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).

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fan site dedicated to critical examination and historical review of the Haunted Mansions.
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Is the See-Saw Just So-So?

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If I were asked which full tableau in the Haunted Mansion has attracted the least interest, I would have to pick the royal playground scene—the king and queen on a teeter-totter and the duchess on a swing [although I might be persuaded now to put them in second place].  That duchess, poor thing, is the lowest of the low, since most people speak of the scene with reference to the royal couple or the see-saw without even mentioning her.  She's a smart choice for the audio-animatronic ghost least likely to occupy the #1 slot on anyone's list of favorites.

Alas, no love for the royal playground.

And yet, no one seems to hate the scene either.  It's not even disliked.  I may never have heard anyone rhapsodizing over it, but I've never heard anyone put it down either.  So weird.  The scene is practically long-forgotten even though it's still there!

One reason I myself have never done anything with it is that it's another one of those Marc Davis gags that went from sketch to maquettes to finished production figures with very little alteration, much like the opera singers, so there isn't much to say about the scene's development.





If you think those look alike, here's another shot of the maquettes placed within the scale model, and below it is a photo of the real
deal, taken from the 1969 pre-opening film footage shot by WED.  You need more than a casual glance in order to tell the difference.


Naturally, the presentation gains in spookiness with more realistic photography of the scene as it appears under true show conditions, but in truth I haven't seen very many such pix.  The photogs don't seem any more interested in this tableau than do the fans in general.  These shots by pantheragem (1st) and by Brett Garrett (2nd) are frankly the only decent ones I've come across.



There is one interesting note about the history of this stunt (that's what darkride professionals call it; most of us laymen would call it a "scene" or a "tableau," with "gags" in it).  Marc wanted the royal couple to appear and disappear as they teetered on their totter.  It's on the sketch:


Reader Volt made a good observation about this piece in the Comments.  He suggests that Davis literalizes the term "see-saw" so that of the two forms, at any given moment, one you can "see" and the other you "saw." 

Marc typically thought up these things and then handed them off to Yale Gracey, the special effects wizard par excellence.  It was his job to figure out a way to make the gag work, not Marc's.  "Yale will think of something."  In this case he didn't, or couldn't, but everyone thought it looked good enough anyway.  Seems to me that the trick would have had to be achieved with lighting, with the mostly-transparent figures dropping down into a deep shadow, blocked off from the black lighting.  As was the case with the famous Hat Box Ghost, such lighting tricks just won't work in there.  All of it is too close to the track, and there is too much ambient lighting.

I know some people have wondered about the duchess on the swing, whether she's supposed to be young or old.  What she is, is middle-aged.  This piece of concept art isn't seen very often, so here ya go.  Gotta give those Forgottenistas something they haven't seen before, or they might get restless.  Actually, there is a flaw in this character concept that contributes to her overall blandness.  We'll get to that eventually.


Incidentally, I don't consider the Hell Hound to be part of this scene.  I think he's
an isolated figure in the background between tableaux.  Everybody likes him.


Arooooo....


But let's get back to our royal playground.  It's an amusing scene.  What more is there to say?  It's not as if there is a rich heritage of ghostly teeter-totters to explore.  But it is a joke, right?  And as soon as you ask the question, "Why is this joke funny?" (assuming that it is), ah, then the door creaks slowly open...

Step all the way in, please, and make room for everyone.

* lights a pipe, leans back in his chair, forehead becomes slightly furrowed *

(puff) There are two jokes going on here, in my opinion. (puff)  The first one is American but not European, so you readers from across the pond may not get it.  You see, there is creepy but amusing irony in finding a children's playground located in a crumbling old graveyard at midnight.  It's the last place you'd expect to find such a cheerfully innocent environment.  In America.  In places like England, old churchyards and cemeteries are so common that I don't suppose anyone pays much attention.  They're all over the place, and you have to put your playgrounds somewhere, right?  If Reggie's soccer ball goes bounding into an old boneyard, well, what of it? (puff)


Trust me, the Americans are all looking at that photo and going, "Ewww."

The more substantial joke emanating from the Mansion tableau is the ironic contrast between the stuffy dignity of the royal threesome (especially the king and queen) and the childlike behavior they now gleefully exhibit.  Once they are dead, they evidently don't have to worry about decorum and can frolic about like kids.  How droll to see a haughty old king and queen acting like seven-year olds.  It's another example of Marc Davis's astounding ability to tell a joke in .032 seconds.  What is strange, though, is how unusual this status reversal is at the Mansion.

