Saturday Matinee #112, Presidents Week: "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" from "Disneyland Goes to the World's Fair" (May 17, 1964)
Published February 23, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
Happy Presidents Week! To celebrate, we take a trip back to 1964... which may as well be 1864! In an episode of "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color," viewers were given a rare opportunity to visit the World's Fair. One segment of the show featured Walt Disney and sculptor Blaine Gibson as they discuss the Lincoln animatronic they created for the "Great Moments" exhibit. More importantly, the viewers were then allowed to watch Walt's intricately-maneuvered Abraham Lincoln animatronic as he gave his speech. This speech consisted of various ones given by Lincoln himself, and was personally compiled by Disney producer James Algar. Naturally, these words still resonate today, and is presented below in their entirety.
The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.
What constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence? It is not our frowning embattlements, our bristling sea coasts. These are not our reliance against tyranny. Our reliance is in the love of liberty, which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.
At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some trans-Atlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, [that] if it ever reach us, it must spring [from] amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we [ourselves must] be [the] author[s] and finisher[s]. As a nation of free men, we must live through all time[s], or die by suicide.
Let reverence for the [law] be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in primers, [in] spelling-books, and almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay of all sexes and tongues and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly [at] its altars.
[And] let us strive to deserve, as far as mortals may, the continued care of Divine Providence, trusting that, in future national emergencies, He will not fail to provide us the instruments of safety and security.
Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by [the] menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.
Each paragraph above was from a different speech by Lincoln, spanning throughout his political career with the earliest being from April 1838 and the latest from April 1864. That each one transitions almost seamlessly into the next shows just how timeless and relevant his words were then, and were now. In addition, it shows just how carefully Algar worked with Lincoln's words, finding the key moments and speeches that flow into each other.
"Disneyland Goes to the World's Fair" is only available on DVD in the elusive and highly-collectible "Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland - Secrets, Stories & Magic" DVD, released in 2007 and perhaps the most valuable Treasures set on the secondhand market.