History of the Haunted Mansion Part 1
by, 05-12-2012 at 11:19 PM
Welcome, Foolish Mortals...
Ever since the original Haunted Mansion was constructed at Disneyland in 1963, it has spooked its way into the hearts and imaginations of people of all ages. Ask anyone what they believe is the seminal haunted house attraction anywhere in the world, and the Haunted Mansion is almost sure to be it.
Our Journey Begins Here...
The Haunted Mansion began its life, as most early Disney attractions did, with an idea from Walt himself. In the mid 1950s, Walt wanted Imagineer Ken Anderson and concept artist Harper Goff to start formulating ideas for a walk-through haunted house attraction for Disneyland, which was then in development.
The original idea was to situate the house just off the main drag of Main Street, U.S.A. Guests would follow a short, winding path to this mysterious 'old house on the hill' similar in appearance to the 'haunted houses' often found in small towns across the country.
As Disneyland took shape, the idea of a haunted house was moved from Main Street to the proposed New Orleans Square section of the park. Anderson retooled his original design to make the house mesh architecturally with the early 19th century plantation style of New Orleans. He based his design on the historic Shipley-Lidecker House, located in Baltimore, and took various elements from that house which are still seen today in Disneyland's version of the attraction.
Anderson and Goff originally envisioned the house as run-down and decrepit. When they presented their ideas for the exterior to Walt, he disagreed. He wanted everything to look nice, to match the pristine look of the park. He didn't want people to think that Disneyland wasn't taking care of its attractions. He famously said "We'll take care of the outside, and let the ghosts take care of the inside."
Almost As Though You Sense a Disquieting Metamorphosis...
Unlike most Disney attractions, there was no real 'story' of the Mansion when it first opened (and, some may argue, there still isn't!). However, the Mansion originally had an entire history behind it, remnants of which still exist today.
Bloodmere Manor was the early working title for the attraction, based on its proposed nautical theme. The Imagineers likely wanted to link the Mansion with its New Orleans Square neighbor, Pirates of the Caribbean.
In the storyline, Captain Bloodmere (just one of the many names of the captain, depending on who tells the story) and his bride met their untimely demises in the Mansion. One of the darker stories of the couple involved the Captain, who was lost at sea, coming back in a murderous rage as a ghost to entomb his bride inside the brick walls of the fireplace.
Despite its more sinister undertones, a scene from this concept was built into a full-sized set by Imagineers Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey in a Disney warehouse. The scene involved the Captain, a-drip with sea water, disappearing right before the guests' eyes, leaving behind nothing but a puddle, as the skeletal bride came right at guests from her tomb within the fireplace.
Those who saw it said it was an impressive feat of illusions, using the popular Pepper's Ghost effect (which is used in the Mansion today), along with a Flying Crank Ghost. Sadly, the whereabouts of this piece of Mansion history are unknown.
Walt also thought it might be a good idea to base the Mansion around a Disney property. An encounter with the Headless Horseman, from the 1949 Disney film The Adventures Of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, was proposed, and even made it into the early scripting stage. Another film considered as a tie-in was the Lonesome Ghosts short. In that film, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are members of the Ajax Ghost Exterminators hired to evict some ghosts from an old haunted house. Unbeknownst to them, their employers are the ghosts themselves, eager for some fun since no one ever visits them.
By 1958, Anderson had left the project to work on Sleeping Beauty, and so Crump and Gracey took over the task. Between old concepts and new ideas, the two of them managed to fill an entire warehouse with models, concept art, audio-animatronics, and full-scale mockups for possible use in the Mansion.
Crump tells a story about when they knew they were on the right track with their effects. According to him, the janitors wanted the lights in the building kept on at night, because they were creeped out when they went in there to clean.
Crump and Gracey agreed, but decided to have a little fun by installing motion sensors. When the janitors tripped the sensors, the lights turned off, and all the ghostly effects came to life! The next morning, when they entered the building, Crump and Gracey found all the effects still running and a janitor's broom in the middle of the floor.
Needless to say, the janitors called and said they wouldn't be back to clean anytime soon.
About the same time, Walt envisioned two parts of the Haunted Mansion: the walk-through attraction itself and a 'spill area' which would be connected to the queue and contain a themed restaurant, much like Pirate's Blue Bayou. This area would also showcase oddities and curiosities from around the world. They called it the Museum of the Weird.
Rolly Crump developed everything that would have gone into the museum, including the Wax Candle Man and the Demonic Clock. In fact, in one episode of Walt Disney's Wonderful World Of Color television show, Walt showcased some of the models being built for the attraction, and even discussed them on-camera with Crump.
Even though the Museum was abandoned, some of Crump's ideas for the Museum were used in various forms throughout the Haunted Mansion.
Consider This Dismaying Observation...
The exterior of the Mansion was completed in the early 1960s, but there were still many questions being asked about what was to go inside.
