Once you've boarded your doombuggy, the Haunted Mansion almost becomes a different ride, doesn't it? The walk-thru portion has one feel and the ride portion another. You sit down in your omnimover, and there is an unavoidable feeling that the attraction has kinda hit the restart button. That's okay; it's really not a problem, but it does mean that the Imagineers who built the ride needed to follow some of the same show dynamics at this point that they would ordinarily use at the beginning of any other dark ride.
At Walt Disney World and at Tokyo Disneyland, the first full tableaux are low-key affairs. (I don't count either of the portrait halls as "full tableaux.") The music room and library are just as much about setting the mood as they are about intriguing special effects. By the time you get to the Endless Hallway, the subject of today's post, you're well into the ride. This is also true of Phantom Manor. Ah, but at the Disneyland original, the Endless Hallway is the first full tableau that you see after boarding your doombuggy, so it's far more important there. It has the responsibility of leaving that good first impression people are always talking about.
I think it succeeds very well. The tableau is low-key but gives you four distinct gags: the armor, the drapes, the candelabra, and the hall itself. Shameless gasbag that I am, I have something to say about all of these, plus a history lesson, plus a post-script.
Yeah, it's a cliché, but it's a good one. Marc Davis seems especially to have liked suits of armor. You see them prominently in the concept artwork we looked at a couple of posts back (the "Weirder" one). Here's an unfinished Davis sketch that you've probably never seen. This was done after he had done the artwork for the Grand Hall (as it was called then), so you wonder what this was for.
of really bizarre medieval helmets out there, but I haven't found anything that looks quite like ours.
[Edit: this strange helmet is no longer a mystery.]
(Just ignore the highlighted duct for the moment. We'll get back to it.)
They're another cliché, but they represent an important idea. The Ghost Host has already saddled you with one unanswerable question: real or imagined? The blowing drapes pose another: natural or supernatural? Seems like every haunted house story has a character who tries to explain everything as natural phenomena. "It's just the wind. Someone probably left a window open somewhere. That's probably what made the armor rattle too. You're turning into a bunch of nervous Nellies." Characters sometimes internalize this conversation. After all, now that you're convinced that the ghosts are real—that this can't all be just a hallucination—there's still the danger of going to the opposite extreme. Your skeptical side may have admitted defeat with regard to the big question, but that doesn't mean it has utterly abandoned you. "Come on Jennifer, get a grip; every creaking hinge and every flickering candle isn't necessarily a ghost. Some of these things have a perfectly rational explanation. Good lord, next thing you know you'll be finding ghosts in the wallpaper!" Heh heh.
Then there are the other two gags, the candelabra and the hall itself. You've seen plenty of ghostly tricks up to this point, and you've heard plenty of eerie things, starting with the Ghost Host himself, but at Disneyland the first irrefutable ghost that you actually unsee is the floating candelabra. I mean, there's an invisible ghost standing right there, holding a candelabra. That's a real escalation in ghostliness. And finally, what can you say about that hallway? It's immense. It's incredible.
That's right. This seemingly flawless scene is the result of some slapdash, improvised, last minute imagineering. The hallway itself is basically what was planned, but if you could back up just a few months before opening day and experience it as it was planned up to that point, it would have gone something like this:
Your doombuggy moves in front of the Endless Hallway and you are hit with a blast of cold air, which flutters the armor's feathery helmet ornament and explains the billowing curtain. There is no floating candelabra. The Ghost Host says, "Ssssssh. Listen!" and you hear the tramping of loud footsteps coming down the hall toward you. As the sound passes the suit of armor, its hand moves. The steps continue to travel toward you and pass right over you (or through you), only to continue on the other side as if you weren't there. There are other sound effects with the footsteps: panting and chain rattling, and it's possible that a smoke-like effect is also used.
The original inspiration for the Endless Hallway could be found in the old Sleeping Beauty Diorama, the castle walk-thru that was beautifully re-done and re-opened just a few years ago. It's a hidden gem, recreating much of the look and feel of the 1957 original. (Thank you Chris Merritt and team.) One scene from the original that was not re-created and which perished in the 1977 Barbie doll make-over was the Bottomless Pit. It was located where the waltzing spinning wheels are found today. You could peer into what looked like a stone turrett, but it had no top or bottom. You couldn't quite get your head in there, but you could scrunch up pretty close and see a long way in each direction.
Way cool. It was done with mirrors, of course, one on top and one on the bottom, reflecting each other into eternity. Now if you think about it, this is exactly like the Endless Hallway, except that one is blue, vertical, round, and made of stone, while the other is brown, horizontal, square, and made of wood. Don't bother me with such trifling details. You might also object that the EH only uses one mirror, back there in the fog, while the bottomless pit uses two. That's true, but at one point the Mansion team did toy with the idea of using several mirrors for the EH. Here's a favorite piece of concept art, a watercolor by Dorothea Redmond:
Nice, eh? But how would they have done that? Well, the first vertical mirror, immediately in front of you, is a two-way mirror. It's relatively dark where you're sitting, and it's brighter inside what is essentially a box made of four mirrors and two wooden sides, so you see through it like glass, but from the inside looking back at you, it acts just like a regular mirror. How would you light up the inside, though? There's no place to hide fixtures. Simple, you just have these glowing orbs hanging down on very thin electric cables through holes in the ceiling mirror. If the wires are thin, they can't carry much current, and the lights will have to be of very low wattage. You'll compensate for that by having lots of them in there, as bright as the wiring will tolerate. Really, they're just like Yale Gracey's fireflies from the Blue Bayou. They can dance around like the fireflies too.