Marc Davis produced a lot of concept art that essentially shows ghosts carrying on with their earthly pursuits as if nothing had happened.  There are ghosts of boxers, of coffin makers (cute idea), of Spanish soldiers—all still engrossed in their occupations as if unaware that they're dead.




This motif did make it into the finished Haunted Mansion, but most of the examples are musicians.  You've got the organist (if he's meant to be taken as a professional), and there's the graveyard band (of whom two at least are definitely professionals—the bandsmen in uniform), and of course there's the opera couple.  Why are they still plying their trades?  Because musicians are needed at the ghostly gathering you are witnessing.  They also need someone to bring some of the ghosts here, so the coachman gets to drive his rig as in life.  What we need most of all is a good medium to bring the ghosts on over, so the ghost of Madame Leota keeps her daytime job as well.  We don't need boxers or carpenters or soldiers, so those gags ended up in the circular file.  Such identifiable professionals as you do see but whose skills are no longer required are emphatically not carrying on with their earthly occupations.  They're just whooping it up.  The headsman is not gearing up for an execution (where's the block?), and the knight has no rescuing to do.  Since the afterlife appears to be an egalitarian paradise, the royals have no subjects to rule.

It's no surprise, then, if we find that the king and queen aren't kinging and queening, but that still leaves the undeniably childlike behavior unexplained.  After all, there's another king at the table in the ballroom, and he isn't ruling anything anymore either, but he's not playing hopscotch; he's getting drunk like a responsible adult.  If you think about it, this is a joke that could easily have been used elsewhere, but it's pretty much unique to the royal playground.  The closest thing to a parallel would probably be Pickwick, the fellow swinging around on the ballroom chandelier like a naughty boy; but actually, we don't know how sedate that ambiguous character might have been in life, so it's hard to measure the contrast.  He could have been a "mad duke," a Mr. Toad type of guy, and this kind of behavior might not be so categorically different from the sort of stunts he pulled while alive.


Come to think of it, maybe that's why he's not alive.  There are also the merry graveyard bicyclists, but again, we don't know if that is activity which was beneath their dignity while they were still among the living.  Bicyclists die too, you know.  The royal playground, it seems to me, is a bit of specific whimsy without a clear parallel elsewhere.

Before getting into the question of why a king would wish to act like a kid, we might first ask the question: how immature is this?  How thick is the irony?  Well, to answer that, you need to first ask, How much of a kiddie thing is the see-saw?  If you wish to explore the psychological place of the humble teeter-totter in the consciousness of the general culture, it doesn't take long to amass a wealth of visual data.  I'm giving you here much more than is really necessary to get a feel for it, but the pictures are so delightful that I don't suppose many of you will mind.

First thing to note: teeter-totters are old.
Anachronism is probably not part of the irony.













You get the idea pretty quickly.  See-saws are definitely for kids, and especially for little tykes.  As nostalgia pieces, they recall a bit of distant childhood (which seems to be the point of many of these artworks).  Adults only use them if they're parents helping out the little 'uns.  As it happens, the up and down rhythmic movement makes this simple contraption ideal for the singy-songy nursery rhyme, and you'll find the see-saw in at least two traditional children's verses:



I came across only one departure from this otherwise uniform presentation in older artwork, and it is the exception that proves the rule.
The 18th century French artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard is best known for his rococo masterpiece, The Swing:


It was popular, and Fragonard, no fool he, followed it up with further
examples of the hedonistic and frivolous ruling classes merrily at play.


None of them matched the popularity of The Swing, but before he got tired of
the theme, he did give us our one solid example of adults playing on a see-saw:


These works today are sometimes pointed to as inadvertent portraits of the decadence of the leisure classes in
late 18th c. France, the Ancien Regime, all dimpled and plump and ripe for La Revolution.  Guillotine bait.

A pretty clear picture emerges.  Royalty and nobility cavorting on see-saws in life would be considered decadent, embarrassingly juvenile, something which betrays a serious lack of gravitas, that sense of sobriety appropriate to the responsibilities of high governance or to noblesse oblige.  And that's important; even we toothpick chompin' Americans don't really want our President to show up at the Oval Office in jeans and a tee shirt (Andrew Jackson's muddy boots notwithstanding—oh, google it if you don't know what I mean).

