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, April 5, 2014

Moonlight Picnic

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Sometime back, I identified the royal playground scene in the graveyard as the Haunted Mansion tableau that has attracted the least interest. Scratch that.  It's only second to least.  The picnic couple next to the hearse tea party holds that dubious distinction.  It's not in any official synopsis of the ride that I have seen, it's not mentioned in the "Story and Song" narration, and you won't find it in any of the photos used for postcards, slides, souvenir guides, etc.

No love for picnicking ghosts.

For a long time I lumped them in with the tea party.  You have three couples interacting with each other over there.  Right to left: (1) the diminutive coffin occupant and his medieval conversation partner, (2) the coachman and lady, and (3) the picnic couple.  I just assumed that the picnickers were a third pair in the same group.


And why would anyone think otherwise?  There is even documentary support for the classification: a daily
checklist of animated effects used by ride operators refers to them as "T/PTY. MAN" and "T/PTY. LADY."


Notwithstanding this (semi)official document, I no longer think they belong to that group. The hearse tea party is exactly that, a tea party. They're drinking tea, with cups and saucers and a floating tea pot to make it as obvious as possible.  The picnic couple, however, are drinking wine, and I don't see anything suggesting that they arrived with the hearse.  They are a tiny tableau unto themselves. Officially, they are simply "Man at Table" and "Woman at Table."  Note that Marc Davis's concept artwork for the hearse tea party does not include them.


There is little to go by in tracing the development of the picnic couple, but it is clear even from that little that they were originally supposed to be humorous.  I have never seen any Marc Davis concept art for them,* but we know that the scale model maquettes stick pretty close to the Davis sketches upon which they are based, and we do have a photo of the maquettes.  We'll have to squeeze it for every drop we can get.



He's very well dressed and appears to be making fine progress through the champagne bottle. He's proposing a toast. "To us, my dear." He comes across as an extroverted, well-heeled, boozy, woozy ghost, yet another comical Davis drunk.  He's supposed to make you smile, and he does.

As for her, unfortunately we can't see her face, but judging by what we can see, I'd say she's an unassuming, cheerful type. She's got a nice spring bonnet with a gay pink bow. Appropriate clothing for an outing, nothing special. She's got her hair back, out of the way, sensibly enough for a picnic. One supposes that she's about his age, and that her hair is gray, but boost the color and we see that it still has some blonde in it.


She's of a mature age, but I get an impression of health and
vitality matching his.  Not bad for a dead person, you agree?

Overall, it looks like Marc Davis envisioned a sort of "Thurston Howell III and lady friend" tableau.  Naturally, such a man is going to dominate the scene.  He's bombastic and overbearing, but he's also jovial and harmless.  She's his happy companion, and to all appearance her contribution is not much more than that.


Heads Will Role Play

When some long forgotten maquettes of the band members came to light about a year ago, we traced the creative process that gave us the harpist, working from two sketches and two maquettes as well as what we already knew about the development of the band tableau.  You will recall that the discussion ended on a bittersweet note, since most of Marc Davis's meticulous attention to the character went for nothing.  In an economy move (time? money? manpower?), they just put an existing Pirate head onto the harpist's shoulders. Not all of the original Davis character was lost, however.  Owing to his height and positioning, the harpist still comes across as band leader, and owing to his quaint and curious, old-fashioned uniform and the whacked out music they're playing, he's still an amusing, mildly comic figure.


Ah, but when they made the same sort of economizing move with our male picnicker, alas, they gutted the scene.  Look at the maquettes.  The man's face is 90% of the show, and I think this would still be true even if we could see her face.  But when they built the figure for the ride, he was stuck with a bland, serious countenance, lacking in individual personality. Sure, he's still dressed nicely, but not so much as to distinguish him from a lot of the other ghosts.  Why oh why did they choose this particular head? There are other Pirate heads with expressions not far from the one on the maquette.  Was the selection due to desperate hurry and current availability?  It better be a darn good excuse, whatever it was.

"To us, I guess. Whatever."


You could say that they had planned for a Dick Martin, but they settled for a Dan Rowan.