Anyway, you can see the Sleeping Beauty bottomless pit influence here. But of course, they didn't do it like this and elected to go for a more natural look. They settled for one mirror placed well back in the mist (i.e. multiple scrims). Here's a 3D. It may not be endless, but it's still a pretty long room.
The script for the "Story and Song from the Haunted Mansion" record album is based largely on an early script for the ride, as we've mentioned before. Consequently, with the record you can sometimes hear what they had in mind before they changed things, if they changed things. For example, when the hero and heroine, Mike and Karen, climb the stairs (sans doombuggy, the lucky ducks), they notice a change in temperature:
This effect was really going to be used in the ride, and possibly it was for a short while at the beginning. Two vents hidden on either side of the hallway entrance, probably in the steps, were going to blast you with cold air. An exhaust vent on the wall behind you was going to suck it out of there as fast as it came in. (That's the vent highlighted in the earlier photo.) WED engineer Paul Saunders, who worked on the HM in 1967 and 1968, thinks the cold air effect was actually used. I don't have any memory of it. If it was used, it wasn't for long. Perhaps it was difficult to confine and control the stream of cold air. So the scene has lost one special effect.
[Edit] Or almost lost. Several readers affirm that you can feel a slight blast of cold air about this point, especially at WDW. The effect is still there, but it seems like it's toned down quite a bit. The building is air conditioned, after all, and according to someone who used to work there, air conditioning vents are very deliberately arranged in that area to create a cold spot. It's soft enough for a guest to think without thinking, "Oh, that's the air conditioning" and fail to appreciate the "special effect." The blast of cold air coming out of the EH and hitting you full in the face – that's gone, perhaps never was. [Edit]
The traveling sound was more interesting. Once again, take it away Thurl:
Through the Dimly-Lit Mist
To accomplish this effect, they installed a string of speakers in the hallway on the left side wall, continuing up to the track, and continuing again on the other side. The sound would simply pan along this string of speakers.
If the "Story and Song" narrative is to be trusted, there were footsteps, screams and rattling chains. A sound file for the footsteps has been preserved. Here's a clip:
Footsteps (many thanks to Brandon, "GRD")
[Edit] As reader "Grinning Ghost" has pointed out to me, that's probably the full blend of footsteps and other sounds that you hear in the background on the Story and Song album during the "Corridor of Doors" sequence. [Edit]
These heavy footfalls are directly inspired by the 1964 film, The Haunting. There are two places in the film where the same kind of heavy, slow, marching, muffled footsteps are heard, and one of them is in the same scene in which the "bulging door" effect is used (although the footsteps don't actually start until after the door stops bulging). That effect, of course, is another idea directly borrowed for the Haunted Mansion.
Footfalls from The Haunting
The record also mentions some kind of "ghost-like figure." The only hint I have seen of a lost visual effect at this point is this peculiar but widely used publicity photo.
in for the photo shoot, but I don't buy it. Seems like a lot of bother for something you don't need at all.
It's really no mystery why these effects were never used: The sequence takes too damn long. So there go some more gags, right down the drain. Oh fine, that's just great. We're well into 1969 now, and that Endless Hallway tableau is going to seem pretty bare unless someone can come up with an idea, and whatever it is, they'd better come up with it soon.
What did they finally do? They moseyed down the hall to the Séance circle and stole an effect that was intended for that room and put it in the Endless Hallway instead. That would be the floating candelabra. It was simple, but it looked great in its new location. Problem solved.
Those scale model photos are mighty fine things. Besides being just plain fun to look at, you can see what made the cut and what didn't in the final attraction. Here's another shot of the EH model:
The blowing drapes, the suit of armor, and the overstuffed chair are all there. Even the large floor candelabrum is there in the scale model (see the blowing drapes photo above). That handsome, paneled wainscoting was going to be used throughout, but I suppose time and money considerations eliminated it.
One remaining curiosity is the wallpaper. The models show that they intended to use the demon-eye wallpaper starting here and continuing all the way down the corridor to the Séance room. That is indeed how it is at Phantom Manor and at WDW since the big refurbishing of 2007, where it provides the basis of an impressive new gag, as the eyes appear before the walls do. But before 2007 all three Mansions (DL, WDW, Tokyo) had this yellow, off-the-shelf wallpaper in the EH tableau:
I guess it's possible that whoever picked it out noticed that the pattern lent itself to this sort of thing very easily, and that it would therefore be a good pick for the Mansion, but even that much is probably pushing it. At the very least, it's a happy accident.
A Post-Script: Pink Floyd and the Endless Hallway.
I'm a fan of early Pink Floyd, so this little example of synchronicity is a hoot. Skip it if you want.
Floyd was always a bold, experimental band, and in 1969 they were the first to use a quadraphonic sound system, with speakers placed in all four corners of the room. They had a home-made device, whimsically called the "Azimuth Co-ordinator," which enabled them to pan the sound around the auditorium with a simple joy-stick.
Of course, at Disney they added further sound effects to the footfalls, but then, they never used any of it anyway.
At these concerts, the Floyd played a lot of material from their third album, released in the US on . . . wait for it . . . August 9, 1969.
LOL, as the kids say.