The Haunted Mansion, Pg. 2

From the August 6, 1999 Disneyland Line Newsletter:


This is the lakeside estate of the unfortunate Blood family....Our house had a tragic and bloody history of unlucky owners who died sudden and violent deaths, which resulted in their unhappy ghosts remaining behind to fulfill the uncompleted missions f their lives...We started the work of restoration as soon as it arrived at Disneyland, but strangely enough, the work of each day was destroyed during the night. It mysteriously remains always night within the house...We recommend that you stay close together during your visit, and please, above all, obey your guide's instructions...So begins a never-recorded script written for Walt Disney as an introduction the Haunted Mansion. As originally planned, the attraction told the tale of a wealthy sailing merchant who built the home for his young bride. After moving into the home, she discovered her husband's secret identity--Captain Gore, a bloodthirsty pirate. In a rage, the Captain murdered his bride. Her ghost sought revenge, walking the attic and eventually driving him to hang himself. Together, they walk the halls of their Haunted Mansion. Forever.By the time the Haunted Mansion opened, there was almost no trace of the original tale--except for the ship weather vane, the body hanging in the Mansion's cupola, and the bride who haunts the attic, her love demonstrated by her glowing, beating heart.A haunted house was always planned for Disneyland--one appears at the end of Main Street in many early Park renderings. By 1957, plans moved the house to Frontierland next to a planned "pirate museum." Following Walt's insistence that this haunted house be a Mansion whose exterior showed no signs of age or decay, Imagineers completed the exterior of the stately southern estate in 1963. But then the history of the Haunted Mansion takes a long detour.First, Disneyland plans went on hold so Imagineers could focus on the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. In the process of designing the fair's four Disney attractions, they learned a lot about moving Guests. The result was that both Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion changed from walk-through to ride-through attractions.Then we lost Walt himself in 1966. Without Walt's guiding vision, debates raged whether the Haunted Mansion should be frightening or lighthearted. The "funny" camp finally won, and the songwriters who created "Yo Ho, Yo Ho" for Pirates of the Caribbean came up with a "ghost song" that had the same fun feel. "Grim Grinning Ghosts" -- a name that makes fun of Hollywood cliches by staying just on the verge of (but never uses) the "Devil's Interval" used in horror movies!For six years, Guests had gazed through locked gates, wondering what lurked inside. They finally found out on August 9, 1969--and the Haunted Mansion became an immediate Park favorite!But the story didn't end there. "Ghost Relations" continued to receive applications, and in 1995, a new hearse appeared on the front walk. Perhaps it brought the sea-captain groom back to his bride--after all, it's his shadow that now plays an eerie "Wedding March" on the broken piano near his bride.








I worked for Disney Television animation, and one year around Christmas time, they closed the park early on a weeknight and held a Christmas party there. The night was really fun; the lines were short and I had never gone on the Indiana Jones ride so many times in a row before! But the absolute most fun I had on any attraction that night was on the Haunted Mansion. We got on and the entire room was filled with Disney-ites who knew every line of dialogue in the foyer-elevator area verbatim. The whole room repeated every word all the way down and came out cracking up at the bottom. Of the many times I have been on that attraction throughout my life, that was my very favorite time.


April-December Haunted Mansion portraitBACKSTORY: In 2005, the changing portrait gallery was changed. April December was removed, the Gorgon was swapped into her slot, and the Master Gracey changing portrait from the Walt Disney World Mansion foyer was given the center spot. The portraits were “repainted” to utilize a new projection technique, and the slow-dissolve transformations gave way to the original lightning-cued flash transformations that opened the attraction (although Marc Davis had envisioned slow dissolves during the early imagineering stages of the effect). For a period of time, the April-December portrait appeared as a prop of outdoor decor in New Orleans Square.



Paul Sanders photoPaul Saunders, an Imagineer at WED Enterprises during the 1960s and 1970s, was kind enough to contribute the material for today's post. Paul Saunders was educated at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois 1952 to 1955 and the University of Colorado 1956. He started his independent career in industrial and product design. He then settled his Colorado office with architectural design and build from 1957-1964. Seeking employment at a ski resort project to further his passion for mountain architecture, he discovered Walt Disney's Mineral King ski resort project and applied for employment at WED Enterprises in 1965. He moved from the Aspen, Colorado area with his family to South Pasadena to start work with other new hires at WED. His viewpoint comes from working under his mentor, Victor Greene. Paul was in charge of projects in Disneyland's Tomorrowland makeover with Monsanto's Adventure Through Inner Space, followed by leading a team to complete the Haunted Mansion. He created construction drawings for façades of New Orleans Square buildings and the designs for the Blue Bayou. For Walt Disney World, he designed the Skyway from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland and the Goodyear Autopia race track. He was recruited in 1972 as project designer by Randall Duel and Associates AIA of Santa Monica. From that position he became the head of theme park ride design with the singular achievement of designing the first modern loop roller coaster for Magic Mountain, Valencia California. Since then he has been independent with ride consulting, fiber optic display design, and architectural custom home design until his retirement in 2013.

Take it away, Paul!

I worked at WED Enterprise starting in 1965 with many new designers and draftsmen as plans for many attractions in Tomorrowland were to change or be added to this area. My work was under Vic Greene and I was given an assignment for the new attraction of Monsanto's Adventure Through Inner Space. The concept of turntable loading and off loading from the Omnimover cars (shown above) in constant motion was new and made the difference for successful dark rides.

Once finished with ATIS, Vic asked me to take over the completion of the Haunted Mansion using the same Omnimover. However, I could not find the space for turntables and suggested using moving "sidewalks" manufactured by Stevens-Adams company in Aurora, Illinois, my home town. They worked just as well. I studied the sequencing of the two twenty foot diameter elevators so that we did not push too many people into the hall below.

Blaine Gibson Tea Cup Witch model from Haunted Mansion photoDisneyland Haunted Mansion Cemetery photoOne day I was near the elevator doors in the lower hall and I noticed a painter wood graining the dark doors. I asked why he was doing that since people would be in dim light going away with their backs to the doors. He said "well, Walt would have wanted it that way." And of course he was right! It was always the plus of extra details that made Disneyland. Blaine Gibson gave me this little model of the tea cup witch that sat in the graveyard set, shown in the photo at left. (Note from Daveland: The photo at right is the closest thing in the HM I could find that matched the model.) I was not one of the designers of gags for the Haunted Mansion but had some input on occasion. In the expanding paintings in the elevators, there came up a question of how to expand the side frame moldings. I suggested making them out of soft rubber or similar material to unroll out of the bottom frame as the paintings expanded with the elevators going down.

The gryphon was designed by Stan (can't remember his last name). He was Polish and a good friend. One day we were walking together on the back lot of the studio when he suddenly stopped. I asked him what the matter was. He said that the barn we were looking at reminded him of the time he and his mother were running from the Nazis. The officer called for the men to come out of the barn. One did and was promptly shot. He went out and his mother came running out pleading to have his life spared. The officer said to turn around and head back to the barn. He thought for sure he would be shot in the back, but kept going and in fact ran around the barn and escaped. His mother caught up with him some time later and the two immigrated later to Argentina. Stan had a collection from there of beautiful moths and butterflies that I talked him into showing to a church group. I saw the gryphons on each side of the track leading away from the moving sidewalk while working, but I was upset that they were hard to see with the lights down so dim when the HM was in operation.

Many thanks to Paul for generously sharing his recollections of working at Disneyland!