The internet was a fascinating place in 2017: “La La Land” became a cultural touchstone (mostly for the infamous Oscar gaffe), the first human embryo was genetically modified with CRISPR, and Walt Disney World in Orlando unveiled the animatronics of former President Donald Trump, a year into his controversial presidency, for their Hall of Presidents attraction.
At the time, people described the figure as “awful” and “nightmarish fuel”, but some went further, saying there was no way she could ever look exactly like Trump because the frame holding the animatronic skin in place was built for former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Because Clinton was favorite to win, according to a poll at the time, the theory is that Disney simply remodeled the robot after Trump’s victory, according to posts on Reddit and Twitter. Conspiracy theorists have primarily pointed to Donald’s smaller, rounder headform and wider eyes over Trump’s non-robotic features.
Walt Disney World finally updated the animatronics to look more like Trump in 2021, but journalist and former Reply All podcast host Alex Goldman revived the conversation last week on Twitter – and may have gotten a response in the process.
“The conspiracy theory that I believe with all my heart is that Disney created an animatronic Hillary for the Hall of Presidents expecting her to win, then hastily altered it to look like Trump when she lost,” Goldman said in a now-deleted tweet. by Insider.
Goldman told Insider he couldn’t remember exactly why the thought of Trump’s animatronics came back to him years later, but said it remains his favorite conspiracy theory.
“If you look at the image, it touches on something really primitive. It’s like very uncomfortable to watch. It just feels fake in a way that doesn’t make sense to my brain,” Goldman told Insider. “But then, of course, once someone says, ‘oh, that’s because it’s actually Hillary’, it sorts itself out right away.”
Goldman said the appeal of the Clinton-Trump animatronic plot lies partly in its harmlessness but also in its humor.
“There’s something about the hubris of a huge corporation like Disney that is certain that Hillary is going to win the election, that she’s probably spent tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on technology very expensive, and then she kind of got caught with their pants down – I always find that sort of storyline like in the back room very fascinating.”
Goldman posted on his substack, The Cool Dude Zone, on Wednesday, saying he had contacted someone claiming to be a former Imagineer who confirmed the conspiracy theory was true.
“Everyone was sure Hillary was going to win so much that they created her animatronic, and then they got caught with their pants down when Trump won,” the alleged Imagineer told Goldman on his Substack. “It can take months or even years to design a new animatronic. I remember seeing the drawings of Hillary’s animatronic face at least six months before the election and an intern asked the 3D artist what would happen if Trump won, and he laughed and just said, ‘So we’re screwed.'”
The Anonymous Imagineer also told Goldman that Ellen DeGeneres’ animatronics used in a ’90s attraction at Epcot known as Ellen’s Energy Adventure were repurposed for other park attractions.
Goldman clarified to Insider that the person he spoke to may not be who they claim to be (although he went to great lengths to verify their identity online, including verifying their name and its presence on social networks). He also said he’s been contacted by people who say they don’t believe the story adds up, but think they don’t have a compelling case.
One person, Goldman said, claimed that the Imagineer who provided this information referred to the Ellen DeGeneres attraction’s name in a way that other Imagineers would not. Another thought that if Disney had created a Clinton robot, they would have asked the former secretary of state to sit down for a 3D scan of her face, and these would surely have leaked by now – although he didn’t. There is no reliable information available as to whether or not presidents go through such a process, he said.
“I don’t know if it’ll go much further, but oh, man, wouldn’t it be great for someone to say, ‘Oh, and by the way, we repurposed Hillary’s head and now she’s part of one of the Star “Wars rides” or “it’s in Pirates of the Caribbean” or something like that. I would love to see that kind of stuff come out. I don’t imagine there’s much more than people be willing to say, but who knows,” Goldman told Insider.
Walt Disney World and Disney Imagineers did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
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