We're all agreed, then.  While they're alive, kings and queens have to act like adults.  After they're dead, we smile in gentle approval because we see in this case that they're finally free to have some fun, perhaps the kind of fun they were never allowed in life, not even as children.  This sort of whimsy works well with royals but not quite as strikingly with lesser mortals.

Incidentally, that's precisely what is wrong with the duchess, in my opinion.  She's drinking a cup of tea and not even holding the ropes.  She can't be swinging very hard, that's for sure.  She's more or less using the swing as a chair, which a duchess might actually do in a pinch with minimal loss of dignity.  Ho-hum.  Still behaving like an adult.  Little irony, and consequently not very funny.

Why do we assume that royal obligations cease at the grave?  Such an attitude hasn't always been the case, you know.  We can contrast our figurines of deceased monarchs with other figurines of deceased monarchs, ones who were expected to carry on in their roles even beyond the grave.  Those ones aren't funny and aren't supposed to be.  The best known examples are probably the Egyptian pharaohs, with their lifelong preparation for the afterlife, where they carry on in their exalted roles.  Kings need courtiers and servants, so a whole slew of them get the maquette treatment and crowd into the tomb with the big guy.




Those are shabti figurines, servants of the pharaoh in the afterlife (in this case king Tut).  No see-saws for him, just work work work.  Upon death, he gets further divinitized and expects to do adult, pharaoh stuff, keeping all these helpers busy in the process.

But the Egyptians had nothing on the Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang (d. 210-209 BC).  He was so sure that he would just keep on doin' his emperor thang after death that he had a full-sized terra cotta army buried with him. Thousands of figures.  The existence of Qin's breathtaking army was unknown until it was discovered in 1974.




The Emperor himself drove a chariot and four-horse team of bronze.



Pretty amazing.

It's not completely silly to compare these deadly serious funerary figures with our comic teeter-totter royalty produced solely for light entertainment: that contrast is precisely the point.  What makes the difference?  At bottom, I'd say it's the notion that "king" is what you do rather than what you are.  The ideals of democracy and equality pretty much did away with the notion of divine kingship, and we understand our rulers and leaders to be human beings who are fundamentally no different than anyone else, performing the act of ruling, filling an office and nothing more.  That means that their royal responsibilities end at the grave.

Not to get overly theological, but I will venture the suggestion that this way of thinking has its ultimate roots in the Judeo-Christian worldview.  The eastern Roman empire segued with hardly a ripple into the Byzantine (Eastern Christian) empire, where you had an emperor in the succession of the Caesars and as autocratic as any pharaoh, but one custom that was different called for the Patriarch of the Church to plop a handful of dirt into the emperor's hand at one point during his coronation and remind him that he too is dust, and to dust he shall return.  Over here in the west, to cite but one example, the burial service in the Book of Common Prayer is the same for everyone.  As an old Episcopal priest I knew was fond of saying, "The queen and her gardener get the same treatment."  I suppose that as you become acclimatized to the concept that there is one God, and to him, "Even the nations are like a drop in the bucket, and are accounted as dust on the scales" (Isa 40:15), this demythologized view of human kingship becomes an increasingly natural perspective.

And yet.  And yet...

We can never repress old concepts entirely.  One of Disney's most successful films evah, and the first to feature an original story, was The Lion King.  And what do we find there?  Simba is born to rule.  He can't run away from it: it's in his blood.  The most important point of tension in the whole film is Simba's resistance to his destiny.  It's not just something he may choose to do or not to do, like the tasks which fall to ordinary mortals.  He must recognize who he is, come out of the playground,  and get onto the throne.  Because we all agree: he's living a life that is beneath him.  There is even a hint that the pharaohs and old Qin Shi were right, as Simba's father Mufasa appears in the stars as no ordinary constellation.  But this remains the exception rather than the rule.

We have explained why kings and queens shed those roles in death: they are only humans, and their earthly responsibilities die when they die.  We can understand that the ghosts of these royals might want to kick up their heels a bit, like the king in the ballroom, but why the specifically childlike behavior of playing on a see-saw?  I think it's because there's a natural analog between king/peasant and adult/child.  You see both dynamics at work in Sleeping Beauty.  Aurora would choose the life of a peasant (where she mistakenly thinks her true love lies), but she acquiesces to her "royal duty" as a princess.  This happens precisely as she is making the transition from childhood to adulthood, her 16th birthday.  She accepts it, but she resigns herself to it as if it were a prison sentence.

