You know political tensions are at an all-time high when they spill over into the Happiest Place on Earth. Disney and the White House are trying to negotiate through an update to the Hall of Presidents, which is supposed to involve a talking robot likeness of Donald Trump. The problem is that, in a strange case of amusement parks imitating life, the Trump administration is insisting on writing the script for the exhibit, rather than collaborating with Disney. Now the Mouse House is suddenly in the unenviable position of Trump’s State Department, desperately trying to keep the Trumpbot on message and avoid ruffling feathers with park-goers on either side of the aisle.
This has been a challenge since Disney announced they would be updating the Hall of Presidents to include Trump alongside animatronic likenesses of every U.S. president. Starting with Bill Clinton, our three most recent presidents have had small speaking parts in the show, sticking to themes carefully selected by historians and Disney leadership to make sure it hits the right mix of patriotism, saleable optimism, and historical accuracy. With a precedent of George W. Bush, and Barack Obama being included with speaking parts, it would be pretty pointed not to let the Trumpbot speak, too. But just like with his human counterpart, there is some apprehension about what the Trumpbot might have to say.
Disney isn’t the only one worried about Trump’s place in the Hall of Presidents. Petitions have been circulating (and gaining quite a few signatures) that ask Disney not to let the Trumpbot talk and spare the attraction from his platform of “hateful speech, misogyny, racism, and xenophobia.” One idea floated by Disney’s Imagineers to keep the show controversy-minimal was simply to roll back the speeches previously recorded by standing presidents so that no one gets to talk. That’s pretty much all Disney can do if the White House won’t budge on the speechwriting responsibilities, since they don’t want to say anything in favor of or against the President, lest Capitol Hill controversy turn into anti-Disney backlash.
Of course, there’s also the risk that if Trump isn’t allowed to write his own bot’s speech, he’ll take to Twitter and bring the wrath of his support base down on Orlando, Florida.