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.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Changing Our Portrait of the Changing Portrait Hall (or, "Rewriting History Part Three")

Updated January 17, 2018.

Welcome to the third consecutive post dealing with the lost history of the changing portrait hall. This is the latest information about this still-unfolding story. It could have been appended to the previous post, I suppose, but the topic seemed worth blogging about on its own terms.

I've had a chance to exchange emails with the man who put up for sale the slides of the changing portraits that appeared in the recent Van Eaton auction and have been the subject of the previous two posts. He's a former WDI Imagineer (goes by "gerG"), and he tells me that he originally rescued the slides from the trash, and that there were no fewer than eight sets. A couple of those sets went back to Disneyland somewhere, a couple of sets went to WDI archives, gerG kept a set, and the other three sets were tossed out (I know, hard to imagine). Eight sets is a lot of back-up, and gerG thinks this is yet another indication of a heavy commitment. I would add that another indication is the size and complexity of the projection machines Yale developed for the effect. The Imagineers must have really and for truly expected to use this six-panel system.

When did they cancel those plans? I think it's safe to say that the concept must have been abandoned by the time they wrote the script for the "Story and Song" souvenir album (May 1969). The narrative describes the portraits as changing with the lightning flashes (which is, as you know, how it was done when the ride opened and how it is done now).

gerG is pretty sure it went like this: the six-panel changing portraits were going to be shown to each group of guests separately after they exited the stretchroom elevators. Each group would stop in the hallway and watch the five pictures run through their six-panel shows simultaneously, and then, after the group had moved on, the portraits would reset to scene one for the next group.

(No, I don't know that the Burning Miser was slotted for the middle position; it's just one of the many portraits
that were ready to go, and I'm using it to illustrate the system, since a six-panel Medusa has never surfaced.)

Clearly the walk-through portion of the ride was still expected to follow the same episodic show-flow that they had assumed it would have for as long as the attraction was planned as a walk-through, beginning with Ken Anderson's 1957-58 scripts and continuing through the Rolly Crump/Yale Gracey phase (1959-1964). That is, they planned for group movement from room to room, with a brief show in each. Remnants of that show-flow still exist in the Anaheim Mansion, but it is obscured by the fact that the first scene (the foyer) and the third (the changing portrait hall) no longer adhere to it.

It was supposed to work like this: A group of people would enter the foyer, and the doors (plural) would be shut. The show would then begin with the familiar opening spiel by the Ghost Host, and the scene would end when the group had entered the elevator. Only when the elevator doors were closed would the front doors be opened and the next group admitted to the empty room. You never saw anyone outside your group.

When I rode the HM during opening week, they followed that format in the foyer. Both of the front doors were closed between groups. And as late as 2000, it seems that could still do it this way if they wanted, to judge from this video clip.

Nowadays, of course, only one is typically closed. The other remains open for late-arriving guests dribbling in. The groups are hot on each others' heels, and there is little or no sense of separation between them. Guests-per-hour is the name of the game. The psychology is that the walk-through portion is really part of the queue. The "real" ride begins with the doombuggies.

Scene One

By way of contrast, scene two (the stretching gallery) continues to follow the original concept, because the room's design mandates it. You have one and only one group in there, standing still, and the scene has a clear-cut beginning and end, marked by opening and closing doors.

Scene Two

The changing portrait hall would have been the third scene, following the same format. Until the full group had exited the elevator and the doors were closed, the portraits would have all been frozen on their first panel. Everyone would stand still as the pictures morphed through their six scenes. gerG thinks they would have all done this simultaneously, and perhaps he's right, but it's also possible that they would have done it one by one, like falling dominoes. At scene six they would have frozen again, and the butler or maid would have shoo-ed the guests around the corner to the load area. As I said earlier, once the corridor was empty, the portraits would have reset to scene one, and the next group would emerge from their elevator.

Scene Three
(pic by Kevin Crone at Tours Departing Daily)

Conceptually, the show in the hallway would have been much like the show immediately preceding, where all of you watch all four of the paintings stretching before your eyes and they stay that way until you leave, at which point they roll back up.

At some point the Imagineers must have realized that this was not the most efficient way to do things between the elevators and the doombuggy loading zone. For one thing, they may have foreseen that people might not understand that they were supposed to stop and wait. The CMs would have had to herd them pretty carefully, that's for sure. There's also the matter of visibility. Unlike the elevators, not every place in the portrait hallway is a good vantage point for seeing the paintings as a group.