From fairy tales to Shakespeare, there persists a tendency to wax romantic over the supposedly simple and happy life of the peasant, free from the "peril of the envious court" and unaware of how lucky he is not to be the king.  A classic expression of this idea is in Bernard Mandeville's poem, The Fable of the Bee (1705).  The list of things monarchs must worry about is particularly good.

Had the meanest and most unciviliz’d Peasant leave Incognito to observe the greatest King for a Fortnight; tho’ he might pick out several Things he would like for himself, yet he would find a great many more, which, if the Monarch and he were to change Conditions, he would wish for his part to have immediately alter’d or redress’d, and which with Amazement he sees the King submit to. And again if the Sovereign was to examine the Peasant in the same manner, his Labour would be insufferable, the Dirt and Squalor, his Diet and Amours, his Pastimes and Recreations would be all abominable; but then what Charms would he find in the other’s Peace of Mind, the Calmness and Tranquillity of his Soul? No Necessity for Dissimulation with any of his Family, or feign’d Affection to his Mortal Enemies; no Wife in a Foreign Interest, no Danger to apprehend from his Children; no Plots to unravel, no Poison to fear; no popular Statesman at Home or cunning Courts abroad to manage; no seeming Patriots to bribe; no unsatiable Favourite to gratify; no selfish Ministry to obey; no divided Nation to please, or fickle Mob to humour, that would direct and interfere with his Pleasures.
 
In precisely the same way, an adult is wont at times to look on the carefree play of children with a sort of envy.  Don't be in too big a hurry to grow up, kid.  Yeah, we get to drive cars and other neat stuff, but it's not all it's cracked up to be.

The joke of the king and queen ghosts on the teeter-totter works well because it combines a cluster of related ideas:  (1) Sorry Tut, sorry Qin, beg to differ; we're all just human beings, and death reduces us all to the same state, whether king or commoner.  (2) The life of a king is a mixed blessing; the palace is also a prison.  Therefore, death may be a kind of release.  (3) As a king might envy the simple life of a peasant, so too the adult envies the child.  In that sense, we can all empathize with the royals frolicking about unselfconsciously in a ghostly playground.

Put it all together and you've got the source of both your amusement and your approval at the sight of these ghosts.

Humor is complicated, isn't it?

37 comments:

  1. Yes, the see-saw gag is hardly ever mentioned in blogs or chat rooms.I ony remembered it was there because it is referenced on the LP.Oh,and the Terra-Cotta warriors, I did a report on them in sixth grade.Very cool; every soldier is different. That must have taken a looooooong time to build. First to comment! Yay!! Fantastic post!

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  2. Lovely post, kind of a stone soup feeling to it.

    ****

    "Bicyclists die too, you know."

    Nixon. If you're a Wodehouse fan, you know what I'm talking about.

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  3. Took me a few minutes to find it, but I did.

    "I beg your pardon, sir. I was thinking of a tale my Uncle Cyril used to tell me as a child. An absurd little story, sir, though I confess that I have always found it droll. According to my Uncle Cyril, two men named Nicholls and Jackson set out to ride to Brighton on a tandem bicycle, and were so unfortunate as to come into collision with a brewer's van. And when the rescue party arrived on the scene of the accident, it was discovered that they had been hurled together with such force that it was impossible to sort them out at all adequately. The keenest eye could not discern which portion of the fragments was Nicholls and which Jackson. So they collected as much as they could, and called it Nixon. I remember laughing very much at that story when I was a child, sir."

    I had to pause a moment to master my feelings.

    "You did, eh?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "You thought it funny?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "And your Uncle Cyril thought it funny?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "Golly, what a family! Next time you meet your Uncle Cyril, Jeeves, you can tell him from me that his sense of humour is morbid and unpleasant."

    "He is dead, sir."

    "Thank heaven for that...."

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  4. Excellent, as always! Maybe I have been over-simplifying it, but I always thought that the "gag" was that whoever was at the "top" of the teeter totter was the only one illuminated... as sort of a nod to who was ruling -- is it the Queen? Or the King? by literally showing who was "on top". And I would sort of thing that this is not a married King and Queen, but rather a family who are perhaps meeting up again in the afterlife to frolic and play. Perhaps these were generations of siblings, where a brother and sister each held the crown at one point while another became Duchess?