Here's a LINK for the L.I.N.K.'s among you (Laugh-in? No knowledge).

There's less to say about the woman's personality, since we can't see the maquette's face. For that matter, it isn't
easy to make out her face in the ride either, but once again Long-Forgotten rides to the rescue.  Let's take a look.


She too is sporting a standard-issue head, and she's got at least
one HM twin, back in the ballroom.  (The difference is all paint.)


Despite this, it seems to me that they were still able to preserve the
personality of the maquette pretty well, so far as it can be determined.

•       Youthful face            check
•      Happy mood             check
•      Cheerfully dressed    check
 
ride pic by maggotprince

In ride photos, the couple generally comes across as . . . subdued, shall we say?  Especially when
they're compared to what's going on all about them.  The picnic is not unpleasant, but it's a little dull.

(pic by K447)

What is that they're drinking, anyway?  Did they mistake the
ketchup bottle for the wine bottle?  Never picnic in the dark.
(pic by photomatt)

A Hit and a Miss

Since a pirate made off with the man's personality, the Imagineers had to find a way to inject some character into what was now a rather faceless tableau, so they apparently decided to reinvent the couple as veddy uppuh clawss Brits by means of their vocal soundtrack (which inspired an unofficial nickname, "The Duke and Dutchess").

The Picnickers


Okay, I admit that she's fun to listen to.  How can you not love the improvised "oh yes they do" at the end?  Hats off to Betty Wand. As for him, it sounds to me like Bill Lee is trying to pull off a Boris Karloff impression.  If so, it leaves something to be desired, but hey, it's certainly no worse than Dick Van Dyke's cockney.  I notice that his vocal sounds a lot less snooty than hers.  There's very little caricature in it.  You could just as easily argue that it's a mild, middle-of-the-road British accent, with no particular social pretensions projecting through it.

Overall, how successful was the reinvention?  In a word, meh.  There's a reason why no one ever talks about this tableau.  In their efforts here, I think the Imagineers scored one hit and one miss, but the hit was rather dull, and the miss was totally unnecessary and a damn shame.  As we have seen, there's a disconnect between the lively male maquette and his bland AA realization, but at least you can say that the vocal track seems to fit the ride figure.  It's humorless and lacking in personality, like him. I guess we have to call that a successful match, but big whoop.


Then there's the lady.  Like I said, despite her recycled head it seems to me that they preserved a nice continuity between the female maquette and her AA.  But then that achievement was inexplicably squandered by a poor vocal match.

By voicing her as they did, the Imagineers were apparently aiming for a comic effect along these lines:  A stuffy, self-important Grand Dame and her consort are seen enjoying a quaint old-fashioned picnic! How droll.  Even if you think the gag succeeds, it's still an awfully lame version of the same joke you see in King and Queen playing on a see-saw.  But I don't think it does succeed.  The lady looks nothing like what you would expect, based on the voice.  I don't see anything proud or snobbish or even comic about her.  Look at that unassuming smile, that perky little sunbonnet. She's got that quality the French call joie de vivre (although in this case we would more properly call it joie de mourir). Anyway, there's no irony here; she's exactly the type of gal who would really go for a picnic.  As amusing as the vocal track is by itself, I don't think it matches the figure.

(top right: Jeff Cook; bottom right: maggotprince)

So that's it.  Bummer.  But don't slash those wrists quite yet.  We've got a few
miscellaneous items to deal with, and after that Captain Negative promises to
come back to our overall evaluation and end the post on a more positive note.


A Loaf of Bread, a Jug of Wine, and Thou

I keep calling it a picnic.  It is.  In the photo of the maquettes, the picnic basket is conspicuously placed in front of the couple, alongside the wine chiller.  In the actual ride, the chiller is there, and so is the basket, but it's been known to migrate over to the tea party.  I guess the teapot isn't the only thing that floats around.  

