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, Doombuggies.com. 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).

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.

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Haunted Mansion Boat Ride


Note about Ken Anderson added, July 24, 2017.



That's right, a boat ride. It's only a footnote in most reviews of the Mansion's historical development, but for a short period the Imagineers toyed with the idea of making the Haunted Mansion a water attraction. This was back when (1) they knew that the Mansion needed some sort of conveyance for the guests but (2) before the Omnimover system came along in 1967 and solved the problem. By the way, the problem was not ride capacity per se. By deciding to build two identical walk-thru attractions side by side, the guests-per-hour numbers seemed manageable. (You will recall that this is why they built two stretching galleries in the first place. Each would lead to a different walk-thru.) No, the problem was crowd control. Could you keep these packs of 50 or 60 people moving efficiently, or would there be backups if, say, one frightened child held up the proceedings? And could you prevent vandalism well enough with such a system? Those were the sorts of problems that had them searching for some way to make it a ride ride.

For me, the idea of making the Haunted Mansion a boat ride is the most intriguing conveyance possibility they ever seriously considered.


A Silly Spook May Sit Bayou Side

The first thing that needs to be said is that the concept is not ridiculous. The high water table in New Orleans makes the idea of an old plantation house partially submerged in a bayou a plausible enough setting. In fact, the ride's graveyard scene was originally going to be a swampier affair, with bogs and frogs and trickling streams. (A trace of this remains in the tea party tableau, where a hearse is supposedly stuck in the mud.)


The problem is that practically nothing has been published in the way of artwork, whereby we may satisfy our curiosity. But hey, since when has lack of evidence slowed us down? At Long-Forgotten we laugh at lack of evidence. Ha ha, laugh we. Anyway, it turns out there are clues to be found in various crooked fannies, and these clues will allow us to at least raise our guesswork to the level of informed speculation, even if a goal as modest as simple probability remains out of reach.
So . . . prepare to make sail.

Good Old Fred

It was Fred Joerger who came up with the concept. Fred was mainly a model maker for the Mansion, but he had experience as a set designer as well. As he tells it, he first brought the idea to Claude Coats. Why not put in an old bayou with about three feet of water and take guests through in boats? There would be complete crowd control, and there could be "keen illusions" involving things coming up out of the water, as well as reflection effects. There would be wallpaper peeling off the walls, and all that sort of thing.

According to Joerger, Claude liked the idea and suggested they run it by Walt. Walt came by "just a little later," but when Claude told him about Fred's concept, the boss scuttled the idea immediately: "We've got too many boat rides already." Joerger always thought that was pretty ironic, considering that this was before they had built Small World or Pirates of the Caribbean (Didier Ghez, Walt's People: Volume 6 [Xlibris, 2008] 231).

Joerger (left) working with Claude Coats on POTC

Other accounts suggest that the idea was alive for a longer period. Either the Imagineers continued to develop it despite Walt's initially negative response (very possible), or Joerger has compressed the events in his memory into a shortened time frame. There were several different guys who reportedly worked on the project at one point or another. According to Imagineer Pat Burke, Sam McKim showed him some concept artwork he had done depicting boats floating through a flooded Haunted Mansion. Burke thought it was "much like the Blue Bayou" in its themeing. Marc Davis also makes passing reference to the boat idea (The "E" Ticket 16 [1993] 22), and Yale Gracey reportedly did some work on it, no doubt cooking up special effects that would work in such a setting (Jason Surrell, The Haunted Mansion [NY: Disney Editions, 2009] 32).

If Coats and Davis were involved, and Walt vetted it, we can probably assign a date of 1964 or 1965 for Fred's brainstorm. Judging by the number of Imagineers who worked on it, the idea must have remained afloat for a respectable length of time before it was finally abandoned. As we shall soon see, this could be useful information.

Edit July 2017: As has happened so many times before, the original inspiration for this idea can be traced back to the "Father of the Haunted Mansion" himself, Ken Anderson. In a 1992 interview with E-Ticket magazine, Anderson said that his "ghost house" would seem like a place "all moldy and unsafe." The floors would seem "rotten," and guests "would have felt that they might fall through and drop fifteen feet  into the
bayou below the foundation of the house(The "E" Ticket 13 [Summer 1992] 5; our emphasis).