    Although I suppose that it could be a married couple - each trying to usurp the other's power by taking the top position?

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  5. Or...when they disappear (at the bottom), they weigh less, and so the teeter totters. I don't know if ghosts have any weight, but it has a certain visual logic.

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  6. Fantastic!

    I love the insight and the lengthy detail that you pursue.

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  7. Perhaps the duchess on the swing is a lady in waiting, attending the queen, bored out of her mind in death as in life.

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  8. She is a duchess; that we know from her description in the "Story and Song" script. A duchess would never be a "lady in waiting." That's high-ranking nobility, far above any palace servant.

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  9. giddy girlie - the first thing I thought of when I read your comment was King Stephen and Empress Matilda of England.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empress_Matilda#Struggle_for_the_throne_of_England

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  10. There is also another Duchess a few feet away from the the swinging Duchess. The British couple seated at a table toasting each other with wine to the left of the tea party/hearse ghosts is most often referred to as the "Duke and Duchess".

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  11. The Lion King is't an orginal Disney story, it is in fact Shakespeare's Hamlet, where Mustafa's constellation is analogue to Hamlet's father's ghost - who also remains a king after death.

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  12. A "lady in waiting" is always of the nobility . . . thus the term "lady," which technically only applies to the nobility. Remember that everyone is a servant to the monarch, even the nobility. From Wikipedia . . . "Historically, in Europe a lady-in-waiting was often a noblewoman from a family highly thought of in good society, but was of lower rank than the woman on whom she attended." Try to get it right next time. Meanwhile, I'll sit here and wait for your gracious apology.

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  13. P.S. My great great grandmother was the Countess of Airlie, most assuredly a noblewoman and most assuredly the most prominent lady in waiting to Queen Mary, consort of King George V (1910-1936).

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  14. I apologize for assuming that a "lady in waiting" would not be nobility. I was incorrect on that point. However, it is still unlikely that a duchess would be a lady in waiting. Dukes and duchesses represented the highest possible rank in society, just below the monarch, and they held the title because they ruled over a duchy. You would not expect to find dukes or duchesses living at the palace. If the character on the swing was intended to be taken as a lady in waiting to the queen, they would not or should not have labeled her "duchess."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke

    The Lion King is only loosely based on the plot of Hamlet; there are many differences. The biblical tales of Joseph and Moses and the Epic of Sundiata have also been cited as influences. As it stands, it is an original story, unless you wish to define "original" as "free of any influence from other works."

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  15. I know what a duke ruled, and I also know that a dukedom is the highest level of nobility, but thanks for the info. What appears actually to be the case is that you don't know what a lady-in-waiting was/is: an attendant to the monarch and a member of the nobility (often even a relative of the monarch). It is, therefore and in fact, most likely that a duchess (or a countess or a baroness) would be a lady-in-waiting. Also, until well into early modern times, some members of the nobility did, in fact, live at the palace (what do you think the political purpose of Versailles was--to keep the nobles at court and occupied where Louis XIV could keep his eye on them). The court, composed of courtiers, were those nobles (including ladies-in-waiting), who were attached, for whatever reason, to the monarch, usually as a reward or honor. You seem not to know the difference between a courtier and a common servant. A lady-in-waiting is a courtier. She was often a most trusted confidant. The fact is, you also don't know what was in the imagineers minds any more than I do, so my comment that she could have been a duchess is perfectly valid (and in accord with the historical record, of which you seem to know so little). So, now you have officially been wrong twice on this point. You seem to be having a hard time swallowing this fact.

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  16. I'm not questioning your knowledge in this area, but it seems to me that most of your discussion is irrelevant, since we're not talking about "nobility" or "courtiers" in general, but about duchesses in particular. As I see it, there is only one relevant question here: Do duchesses normally serve at court, or do duchesses normally live elsewhere? If it's the former, then you could be right. If it's the latter, then your theory has a problem. The Imagineers send whatever signals they wish people to pick up in the language of typical expectation. If they want you to see X and think Y, then they're going to give you an X that normally signals Y, not an X that could possibly be Y but more typically is not. Wouldn't you agree?

