Moses, the head of the World's Fair, flew out to see Walt at
what we called WED at that time. He insisted that Walt had to
give him this Abraham Lincoln. Well, we didn't have the technology
for it....and this was when Walt put me on it. I have a notebook
in there that I did, "How To Build A Mechanical Man"....and
all of this was wrong. We weren't building a mechanical man....we
were building an illusion. An illusion of man. That took a while
to soak into me and into everyone else.
I want to show you something I think
you'll be interested in. Walt told me that he wanted to build
Abraham Lincoln. He knew I knew a lot about anatomy and things,
so I went ahead and put these drawings together. This sequence
shows Mister Lincoln standing up. Here are the different movements
that Lincoln went through in his performance. You know, they
say somebody else animated that....that's a lot of crap. This
is Mister Lincoln, and these are the things he had to do. Here,
he leans forward....and he rises, watching the center of gravity.
Then, see where he has to move this one leg? This is what I mean
by the illusion.
THE "E" TICKET: It's difficult to comprehend the amount of
effort it must have taken to turn these concepts into a finished
attraction in 12 months!
Well, when we got him built, Mister Lincoln would go through
his performance...everything would be fine, and then, all of
a sudden, there'd be some kind of glitch and he'd become a "spastic"
suddenly. The poor sound men would have to come back night after
night and redo the tapes that would control the figure. And after
two weeks ... I guess the Fair was open ... Robert Moses decided
he wanted to see this Mister Lincoln, since he'd talked the State
of Illinois into buying it. He came into the Mister Lincoln show
with all of the New York "ward healers" and their wives
... and we had to run it for them. This was maybe 11:00 in the
morning. I sat next to Dick Irvine, and he sat next to Walt.
There was General Potter, the one time head of the Panama Canal,
and he was Bob Moses' assistant. General Potter sat on my right,
as I recall, and then there was Moses and all the other officials
and their wives.
Mister Lincoln went through his performance
... and God ... not one glitch! We wanted to hug him! The only
thing was, you couldn't go up and hug a big pile of machinery
like that because it could kill you. This thing had 500 pounds
of hydraulic pressure ... it could kill you. Sometimes you worked
on it and you forgot that it wasn't a human being. If somebody
fooled around, this thing could floor you!
You know, on Mister Lincoln I didn't
turn the knobs that controlled him myself, but someplace you'll
find my "dialogue sheets" all marked out just like
you do for animation ... every move Lincoln was to make ... and
whether it was a larger move, to turn his hand at this point,
and so on.
THE "E" TICKET: Did they refer to those as a script, or something
Well, they didn't call it anything. It was just the "animation
pattern" so that the guys that turned the knobs could follow
and watch along with it, to animate the figure. I see an awful
lot of this stuff done now, and it's so meager and so poorly
thought out ... and it doesn't come to life. Mister Lincoln did
come to life, to a point. When the attraction was opened to the
public, the New York Times, in their Sunday section, reviewed
it full-page and said, "At this point Mister Lincoln stands
up and walks forward on the stage, and delivers his address."
The illusion was that good, that this reviewer thought that Lincoln
literally walked forward. I think that was a hell of a compliment.
The "E" TICKET: Of the four attractions at the World's Fair,
was "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln" the most complex?
Well it was the one where we "sweated blood." You know,
Walt was about ready to cut his own throat and we were ready
to jump off the bridge with him. You know it was horrible! You
can't believe ... here we were, stuck with something and Walt
didn't have the technology to have accepted that assignment at
THE "E" TICKET: And you were actually at the elbow of everyone
working on the installation during that time?
Oh absolutely! It was like working on the first automobile or
the first airplane or whatever and you didn't know whether it
was going to fly or not.
Source: The E-Ticket
Magazine Issue #7 (Summer 1989). © The E-Ticket
Magazine. Reprinted with Permission.