August 11, 2009

Haunted Orgins

The Haunted Mansion was being planned and conceptualized by the designers before Disneyland was built, when Walt Disney had just hired the first of his Imagineers. The first known illustration of the park showed a main street setting, green fields, western village, and a carnival. Harper Goff developed a beautiful black and white sketch of a crooked street leading away from main street leading by a peaceful church and graveyard, with a run-down manor perched high on a hill that towered over main street.While not part of the original attractions when Disneyland opened in 1955, Walt assigned Imagineer Ken Anderson, to make a story around the Harper Goff idea, and design of his new 'grim grinning' adventure. Plans were made to build a New Orleans themed land in the small transition area between Frontierland and Adventureland. Weeks later New Orleans Square appeared on the souvenir map and promised a thieves' market, a pirate wax museum, and a haunted house walk-through. After being assigned his project, Ken studied New Orleans and old plantations to come up with a dirty drawing of an antebellum manor overgrown with weeds, dead trees, swarms of bats, and boarded doors and windows topped by a screeching cat as a weathervane.Despite praise from other Imagineers, Walt wasn't too thrilled with this drawing, hence his well known saying, "We'll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside." Despite this, Walt journeyed out to the Winchester Mystery House and became deeply captivated with the massive mansion with its stairs to nowhere, doors that open to walls and holes, and elevators. Ken came up with stories for the mansion including tales of a ghostly sea captain who killed his nosy bride and then hanged himself, a mansion home to an unfortunate family, and a ghostly wedding party with previous Disney villains and spooks like Captain Hook, Lonesome Ghosts, and the headless horseman. Some of the Universal Monsters were even planned to appear. The one sea captain idea, was originally intitled "Bloodmere Manor", where the fictional Captain Blood (Bloodmere/Gore) and family met their demise in the Haunted Mansion, or the other where it revolved around the Captain and his Bride meeting their demise. Rolly Crump said it would be "a tale of a sea captain who drownd at sea, and he comes back in a murderous rage to destroy his bride."Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey, two Imagineers put in charge of the spectral effects, recreated many of Ken Anderson's stories. Walt gave them a large studio at WED enterprises; they studied reports of hauntings and Greek myths and monster movies, eventually making quite a show in their private studio. The duo made a scene where a ghostly sea captain appeared from nowhere. Suddenly a wretched bride emerged from a brick wall and chased the ghost around in circles. The frightened pirate melted into a puddle and flooded the entire scene only for the water to mysteriously vanish with the bride. "A ghost haunted by a ghost!" Rolly told Walt between chuckles. Walt and the Imagineers were amazed, but Walt still didn't like how the project was coming out. That put the mansion on hold for quite some time.So, the decision was made to place it in the New Orleans Square section of the park, and thus the attraction was themed as a haunted antebellum mansion. In 1961, handbills announcing a 1963 opening of the Haunted Mansion were given out at Disneyland's main entrance.Construction began a year later, and the exterior was completed in 1963. The attraction was previewed in a 1965 episode of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, but the attraction itself would not open until 1969. The six-year delay owed heavily to Disney's involvement in the New York World's Fair in 1964–1965 and to an attraction redesign after Walt's death in 1966.Many Imagineers such as Marc Davis, X Atencio, and Claude Coats contributed ideas after the fair and after Ken left the project. Rolly Crump showed Walt some designs for his version showing bizarre things like coffin clocks, candle men, talking chairs, man eating plants, tiki like busts, living gypsy wagons, and a faced mirror. Walt liked this and wanted to make the proclaimed "Museum of the Weird" a restaurant side to the now named Haunted Mansion, similar to the Blue Bayou at Pirates of the Caribbean. Although the idea died off, most of it lived on in the final attraction.Another idea for the "Museum of Weird" was to have it in two parts: the main walkthrough, and the queue or "spill area". The Museum of Weird creations would have been in the preshow area of the Haunted Mansion. Marc Davis and Claude Coats, two of the mansion's main designers, were in a constant argument over whether the ride should be scary or funny. Claude, who had a life of a background artist, made moody surroundings like endless hallways, corridors of doors, and characterless environments, wanted to make a scary adventure. Marc, who designed most of the characters and zany spooks, thought that the ride should be classic Disney silly and full of gags. In the end both got their way when X. put all the scenes together.After Walt's death in December 1966, the project evolved significantly. The Museum of the Weird restaurant idea was abandoned, and the walkthrough idea was replaced by the Omnimover system used in Adventure Thru Inner Space, renamed the Doom Buggy, a promising solution to the problem of capacity. Imagineers had been fighting the low-capacity nature of a walkthrough attraction for years, even going so far as suggesting building two identical attractions to get double the number of guests through.

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