincoln sounded like, and authenticity needed to take precedence. And so, the part ultimately went to a lesser-known actor, New York born Royal Dano, who was nonetheless no stranger to playing Lincoln, having played the role in a 1959 television production, "Mister Lincoln." Despite his New York background, Dano proved quite adept at capturing the homespun dialect that Lincoln's contemporaries described in recalling his voice (an ability that also led to Dano being cast chiefly in westerns over the years). He went on to reprise his Lincoln voice performance for the Hall Of Presidents attraction at Disney World in 1971.

On-screen, Dano's credits included John Huston's productions of The Red Badge Of Courage (1951) and Moby Dick (1956); Simon Peter in King Of Kings (1961); numerous westerns such as Cahill, U.S. Marshal (1973) and The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976); and the foreboding minister in The Right Stuff (1983), which dramatized the story of the Mercury astronauts. Royal Dano died on May 15, 1994 in Los Angeles of a heart attack at age 71.

Paul Frees (Narrator)

Paul Frees -Paul Frees (1920-1986), along with Mel Blanc, ranked as one of the busiest voice actors in America, doing hundreds of radio programs, cartoons, commercials and movies, where he would frequently redub foreign-born actors who had been unable to master English well (in the 1967 movie "King Kong Escapes" for instance, every Japanese actor was redubbed by Frees for the English language release). Among some of Frees' biggest claims to fame: Boris Badenov in the Bullwinkle cartoons; the original Pillsbury Doughboy; and the "Ghost Host" narrator of the Haunted Mansion ride in Disneyland and Disney World. In addition to narrating "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln", Fair visitors could also hear his vocal talents in the Hall Of Science "Rendezvous In Space" movie, and the "Les Poupees des Paris" puppet show. For a rare glimpse of Frees on-camera, check out the 1953 sci-fi classic "War Of The Worlds" where he appears as a radio reporter.

Lincoln Still Holds

Hearers Spellbound

New York, July 23 (AP) -- The individual star of the New York World's Fair is none other than Abraham Lincoln.

Some audiences he holds in spellbound silence. Others he sets to cheering wildly.

People go away from his performances in awe and praise and such exclamations as "stupendous!" "tremendous!" and "most impressive and inspiring." Many return time and again.

Lincoln, seen as the feature attraction of the Illinois pavilion, is the creation of the Walt Disney organization.

Fits Description Exactly

He is a new type of animated figure so lifelike many find it hard to believe he isn't alive. He fits the exact description of Lincoln as to face and figure, dress, speech and mannerisms.

After dramatic introductory music and other material, the stage curtains part before a hushed audience to reveal the figure sitting in center stage in a high-backed chair.

Slowly the figure rises, pauses to regard the audience to right and left. Then quietly but forcefully he begins to speak. For 10 minutes he delivers excerpts from Lincoln's speeches dealing with liberty and freedom.

There is seldom the slightest sound from the audiences -- except for cheers. These come with a roar at the end, when the figure once more takes its seat.

The performance lasts 10 minutes and is given 5 times each hour, from 10 a. m. to 10 p. m.

Portion of Lincoln display at New York world's fair.
Lincoln photograph

Speaking at the pavilion dedication when the fair opened, Disney said he first conceived the idea about 10 years ago. He said a number of people expressed misgivings, feeling that any attempt at a mechanical recreation of Lincoln might not be in keeping with his memory.

However, he persisted, and such fears vanished each time that anyone saw the finished product.

 Passes Million Mark

They're still vanishing at the rate of nearly 25,000 persons a day, the total that the Illinois pavilion can handle. The free exhibition already has passed the million mark.

Children as well as adults are obviously fascinated and impressed.

"It's extremely heartening to us all, the respect, attention and interest displayed by young people," said Miss Virginia L. Marmaduke, the pavilion's special events director. "It proves that our children today aren't interested only in just gimcracks."


SOURCE: Chicago Tribune, Friday, July 24, 1964

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