(pic by Brett Garrett)

Even without the basket, there's no doubt that it's supposed to be a picnic.  The tablecloth has that familiar checkered design
that says PICNIC as clearly as if it were written on it.  It doesn't show up in most photos, but you can see it in this picnic pic, Nick:


It's more obvious in this shot of the Tokyo tableau:

pic by Tom Bricker

Incidentally, the table is ALL there is.  Thanks to the HMH, we know that they're sitting on invisible chairs.  It's strictly a table tableau,
you might say.  (Well, some of you might.)  Anyway, they look constipated. One more reason to dislike the holiday overlay, I suppose.


Some of you may have another picnic nitpick:  the maquettes are drinking champagne, but the
ride gives them red wine, and yet it keeps the wine chiller.  Chilled red wine?  Quelle horreur!

You chill.  That looks like a champagne bottle poking out of the chiller, so the best course may be to imagine
that they're drinking pink champagne. It has a deep, unearthly glow, but that seems appropriate enough, oui?


Another problem solved.  How could you
sleep at night before this blog came along?


Armed and Loaded

Speaking of wine, at Disneyland the party is being joined (crashed?) by the possessor of the arm coming out of a crypt in front of the couple and dangling a wine glass.  It's a great gag.  Everyone notices it; everyone likes it.  As usual, Dave De Caro has put up some excellent photos:



Striking as it is, that arm is only a leftover scrap from a much more ambitious idea Davis came up with.


Curiously enough, in Orlando the arm is a righty and holds a teacup.  It's been reassigned to the hearse tea party tableau,
in other words.  Tokyo takes it the next logical step and points their similarly becuppèd arm in the tea party direction.

pix: lostonpurpose (top left), CrimsonGypsy 1313 (top right). GRD (bottom right)

At Disneyland, good Ol' Blasty the pop-up ghost comes out of that very
same crypt.  Orlando and Tokyo have a regular stick-head popup there.

(pic by SilentDante)

Between him, the arm, and the bikers swooping around in the background, the poor
picnic couple is well and truly upstaged.  No wonder they inspire so little comment.

Unique

Okay, the picnic may not be the most exciting tableau in the ride, but it's not without a certain charm.  They're a couple entirely occupied with each other, having their own quiet party within the party.  There are examples elsewhere in the Haunted Mansion of coupled ghosts involved exclusively with each other, or nearly so.  There's the tipsy couple on the chandelier in the ballroom, the duelists, the opera singers, and you could make a case for the Bride and the Hat Box Ghost in the original attic.  But the picnic couple is different in that they are not very funny and certainly not scary.  The lack of humor as well as the utter lack of threat leave you with no alternative but to take them entirely on their own terms, and this is their one strong point.  They're a unique little island of tranquility, a romantic couple quietly enjoying each other's company even in the midst of all this pandemonium.  Kinda sweet, really.

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

There are only five ghostly figures or groups in the entire ride for which no Marc Davis concept art has ever been published, to the best of my knowledge:
the coffin guy, the purple-shrouded figure in the Séance Circle (now defunct), the ballroom window wraiths, the picnic couple, and Little Leota.




25 comments:

  1. AH !
    Thank you! If not for you we more than likely would never see any of these folks up close and personal.
    Glad I caught up with you because I was watching that old clip from Sandy Duncan's Special from way Back in the Olden days
    and I noticed that as She and Ruth B, are running from the conservatory down the COD's , It appears to ME that the Doom Buggies are Removed!
    I watched it over and over and it sure looks like they were.
    Doom Buggies.com has that clip in their media archives if you wanna inspect it.

    Again,
    Thank you for your in depth analysis on this Great American Masterpiece of Illusion.
    Always look forward to the next Haunting adventure!

    ReplyDelete
  2. OH,,
    before I go,, did you ever notice on the Osmond special while Kurt Russel narrates the inner workings,
    that the maquette's face on one of the visitors ( GUY with the Flowers in the finished product)
    looks just like Howdy Doody??
    It's the last one Just before they cut to the next segment.

    Hee hee,,
    Anytime I hear "WINGS Someones Knockin' on the door Let 'em in,,
    I think of the ballroom visitors..

    Now ,,
    I bet YOU will TOO!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great Post, HBG, insightful and humorous as always.

    Two questions:

    Do you know where in Pirates the a"Duke's" head is seen?

    The Tokyo couple appear to have completely different heads...or is this just paintjob?

