August 9th means another year older for the Haunted Mansion, the somewhat miracle attraction at the corner of New Orleans Square. And with each passing year, the stately manor becomes more and more popular with newer generations.
The Mansion is a perfect storm of sequences that all came together to create one of the most unique attractions in the world. For starters, most of it was designed without the leadership of the man himself, Walt Disney. Walt had his hand in everything that came out of WED Enterprises and the Haunted Mansion wouldn’t have been an exception. Without Walt around, WED had to fend for themselves, making decisions largely as a committee which had never happened before Disney Legend John Hench, who did his best to fill in the leadership position left behind by Walt, challenged WED to find out wether all their success was attributed to his guidance. Could they make an attraction all on their own?
The Haunted Mansion would’ve been a completely different attraction had it opened when it was supposed to in the early 1960’s. Initial plans called for a “Museum of the Weird” experience that would’ve had Guests explore the haunted interior on foot. This could very well have been the Mansion we experience today if it weren’t for the unexpected need for Walt and his team to assist with the New York Worlds Fair. At the World’s fair, WED was able to develop all new technology, cost free for the different pavilions. This led to what we now know as the Omnimover, which cycles thousands of Guests through the attraction daily.
But what makes us love this house of macabre as much as we do? Is it the regal yet unnerving antebellum manor designed by Ken Anderson that sat for years before anyone was able to look inside? The Mansion loomed over New Orleans Square for 6 years since, as mentioned earlier, WED was busy with the Worlds Fair which unintentionally added to its legend. Is it the ethereal sound of the Ghost Host as he welcomes us into the unknown? Paul Frees’ voice alongside script by X Atencio perfectly set the tone for what’s to come. Is their a better beginning to an attraction then this? Or is it the legendary stretching room that still confounds people to this day? This imagineering masterpiece by Marc Davis solves a unique problem and entertains audiences at the same time.
Who isn’t a fan of the instantly recognizable “doom buggies” that silently glide from room to room? The Omnimover system designed by Roger Broggie is arguably the most famous theme park vehicle in existence. It’s combination of endless transit for maximum occupancy alongside 360 degree rotation to convey story is without equal.
Many fans of spooks, specters, and haunted hallways appreciate the work of Claude Coats, Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey. These 3 Disney Legends worked together to design the creepy, off putting sets, and the spirits that reside within them. Claude was a master at creating moody surroundings and characterless environments while Rolly and Yale perfected the “Peppers Ghost” effect which still confuses and delights Guests of all ages as it did when it debuted in 1969.
Is their a more famous theme park character than Madame Leota? The visage of Leota Toombs combined with incantations chillingly voiced by Eleanor Audley create the iconic character who’s seance room instantly became a fan favorite. I would be remiss to forget the toe tapping “Grim Grinning Ghosts” composed by Buddy Baker and written by the aforementioned X Atencio.
Why we love the Haunted Mansion may be something that can’t be explained. Disneyland and the attractions and experiences within it touch the heart and feed the soul of so many that walk through it’s gates and while many may have trouble explaining it, they know the feeling. This unique attraction continues to entertain and inspire with its simple yet elegant way of storytelling and use of special effects.
What is your favorite thing about the Haunted Mansion?