Redmond's Watery Watercolors

Has any artwork for Joeger's concept ever made it out into the public eye? McKim's sketches, if they still exist, remain unpublished. However, there is a pair of eerie Dorothea Redmond watercolors worth looking at. They are identified as concept art for the Haunted Mansion. We've seen a couple of Redmond's Mansion paintings before. They're moody and serious, but also surrealistic and hallucinatory. Claude Coats meets Rolly Crump, you could say:


This first Redmond painting we are examining is 100% pure surrealism:


One suspects that Mansion concept artwork of this type dates from the early- to mid-sixties, when Rolly Crump's weird and
nightmarish interior decoration was still the presumed approach, even by Marc Davis, as we have seen (and seen and seen).


What interests us here is the architectural venue for that purple painting. It looks like the viewer
is passing by a series of arches, with dreamlike tableaux within the niches. It doesn't seem right
for a walk-thru. Are we riding in a boat? Is that a watery reflection of the staircase on the far right?


Before you decide, compare that piece with this next one. Ugh, ordinarily I wouldn't inflict on you
such an embarrassingly blurry and incomplete artwork, but the painting is potentially too important,
and there isn't much choice. I won't bother explaining why it's incomplete. Be happy we've got 80% of it, okay?


If I'm reading them correctly (a big "if"), these two Dorothea Redmond
paintings may be the only artwork currently available that reflects Joeger's idea.


Only in the Movies

A partially flooded Mansion was realized at least once—on film. The 2003 Haunted Mansion movie makes use of a concept similar to Joerger's. After a heavy rain, a huge underground crypt is flooded and serves as the locale for a major scene in the film. Presumably, the basement levels of the house itself would also be flooded, although you never see this in the movie.

Nathan Schroeder concept sketch


Schroeder sketch of the flooded crypt. I've had a lot of fun playing with this one 
(see below). For what it's worth, compare this with the blue Redmond painting above.




Is that all, then? What have we got? (1) a few quick descriptions, (2) a couple of ambiguous watercolors, and (3) a flooded crypt in the 2003 movie. Beyond these fragments shored against the ruins, is there some way by which we may get our heads back into this boat ride version of the Haunted Mansion? Aye, me hardies, that thar be.


Pirates of the Cari-booo-an

That's . . . bad. Anyway, we've assigned Fred's light bulb moment to about 1964 or 1965 and concluded that it was probably a live option for some time. So what? Here's what: It means that the Haunted Mansion boat ride idea was born, lived, and died during the same time period that the Imagineers were hard at work on Pirates of the Caribbean. Walt had already decided by the end of 1963 that POTC would be a boat ride, with guests going down a waterfall and beyond the berm to a big show building. Coats and Davis and many others were knee deep in the POTC project in that format by 1965. If that is the historical context for Fred's Mansion idea, we may reasonably ask if any vestiges of the abandoned concept were incorporated into POTC. I think it's possible. Note that one of the very few things we know about concept artwork for this version of the HM is that it reminded one viewer of the Blue Bayou. Well, that artwork was done before the Blue Bayou was built.

I want to focus our attention on a section at the other end of the ride, however:
the passage below the burning town, between the jail scene and the arsenal scene.





There it is, by the way. The Chair. Have you ever failed to notice it, even the first time you went on the ride? Do you ever fail to notice it even now? I ask you: is there a better-placed single piece of random debris anywhere in Disneyland? (Don't bother thinking about it; the answer is no.)
I note that Dave DeCaro, too, has fallen under the spell of The Chair. You Disneylander readers, you have too, haven't you? Did so long ago, didn't you? There's also a table up there with a shawl hanging off of it. It too captures your attention for some reason, but nothing beats The Chair.



