Okay, that is upsetting. And no, I’m not even talking about the beloved characters who’re colonizing Walt’s pants.
"The Greatest One-Man Show on Earth…invented Disneyland, [the beloved characters who’re colonizing his pants, and] the New York World’s Fair?” Wow. What an uncomfortable way to beg this question:
Here’s Walt’s answer:
“You know, I was stumped one day when a little boy asked, ‘Do you draw Mickey Mouse?’ And I had to admit I do not draw anymore.
“‘Well, then you think up all the jokes and ideas?’
“‘No,’ I said, ‘I don’t do that.’
"Finally, he looked at me and said ‘Mr. Disney, just what do you do?’
“‘Well,’ I said, ‘sometimes I think of myself as a little bee. I go from one area of the Studio to another and gather pollen, and sort of stimulate everyone. I guess that’s the job I do.’”
…and here’s Sinister Walt’s answer:
Asked by enkblogs
"According to the official WED summary of the ride, released in the summer of 1969, you exit the attic window, then you ‘suddenly ‘fall’ backwards off the roof,’ and then you ‘descend past grasping, demon trees.’"
What’s more, he finds (some) merit in the theory that we’ve died.
I think entirely that the ‘you die’ fan scenario is hot air, short version.
As for why so softly - it’s not a thrill ride, that’s the normal doombuggy vehicle speed, and you tilt backwards to look up at the night sky and raven and spooky trees because looking forwards would mean you see…..nothing! (the back of the vehicle in front of you and darkness, which is boring).
Essentially, it’s a stand in for walking down a set of stairs. The Mansion experience is a story which requires a conveyance out of practicality for getting anything resembling a proper amount of guests through the ride in an hour to meet operating capacity. You’re not supposed to think of the vehicle, really, as part of the experience of the story, hence why it is so nondescript - flat black, not decorated. It’s the same exact shape as the AtomMobiles from Inner Space, not a custom design for the Mansion.
Furthermore, the early record released coinciding/a little before the Mansion opened (story and song from the Haunted Mansion) relates exactly the experience guests have inside and tells about the young teenage couple walking upstairs to the second level to see the endless hallway and the rest, then out a broken window onto a widow’s walk from the attic, then down a flight of stairs again to the graveyard. There are no corresponding stairs themselves in the ride because that’s a concession to practicality of vehicles, but the ascent to the hallways is indeed flanked by wooden bannisters from the loading area, and metal ones line the ramp downwards from the attic.
Simply put, the whole thing about ‘you die!’ was a fan concoction at some point because it sounds good and people looking too hard for ‘secret knowledge’ when there’s plenty of obscure Mansion trivia and imagery that actually exists - the sensationalistic/’dark’ being associated with Disney draws more attention. I have read basically every interview with Mansion principles in the E-Ticket magazine (Rolly Crump, Ken Anderson, Marc and Alice Davis, X. Atencio) and scripts and summaries by those who didn’t live long enough to be interviewed in the ‘modern’ fan scene (Claude Coats, Yale Gracey) and no one mentions the symbolic death thing, not even once. It’s not in Jason Surrell’s definitive book either.
If people enjoy the idea, more power to them, but it’s a simple fact that was never intended or implied on a scripted or design level by the Imagineers and writers who actually conceived the Mansion - there’s zero evidence to support that was the intent at any stage.
"Some people have interpreted this as a fatal fall, so that you are now one of them as you make your way through the graveyard jamboree. But the ghosts still ignore you, except for the popup ghosts, who are still trying to scare you, and nothing the Ghost Host says later on suggests a change in your condition. Why you survive the fall unharmed is not explained. One supposes that the same force that compelled you to move through the house (represented by the doombuggy) buoyed you up safely as you softly descended.
"I only bring that up because there is yet another way to read this portion of the ride. Normally, I am cool toward Freudian interpretations, but I have to admit that they work rather well here, so maybe this time there’s something to that approach. The house is the womb in which you have gradually been prepared for entry into another, different world. You fall through the birth canal (and all that dark underbrush, heh heh) and miraculously land unharmed, borne up safely by invisible hands, and now you’re in that other world big time. Ta da, you’ve been born. If you hold to the ‘death’ interpretation of the fall from the attic, this Freudian interpretation plays right into your hands.
