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Grimm Grinning Ghosts
This well loved attraction--filled with 999 happy haunts--spent over 15 years in development, was worked on by a large number of Imagineers--each trying to come up with an idea good enough to be placed in the attraction--and is considered to be a defining milestone in Disney history. Walt died in 1966 while the Haunted Mansion attraction was still in development, it took imagineers a long time to recover from his death and to continue on with attraction development. It is said this project was a test of storts, to see if Disney--the company--could continue without Disney the man.
Disneyland's Mansion opened in August of 1969 and the Magic Kingdom Mansion opened only 2 years later in October of 1971. So, the two are quite similar because they were being built at nearly the same time. The Magic Kingdom version is however slightly longer because there was room in the park for a larger show building.
The idea for a haunted attraction appears in one of the first illustrations drawn up for Disneyland park. The illustration showed a main street setting with green fields, western village, and a carnival. Disney legend Harper Goff developed a black and white sketch of a crooked street leading away from main street by a peaceful church and graveyard, with a run-down manor perched high on a hill that towered over main street. Such an attraction was not part of Disneyland on opening but when plans were made a few years later to add New Orleans Square to the park, promotional materials stated there would be a walk-through haunted house. Disney assigned Imagineer Ken Anderson to make a story around the Harper Goff idea.
After being assigned this project, Anderson studied New Orleans and old plantations to come up with a 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. Walt, however, did not want a run down house in is pristine park. Walt said, "We'll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside." 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.
Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey (who's name is featured on one of the head stones in the pic below), two Imagineers put in charge of the spectral effects, recreated many of Ken Anderson's stories. Disney 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. Some of these effects frightened the cleaning crews that came in at night to such an extent that the management eventually asked the crew to leave on the lights and to turn off the effects after hours. Defying this, Crump and Gracey connected all the effects to a motion-sensitive switch that, when passed, would turn everything on. The next day when the two returned to work, all the effects were running with a broom in the middle of the floor. Management told them that they would have to clean the studio themselves, because the cleaning crew was never coming back.
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, many of the ideas lived on in the final attraction.
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 included ideas from both of the Imagineers in the final attraction.
While originally designed to be a walk through attraction, Imagineers were not satisfied and wanted a way to make the attraction higher capacity; a way to get more guests through more quickly. Attraction development for 1964-65 World's Fair and Ford's Magic Skyway pavilion provided an answer to the capacity problem: the Omnimover. The Omnimover is a ride conveyance system where the ride vehicles never stop, instead guests board the cars while on a moving walkway beside the car. The Omnimover cars in the Haunted Mansion are referred to as Doom Buggys.
Because the Magic Kingdom Mansion is located in Liberty Square's colonial setting it was given a Dutch Gothic Revival style look based on older northeastern mansions, particularly those in older areas of Pennsylvania and in the Hudson River Valley region of New York. The mansion is surrounded by large oak trees donned with spanish moss, red maples, and pines, all of which are native to Florida.
The attraction showcases a number of age-old tricks, advanced special effects, and spectral Audio-Animatronics. The Haunted Mansion also features a pre-show where guests enter a stretching room and are challanged to 'find a way out' of the 'doorless chamber'. The stretching room serves a practical purpose in Disneyland though. Disneyland's Mansion is inside the railroad tracks while its show building is outside of the railroad track berm, thus guests must be taken down and under the tracks to the other side resulting in an elevator disguised as a stretching room. Guests familiar with both Disneyland and Disney World know that the stretching room experience is nearly identical in each park, but Disney World's attraction does not have an elevator; guests exit on the same level they entered.
Note the monument pictured below (lower right), feeds into the supposed storyline that says the Mansion belongs to a sailor who had 7 brides.
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