Before he graduated to more sophisticated cameras and started producing these rich, atmospheric shots, Dave took some simpler flash pictures. In a way, they're better suited to our purpose. Okay, in the following photos imagine you are peering upward not into the half-charred beams of a burning town but into the decaying interior of an old house. Floors have rotted through, and stuff has fallen. Stuff like chairs and tables. In these POTC pix, all you really need to do is replace the red embers in your imagination with Spanish moss or creeping vines, and perhaps put in some of Joerger's "peeling wallpaper."


A boat ride through the Mansion would have furnished ample opportunities for precariously perched, heavy furnishings, threatening
to tumble down through the rotting timbers onto the boats as they passed beneath. You know, this thing is starting to sound like fun.


It isn't hard to imagine, is it? And I haven't even put any ghosts in there yet, visible in and through the decaying building, going up perhaps several stories. Any such or other concepts for a HM boat ride would have still been on the table when POTC scenes like this were designed. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to suppose that there may have been some imaginative transference. Passing below a rotting mansion becomes passing below a burning town.
It takes very little to change one into the other:



Dueling Ideas

As we've already said more than once, someone who saw Sam McKim's concept art for the HM boat ride thought it had a "Blue Bayou" atmosphere. Well, McKim sketched the BB also. He produced a  "fun map" of the POTC, and one wonders if there too one can find something that looks like a possible holdover from the flooded Mansion. The Bayou section of McKim's sketch is an absolute delight, but does it include anything you don't see in the actual ride?


The answer is yes, there is one thing on McKim's map that has no counterpart in the POTC ride: the dueling oak. It was an old New Orleans tradition for duelists to have it out under the spreading branches of certain oak trees. In fact, a dueling oak area was included in 1962 plans for New Orleans Square, which at that time was going to consist of a fa├žade of shopfronts on a HUGE building containing an outdoor setting called the "Blue Bayou Mart," with a "Rogues Gallery" wax-museum and pirate-themed walk-thru below, at basement level. The museum eventually became POTC, of course, and the "Blue Bayou Mart" above it shrunk down to become the Blue Bayou restaurant and tableau at the beginning of POTC. In the original Mart, the "outdoor" area would have accommodated a pleasant, dueling oak area, where you could sit around and enjoy soft drinks.


By the time Sam McKim drew his POTC sketch, these concepts were ancient history,
and yet for some reason he included a dueling oak in his sketch of the ride.

After so much speculation,  finally we have a smoking gun.

Let's see. We know that the Mansion has duelists among its characters. Is it possible that originally (or alternately) they were going to be on the bank of a waterway, going through their endless duel beneath a sprawling oak? I assume that the Mansion boat ride would have had an outdoor scene or two, much like the midnight jamboree at the end of the actual ride, or like most of POTC for that matter. Unlike the original Blue Bayou Mart concept, McKim has sketched the dueling oak as a graveyard scene, and the pistols on the ground are both still smoking, as if the duel has just barely concluded, but in that case, where are the duelists? Are we in fact looking at the rudiments of a ghostly gag intended for the waterlogged Mansion? It's a thought.


"And now, a vessel approaches, to take you into the boundless realm of the supernatural."

What else do we know? Well, the foyer, stretching galleries, and some version of the "Great Hall" (what is now the changing portrait hall) were scenes already set in concrete (literally) when the boat idea came along. That means you would have boarded the boats in the same place you now board the doombuggies. You will recall that one element of the Great Hall at the time was oversized furniture and artworks, making the guests feel small, as if they had shrunk somehow. The size of this flooded house, therefore, would probably have been greatly exaggerated.

We have zero visual evidence to go by here, so you have to try to re-imagine the Limbo area as a sort of Lafitte's Landing and Blue Bayou made over as a haunted environment. Here's the sort of layout I'm picturing. The two elevators empty into two identical versions of the Great Hall as imagined in 1965. The exits from the Halls would be the false fireplaces at the far end. After that it's pretty much POTC with ghosts. 



Could it Have Worked?