Walt himself halted work on the attraction around the same time the facade was finished. The 1964-65 World's Fair in New York was coming up, and he wanted his best and brightest minds to help him create the attractions he had been hired to build. And so for years, all attention was focused on Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, it's a small world, and the Carousel of Progress. After the Fair, when work on Disneyland attractions resumed in earnest, Walt's death in December 1966 delayed the completion of the Haunted Mansion even further.
The Imagineers revered Walt, who always made the final call on attractions - but Walt had died before making a decision about the Haunted Mansion theme. Without Walt to guide them, the Imagineers weren't sure how to proceed.
So, for nearly a decade, the Haunted Mansion sat ominously vacant on the Disneyland property. Guests wondered what dark spirits lay dormant inside the building, and why it was taking so long to bring them to life.
One of the main concerns of the Mansion was the balance of 'fright vs. light,' as it has come to be known. Some Imagineers thought the ride should be a scary, effects-driven attraction, while others favored a silly, light-hearted romp through the spirit world.
In the end, both sides got their way, at least in part. Guests visiting the Mansion today usually notice that the first half of the ride is more frightening and spooky than the humorous second half, when the ghosts come out to play.
After learning some new tricks about crowd flow at the World's Fair, the Imagineers realized that the Mansion would not work as a walk-through attraction. If they used guided tours, the number of guests per hour passing through the Mansion would be low, and that would create long lines outside. The Imagineers also had to deal with the problem of guests who chose to lag behind the group and stroll at their leisure through the haunted halls, adding to the congestion and spoiling the experience for the next group.
Fortunately, the solution to all these problems presented itself: the Omnimover system. Nicknamed 'Doom Buggies', these slow-moving vehicles would transport large numbers of people through the Mansion every hour and help direct their focus to what the Imagineers wanted them to see.
Be sure to read Part 2 of the History of the Haunted Mansion HERE
Haunted Mansion Quick Facts, Part 1
Here are some frightening but fabulous facts about the Haunted Mansion which you may not have known - or perhaps were too scared to remember.
- From the Jungle to the Mansion - The scared caretaker, who greets you speechlessly just before you enter the graveyard, looks very familiar, doesn't he? He should! His face also appears on The Jungle Cruise as the low man on the totem pole getting chased by the rhino! I guess he didn't "get the point... in the end."
- Walt Disney Or Bust - Despite popular belief, Walt Disney is NOT one of the singing busts in the graveyard sequence. That is actually Thurl Ravenscroft, whose voice can be found in many other Disney attractions, and who has many TV and film credits.
- Ghostly Apparitions - The graveyard ghosts seem more ghostly due to their reflective, transparent clothing. A scrim between the guests and the ghosts helps enchance this effect even further.
- Mickey in the Hood - Just before you exit the graveyard scene, look to the right of the opera singers and you'll be able to see a ghostly, hooded figure with his left arm raised inside the doorway of a crypt. Look at the hand closely: it's a hidden Mickey!
- Servant's Quarters - When you first leave the Mansion, there is a door to your right marked "Servant's Quarters." Despite rarely being seen by guests, this short hallway contains a large key rack, with hooks labeling every room within the Mansion. Unfortunately, the keys that once hung from these hooks have been lost over the years. Or perhaps someone - or something - has borrowed them to hide deep within the Mansion?
- Mr. Toad's Final Ride - When you exit the ride at Walt Disney World, look for the pet cemetary on the hill to your left. Far in the back you can see a hidden tribute to the now extinct Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
- Ghostly Goodnight - When standing on line for the Mansion at night, look at the windows! A ghostly image can sometimes be seen going from room to room, holding a flickering candle.All photos copyright Disney
Tickets are now on sale for the
COMMUNICORE WEEKLY 38TH WEEKAVERSARY
EPCOT 30 YEAR ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION!
Come celebrate EPCOT's 30th Anniversary in style with a live taping of MiceChat's Communicore Weekly! Join co-hosts Jeff Heimbuch & George Taylor, along with MiceChat's Dusty Sage and the Communicore Weekly Orchestra, for a fun-filled night of fandom and frivolity as they tape a special hour long episode of the hit show, Communicore Weekly.
Join us on the evening of Saturday, September 29th 2912 in the Norway Pavilion Special Events Lounge in EPCOT's World Showcase for this one of a kind event!
Your ticket includes:
- Admission into the live taping of CW in the Norway Pavilion of EPCOT (note: admission into the park is NOT included)!
- Meet special guest, Ron Schneider, the original Dreamfinder!
- Decadent dessert reception!
- Short scavenger hunt event before the show will be available to those who would like to participate (prizes will be awarded)!
- Prizes, giveaways and more!
- The chance to be a part of EPCOT and Communicore Weekly history!
- Endless Five Legged Goats and perhaps even a real life Bathroom Break!
- Exclusive late night ride after park closing on a selected EPCOT attraction to cap off the evening!
For more tickets and more information, be sure to visit MiceChat.com/store!
by Jeff Heimbuch
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