Things You're Just Supposed to Know

Most of the time, Long-Forgotten assumes that 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, After that, the best place to go is Jason Surrell's book,
The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic (NY: Disney Editions; 2015). That's the
re-named third edition of The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies (NY:
Disney Editions, 2003; 2nd ed. 2009). Also essential reading is Jeff Baham's The Unauthorized
Story of Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion (USA: Theme Park Press, 2014; 2nd ed. 2016).

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.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Ghost of Ken Anderson in Ken Anderson's Ghost House


(This is really two posts. Scroll down to "A Major New Development" for an addition to the original post, done in November 2012.)

We've been making use of the detailed floor plan for his "Ghost House" that Ken Anderson drew up on September 2, 1957.  The plan was published in The "E" Ticket 41 (Fall 2004), pp 20-21.

Possibly this is something already noticed by the Disney archivists, but if you examine the plan carefully, you can detect markings all through it that appear to be Anderson's own indications of crowd movements, and sometimes the tour guide's movements.  They amount to a mute commentary on how the attraction would "flow" from the man who created it.  You can't see these markings on the copy, but after you twiddle a few knobs they become visible on the "E"-Ticket copy.  If these Shroud-of-Turin-like markings have in fact not been noticed before, then I expect this will be regarded as a significant find in the eyes of Disney historians, Imagineers, and plain old Mansionoholics.

So let's do this thing.

Throughout the plans, it appears that blobs are either natural assembly points—places where knots of people spontaneously form—or else areas of movement by the guide(s).  Here at the beginning, a solid, organized group assembles outside the front door, on the step, and then enters in two lines.  The butler tour guide apparently enters on the left and hooks around to stand on the steps and address the group.  The set up is similar but not identical to what is seen in these sketches.

We know that the group descends to basement level, so it's difficult to know what Anderson had in mind with some of the markings, whether the marks indicate activity on the upper or lower level.  Before entering the "Portrait Gallery" hallway, at any rate, guests form three lines.

It looks like Anderson expected the lines to stop or hesitate several times along the hallway, no doubt to look at the paintings and doorways.

The group crosses the back of the Library.  There is activity at the other end, by the fireplace.  Sketches indicate that this is a point where the guide gives a major backstory presentation.  There are "Hairy the Arm" antics, and the Lonesome Ghost is introduced.

At least four times guests will exit rooms through secret panels or moving fireplaces.
It would appear that people are sometimes alerted to a secret door by a creaking noise.

The Gallery is the scene of the "ghost chase" on a balcony and an assault by Hairy that prevents use of the main door, forcing the group to use a sliding side panel to escape.  The movements of the guide and the group are complex and interesting, but I'll leave it each reader to decipher them, since your guesses are probably as good as mine anyway.  The "secret passage" by which the group moves around to the position from which they will view the Bedroom is unfinished, a precursor to the HM attic scene.  The Bedroom scene was intended to host a number of humorous gags and effects, including a glimpse into a bathroom.

In the oval "Salon" the group will view the Headless Horseman ride by through a huge cyclorama scene outside the large windows.  Skeletal ghosts fly up from graves and approach the house.  Naturally, guests will congregate in front of those windows.  The guide will go over to open the doors opposite—only to have a carpenter's corpse fall out on him!  The group exits by way of a "moving fireplace."

The "Ghost Arrival" room is the one with the hanging corpse gag overhead, closely anticipating the stretching galleries in the finished HM.  Outside the windows are stormy tableaux, with more skeletal ghosts going by.  The central pit seems to be a holdover from a version featuring a man-eating octopus.  For that gag, was Anderson inspired by the scary giant squid display at the 20,000 Leagues exhibit in Tomorrowland?

At any rate, the newly-discovered markings on the plan suggest a motive for retaining this architectural feature in some
form, since it has the effect of making the room into a pathway.  The group has to organize again into three lines before
exiting into the "traveling ghosts" hallway, forerunner to the hitchhiking ghost gag.  (See "Salon" above for that room.)

The "Drawing Room" is all mirrors (two-way), and guests see among themselves all the ghostly
guests assembling for the big wedding.  The group exits onto the "Great Hall" balcony.

Barricades restrict guests to only one part of the balcony, which would be necessary in order to enable the use of a Pepper's Ghost effect, and Anderson has suggested that he intended to use such an effect here.  Speaking in reference to Walt Disney, Anderson said, "He also liked my idea of a plate glass on a forty-five degree angle so when you are looking down you don't know you are looking at a reflection" (quoted in Didier Ghez, Walt's People Volume 1: Talking Disney with the Artists Who Knew Him).