    Of course it is also possible that they threw around titles like "duke" and "baron" and whatnot because they sound good, without any particular concern about historical accuracy, since most people don't know much about such titles anyway.

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  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  18. To Anonymous of the Nobility: I actually love the idea of the ghostly duchess being a "lady in waiting" who is waiting through all eternity, as ghosts do! The word play is superb, on the order of something you would find in the Harry Potter books though, more than in the Haunted Mansion, which is not always particularly subtle and doesn't lend itself that well to verbal humor, at least not like a book. Can't you just see Nearly Headless Nick and the Duchess Isabelle, ghostly lady in waiting, wafting through Hogwarts? I don't know why HGB2 was uncivil about your comment. I think it was very clever! It doesn't strike me as any less irrelevant than a lot of other comments, or even parts of some posts (in the spirit of scholarly critique, let's be honest: the connection of the terra cotta army of Emperor Ch'in with the Haunted Mansion is a bit of a stretch). I also don't know what he wants taken elsewhere (surely not your comment, which is most dignified), but civility is, after all, a two way street. HBG2 owes you an apology. He is the one who was uncivil. Your contribution was a good one, and he dismissed it out of hand and supported his dismissal with incorrect information. I actually learned something from your contribution and have enjoyed reading the exchange. thank you!

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  19. Just to clarify, the notice about deleting rude posts [edit: which I have now deleted] was not directed at the Anonymous with whom I have been dialoguing for the past several posts (John's "Anonymous of the Nobility"). It was directed at another Anonymous whose post has since been deleted. I'm genuinely sorry if it looks like it was aimed at "Anonymous of the Nobility." I should have seen that it might look like that once the other post was deleted, so I'm sorry...my bad. I thought I had apologized for my ignorance about what rank a lady-in-waiting might be, and again, I stand corrected there. To the extent that that bit of ignorance formed the basis for my dismissal of A of the N's theory, I was in error. All I've been saying since then is that the lady-in-waiting theory still faces a specific hurdle. I could turn out to be wrong there too, certainly, but I don't see that A of the N's subsequent comments have addressed that specific hurdle, and that was the reason for saying that it seemed to me that those comments were not relevant in defense of the theory. That's all I meant. If it came across as disrespect, then perhaps I should have worded things differently. I agree that the theory is interesting, and if the hurdle is in fact removed, I will be happy to concede that it is as reasonable an interpretation as any other. As for the terra cotta army, okay, that's pretty exotic, but I don't think it's that much of a stretch in a discussion like this. As I said, the HM seems to present the afterlife as an egalitarian paradise, so it's taken for granted that kings no longer reign there as in life. The Qin army is a stunning example of how extremely the opposite opinion has been held, reminding us that we have learned our attitude; it's not a given.

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  20. Hi from Australia.

    My wife is the daughter of Roy Rulin, and has searched for years trying to find information about him.

    We have many of his drawings, and a model he constructed, for Walt Disney.

    We are happy to exchange information regarding him and look forward to helping each other.

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    Replies
    1. I am interested in exchanging information we both have. I have shared quite a lot of information with your wife...especially when we found out we had the same father, Roy Rulin. Although I had no idea that she had the particular drawings and the model our father put together. I would love to see a picture if you might be so kind to send it to my private (Sissy) email address.
      .... my father was a very talented artist, you are right HBG2...he was an architect, artist, lecturer, writer - quite a few other endeavors occupying his short lived life. He had an adventurous, globetrotting life it seems with all of the mystery intertwined. !

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  21. And hello right back atcha!
    This is great. I know Disney folks who are curious about the mysterious (and obviously very talented) Roy Rulin, about whom little seems to be known beyond some impressive Disney concept art from the mid-fifties. They will be very interested in this. I'll be shooting you an email. I'm guessing it was the "Mansions Known and Unknown" post that brought you here, via google or something?

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  22. When you mentioned in thios blog "how Aurora would choose the life of a peasant (where she mistakenly thinks her true love lies), but she acquiesces to her "royal duty" as a princess", I was reminded in the musical "Camelot", where King Arthur and Queen Gueneviere sing "What would the simple folk do" as they are dealing with the stress of the throne.

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  23. To anonymous: I thought of that too! I love that musical!

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  24. Terrorific post as always. It's a grand day at my computer screen when a new LF analysis has graced your blog.

