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).

This site is not affiliated in any way with any Walt Disney company. It is an independent
fan site dedicated to critical examination and historical review of the Haunted Mansions.
All images that are © Disney are posted under commonly understood guidelines of Fair Use.


Saturday, October 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 1968 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.


  1. Say ! This new discovery about the Black Prince pretty much is the definitive proof that the "struck by a lightning" interpretation is false ! Since it was supposed to show him rusting and rotting away into his skeleton form, instead of being brutally struck… And this is KOHN's work, which means that even the "moderate" interpretation that you were still reluctantly willing to give a maybe to, namely "that wasn't Davis's idea but Kohn changed it", is wrong.

    1. The set "proves" nothing at all. Rusting and rotting away while holding that frozen pose the whole time? You're being too literal, which makes the series absurd. It's allegorical no matter how you slice it. If I had to "read" this mess (because it sure is), I'd say it says that "this man who seems so fierce and strong is as mortal as any other, and he too will rot away, like any other man. And this became clear in an instant—the instant he died: ZAP!"

    2. Regardless of it literally taking place in this second or not, he only begins to glow white when he's already a dead skeleton, so the glow can't be taken as the lightning which CAUSED his death, since we don't see the lightning until he's ALREADY dead.

  2. Oh, and I'm not sure that it's what you're trying to imply, but it's true that, with one or two more intermediary panel(s), phase 6 of Kohn COULD have morphed into the Sea Captain.

  3. The "Aging Man" effect at MK was actually 8 slides: 2 of the "young" phase, 5 of the "decomposition", and one empty slide as the cycle would repeat.

    So here's my question: if DL originally had planned to use multiple stages of the effect then that means they anticipated that there would be a queue with enough time to see and enjoy an extended set. This also explains why April (4 images) and Medusa (3 images) were tapped. We haven't got more than two renderings of the panther lady, but given that the Kron version used in the ride only changed her upper body and Marc's changed her whole body, it's easy to guess that this was a 3 or 4 image set.

    So basically the scene was intended to have changing portraits with anywhere from 4 to 6 phases each. This was reduced to 2 images, then to a flashing image. So the fact that the "flashing" version was changed after opening means that this wasn't a drift away from the original plan, but a restoration of something nearer to the intended effect.

    This also helps illuminate why "Aging Man" was used for the MK foyer scene. If they were afraid nobody would see the effect while waiting in line, they moved the illusion to a room where everyone was guaranteed to have to stop and watch it.

    Incidentally I doubt that any other changing portrait was ever intended for the MK foyer. The wall space available between the stretch rooms was not conducive to a wide, rectangular portrait like the Ghost Ship. You'd need something visually clear and vertically oriented like the sequence they created. You'd also need something that would make sense as a standalone portrait above a fireplace instead of in a gallery of portraits, which implies it would have to be some kind of portraiture figure instead of a landscape. As much as I like her, I can't imagine April working all by herself above a fireplace as well as she works with the four others in a gallery.

    1. Depending on how fast they thought they'd dump folks out of the twin elevators, they may have worried that they'd have a relatively slow-moving line in the Portrait Hall. Perhaps they did six-panel sets just to keep in reserve, just in case the progress through the hallway did indeed turn out to be slower than anticipated and the two-panel sets felt too repetitive. A back-up system, in other words, albeit one that would require entirely different projectors if used. However, you wonder, in that case, why they didn't ignore Marc's two-panel concepts and choose only from his four- or six-panel concepts when they made their final selections for the hallway. The secondary nature of the expansion of the Black Prince seems patently obvious to me. The series makes no logical sense and isn't even executed that well. The armor rusts a little, and then falls away in ragged chunks? Huh? The rate of skeletonization is very uneven, and I think the horse's skeletonization in particular leaves something to be desired. Of course, that could just be Kohn's limitations as an artist. If anyone at Disney could pull off an anatomically-convincing skeletonization, it would have been Marc.