Note how the "bride" and "groom" characters enter from the sides and pair up in the center on the right.

Guests exit into a short hallway in which they apparently form loosely into lines again before entering the "Trophy Hall."  From there everyone exits into another unfinished hallway via another moving fireplace.

The "unfinished passage" between the Trophy Room and the Exit hall would seem to be the best place for an elevator bringing guests up to ground level, but there is nothing in the marks to indicate that.  The markings in the Exit hall itself, however, may suggest it.  Guests exit the main attraction into a "covered shelter," with benches to sit on and souvenirs to purchase, including wedding cake.

The shelter opens out into a paved courtyard (complete with "echo well"), a garden, and a
"family graveyard" which people can explore a bit before finally exiting through iron gates.

These ghostly markings on the Ghost House floor plan allow us to follow Anderson's thinking a little
more clearly as he plotted out the presentation in this impressive forerunner to the Haunted Mansion.

A Major New Development

A second blueprint of the Ken Anderson Ghost House has come to light.  It represents a revised version of the original blueprint we have been examining above.  One of the features of the new bprint is the formal incorporation of exactly the hand-drawn crowd movement markings we see in the original.  From the top down:

The revisions are mostly minor, except at the end of the ride, beginning with the "Trophy Hall."  The line of exit is reconfigured and a "Blood Family Crypt" appears where the old exit was located.  The newer print clearly reflects the incorporation of the "Blood Family" story line developed subsequently to the original print.  Compare this section with the same section in the original:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Father of the Haunted Mansion, Part Four

After the ponderous parade of parallels in the previous posts, possibly you're a little pooped.  I can imagine an objection right about now:

"Sure, there are gobs of individual inspirations and hold-overs from Ken Anderson's two years of labor on the Disneyland Ghost House, but when deciding who (if anyone) deserves the title, 'Father of the Haunted Mansion,' you need to go beyond details and think thematically as well.  Who is most responsible for the over-all personality of the attraction?  Who set its tone?  Surely Marc Davis has to be considered here, and possibly X. Atencio, who wrote the final show script."

Those guys are certainly worthy of consideration, and a case may be made for either of them, but even in this arena there are two BIG reasons to award the palm to Ken Anderson.

Nuptial Doom

First, it was Ken's idea to use a wedding or marriage gone south as the central motif of the Mansion's backstory.  It plays a role in all of his show scripts.  In the oldest, "The Legend of Captain Gore," innocent young Priscilla has recently married (or is about to marry) a mysterious Captain Gore, who turns out to be a bloodthirsty pirate, much to her horror.  He kills her.  She haunts him.  He kills himself.  Now they both haunt.  Talk about your bad karma; it's doubtful that even Dr. Phil could have salvaged that marriage.

In the second script, "Bloodmere Manor," we hear a lot about the ill-fated, accursed, Blood family.  Their "supreme tragedy" happened on the eve of their daughter's wedding, when an event, "too horrible to mention" prevented the marriage.  On every anniversary of the non-event the spirits attempt to complete the ceremony, trying to lift some curse.  The show climaxes at the Grand Hall, where many famous ghosts from history and literature are assembled for the wedding.  The groom lifts the bride's head off her shoulders and gives it a kiss.  She slaps him.  "All hell breaks loose."  Wedding = epic fail.  Try again next year, I guess.

Anderson's "third" version seems more like a variation of the second. Walt Disney himself does the recorded narration,
and the wedding is now a match between Monsieur Bogeyman and Mlle. Vampire, but with no better results, apparently.

Let me be Frank. Ghost House Version #3 was a stinkeroo, even though the narration was to be done by Walt himself. The "Bloodmere Manor" script is chock full of historical and literary ghosts, but GH3 brings in monsters and such. Anderson spoke of this in 1992 to The "E" - Ticket Magazine: "At the time, we [he and Walt] talked about Dracula and Frankenstein and other Universal monsters...we were trying to get in everybody." The most important newcomer was the Headless Horseman, from Disney's own The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.

The Horseman is usually cited as Anderson's "fourth" version, but that's even less justifiable than labeling GH3 a separate version rather than a development from GH2 ("Bloodmere"). The Headless Horseman was restricted to a single scene, and that scene in some form goes all the way back to GH1, a version of the Captain Gore backstory. Ken just added the HH to existing storylines. All of these had a wedding event at their climax.

