Several major updates! May 14, 2014
A couple of posts ago I mentioned the well-known fact that the organ in the Disneyland Haunted Mansion's ballroom is the same one used in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. You can get that bit of trivia at any ol' blog; Long-Forgotten readers demand more. More ye shall have, and yet with no more calories than with those regular Haunted Mansion blogs. It's amazing.
Harper Goff was a Disney genius of the first water. It was he who designed the Nautilus and all of the sets for the classic 20K film. One prop that gave him some trouble, however, was Captain Nemo's pipe organ. The normal procedure was to go to the usual prop houses and arrange for an organ transplant to the 20K sets. But he couldn't find anything suitable, so in desperation he began scouring the classified ads in the local papers. He lucked out. Some guy not too far away had an organ console in his garage that he was willing to unload for cheap. When Goff saw the instrument he was delighted, because not only was it a handsome piece, but it had all the stop tabs and keys intact (a rare thing with old junked organs). The owner was pretty tickled as well: that idiot from Disney paid him a cool $50 for an old organ console that didn't even work.
Decked out with a nice set of fake pipes (reportedly, plaster covered with gold leaf), the prop served its purpose, and when the 20K sets were put on display in a Disneyland Exhibit, the organ was a crowd pleaser, judging by the number of photographs around.
In May of 2014 reader Jonas Clark alerted us to several new details in the story of the 20K organ. It turns out that they did quite a bit more than just sticking a mirror and some pipes on the console. It was a Robert Morton electric theater organ, and like all such electric organs it did not have old-fashioned pull stops but color-coded tabs.
fix-it may already have been underway when the above photo was taken, as it appears that there are already
Three years after all this Ken Anderson was given the assignment of designing a Haunted House for Disneyland. His plans always seem to have included a ballroom with an organ in it, played by an unseen organist, and viewed from a balcony.
The Imagineers responsible for creating the actual Haunted Mansion gave numerous interviews over the years in a myriad of publications, especially Rolly Crump, X Atencio, and Marc Davis. It is curious that in the published comments, rarely do they mention Ken Anderson and his pioneering labors in 1957 and 1958 on what would eventually be the Haunted Mansion (X does mention him at least once). I have to think this is a fluke rather than a snub, perhaps the result of the questions asked and the material discarded in the editing process. Whatever the reason, it took a long time for Anderson's contributions to be fully appreciated. (There's a string of posts devoted to Anderson coming up, starting HERE.) I'm pointing it out now because you will never find a clearer example of how later Imagineers made direct use of Anderson's ideas than this organ gag. Although the sketch above doesn't show it, Anderson eventually conceived of a number of other instruments in use along with the organ, floating around the room. That gag was used too, but it was transferred to the Séance circle. Meanwhile, Anderson's pump organ with its ghostly musician leaving his footprints on the pedals was taken over wholesale by Claude Coats and by X Atencio, along with an ensemble of other musicians.
top, Davis was simply depicting a different style of pump organ, like this 1895 model:
Davis's sketch is a good illustration of the evolution of an idea. Notice how Marc borrows Anderson's original concept and borrows too the shadow organist innovation from Coats and/or Atencio, and then as his original contribution changes the organ style to one with the pipes prominently attached atop, taking the gag one step closer to what we see in the eventual ride.
Meanwhile meanwhile, another Imagineer had ideas of his own. Walt Disney personally recruited Rolly Crump to work on the Haunted House in 1959 because he recognized in Rolly a wild and original imagination with a penchant for the weird and fantastic. That quaint old pump organ didn't really suit Rolly, who felt that it was important to present guests with things they had never seen before. Rolly's organ console was, you might say, a little unorthodox.
No matter how much the other Imagineers might balk at Rolly's ideas as "too weird," Rolly held a trump card: Walt loved his stuff. When Rolly built a small model of this organ, that was the one Walt used to demonstrate the Pepper's Ghost effect for viewers of the television program celebrating Disneyland's tenth anniversary in 1965.