Disney History: Liberty Square Then & Now

As much as the challenge of Tomorrowland is keeping up with real world innovation, the benefit of Liberty Square is that history rarely changes, making innovation in this land relatively unnecessary. Also, with only three attractions, very little updating is needed to keep this cozy American town running at peak efficiency. Still over the years, a few embellishments and technical upgrades have been made.

Liberty Square Then and NowLiberty Square Then and Now

For the Hall of Presidents, the changes are quite obvious. When Walt Disney World opened in 1971, Richard Nixon was president. Since 1971, it has been necessary to add seven Presidents to the roster and when President Clinton was added in 1993, it became custom for the newly elected president to provide a short speech for the attraction. The show, itself, also changed considerably during this renovation. The script was adapted to focus on the social issues faced by the republic, which resulted to changes to Abraham Lincoln's speech and brought in a new narrator, Maya Angelou. The last major update came when President Obama was added to the roster. The 9-month renovation (including art & artifacts) resulted in completely overhauled audio-visual systems in the theater and the addition of Morgan Freeman as the narrator.

Liberty Square in Black and WhiteLiberty Square in Black and White

The boats of Liberty Square have undergone a few changes, the most notable of which is that the Mike Fink Keel Boats have ceased to exist on the Rivers of America. One of the boats capsized in 1997 at the Disneyland version, which set in motion a series of events that led to the closing of the attraction on both coasts. The Liberty Square Riverboat, Liberty Belle, can still be found carrying passengers around the Rivers of America, but due to some damage that it sustained during refurbishment in 1980, the Admiral Joe Fowler boat was scrapped and only its sister ship, the Richard F. Irvine continues to operate. One of the ferries that traverses the Seven Seas Lagoon was renamed Admiral Joe Fowler in homage to retired Admiral who managed the construction of both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Liberty Belle RiverboatLiberty Belle Riverboat

When Imagineers decided that the Haunted Mansion would be placed in Liberty Square, they overhauled the architecture to give the building a more gothic style, such as might be seen along the banks of the Hudson River. The tour remains much the same as it was in 1971, but a few of the effects like the attic bride and the projection of Donald Duck onto a chair have been altered or removed over the past 44 years. Perhaps the most visual changes to guests have been the addition of a covered queue in 1972 and the addition of interactive queue elements in 2011. In 2014 the Haunted Mansion also received its own gift shop with the addition of Memento Mori.

The Haunted Mansion New Interactive QueueThe Haunted Mansion New Interactive Queue

Hey! This article is full of links to previous posts about Liberty Square. GO check them out for more information about this bit of Americana. Which Liberty Square attraction is your favorite?

A big thanks goes out to Guest Author Holly L. for sharing a little bit of her time in Walt Disney World with us. If you'd like to read more about Holly's trip, you can find her sharing her adventures on our member forum.

Don wrote on Wed, 03/25/2015 - 14:17:

Don's picture

The "Donald Duck Chair" still exists; it's not a projection, but a "hidden Donald" made from embellishments on the chair back.

WDW's Haunted Mansion is the only one to include the "staircase" scene added in recent years.

A number of changes have been made over the years to the Liberty Tree Tavern. Character dining was discontinued, and most recently restrooms were built on the ground floor, resolving a long problem with accessibility in the restaurant. The kitchen is undergoing renovations so that it can also support the new Adventureland restaurant that will operate on the other side of the show building.

Diamond Horseshoe has also had a lot of changes, mainly around the menu. Currently, the location is only open during high capacity periods, and it offers the same menu as Liberty Tree, with the food coming from the same kitchen.

Rounding out the food additions was the additional of the "outdoor market" adjacent to Hall of Presidents. Liberty Square has also seen numerous adjustments and consolidations in its merchandise lineup over the years.

Jeffrey Thomas wrote on Wed, 03/25/2015 - 21:41:

Jeffrey Thomas's picture

One of the very interesting things to me about early shots compared to more recent one, especially in the Magic Kingdom, is the growth of all of the vegetation. Everything grows so fast in Florida, and the differences can be very dramatic is some areas. The trees around the Mansion for example really make it look much better than in the early days when it was so out in the open.

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