One of the sites I frequent is Ain’t It Cool, where I get my daily dose of behind the scenes Hollywood news from a bunch of fine movie and tv fanatics like moi. In this post, Ain’t It Cool columnist Quint presents a YouTube video that’s kind of . . . cool. It’s just another layer of magic and wonder about the best attraction at Disneyland. And if this really does show a ghost leaving the Haunted Mansion, then that means there really is . . .
In this post, I showed examples from different sources that I believe were used by the creators of Disney’s Haunted Mansion as influences.
This E.C. comic from the 1950s is one source that I believe at least partly inspired the seance room scene with Madame Leota.
But I’ve found another possible influence that, because it was a film, I believe may even be more of an influence on Disney’s designers. I wouldn’t have known anything about it if Svengoolie hadn’t broadcast on MeTV a Rondo Hatton movie from the 1940s…a movie in the Inner Sanctum series of horror/thriller films, each of which was introduced by…
Madame Leota’s forefather? You make the call…
THANK YOU FOR THE LOVE!
Because I struck up a new friendship with Jeff Baham, Dark Webmaster Chef Mayhem at the impressive and gorgeous doombuggies.com, and the author of the equally impressive and gorgeous The Unauthorized story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion, a single note on Jeff’s Facebook page has led to more than 1600 hits–in about 19 hours!–on my most recent blogpost about the Haunted Mansion (which is here). Thanks to Jeff for the mention, and thank you readers and fans of the Haunted Mansion.
In that post, I suggested that Imagineers had looked at the EC Comics horror titles from the ’50s for inspiration for the Haunted Mansion, and Jeff pointed me to the Long-Forgotten website, where blogger HBG2 conducts
EXPLORATIONS OF DISNEY’S HAUNTED MANSION. RUMINATIONS AND REVELATIONS CONCERNING THE HISTORY AND ARTISTRY OF THE DISNEY PARKS’ RICHEST AND MOST ECCENTRIC MASTERPIECE. BASED ON THE MICECHAT DISCUSSION BOARD PHENOMENON, “LONG-FORGOTTEN HAUNTED MANSION EFFECT.”
Late in 2010, HBG2 posted about a LOT of possible inspirations, including one I caught myself, and one I didn’t. Here’s the one I didn’t, and HBG2’s explanation.
One inspiration that we have previously pointed out is “The Old Witch,” an EC comics “host” character who graced the covers of Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, and Haunt of Fear comics in the early 1950’s. “The Old Witch” obviously served as the model for Marc Davis’s Hatchet Man:
But once we know that Davis was flipping through these old comics, one can’t help wondering about other items that come up…
Well, we know that the hanging-man gag goes back to Ken Anderson (’57-’58), and the stretching portrait gallery goes back to Yale and Rolly (’59-’61), all of this being before Marc Davis came on board (’64), so even if you’re suspicious, it’s hard to know where this one fits in. It’s old enough (1954) to have been an influence on Anderson, theoretically.
So, that at least answers my questions. Yes, EC’s terror tomes certainly did inspire elements inside the Haunted Mansion, and probably a few created by Marc Davis and Ken Anderson, if not others.
Thanks to Jeff and HBG2 for the research!
Everybody who’s ever been to Disneyland or Walt Disney World has a favorite attraction. Mine has always been and will probably always be the Haunted Mansion.
Like the ancient and wizened geek I am, I’ve always been interested in the origins of the Mansion, both in terms of its special effects and whatever sources were influences to its designers. I covered most of the FX in two articles I wrote for Storyboard Magazine way back in 1989 (under my real first name, Howard). Specific influences, however, have been harder to confirm. I guessed years ago that the Hallway of Doors was based on a scene in Robert Wise’s 1960 film, The Haunting. But it wasn’t until 2009 (that I know of) that one of the Mansion’s designers admitted they studied The Haunting for ideas.
For Christmas, my wife gave me a copy of The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion by Jeff Baham. (You can order it here.) It’s the book I’ve been waiting for, and I say that not because my articles from 1989 were used in its research (and, thank you, Jeff!), but because it’s as exhaustive as it could possibly be. This is the Haunted Mansion book I’ve always wanted: no Disney-approved fluff. Just pure, unadulterated facts and interviews all about my favorite house of dark shadows.
In 2009, I stumbled upon a couple of possible influences from the ’50s that, before, I never would have guessed the original designers ever saw. In hindsight, they make perfect sense, especially since we’re talking about Imagineers who had been pimply-faced comic readers only a very few years before when these comics had been published…and perhaps their children were reading them, too.
Here are some covers from EC Comics, the highly-influential and notorious publishers of the sui generis Tales From the Crypt. I can see the Imagineers in the 1960s, looking for inspirations on which to design gags and rooms for the Haunted Mansion. As far as I know–and I haven’t finished Jeff Baham’s book yet–these possible sources have never before been mentioned by Imagineers. And if you’ve ever read any of the comics or seen the HBO show that was based on them, you’ll know that they embody the same combination of humor and horror as does the Haunted Mansion.
You be the judge:
Did this inspire Madam Leota’s seance?
Was this the original caretaker at the graveyard?
Was this layout the inspiration for the mirror alcoves and their respective Hitchhiking Ghosts at the end of the attraction?
Did this cover inspire the coffin scene?
And was this the inspiration for the Ghost Host and the Stretching Room? Note the elongated angle, and the portraits on each side. It’s almost exactly what you see from below as lightning strikes high above you in the Mansion.
In 2009, I wrote a post on my old blog about the Haunted Mansion. I’ve revised and repurposed it here.
I just finished reading a graphic novel that my wife gave me for Christmas. Seekers of the Weird is a compilation of issues from Marvel/Disney’s title of the same name, which is based very loosely on concepts and artwork created in the ’60s by Disney Imagineer Rolly Crump.
As a Haunted Mansion historian, Crump and his sketches are what made this book interesting for me. Walt Disney assigned Crump in 1959 to come up with ideas for the Haunted Mansion he wanted to build in Disneyland. Crump took off, designing fixture after feature–the whole story, in his own words, is here–for a walk-through Haunted Mansion attraction.
Painting by Rolly Crump
Walt liked Crump’s designs and sketches, but wanted to create an attraction around them at the end of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion…a Museum of the Weird. Those sketches inspired the creators of Seekers of the Weird to create an comic book 55 years later, and for me they’re the best part of the book. The story and art are great, especially for a younger, action-oriented audience, but the real spirit of the book for me is embodied in Crump’s original art. This volume belongs on the bookshelf with other Haunted Mansion-related titles. I only wish Disney would take some of this unseen art and make either an art book or posters and prints available to the public.
Check out Rolly Crump’s memoirs here.