The first time I ever heard of the boat ride concept, I thought it was dumb, because I couldn't imagine how you could get anything resembling a full visit to a haunted house merely by floating around at basement level. I figured you couldn't pretend to go any higher than that, because it's obvious from standing in line around the building and visiting the foyer and stretching room that the ground floor is not flooded, and this was how things were even when Joerger hatched his idea. But he speaks of "peeling wallpaper," and Pat Burke says McKim's sketches showed "boats floating through the halls." That's not basement level. What were they thinking?

It's clearer to me now that the idea could have worked. If you don't mind some armchair imagineering, here's one way it could have been done. First of all, Walt would have had to relent and let them have the kind of decaying old building he didn't want to see in Disneyland. Second, they would have needed to re-landscape around the Mansion, surrounding it with a swamp. That much is obvious.


Now, picture this: There's a big "Condemned—Danger—Keep Out" sign beside the front door, explaining that the building is unsound and subject to flooding. Perhaps the butler/maid could explain that the flooding only happens when it's raining, and since today the weather looks fine, there should be no danger in taking a tour below. (If it's raining that day, they say it's not enough to be concerned about. It's pouring? Skip the lecture.)

Sure enough, when we arrive at the boats, we find them floating at foundational level, underneath the house. There's a cavern-like atmosphere. Since we have no concept art, we'll have to create our own. I guess you could call it concept art of concept art. This is
pretty crude and murky, but it ought to give you an idea of what I have in mind. Remember, we're in an oversized environment.


After this load area would be a good place for a flooded crypt scene,
like in the movie. No changes in the water level are needed yet.


Next, I see us entering a long undercroft, and to our horror we see through the colonnade that a thunderstorm is now raging! The waters are turbulent, and the rain is literally pouring off the roof.  As we scoot along, we notice that the ceiling is getting closer and closer (creating the optical illusion of a rising water level). Are we going to be trapped inside by a flash flood? ARE WE ALL GOING TO DIE?

Wave goodbye.  Get it?  Wave goodbye.  It's a pun.  Drowning is a wave goodbye.      Shut up.

Just in the nick of time we escape through the far end and discover that the whole first floor of the house is now flooded. So naturally,
in we go. Plenty to see both around us and above us (and even beneath us!), since the house is so badly decayed inside its outer shell.



There are other possibilities, of course. This is just one way it could have worked. If the flooding were to take place during the ride, and if the internal decay of the building were sufficiently advanced, methinks you could have quite a show. I'm glad they didn't, but after all this amateur imagineering, I've come to the point where I could almost wish they had built it this way.

* * * * * * * * * * *

See? I told you we didn't need to show you no steeenking evidence.

Update (1-20-15): A Disney Imagineer and friend tells me he has searched
and found no evidence, stinking or otherwise, that the boat concept was
ever developed. The brief conversations between Joerger, Coats, and Walt may
have been the beginning and the end of the idea. We may never know for sure.

* * * * * * * * * * *

BONUS: here's the Ken Anderson concept painting that I 'shopped into the Nathan Schroeder sketch of a submerged crypt.
Most of you have never seen this mausoleum scene.  (Special thanks to reader pursuit agent for the good quality copy.)


Until next time, bone voyage.


Monday, November 17, 2014

A 1973 Ride Through the Disneyland Haunted Mansion

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(This is just a quick snack of a post to hold you over for the big one coming up next.)


The Mansion in 1973

In an earlier post, we dissected an audio ride-thru recording of the Disneyland HM from about 1976. Here's a recording made a few years before that. The quality is pretty good for a 1973 tape. My thank you to the responsible parties who made it available.

The Haunted Mansion 1973


What can be said about this new tape? Well, it sounds a lot like the 1976 recording, not surprisingly. At least to my ear it doesn't really add any new information to what we gleaned from the other tape, so in that sense it's bound to be a bit anticlimactic.

Hey, it's good to have anyway.

It sounds like it was a busy day.

Believe it or not, my biggest takeaway from this tape was the realization that people were just as rude back then as they are today, chattering and laughing throughout the Ghost Host's spiel and giving out obnoxious, fake screams in the stretching gallery. Gee, and here I remembered (or chose to remember) people as being a little more considerate back then, because every trip used up an E-ticket, and I figured that people would be less likely to squander a precious "E" by engaging in such antics.


