There’s nothing quite as awkward as mistaking a real person for an audio animatronic.
It was our first night in Anaheim and we were kicking things off with a bang at the Haunted Mansion dinner. The lights dimmed and I was giddy with excitement as I hurried to finish my crab cocktail before the program began. When I looked up, a very tall, polished looking man had appeared on the stage. (I’d missed his entrance and was guessing he traveled in via platform from below the stage or maybe came in on some sort of track system.) However he got there, he looked amazing! So tall, so life like, and completely worthy of the Imagineering Stamp of Approval.
At first, I was really impressed. His movements and overall appearance were quite life like. While his bald head picked up a bit of a glare, the texture of his skin looked very realistic. (And really, you can’t fault the Imagineers for a balding glare – it’s a hazard in real life too.) His gestures were somewhat stiff, and while his arms were locked into a 90 degree angle, remarkably, he was able to lift one foot from the ground and take a step backwards and forwards. The few moments he had been on stage were quite enjoyable and he hadn’t even said a word yet.
Then, the moment we had been waiting for – he began to speak. “On be-half of every-one at Dis-ney (insert 2 second pause) Land, wel-come.” Domo arigato! This Mr. Robato made a Texas Instruments Speak & Spell sound like beautiful angel music. That’s when I leaned over and whispered to Jeff “I didn’t know there was going to be audio animatronics at this thing. Is it because they’re re-releasing Mr. Lincoln?”
Jeff’s reply – “That’s not robot. That’s Ed Grier.”
Yikes. I had just mistook the President of Disneyland for the newest addition to Great Moment’s with Mr. Lincoln. And not even a new and improved version, but the 1964 model. Double yikes. I had previously wondered why I had never seen the President of Disneyland at anything, and now I know why.
For some reason, Disney had decided to dust off President Grier and bring him out for a little show and tell. Maybe they thought we would still be eating our crab cocktail and not notice him up on the stage. Or maybe they thought he would blend in with the rest of the 999 Happy Haunts. Most likely, it was the scheduled time in Ed’s contract for him to make his yearly appearance. Regardless of Disney’s reasoning, he was a little bit of additional entertainment, the pure essence of Audio Animatronic Awkward and the perfect ending to the Expo’s Top 10 Awkward Moments.