With the sort of show described here, one might have expected something in the Ghost Host's spiel tailored more specifically to this hallway. The fact that we have no Paul Frees outtakes talking about the paintings may be another indicator that plans for treating the hallway as a discrete show scene were already long gone by the Spring of 1969, when the Ghost Host recording sessions were done. If the GH originally did have a spiel for the scene, however, that would explain why the boarding instructions come so early ("And now, a carriage approaches..." etc.). That part of the spiel would originally have been intended for the next scene, the load area.

Frankly, I'm glad it ended up the way it did. With a little luck and planning, you can sometimes have the hallway to yourself for a few moments, and as I've said before more than once, that's worth a lot.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Changing Portrait Hall that Never Was (or, "Rewriting History Part Two")

Lights out, nobody home, in this old photo

The late David Mumford of WDI was a great source of information for Disney park historians. According to LF reader Mike Cozart, Mumford once told him that a large trove of negatives and slides for use in the parks came to light many years ago when the Disney Studio was clearing out buildings, including full final sets for the Haunted Mansion changing portraits. Cozart thinks that the multiple sets of glass slides currently going up for auction and featured in Van Eaton's Disneyland catalog likely came from that stash. Makes sense. Wherever they came from, they're forcing us to re-write the history of that part of the attraction.

How so? Well, we've always known that one of the first things Marc Davis worked on after Walt assigned him to the Haunted Mansion project in 1964 was concept art for the changing portraits. Some of them consisted of only two pictures (back and forth), but others had three, four, and even six panels. We have all been under the impression that the longer series were either scrapped entirely or abbreviated to two when the Imagineers recognized that there would not be enough time for guests to watch a sequence of changes longer than a back-and-forth between two images. We all assumed this decision came early in the game rather than late. Boy, were we wrong.

In a number of cases, it was the opposite of what we thought. Rather than condensing the longer concepts to two images, the two-image concepts were expanded to six. It was only at a later point that some of these were shrunk back down again to two panels and used in the ride. Three- and four-image sets that made the final cut were also padded out to six before slimming down to two for the finished attraction.


We know that Ed Kohn (and possibly other artists?) were tasked with translating Davis's concept art to finished paintings, and these in turn were transferred to slides for the projectors, but the fact that Kohn had produced six-panel sets was known to very few, let alone that actual slides of these had been made. We don't know whether Davis produced additional concept art for this development or if the expansion was done entirely at the Kohn stage (perhaps under Marc's supervision).

The complex projectors needed for these morphing portraits were built and ready to go. Glass slides were produced featuring a large number of six-panel changing portraits, far more than were needed. It's possible that the Imagineers had plans to switch them out, keeping the hallway fresh by changing the changing portraits every so often. Whatever the case may be, it seems that the Imagineers came very close to actually using the six-panel concept and did not drop the idea until possibly as late as 1969.

In the previous post, we discussed the Black Prince and the Flying Dutchman six-panel sets. They show us that the history of each painting must be considered separately. The Prince was created by Marc Davis as a two-image concept. It was expanded somewhat artificially and unconvincingly to six, and then it returned to two before the ride opened. In contrast, the Dutchman started out as four images and was expanded to six by Davis himself, so the six Kohn paintings were little more than a reproduction of Davis's set. Before the ride opened, of course, it shrunk to two, a mere fragment of Davis's original concept. (We've updated the previous post since the present post was written, so check it out.)

Now, with the publication of the Van Eaton catalog, more previously unknown artwork has come to light. It looks as though concepts rarely seen or heard of and that we never suspected had gone very far in fact almost made it into the ride. Several Davis concepts featuring two, three, four, and six panels are now represented by Kohn paintings that were transferred to glass slides, although many of these slide sets are incomplete.

It would be interesting to learn exactly when they canceled all that work and reduced the portraits to the simpler, two-picture shows that were there when the ride opened, flickering with the lightning flashes.

For now, let's do the Long-Forgotten thing and look at the new artwork, adding our comments, for what they're worth.


We've known for a very long time that April-December (removed in 2005) was originally April-June-September-December in Marc's concept art:

This was expanded to six. Kohn images 2, 3, 4, and 5 are seen for the first time in the Van Eaton
catalog (Nov 2015). The first and last slides were the ones used in the ride. (You should know that
here and throughout I've corrected the color, since all of these slides were starting to turn magenta.)