But people are people.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Putting Sam McKim on the Map

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There were a lot of major league Disney talents who worked on the Mansion project at one time or another while it was in development but who don't automatically come up in conversation like the Big Seven do (B7 = Anderson, Crump, Gracey, Davis, Atencio, Coats, and—if we remember that we have ears as well as eyes—Buddy Baker). At least, those are the Big Seven in my mind. Some would put Blaine Gibson on the short list as well. Note that I'm only talking here about the creative and conceptual guys, not the engineering and technical guys, many of whom deserve trophies of their own. Anyway, some of the talents on the creative and conceptual end simply didn't contribute material in sufficient quantity to make them haunted household names; nevertheless, they deserve recognition and appreciation if you're a Mansion fan. One of these is Sam McKim.



Quick on the Draw

If the name "Sam McKim" is not familiar—well, there's no point in trying to review his whole career here. That's what other Disney sites are for.
(I haven't counted, but gosh, there must be at least a dozen blogs and websites on the internet dedicated to some aspect of the Disney creative legacy.) McKim is a Disney legend. You can read about him HERE. More than one source claims he's best known for his huge souvenir park maps from the 50s and 60s, and for sure those maps are a source of endless delight. It was (and is) great fun to pore over them with a magnifying glass, discovering all the whimsical details McKim put there. There's a good article on these maps HERE.


It may be true that McKim is most famous for those maps among us old farts boomers, and Disney collectors know about them, but let's get real: His last DL map was done in 1964. I doubt that they are immediately familiar nowadays to anyone outside of Disney nerdist colonies. In contrast, McKim's Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln artwork once again fills the biographical slide presentation used for the Lincoln pre-show. (It was gone for awhile, but thankfully they brought it back.) That, I submit, is probably McKim's best-known work these days, certainly among the general public, and possibly among Disneyheads as well. (Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I will argue about anything.)


Sam was an amazingly detailed artist with wonderful architectural instincts. What strikes you about McKim's work is the strong, confident, free-hand draughtsmanship. In other words, that guy could really draw. His pencil and pen-and-ink sketchwork is always fresh and convincing. His subtle control of line weight was particularly fine. Could he paint? Sure, but many of his "paintings" are really only (superbly) colorized drawings.

1957 or 1958 concept art for New Orleans Square (with the Haunted House on the far left)

There have been seven different renderings of the Haunted Mansion on the big souvenir maps, from the first one in 1958 down to the most
recent in 2008. The superb McKim sketch seen here graced the 1961—65 maps, and it is the only one that has ever been architecturally accurate.


Outside the House

Okay, what about the Mansion? Well, here's a pic of Sam as one of the onstage panel of Imagineers at the 30th anniversary celebration in 1999 (which incidentally was far and away the best HM Anny celebration to date).


I remember wondering what Sam McKim was doing up there alongside Rolly, Marc, Buddy, and X. At the
time, the only Mansion-related thing I knew about that Sam had done was this iconic concept painting:


Nice as it is, it didn't seem to me enough to get McKim onto that stage. I had not yet learned that McKim had earlier proposed
the only other design concept for the HM exterior that was ever taken seriously enough to have a chance of winning the day.


In May of 2014 a newly-discovered rough sketch of this house (ca. 1957) was published:


You can see more of McKim's sketches for his Ghost House in this old post. For your viewing
pleasure, I'll add here a seldom seen version of one of those sketches before it was colorized.


As long as I'm plussing the old post, here too is a clearer, sharper image of
the McKim house as it appeared on the fun maps from 1958, 59, and 60.


That newly unearthed rough sketch of that house may surprise some of you. With some artists from the Walt era, there isn't much daylight between rough sketch and concept art suitable for framing. Even their "quick" sketches betray a slow hand and fussy attentiveness. Couldn't help themselves, I suppose. A temperament thing. Well, Sam McKim was not one of those. When he tossed out a rough sketch, rough is what it was.


