Happy Halloween, y’all! What better way to celebrate than to dig into the history of the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disney parks! I absolutely love Halloween! I am that person when it hits October, I bring out all of my Halloween clothing and decorations. I am also not ashamed to admit most of my decorations and clothing feature the Haunted Mansion!!
The idea of the Haunted Mansion was conceptualized in the 1950s while Walt Disney was creating the idea of Disneyland. While designing Disneyland, Walt Disney had the idea of having “an old house on the hill” sitting right off of Main Street. The thought of an old house then brought the idea of haunted houses. Disney turned to Imagineer Ken Anderson to create a “ghost house” along with conceptual artist Harper Groff.
As planning started taking shape, the original idea was to create this attraction as a walkthrough of a run-down old house matching the New Orleans theme of the section it would be set in. Disney, however, wanted it to still look properly maintained, creators then used inspiration from a Victorian house in Baltimore to complete Disney’s vision.
The mansion would also feature maids and butlers acting as guides. The maids and butlers would lead guests through the mansion as they told the spooky story behind the mansion involving a sea captain and his bride. The backstory of the mansion continued to grow until Imagineers decided that it didn’t necessarily need an official beginning and end, instead, they left that imagination to the guests.
The history of the Haunted Mansion states the exterior of the building was completed in 1963, bust sadly sat unused through the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair due to the Imagineer’s time being consumed with creating those attractions. It wasn’t until after Disney’s death in 1966 that Imagineers picked back up construction on this attraction. New on the creation of the attraction were Imagineers Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey. Crump and Gracey decided to pull from their knowledge from the New York World’s Fair and add Audio-Animatronics, “doom mobiles” as an Omnimover and more, to add to the appeal of the attraction. Gracey was also responsible for creating a large amount of the mansion’s special effects, including giving a see-through effect to one of everyone’s favorite ghost, Marc Davis’ Hatbox Ghost character.
The attraction eventually opened at Disneyland on August 9, 1969. Due to increasing popularity among the attraction at Disneyland, Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion quickly opened its doors on October 1, 1971, with the park.
As you enter and exit the attraction at the Magic Kingdom you might notice a few tombstones that seem eerily familiar. Not only did Imagineers work tirelessly on this attraction they might still haunt the attraction to this day! The attraction features tombstones in the graveyard honoring Imagineers Marc Davis and Claude Coats which reads “Brother Claude and Grandpa Marc.” Also included are Imagineer Tony Baxter as “Brother Dave,” Yale Gracey as the one-and-only “Master Gracey” and X. Atencio, who scripted the ride and lyrics of “Grim Grinning Ghosts,” as “Francis Xavier.”
As you enter into your doom buggy your will hear from your ghost host who is voiced by Paul Frees. Who has also voiced Ludgwin Von Drake, Boris Badenov from Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon series and even the Pillsbury Doughboy! The famous Madame Leota’s featured in the attraction is the face of Leota Toombs, who created designs for many other Disney attractions. The voice of Madame Leota, however, belongs to Eleanor Audley, who is also the voice of Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent. However, even though Toombs didn’t voice Madame Leota, you can still hear Toombs’ voice at the end of the Haunted Mansion ride when you see the “Little Leona” bride.
The ride also features many special effects throughout the ride. However, the most notable special effects are the dancing ballroom ghosts of course! This effect is created by using illuminated objects reflecting onto a pane of glass! Lastly, the pipe organ in the ballroom scene of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion is the same organ used by Captain Nemo in Disney’s “20,000 leagues Under the Sea.” However, the organs in the other park’s Haunted Mansion are all replicas.
I hope you enjoyed the History of the Haunted Mansion! Enjoy the ghosts who come out to socialize on this amazingly haunting attraction.
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