(adapted from digitally-improved images by Bair Pinuev)

Random comments: (1) The second "April" panel is practically identical to the first, but there are small differences in locks of her hair. Apparently the idea was to start off the metamorphoses with very subtle changes. We saw the same thing going on with the Black Prince, where the second panel is very little changed from the first. (2) The first "June" is close to Davis, but the second seems like a completely new character. Fun. (3) The difference between the Davis and Kohn "Septembers" is as great as the difference between their "Decembers." Me, I like them both. (If it had been up to me, however, I would have called the second June "August" and renamed September as "October.")

April is my favorite of all the changing portraits (see HERE and HERE).
So yeah, I've been geeking out big time over this one.

(Update: Went for $6250 at auction. Highest for any set and fourth highest
HM item. I'm evidently not the only one carrying a torch for Miss April.)

The Burning Miser

We had a good long look at this guy only a couple of posts back, and here he is in the limelight once again. He's always been a six-parter, and the Kohn version is a fairly straightforward reproduction, displaying no conceptual differences whatsoever.  (Set went for $4000.)

Actually I'm cheating, since the second panel is missing from the Van Eaton set, but it was easy enough to re-create it. I noticed that the only difference between Davis 1 and Davis 2 is some flames on the man's hands and back, so I just 'shopped Davis's flames onto Kohn 1 and ta-da, that's what the lost Kohn 2 must have looked like.

In our original Burning Miser post, we were puzzled by a strange alternate version of the sixth panel that had recently
come to our attention. Now we know exactly what it is: a very poor photographic reproduction of Kohn's final image:

            The Cat Lady

Davis originally conceived of the Cat Lady as a simple two-parter. This was expanded to a six-parter, and curiously enough, the
pictures actually used in the ride when it shrunk back into a two-parter were not panels one and six but panels one and four.

(Went for $4750)


This one is a surprise. Up until a few years ago, "Daphne" was only something I had heard about. Then some Marc Davis concept art come to light (courtesy of the Lonesome Ghost), and I published it here for the first time. In 2019 it was put on display at Disneyland:

Now we discover that Daphne may have been a serious contender.

I'm surprised, because it's such an obscure subject and so little horrifying by comparison with others. As we pointed out in
the earlier post, it's an adaptation of the Apollo and Daphne myth, in which Daphne turns into a tree. (Marc took Apollo out of it.)

Of course, a much better choice among Greek myths made it into the Mansion: Medusa. Everybody's favorite Gorgon is not represented in these Van Eaton sets, which may simply mean that the collector in possession of Medusa slides is not selling them or that they are in WDI's possession and archived. We know from the January 1965 "Tencenniel" program that Marc did the Medusa set in 1964 at latest and expected her to appear in the ride. When he did Daphne, we don't know, but evidently she came later as there's no trace of her in published photos or concept artwork.

I have to say that I don't know what Marc was thinking here. Did he want multiple episodes from Greek mythology in the Haunted Mansion portrait hall? Possible, but I wouldn't have expected that. Or if Daphne was put out there as an alternate choice to Medusa, that too is . . . surprising. Seriously, if the vote is between "beautiful girl turns into a tree" and "beautiful girl turns into a snake-haired monster" for inclusion in a haunted house, do we really need a show of hands? Then there's the question of general public acquaintance with the myths involved. Everyone's heard of Medusa, but Daphne? In the Van Eaton catalog she's misidentified as "Persephone," which I suppose illustrates as well as anything how obscure this particular myth is!

It's one of those "interpretive dance" things, apparently

As usual, there are two panels almost alike. The difference between panels five and six is only a little birdie in the tree. I suppose
it's there as a bit of whimsy to lighten the mood, but in my humble opinion the whole thing isn't scary enough to require comic relief.
(My arrogant opinion is similar.) Also, I think the final panel in Davis's concept sketch is much more interesting than what they did here.

(Set went for $1900)

                  The Dustbowl

The "Dustbowl" sketch is remarkable in that it is not a Marc Davis concept. This one came from X Atencio, I am
told. Exactly how many images are in the Atencio concept art, I'm not sure. There are at least four, but there could be
more. Whatever it is, there is not a great deal of difference between the Atencio set and the Kohn set (which went for $2250).

Notice how the crow is skeletonized in the final frame. Once again, a bird has been brought in for some comic relief.

This time the relief is needed. The horrors of the American Dustbowl in the 1930s were hardly ancient history in the 1960s, and this is a pretty straightforward representation of the event, albeit in allegorical form. I had little difficulty pulling up photographic images that were not far removed from what is depicted in this series.

