LOS ANGELES -- Barack Obama was standing on a riser inside a warehouse here, delivering an inspirational speech about the blessings of freedom, when his left index finger began to twitch uncontrollably, unnerving his aides.
The nation's 44th president was in obvious distress. At least it looked like him. But with silicone skin and a tangled nest of wires for veins, this Obama was a 21st-century reproduction.
More specifically, it was an audio-animatronic representation of the president, as imagined by the Walt Disney Company, and assembled with the direct involvement of the White House staff -- and of Mr. Obama himself. The president supplied not just his measurements, but he also recorded that speech (which was initially drafted by a Disney writer) -- and yet another recitation of the oath of office, this one in Disney high-definition sound.
That's right, boys and girls, let the hype for the July 4 reopening of The Hall of Presidents officially begin! Having read the article, I'm more excited for the new show there than for the refurbished Space Mountain. Just a few more weeks!
''Young children watch this, and you want them to feel a sense of identification with the president,'' said Doris Kearns Goodwin, a presidential historian, who was recruited by Disney two years ago to write a Hollywood-style treatment about the presidents, which became the basis for a 20-minute documentary made for the exhibit. ''This makes the president someone not so far removed from them.''
As much as history isn't my thing, I absolutely *love* Doris Kearns Goodwin. Not only is she one of the most amusing regular Daily Show guests (along with Fareed Zakaria), but she wrote the book about Abraham Lincoln that inspired Obama during the campaign. She rocks!
The exhibit will open with the new film, narrated by the actor Morgan Freeman. At a certain point, the Abraham Lincoln figure will rise and speak to the audience, as it always has, but now it will deliver the Gettysburg Address in its entirety.
''And this is the first time George Washington will have a speaking role,'' said Kathy Rogers, a senior show producer for Walt Disney Imagineering, the unit that oversees the creative side of the theme parks.
But the emotional high point is intended to be the introduction of the Obama figure, who will yet again be heard taking the oath.
...and then he speaks some more, hopefully with words that turn out to be less hollow a few years down the road than the equal rights mumbo jumbo in W's HOP speech.
I can't wait! And if you told me even five years ago that I would be giddy anticipating the new guy in the Hall of Presidents, I'd tell you to lay off the crack. Funny how things change, huh?
* You really should click on the NYT article. Even if you don't want to read the rest of the text, you can at least see the little picture of "Robobama!"