After a four-year absence “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” opens at Disneyland’s Main Street Opera House on December 25, reports the LA Times‘ “Hero Complex” blog.
But how much do the remastered original 40-plus-year vocal recordings by character actor Royal Dano sound like the voice of the 16th president? Historians consulted by the blogger say not much at all. And isn’t that just the spice of controversy every attraction needs to draw attention to its opening? And which every blog needs, too.
Much of what scholars have deduced about Lincoln’s delivery comes from contemporary accounts describing a high-tenor voice. ”He often was so nervous at the beginning, he would almost shift up into a falsetto before he settled himself,” said historian Ronald C. White Jr., author of “A. Lincoln: A Biography.”
The rest is inferred from a collection of Works Projects Administration recordings of regional accents, which captured a kind of the early-mid 20th century patois of people living in rural Kentucky, where Lincoln was raised.
“The very best of the Lincoln impersonators will speak in that dialect,” said White. As in: Thank you, Mr. Cheerman (not Mr. Chairman).
I’ve read White’s excellent biography and also got to hear him lecture about Lincoln at Fuller Seminary earlier in the year. His opinion is solidly grounded.
A Disney spokesman responded that there are no recordings of Lincoln’s voice to settle the matter. And he says there was such a negative reaction the last time they tinkered with Lincoln’s voice they have no further interest in messing with success.