Inside the House

It wasn't until the last few years that I discovered how involved Sam was with what would go on inside the house as well. He went to the meetings, worked with the guys on the main team, and contributed ideas and artwork.

McKim notes from an early meeting where the "funny" approach was emphasized

Paul Anderson at The Disney History Institute has published some rarely seen concept sketches
done by McKim. This first one involves the doombuggies, so it cannot be any older than 1968.


Like I said, "rough sketch" means rough sketch with this guy. Here he's playing with the idea of having more than one
ghost interacting with guests, each trying to steal the show and pull the doombuggy in a different direction. Cute idea.


It seems that the theme of "historical villains" was still alive in 1968, which is later than I thought. The ghost of
King John signing the ghost of the Magna Charta and offering you a souvenir pen as you go by? Um . . . okay.


Here we have a pilgrim still having trouble with injuns in the afterlife (no longer a PC gag, blah blah blah).
Third arrow goes right into the derriere. Butt jokes? Definitely Disney humor! I'm wondering what the
shovel is all about, though. It's not what I think it is, is it? That won't be Disney humor until UP.


This is my favorite of the four. The "historical villains" angle is still being used (Napoleon), but for this gag that context is completely unnecessary. The idea of a brush floating in mid-air and a hair-combing ghost visible in the mirror was actually used in the "special features" section of the DVD of The Haunted Mansion (2003), so unless this is a coincidence, it looks like at least one Sam McKim Mansion gag escaped from the drawing board and managed to find its way into public view.



A Hidden Tribute

Sam McKim clearly belongs on the map, but other than his stage presence at the 1999 Anniversary, has his contribution to the Mansion ever been acknowledged? Actually, yes, but just barely. There is a tribute to him at the WDW Mansion, although few people ever see it. There's a hallway used by the butlers and maids marked "Servants Quarters," and unlike most backstage areas, it's fully themed. I believe it's because the hall is used for wheelchair entry. On one wall is a bank of old-fashioned servant's bells. They're labeled "Ambassador Xavier's Lounging Lodge," "Madam Leota's Boudoir," "Grandfather McKim's Resting Room," "Uncle Davis' Sleeping Salon," "Master Gracey's Bedchamber," "Colonel Coats' Bivouac Berth," and "Professor Wathel's Reposing Lounge."


Those are obviously tributes to X Atencio, Leota Toombs, Sam McKim, Marc Davis, Yale Gracey, Claude Coats, and Wathel Rogers. With the exception of McKim, all of those Imagineers have tributes elsewhere, and some of them have several. Interestingly enough, when the new interactive queue of 2011 tried to ensure that any Mansion Imagineer who had never received a tribute finally got one, McKim was somehow overlooked. So it turns out that this servant's bell is the only tribute to Sam McKim at any of the Mansions, as far as I know, but hey, it exists!


It's past my bedtime. I'll write the conclusion to this
post first thing in the morning, I promise. Nighty-nite.

In Conclusion...

Good morning! What were we talking about, anyway?
Oh. Right. Sam McKim.

*insert paper rustling sounds* 

McKimmmmm . . . Mmm . . . Muhhhhh... kimmm . . .  SSSSSam McKimmm . . .  Can't seem to finnnnd . . . It was here the other dayyyyy . . . Kimmuh kimmuh kimmuh . . . Ssssssammm . . . Where are you Sammmmm . . . . . . in here somewherrrrrrrre . . .      . . . hmph. Let's try here . . .         . . . t, t, t, t, . . . 
Ah, here tis.  Who the hell filed this under K? 

*ahem*

And so, in conclusion, while Sam McKim cannot truthfully be described as one of the major architects in the development of the Haunted Mansion, he was nevertheless part of the imagineering conversation from the beginning to the end and so deserves recognition for his various contributions to the creative mix, many of which we may never know about.

**************

Our next post is a doozie, and McKim plays a part in it, so this post acts as a nice
warm up for that one. I won't tell you what it's about, but be sure to bring your galoshes.