"I’m not saying I fully buy into any of this, and I bring it forward with reluctance, because if you give them Freudians an inch they take a mile. ’Yeah, yeah, that’s gotta be it! And notice that the first person you see is a ‘caretaker,’ and why is there no bathroom or bedroom in the Mansion? And…well, you KNOW what Constance and her hatchet are all about, don’t you? DON’T YOU?? And….’"
Personally—I’m a structuralist, so I’m more interested in interpreting the text than I am in guessing the author’s intent—and I think the Mansion supports the idea. And while I admit that none of it is set in stone, I can’t imagine that it’s a coincidence that we enter a graveyard on our backs.
It’s not like they had to fit the ride into a building that already existed, or built the ride and then realized at the last minute that there was no scene linking the attic to the graveyard. It was all made from scratch, and it would’ve been just as easy to build a staircase that would lead us downstairs.
A sign that hung outside of the Haunted Mansion while it was under construction,
written by Imagineer Marty Sklar.
"Walt mentioned the [Haunted Mansion] project during an interview with the BBC in London, as he expressed his sympathy for all of the ghosts that had been displaced from their ancestral homes due to the London blitz during World War II and new construction to make way for modern housing. He then announced that he planned to build a sort of retirement home at Disneyland for all of the world’s homeless spirits. ‘The nature of being a ghost is that they have to perform, and therefore they need an audience,’ Walt said.”— Jason Surrell, the Haunted Mansion: from the Magic Kingdom to the Movies
Wow, Walt. Too soon.
"The scenes [in Storybook Land] are constructed on a one-tenth scale. Conventional landscape treatment would soon have swallowed up all the little houses. Japanese bonsai culture might have provided a solution, but it would have been prohibitively expensive to cover the entire area. Instead, plant material with very small leaves and a relatively slow rate of growth was selected and planted without removing the roots from the containers. Normal growth was thus inhibited and, although in some cases containers disintegrated after four or five years, most of the plants have been permanently retarded. Even so, our gardeners must devote five times as much attention to pruning here as elsewhere in the Park.”— Morgan Evans, Disneyland, World of Flowers
Disneyland: where plant abuse is cute.
"Though not as intricately constructed as a Shakespearean play, a story exists. In fact, Imagineering legend and Disneyland veteran Tony Baxter believes that, in the end, combining the seemingly divergent work of Marc Davis and Claude Coats inadvertently gave the Haunted Mansion a fairly solid three-act structure.
"In Act One, which begins slowly and ominously in the Foyer, guests anticipate the appearance of the happy haunts, and experience poltergeist activity and unseen spirits.
"Madame Leota provides the curtain that separates Act One and Act Two. The medium conjures up the spirits and encourages them to materialize, which they promptly do in the swinging wake in the Grand Hall and the Attic.
"The descent from the attic window into the Graveyard takes guests into Act Three, in which they are completely surrounded by the ghosts who are enjoying the manic intensity of a graveyard jamboree. Finally, one of three Hitchhiking Ghosts materializes beside the guests in their Doom Buggy before the exit."— Jason Surrell, the Haunted Mansion: from the Magic Kingdom to the Movies
And just like that, T-Bax provides one of the most “structureless” attractions with a crystal-clear Experiential Story.
The top photo makes location clear enough - in front of Splash Mountain as you approach via Adventureland, I believe. This is in an intriguing bit of thematic nuance, which as far as I know no Imagineer or designer has ever addressed in print (or been asked about, for that matter) - not mentioned in the Imagineering design ‘pocket’ sized MK edition of the book series the company released in the late-2000’s.
It’s interesting especially as the sign is meant to look ‘defaced’ - the supposed family name of Gastley is crossed out with red paint and ‘Haunted’ scrawled above it, and the arrow added. Why do that at all (from a design standpoint) and not just have it say Haunted to start with? There has to be some kind of intended backstory here, but who knows what it was or what happened to it? The sign would have gone up in the 90’s, so not original to the 1971 park - meaning it’s the brainchild of a relatively recent Imagineer.
Recent additions to the interactive queue area and around Liberty Square muddy the waters further - references are made to a caretaker named Crump (a tribute to Rolly) on a crate going to Gracey Manor, and there’s the ‘Dread Family’ portrayed in the newly-added cartoonish busts outside the attraction - why have busts of all of them on the grounds if they didn’t live/die there? And of course Constance Hatchaway named as the bride adds another potential ‘owner’ to the mix, also relating her to marrying a ‘George Hightower’, who supposedly owned the Mansion at some point (and also a relative of Harrison Hightower from DisneySea’s Tower of Terror).