    -RW

    PS: Disney touched on this head-reuse phenom back in '12 in their blog :

    http://disneyandmore.blogspot.com/2012/01/you-will-never-believe-real-origin-of.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Offhand, I don't know where the head is found in POTC. I'm sure it's there somewhere, I just don't get much of a charge out of searching for those matches. To me, that really is trivia for trivia's sake. As for Tokyo, I suspect they're the same heads.

      Delete
  4. So Blasty comes out of the crypt eh? Then maybe that's his hand holding the wine glass. That must be some good champagne: he's losing his head over it! Also are the Ballroom window wraiths different than the ghost guests coming in from the coffin and hearse? Is there somewhere I can get a good picture?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wraith: http://longforgottenhauntedmansion.blogspot.com/2012/06/into-dark-forest.html
      Visitors: http://longforgottenhauntedmansion.blogspot.com/2013/02/heads-and-details-new-concept-art-found.html
      Scroll on down, they're there.

      Delete
  5. You can see those wraiths flying by in a video ( again at Doombuggies in their media collection ) during a filming behind the scenes.
    The camera goes from an empty Grand hall scene and then behind the Massive Glass panels.
    The Camera pans up for a moment and you can see the wraiths flying by on their support rods much like an amusement park ride. actually more like the Banshee set up over the organ but on its side.
    You gotta watch it Over and over before you realize what you are looking at.

    Yeah It would be cool to see that Wraith RIG up close and personal.

    ReplyDelete
  6. You know,
    The show building at WDW HM is around 40 thousand sq Feet and three stories tall.
    People don't realize how much of that space alone is required to pull off these illusions.

    ReplyDelete
  7. HOLY CRUD, HBG2, I knew instantly that that maquette head was a dead ringer for somebody from 1960’s TV, but when I scrolled down to the picture of Dick Martin it was like a lightning bolt! That is just eerie!

    It was probably a subconscious fanwank on my part, and I realize that even more now after reading this, but I always thought that the picnic couple were two common folks putting on airs, even in the afterlife – maybe even servants pretending to be their masters, like in that one episode of Upstairs, Downstairs. First, their accents are all the heck over the place, lapsing between gutter Cockney and upper-crust Received Pronunciation like a Central Casting Eliza Doolittle on a gin bender. Then, as you point out, their appearance and dress is plainer than you’d expect for their actions and words.

    (Now, if it had been a conscious fanwank, I probably would have taken it a step further and said that’s why they were drinking chilled red wine, because they didn’t know anything about fine dining. The truth is, I just never noticed the chiller.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Dan Rowan side isn't off by much either, IMHO, but with that we're certainly dealing with coincidence, while it's reasonable to think Marc Davis actually did have Dick Martin at least in the back of his mind.

      The fact that the couple leaves you with need of an explanation at all only ghost to show that the characters are muddled. If they don't "read" easily and clearly, something went wrong.

      Delete
  8. I remember hearing Alice Davis mention in an interview once, that the ghost drinking from the Show girl's slipper was one of Marc's favorite gags but "they took it out" ...I never knew what she meant exactly by "they took it out" what the context was, or when this decision was made to change it, but reading you piece here you mention at the end that the picnic scene is one of the few things in the mansion that doesn't have any Marc Davis concept art for it. Do you think originally the space in the ride that the Picnic is in was intended for the Show girl? It seems to me the Show girl and the arm coming out of the crypt are better positioned for that location, because in the picnic scene all you see is the back of the female ghost's head. And I don't know about the audio, but Betty Wand's vocal performance seems like it would be a better fit for the Show Girl than the Picnic Woman to me

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's an interesting theory, but I think it is ruled out by the maquettes. That goofy guy is definitely a Davis character, and there must certainly be somewhere a sketch behind it. I think Alice's conversational, spontaneous choice of words, "they took it out," shouldn't be pressed too hard, and it should probably be taken as "they didn't use it." As for the vocal tracks, they were recorded mere months before the ride opened, so it's unlikely that any clues about major changes are to be found there.

