Things You're Just Supposed to Know

Most of the time, Long-Forgotten assumes that its readers are already familiar with basic facts
about the Haunted Mansion. If you wanna keep up with the big boys, I suggest you check out
first of all the website, Doombuggies.com. After that, the best place to go is Jason Surrell's book,
The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies (NY: Disney Editions, 2003; 2nd ed. 2009).

This site is not affiliated in any way with any Walt Disney company. It is an independent
fan site dedicated to critical examination and historical review of the Haunted Mansions.
All images that are © Disney are posted under commonly understood guidelines of Fair Use.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

A Postscript on Changing Portraits at the Cabaret du Néant

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In discussing the changing paintings in the first room of the Cabaret, I've mentioned twice now that Albert Hopkins, in his 1901 book, Magic: Stage Illusions and Scientific Diversions, explains the effect as a thin cloth painted on both sides, with the back scene visible only when the painting is lit from behind.  Well, it's possible that Hopkins offered this explanation because such a gimmick actually existed, proving that it could be done that way.  I recently came across this interesting item:


It's a Parisian lithograph from about 1830 featuring a scene based on Henry Fuseli's 1781 painting, The Nightmare.  The little devil is visible only when the lithograph is lit from behind.  Notice also the night/day transition.  I still don't think this can fully account for the effect used at the Cabaret du Néant, but could this have been what Hopkins had in mind?  Regardless, it's an interesting example of a 19th c. changing portrait trick with a horror theme.
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1 comment:

  1. As a kid, I visited the mansions on both costs in the mid 70s. I loved them, and would recreate some effects a few years later for an elementary school Haunted House where my cousin attended. I made a cardboard frame with sides, and cut the front to be a frame and glued in a large sheet of paper. On the front was my colored drawing of an old man. On the other side I drew in the dark skeleton. I used one of those old plug adapters that would make Christmas lights blink, and out mac loa amp light behind it so his skeleton would light up. This was what an 11-year old thought those changing portraits were.

    Looks like my timing was off by quite a few decades! Fun times. (My attempts to make fake flames with wax paper, a fan, and a red light were maybe a bit closer to the tech in Pirates, but far less effective.)

    Humble beginnings of a backyard Imagineer.

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