For all that meandering and indecisive design about ‘who’s Mansion is this anyway?’, I find the simple, easy-to-overlook, puzzling Gastley Mansion sign the most compelling simply because no one knows what the intent was. It’s just an oddity, and a very obscure one, without even the start of a visible ‘reason’. That makes it intriguing.—
I. Emma Spook, on the Magic Kingdom’s version of the Haunted Mansion, and its Diegetic Name
As fascinating as it is, puzzling. What I love about this sign is how it respects the timeframe of Frontierland.
In the Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom, Alex Wright talks about how—as you work your way around the Rivers of America—you travel through different eras of American history. At one end, you have the Mansion, which is set in the early 1700’s, and by the time you reach Splash, you’re in the late 1800’s.
That leaves plenty of time for the Mansion to prosper, and then wither so much that someone would bother to graffiti one of its signs. What a lovely touch.
Star Tours replaced Adventure Thru Inner Space in 1987, this made history as the first Disney flight simulator replaced the first Disney omnimover!
Asked by drownedintheblacklagoon
Fascinating! I’d read about Bloodmere Manor in Jason Surrell’s book, but I hadn’t heard about the Magic Kingdom’s “Gastley Mansion!” Where’s the sign?
I’m on the fence about whether “the Haunted Mansion" is Diegetic or Extra-Diegetic. On the one hand, what a goofy thing to call your house. Surely such a historical site would have a proper name. On the other hand, the Ghost Host does specifically say, "Welcome, foolish mortals, to the Haunted Mansion."
Disneyland’s fireworks show, “Remember Dreams Come True”
Julie Andrews narrating?
Celebrating the park, instead of the movies?
Showcasing Main Street, even though it has no rides?
Featuring the original audio, instead of shrill pop covers?
Haunted Mansion Holiday opens tomorrow for the 13th year (first presentation was in October 2001) of its’ run at Disneyland. This will not be a post rehashing how I feel of it in general, but a specific critique brought on by thinking about the above photo that I expect will be seen as ‘over-thinking’ things by some, and that’s ok.
So, most Disneyland attractions (and WDW, and DisneySea, etc) thrive on being themed to an experience. The safety spiel (required by law) at Big Thunder Mountain famously features a wacky old miner type advising guests in rustic terms to ‘hang on to them hats n’ glasses, cuz this here’s the wildest ride in the wilderness!’. Effort is made to theme most elements as if they exist in the ‘fantasy’ realm of the show happening around the guest - visitors board a ‘tea train’ after walking through a space themed like the former tea export company modified into a museum and a mountain tour operation to take a trip up to Mount Everest, for example, instead of boarding a standard roller coaster vehicle without any adornments or back story. Space Mountain hides functional employee areas behind doors marked ‘Spaceport Staff Only’. Small things which make the logistical aspects of operating a themed attraction part of the show, rather than distracting from it with ‘real-world’ concessions (this is ‘giving a pass’ to things that law requires like standard EXIT signs and the like which can’t be obscured or made more themed).
Which brings us to the above photo, the exterior of Haunted Mansion Holiday as it prepares to open tomorrow to guests. The themed story of the attraction overlay is relatively clear, even if I am not overly fond of it myself: Jack Skellington is visiting the Haunted Mansion to share his new discovery of Christmas with the spectral inhabitants, via the presents, decorations, etc. His coffin sleigh is landed on the roof, the countdown clock outside says ‘000’ days till Christmas meaning that in the story, ‘today’ is in fact the Big Day, the Ghost Host addresses what is happening, etc. As a visitor, you’re seeing it each time as the ‘first’ time Jack visits, bringing along these changes. It’s a fixed temporal point or the same story each time you see it, and theoretically exists in its’ own fantasy universe where it’s not a theme park overlay, but a incursion into the Burton stop-motion film world ‘invading’ the New Orleans based-Mansion haunted by ghosts of seemingly normal humans, alongside some other various wraiths and ghouls (which I’ve got issues with, but that’s a ghost story for another day).
