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. 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.
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.
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)