    I'm a little puzzled by your comment that our duchess holds little or no humor within the stunt. I actually find her the funniest figure. Here we have a king and queen who have shed-off all proper royal pretensions within the afterlife, let their hair down, found their inner child and went all toddler on us.

    The duchess? God bless her for trying but as hard as she attempts, the lady can't go all the way. Her half-hearted swinging is nullified by "tea time", the epitome of proper British adult structure.

    Maybe slipping a little brandy in that cup would take all her the way.

    You're right: humor is complicated.

    Matt - San Diego, CA

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  25. That's an interesting read of the Dutchess, an angle I hadn't thought of. If that is the intent, then it's too bad you can't really see her facial expression, which would be the best indicator that she's uncomfortable with this behavior and/or disapproves of the behavior of the king and queen. As it is, if that's the joke, it is not the sort of "instant read" we expect from Davis. Since she looks pretty comfortable with herself in the concept art, I'm not too sure that Davis had that interpretation in mind. (FWIW, the actual figure has a pretty nondescript face.) But who knows?

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  26. First off, just found the blog and, even as someone previously ignorant on the Haunted Mansion it's fascinating reading.

    Secondly, the concept art opens up a third joke -- a visual pun. He literalizes the term "see-saw" so that of the two forms, at any given moment, one you can "see" and the other you "saw." A bit of humor that disappears without the concept art.

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  27. Oh, that is good. I'm moving that observation up into the body of the post.

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  28. Fabulous post, but Simba's father's name was Mufasa, not Mustafa...

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  29. Is the ballroom king actually a king? I interpreted the crown having something to do with the birthday party (maybe I'm thinking of the paper crowns that are worn when opening Christmas crackers in the UK). Also more cases of deceased royalty living it up: the crown pop-up ghost portrait in the COD seems pretty happy (a grim grinning ghost) and great Caesar's ghost (which ever one he is) is attending a Victorian birthday party.

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  30. I'm pretty sure the ballroom king is a king. His crown is pretty substantial and his other clothing looks regal enough. You're right, of course, that there are a number of kings popping up at the Mansion. As a matter of fact, I think the crown they used in the photo you refer to may be the same crown worn by the ballroom king.

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  31. You're right, the ballroom king does seem to be a king, especially with that gold necklace sort- of thing around his neck. I think I was confused because the clothes look a little nondescript from a distance in comparison with the graveyard one's. The crown in the portrait is the same as the ballroom king. So are the COD portraits supposed to be former occupants or what? I have a hard time buying that a king was once an inhabitant of a New Orleans mansion. Speaking of photographs, why are there photos of ghosts? Within the context of the story, who took these pictures? It would make some sense if they were actual funeral ready corpse portraits, like tin types, but they appear to no longer be in any kind of "corruptible mortal form" based on the facial expressions.

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  32. I'll be talking about this a bit more in an upcoming post, but as I think I already said in the "Let's Get Real" post, the ghosts seem less concerned to conceal their presence as you progress, especially after you go upstairs. You didn't get scared and run away with their peekaboo antics downstairs, so they're turning up the heat. Thus, a lot of what you see in the COD/Clock Hall is like the grotesque phase of the changing portraits downstairs, it's just that up here, they're no longer bothering to return it to normal. So the "family portraits" (as they've come to be called) are hideous distortions of normal portraits, meant to scare you. If that is so, the details in the portraits (like the crown) are untrustworthy indicators of anything specific. If you need to postulate something, there are any number of possible explanations. The crown could be their way of mocking a vulgar uncle overly proud of being a distant relative of some royal family.

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  33. Gotcha. The portraits are are permanently in their grotesque phase. That would also explain the "Tomb Sweet Tomb" mounted sewing patch. That's also an interesting interpretation of the crown. I have a relative who has that same obnoxious habit. It just struck me as odd, because they could have easily gone with a another, more regular Victorian-style hat. Those portraits are scary in the dark. I thought they were the scariest things in the COD when I first visited (as an 11 or 12 year old who wasn't easily frightened, having been raised on horror films both classic and modern).

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  34. I loved this post, as always. However, I don't think the Lion King was the first original Disney movie. Even early on, we had movies like Saludos Amigos and the Three Caballeros.

    -Mel

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    1. There were many cartoon shorts with original stories. The Lion King was the first feature-length film with an original story.

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