So a doomed marriage or a wedding gone awry lies at the center of all of Anderson's Ghost House backstories.  Obviously, with the mysterious attic bride now emphasized and centralized more than ever in the Constance saga, we can point to Anderson as the fons et origo of this motif.

In 1992, Ken Anderson sketched his
lady ghost for "E"- Ticket magazine

Scary vs. Silly: So Silly it's Scary

The other reason for regarding Anderson as the Man is that he wrote the recipe for a haunted attraction combining horror and comedy, screams and laughs.  That claim requires some elaboration.  Fortunately (or unfortunately—take your pick), Long-Forgotten is all about elaboration.

In practically every account of the Haunted Mansion's history that you read, the "scary vs. silly" controversy is put forth as THE explanatory paradigm.  In the mighty struggle between kooky and spooky, so the story goes, you've got Marc Davis in this corner and Claude Coats and X. Atencio in that corner.  We're told that the warring parties eventually worked out a compromise, giving Claude the scary first half of the ride and Davis the funny second half.  That has essentially become the official Disney version, and some of the Imagineers (especially X. Atencio) have been happy to affirm it every time they're asked.

I find this explanation a little too pat, and it falls apart the minute you begin to analyze it.  While it is broadly true that the first half of the ride is spooky and the second half is given over to fun, note that you hit sublime silliness right away with Davis's stretchroom portraits, and later on, Davis's light-hearted second half is interrupted by the scary attic.  Davis is, in fact, the main problem for the prevailing theory.  Some people seem to think he always lobbied for the humorous approach, but that kind of pigeon-holing won't do.  Look at his changing portraits, both actual and proposed.  The majority of them are utterly creepy, with no humor to them at all.  Once, when he was asked about the funny/scary controversy, Davis referred immediately to Walt Disney's famous dictum that the outside of the HM should be kept up, but that inside they could do what they wanted.  "I took that to be a very definite instruction to me, and it meant we could be scary inside the ride if we wanted to.  And you know when you're in the ride that you're not in there for some 'sweetness and light' " (E-Ticket 16 [Summer 1993] 26).  That doesn't fit the sultan-of-silly stereotype, does it?  Davis wrote a show script in 1964 that certainly contained its share of whimsical elements, but at its core it featured a character known as "the most dangerous ghost in the mansion," who makes a frightening personal appearance near the end of the attraction.  It turns out that he is both your Ghost Host and the murderer of a young bride and her fiancĂ©.  At that point, guests are expected to flee the scene.

The most dangerous ghost in the Mansion . . . is out to get you!

In the same way, if you peruse the artwork produced by X., who is commonly assigned to the scary camp, you find both humor and horror.

In short, to the degree that there was a tug-of-war, it should probably be regarded as a disagreement between Marc and Claude over the relative balance of fun and fear in the total mix, not some sort of life-and-death struggle for the soul of the Mansion.

Where does Ken Anderson stand with regard to all of this?  When you look through his scripts and artwork, you find generous helpings from both ends of the spectrum, with no sense of tension, no disharmony between the two.  It's perfectly true that he found delight in the gruesome and grim, 'cause he's the magnificent, marvelous Ken Andersim.

It's just as easy to round up goofball artwork, though.

This, from a set of quick sketches he made in '92 for "E"-Ticket, makes the point about as succinctly as it can be
made, I think: In Ken's mind, scary and silly get along just fine together, peacefully co-existing in the same house.

The tone, the blend, the recipe for the Haunted Mansion is essentially Ken Anderson's.

A Tribute to Anderson

Originally, there were no hidden "tributes" to Ken at all in the Mansions. Most of the main Imagineers (and some second and third tier talents, too) got tributes somewhere, either inside or outside, but not he.  In fact—and as long as we're on the subject—some lucky guys actually got two tributes, like...

Robert Sewell

Cliff Huet

Fred Joerger

Claude Coats

...and X. Atencio.

For Ken, all you could point to was a caricature of him on a flyer advertising the Mansion's 30th
Anniversary program in 1999.  For the "Father of the Haunted Mansion," that's not much.

But in April 2011, a long-overdue tribute to Ken Anderson was finally added to the
redesigned WDW queue. (It's one of the only good things about that queue in my book).

Our final segment in this series will be a Halloween present.  Fair warning:  It will be quite different and may be of limited interest to many of you Forgottenistas; but for Disney historians, Imagineers, and the truly hardcore, it may be of intense interest.  Unless I'm badly mistaken, I believe I've discovered a hitherto-unknown "commentary" on Anderson's Ghost House in Anderson's own hand.