I'm surprised this one was even suggested. I would have thought that 1969 was still a little early to make light of this historical tragedy. How many park guests back then would have had vivid and personal experience with the Dustbowl? And besides, how "haunted house-y" is this topic anyway?*

But what do I know? They were making goofball comedies about WW2 already in the 1950s (Sgt. Bilko) and Nazi prison camps by the 1960s (Hogan's Heroes), so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that Dustbowl humor wasn't a problem for the Greatest Generation. I have to keep reminding myself that being hurt and offended had not yet been established as the recommended default setting for practically everybody in society. Maybe the problem with the Greatest Genners is that most of them never went to college and therefore never had the chance to learn about the permanent outrage imperative, the glories of grievance, the wonders of whining. But we're off topic. (And if I haven't offended anybody, please accept my apologies.) 

The Wilting Roses

For me, the dying flowers are too obvious and too literal as a symbol of mortality. Yes, flowers die, as do all things beautiful and alive. That's food for thought if you're a poet, perhaps, but it's not scary. Even if you are a poet, that hoary cliché, "hoary cliché" comes to mind. "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may...." Still, I suppose it gets the job done. There really isn't much to say about this one. I note that it didn't take much imagination to expand Marc's three-panel original to six. That's a little cupid inside a heart on the front of the vase, adding an extra dash of melancholy, as well as the name "Disney" in a Latin motto. Was this painting done in 1966, I wonder?

(Went for $1500)

Walpurgis and Watermelon

The Van Eaton catalog also includes a few orphans among their Mansion slides. There's a single Kohn panel from what was presumably a six-panel Witch of Walpurgis set. (She went for $1300.)

It's fun to compare and contrast her not only with Marc's original sketch but with the "Sinister 11" portrait
still on display in the Orlando Mansion. They're very different, suggesting that Kohn may have had little
to do with the S11 portraits, even though his "December" was reproduced quite literally as one of them.

You will recall that the Witch started out as a simple two-image set:

One supposes that the goat took a little longer to get here in the six-panel set.

Also in the Van Eaton catalog is a still life with fruit, which you can compare and contrast with what appears to be Marc's original 1964 concept sketch of the same image. What happened in the changing portrait is that the fruit rotted away, much like the roses did. Yawn. Thought provoking, maybe, but hardly the stuff of nightmares. One wonders how this idea beat out some of the other concepts, unless of course practically all of them were made into slides, in which case there are gobs of delightful artifacts still out there in the hands of collectors or collecting dust in WDI archives, if they're not lost altogether.

It may not be spooky, but it's a pretty good painting in its own right. (It went for $325.)

. . . and it follows Marc's original concept sketch very closely.
In 2019 the full set of Davis concept sketches was published for the first time:


There are a number of other HM relics in the Van Eaton catalog,
but it is these slides that show us something we never knew.


*I highly recommend the Ken Burns film about the Dustbowl. It's nothing less than amazing how terrible that chapter in American history was.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

History Rewritten! Mind-Blowing New Artwork of the Black Prince and the Flying Dutchman

What's this? Another new post? Yes, it's so. The Mansion gods won't let poor old Long-Forgotten rest in peace. LF cannot and must not ignore bombshellery of this caliber. Truth be told, it would be hard to imagine something that fits our profile more precisely, i. e. "ruminations and revelations concerning the history and artistry of the Haunted Mansion."

Kind of a clunky title, though.

Edit: You'll want to read this October post in connection with the November post coming up.

We all know that Marc Davis (and presumably the other Imagineers with him) originally planned changing portraits that ran through several panels, often as many as six. We just looked at one in the previous post. Most famously in this regard, it's common knowledge among Mansioneers that April-December was originally going to be April-June-September-December.

We also know (or thought we knew) that this idea was abandoned when they settled on the ride's current format. They realized that they only had time for a simple, back-and-forth transition from one picture to another, we are told. Anything longer would hold up the crowd, so the multi-panel portraits were chopped back to two panels. We also know that some of Marc's changing portraits never had more than two panels to begin with, and we know that one of those was the Black Prince.

Marc's original concept sketches of the Black Prince can be seen at far right
in that 1964 photo. Good quality reproductions have long been available:

Working with Marc, artist Ed Kohn turned these sketches into production paintings, and these in
turn were photographed as slides to be used with the back-projection effect developed by Yale Gracey.

Flash—flash he went, back and forth; so he did originally, and so again he has since 2005.
(For most of his existence, of course, the two portraits alternated via a slow, morphing fade).

                    Who Knew? Part One

It all sounds so simple and straightforward, but believe it or not, the two-panel Black Prince changing portrait
was actually expanded into a six-panel set, and slides were even produced, ready for use in the actual ride.

