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; 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.

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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.

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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.


10 comments:

  1. You know, no matter how many times I see that McKim "Magna Carta" gag, I always laugh. Part of it is because it's such an odd idea to offer souvenir pens, and partially it's because, although the art is rough, King John looks bizarrely delighted.

    It's pretty telling that of all the "re-enactment" gags everyone was coming up with - re-enacting famous events, re-enacting deaths (dirt common in real life supernatural), the only one that got into the ride was the duelists. That gag is so perfect it makes all the other options look bad.

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    1. And if you can be patient, you'll see in the next post that McKim may have had something to do with the duelists gag.

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  2. I always liked those old maps. There was a place I used to visit that had the really big Disneyland maps and I would always try to find the Haunted Mansion.

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  3. Fantastic post. Thank you so much!

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  4. Do you know where I can watch the 30th anniversary Haunted Mansion video? I can't seem to find it on youtube...

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  5. Uh, isn't Gracey more among the "engineering" guys than among the "conceptual" ones ?

    ReplyDelete