Accepting that the attraction experience of Haunted Mansion Holiday is intended to be a specific story of the first time Skellington visited the Mansion to decorate - why is there a plastic, cheesy sign draped across the front talking about 13 frightfully fun seasons? That’s a concession to it being entirely an amusement park overlay - such willfully denies the ‘fantasy’ set up so carefully within and the story concept, and was a deliberate choice by someone to fabricate a piece specifically for display that acknowledges the Disneyland experience is false and a repeating designed event, instead of the carefully-crafted touches of ‘reality’ that are a hallmark of the best of Disney themed design (the campfire and clothesline and mining artifacts alongside Big Thunder Mountain, tool kits and supply boxes and medical office at the Jungle Cruise, etc etc.).
So yes, while some may see this as not a big deal overall, I am honestly a little disappointed by this being a deliberate design element someone decided was ‘needed’ - as it purposefully shreds the sense of illusion and storytelling, the ‘reality’ of the fantastic, that is Disneyland’s stock-in-trade. And that’s baffling to me, frankly - that no one on the inside saw it that way, or did, and that it happened anyway. Are there bigger deal things with the company overall? Certainly, but I seem to recall Walt anecdotes aplenty about how even the smallest detail (the wrong scale fence on Main Street or trees being the wrong size or his belief that giraffes didn’t have vocal chords or choosing an expensive one-of-a-kind chandelier for a tray slide food location) for his theme park was important to him, to set up his fantasy world. So a deliberate choice to advertise something as a repeat event instead of the fantasy experience it was designed as strikes me as very counter-intuitive and even bizarre: to deny the essence of what the ‘Disneyland difference’ means. But those are just my thoughts.
I don’t like living in a world where someone feels the need to rationalize making an obvious, well-articulated point. Everyone else: smarten up. We shouldn’t have to waste time pandering to you.
This is an interesting subject, because it strays into David Younger’s theory of Diegetic and Extra-Diegetic Attraction Names. In short:
"Attraction names divide into those which are diegetic and those which are extra-digetic, the deciding question here being whether a fictional character in the presented environment would call the attraction by the same name as a guest. […]
"Diegesis is generally favoured because it continues the illusion of the environment. Compare Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to Runaway Mine Train: the first maintains the premise of really being back in the wild American frontier, organically experiencing the same events that a cowboy might come across, whilst the second is discernibly fake and manufactured—if the fictional characters in the attraction’s world knew it would run away, they would have stopped it.”
David kind of shrugs his shoulders at how to use Extra-Diegetic Names—or for that matter, Extra-Diegetic Banners—effectively.
"Assuming a goal of creating seamless fantasy environments in which an attraction is just a logical extension of what the characters in that world might get up to, the extra-diegetic attraction name seems somewhat problematic, isolating the attraction as a distinct entity. …the general solution has been to accept the name as a manifestation of Theme Park Acknowledgement. Attraction names cannot always be digetic…and so designers have chosen to embrace this, devising names of wonderfully theatrical and cinematic proportions, such as the Haunted Mansion, Revenge of the Mummy, or Space Mountain: de la Terre à la Lune.”
And, like, that’s fine, but surely there’s more to it than that. What makes an Extra-Diegetic Name effective or ineffective?
Why does the name “the Tower of Terror" sound enticing, whereas the name "Stitch’s Great Escape" sound like a spoiler? Why does the ungrammatical name "Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters" feel appropriate, while the name "Roger Rabbit Car Toon Spin" sounds like it was poorly translated from Japanese? What’s the right way to phrase a "Celebrating 13 Frightfully Fun Seasons" banner on the Haunted Mansion Holiday?
I don’t have these answers yet, but they’re worth pondering.
((You guys don’t know steampunk until you head on over to this awesome little slice of heaven over here in Baltimore. This is a repurposed power plant that was built in 1900 that was converted into a Barnes and Nobel. It boasts a good selection of books, has the obligatory Starbucks inside with an awesome view of the city, but also has a really neat and informative aquarium that features wildlife you’d find in the bay! This is one awesome looking place to read. If you guys ever visit me up here in Maryland, we’d totally visit this Barnes and Noble.))
*barfs from over-excitement*
This is awesome.
Now imagine a Tomorrowland like this, and welcome to my ideal castle park.
"The Ghost with the Most"
Beetlejuice/Haunted Mansion mashup.
I would’ve exploded if I’d seen this when I was little. These were my earliest fandoms. One of my sister’s first words was “Beetlejuice” because I wouldn’t shut up about it.
So apparently Goofy took a child’s bubble gun and shot Officer Blue with it. I stumbled upon this disaster quite confused.
Jesus, look at his face.
GOOFY FEELS NO REMORSE