(The difference between #1 and #2 is surprisingly minuscule: the horse's belly has contracted slightly, and his underside in
general is a teensy-weeny bit shaggier. The knight's armor has a few rust spots beginning to show. And that's all I can see.)

Kohn's paintings were reproduced as slides, and what you see here are photographs taken of those slides. You might recognize that the first and last are the same two that were actually used in the ride from 1969 until 2004. (The high-tech version that debuted in 2005 was a fresh rendering based closely on Kohn.) To the best of my knowledge, no one knew that Kohn actually did a six-painting series and that the series was actually made into slides, ready for use. One set will presently be available for auction in the Van Eaton Galleries Disneyland collection. 

I've color-corrected and straightened photos of the set. Happily, the retreat
into magenta haze is not far advanced, and they restored rather well:

With the publication of the catalog (about a month after this post was first written),
most of the mysteries of these slide sets have been explained. Here's what it says:

Very informative. You can toss out the "sometime before or shortly after the HM opened" remark. The six-image display was definitely NOT in operation when the ride opened. You can also disregard the appeal to "concepty art" for the portrait hall showing paintings on both sides as a possible explanation for why so many sets of slides were produced. They're thinking of Marc's "Great Hall" concept art from 1965, those surrealistic, red paintings we've posted so many times before. By the time these sets were produced, they had long since designed the hallway with paintings on one side only. (And what's with that "concepty art"? Gotta be a typo. Pray that it's a typo.)

Who Knew? Part Two

The Van Eaton catalog also has a set of sunburned photos of production slides featuring the Flying Dutchman. Like the Black Prince set, the slides are reproductions of Ed Kohn paintings. That set too is full of surprises.

Unlike the Black Prince, in the case of the Dutchman we have known for a long time that the two-phase changing portrait seen in the ride is an abbreviation of an originally six-panel concept. Before 2005, we were looking at these Kohn paintings, alternating endlessly with each other:

Kohn followed Marc Davis's original concept artwork pretty closely. For ease of comparison,
here are Marc's paintings juxtaposed at each step with the newly discovered Kohn versions.

Davis #1

Kohn #1

Davis #2

Kohn #2

Try to resist the temptation to obsess over color differences. Even under the best of conditions, it's risky to get too dogmatic about color when you're looking at photographic reproductions of artwork, and considering the varied and difficult pathways these pieces have traveled to get here before your eyes, I'd stay away from those types of comparisons if I were you.

Here's something else that's new. We should have been able to discover before now that Kohn reproduced at least three of Marc's original set, not just two, because it turns out that slides of both Kohn #1 and #2 were used in the Mansion at one time or another as "phase one" of the Flying Dutchman painting. Here's a shot taken at Disneyland in 1984 or 85 showing Kohn #1 in use:

And here's a shot from the early 2000's showing Kohn #2 in use:

Based on half a dozen or so pix I've seen from the mid 1980's to the early 2000's, the
switch to a stormier first stage (Kohn's #2) took place about 2002, give or take a year.
(Is that when the slides featured in the Van Eaton auction were re-discovered? See the next post.)

Anyway, on with the show . . . 

Davis #3

Kohn #3

Davis #4

Kohn #4

This is the familiar "phase two" of the Dutchman on display for all those years in Disneyland's portrait gallery and
still closely reproduced in the current version. Notice that Kohn has eliminated the lightning in Davis's sketch
(with Marc's approval, one supposes). This detail may prove to be an important difference, as we will soon see.

Davis #5

Kohn #5

Davis #6

And here's where the Van Eaton set ends! The photo of the slide of Kohn's
sixth painting is apparently missing from their set. What happened to it?

What happened is that someone spirited it away years ago, and eventually the picture found its way onto the 'Net. We've known for
some time that there is a second version of Marc's final panel out there, we just didn't know what it actually was: it's Kohn's version.

Kohn #6 (likely)

The giveaway is the missing lightning. In Marc's #6 the lightning and fireballs of #5 have made their way up inside the foremost ghost. Kohn does have plasma rivulets inside the ghosts, and he's kept the "St. Elmo's Fire" phenomenon too, but the distinctive lightning-and-fireball effect in Davis's foremost ghost has been reduced in Kohn to mere globules of the same general phenomenon you find in the other ghosts. That makes sense since he eliminated Davis's lightning strikes in #4 and #5.

These multi-panel sets prove that there were indeed plans to use six-slide projectors at Disneyland at one point and that the Imagineers must have thought there was time during the show flow for that kind of presentation, far later in the game than previously thought. The next post will deal with the rest of the lost artwork going up for auction in November.