    2. That's true, but when they were messing around with these longer version of the effects - let's say it could've been before the DL HM opened in '69 or after the MK one opened in '71 - they may have been thinking of going for somewhat different effects in each portrait. While the Dutchman portrait would need to unfold at a steady pace similar to the MK Aging Man (fade-pause-fade-pause), it strikes me that if they wanted the Horseman to rot realistically, they were capable of doing it.

      Ed Kohn had already cheated the heck out of the anatomy of the horse skeleton to get it to overlay smoothly onto the "fleshed" portrait, and given how meticulous Marc was I can't believe Kohn would have done that on his own. What strikes me about the "extended" version is that they seem to be going not for a literal decay, but a more supernatural fade. It's easy to imagine all of these stages fading into each other smoothly and quickly. It would create something very much like a primitive "morph".

      That may have been the intent from the start: to get more life into the effect besides just a "flicker". It may have been a problem that was solved by Yale with his "pivoting mirror" projection rig (or however it was done -- do you know?) that was in use in the hallway prior to 2005.

      Still, I'm hesitant to think that they created all of that careful production art for the slides "just in case". WED and MAPO had been trained by Walt to measure six times and cut once, coming as they did from Animation. They bothered to build full-scale mockups of the Pirates Auction and HM Attic scenes just to study how best to lay out and light them. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'd bet if they bothered to create the slides then they were pretty positive they were going to use them.

    3. All good points. This new artwork certainly raises a coffin-load full of unanswered questions, with no obvious answers coming immediately to mind. The only thing certain is that a lot of the seemingly straightforward histories within the larger history are much murkier and more complex than we generally imagine.

    4. Have you seen the full Van Eaton catalog for this year? It includes the images you've posted, plus Kohn's full April-June-September-December sequence, PLUS a final six-image sequence of the "Dust Bowl", "Burning Miser" (4 images), a much expanded 6-image sequence of the "wilting flowers", a six-image sequence for the panther lady...

      Never mind, I'm sure after that lead-in you'll have sought it out by now. ;)

    5. HOLY CRAP. No, I haven't seen it. Looks like more posts will be written.

  4. Wonderful, wonderful stuff!

    I would have posted this in the Long Forgotten thread, but I'm having trouble signing into the forum:
    I put together some cross-dissolving versions of the new artwork.
    Black Prince:

    Flying Dutchman

    I was able to make a gif of Kohn's Black Prince, but not of the Flying Dutchman for some reason.

    This begs the question: Are there any other changing portraits with long-forgotten phases?

    1. Very good reconstructions of the paintings in motion ! Thanks !

    2. Wow - these are very cool! The subtle transitions are just as Marc described them when originally testing them out with Gracey. (And what he preferred - even though I think the timing wouldn't have worked with the way guests are funneled through the hall towards the load area. He also mentioned that he thought this could have worked in a "Haunted Mansion restaurant" - but they never really went forward with that beyond Marc mentioning it...) Nicely done!

    3. This is not really new "news" but the first time people are seeing these final changing portrait images. The late David Mumford of Walt Disney Imagineering had mentioned that when the Disney Studios was clearing out buildings they came across all sorts of negatives and slides and such for things to be or used at the park (the Studios had the equipment to produce these things) - and among these were the full final sets of the haunted mansion changing portraits -- he may have mentioned that the master negatives were also returned to Imagineering.....I suspect many of these slides come from that trove David talked about.

      When the Haunted Mansion anniversary merchandise line was being prepared for the Disney Gallery in 1999, the Kohn artwork was what was wanted for the miniature changing portrait lenticulars (in fact David Mumford suggested these to the gallery) -- however the Marc Davis concept artwork transparencies was provided -- and the Clem Hall final artwork was also suppose to have been reproduced for the "large size" stretching portraits. But since it costs soo much of our merchandise budget (paid to WDI for art services) management said the Davis artwork would be fine and felt that Davis was a bigger name to guests to promote the sales.

  5. I was able to do one of the Dutchman...;)