      Delete
    2. I didn't know if "they took it out" was a figure of speech or something, but it stood out as a little strange to me since Alice Davis is so articulate, and so opinionated, about Marc's work on the different Disney attractions, and she mentions the Show Girl Slipper scene in a few different interviews that are floating around on-line

      Delete
    3. If "they took it out" is taken to mean "they built it and put it in, but then took it out," then I don't agree. That's either a wrong way to take it in the first place, or Alice is misremembering. There is zero evidence that it ever went past that sketch. Perhaps "they took it out" of the short list of ideas they were still considering toward the end, perhaps after most of the other rejects had already been discarded.

      Delete
  9. they probably avoided it and went for the picnic scene because of the times.
    could be they might have thought it too racy for kids.
    After all it was Disney in the 60's.
    Ghost's boozing it up was probably pushing the envelope enough.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great article!
    It seems like Disney themselves have completely forgotten about this tableau. With the 2007 refurbishments at the WDW mansion, they recorded new vocal tracks for the Duke and Duchess. Now instead of saying "oh yes they do...." She says "Scream or sugar"...despite the fact that they are drinking wine, not tea.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That fits in with a pet theory of mine, that there was a communication breakdown in recording the vocal tracks for this whole area. There are two vocal tracks coming from that area: the so-called "Duke and Dutchess" duet and the "monotone chorus." It seems to me that the "Duke and Dutchess" tracks are a perfect fit for the coachman and the lady sitting on the hearse. They are obviously singing, and she's a capital "L" lady while he's just a coachman. I think the weird and breathy "monotone chorus" makes a good fit for the bicyclists. By this theory, the picnic couple are not supposed to be singing at all, and that's why they don't look like they're singing. Similarly, the coffin occupant and his rock-sitting friend are engaged in conversation with each other and probably not singing. "D & D" = Coachman and Lady, "monotones" = bicyclists. No one else singing over there. Make sense? Alas, that is not how they are officially assigned, and I suspect a grievous miscommunication somewhere in the process that was never identified and rectified.

      Delete
    2. Makes perfect sense and I might just start thinking like that next time I head of to WDW to ride the HM. The Lady on the coach certainly does fit the voice track much better than the "Duchess". I could never figure out what the monotone chorus was originally supposed to be when I first listened to the full audio before. We went to Disneyworld about 3 weeks ago for my college spring break, but I don't remember seeing if the Picnickers were actually singing or not. Your theory makes quite a bit more sense. Still doesn't save a few of the other areas: The Headless Knight doesn't sing anymore, The Executioner saying "They BEGIN to terrorize" instead of "Pretend" and the prisoner saying "Screaming wake" instead of "swinging wake" Even if those lyric changes were intentional..they still sound very off compared to the other voices. Doesn't ruin the ride or anything but still...

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    3. I can confirm that the figures at Walt Disney World of the Picnicking couple's mouths do indeed move. They've got rubbery faces that flex when they are supposed to be singing their dialogue tracks.

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    4. In that case, modify from "not supposed to be singing at all" to "don't look much like they're singing, seeing as how they're facing each other and not us."

      Delete
  11. Hmmm,, Interesting,,
    And I think back to all the years we had to strain though Thurl Ravencroft's narration on the 69 Lp
    to hear what was being
    said,
    sang,
    and what noise was coming from who ,,,
    ................................................................and what.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Interestingly enough, audio-wise, this is the part I remember most specifically from my childhood. As a child, we had a cassette tape, pink I think, that had tracks from the Disneyland rides. I would listen to it for days in a row, hours on end. The Tiki Room track, There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, Yo Ho, all the classics. But, the Haunted Mansion track was one of my favorites. However, the song was sung, not by Thurl Ravenscroft and his gang of busts, but by this couple. I assumed, because the only other voices you really heard on the tape were the Ghost Host and Madame Leota, respectively, that these two singers were those two characters. As I got older and heard different tracks, I was surprised to hear the voices vanish. I did assume, though, that the tracks were intended originally and then changed. Weird, but I'd swear it was true.

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  13. Does the tea party ghost in the coffin have the same face as Gus?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I thought so. They both have the same nose.

      Delete