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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Monday, May 28, 2018

"If You Decide to Join Us" (From Creepy Old Flicks, Part Four)

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When we are considering cinematic influences on the development of the Haunted Mansion, the list of certainties is rather short. Within the Disney stable are The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (i.e. the "Headless Horseman" sequence), Lonesome Ghosts, Fantasia (the "Bald Mountain" sequence), and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (the "Dark Forest" sequence). Outside of those, fer sure we've got The Haunting, The Belle et la BĂȘte, and 13 Ghosts. Beyond those are a number of contenders that are possible and even probable but not certain. All of this has been discussed in the previous three Creepy Old Flicks posts (HERE, HERE, and HERE) and in the previous post (More Shots in the Dark). See especially in that post the added item, Castle of Blood, where the scene with the dancing ghosts looks to me like a real possibility.

Today we'll add another film to the short list of certain influences. I thank Mike Cozart for reporting to me that in conversation Marc Davis himself mentioned The Loved One (1965) as an influence for the character that came to be known as "Little Leota." I had heard before about the possibility (see the discussion in the Comments on our post on Little Leota), but Mike's report, along with a closer look at the film, leaves no doubt.

The Loved One is pretty much a love it or hate it movie (53% at RottenToms). It's described as a "black comedy" and a satire on the funeral industry. Your mileage may very, but with the exception of Liberace's spot-on portrayal of a smarmy funeral director, I found the movie rambling, unfunny, and mean-spirited to the point of cruelty. (Spoiler: there are only two sympathetic characters in the film, and both are driven to suicide. Everyone else is an idiot, a sicko, or a dirtbag of one sort or another, including the main character.) Be that as it may, influence on the Haunted Mansion seems to be restricted to a single, minor character: the unnamed hostess at the fictional funeral home and cemetery, "Whispering Glades." Yep, she looks and sounds an awful lot like Little Leota:


"The Loved One" hostess.



Compare that with our favorite ghostess:

little leota clip


It's been pointed out elsewhere that there may be an allusion to "Whispering Glades" in Collin Campbell's artwork for the "Story and Song" Haunted Mansion souvenir album. When we recall that Campbell's paintings are generally based very literally on Marc Davis's sketches, one has to wonder if maybe, just maybe, the illegible scrawl above "Glade" hides a "Whispering."



By the way, many think that The Loved One is spoofing Forest Lawn memorial park in Glendale, where Walt Disney himself is buried. There is in fact a direct reference in the movie (by another one of those creepy hostesses) to Forest Lawn, implying that it is a place that will take anybody (or any body), whereas Whispering Glades is supposedly more discriminating.

Anyway, it's worth pointing out that the Loved One connection is further evidence that Little Leota did not start out as a bride but as a "charming ghostess," as the Ghost Host refers to her in the WDW and Tokyo spiels (but not at DL), ready to take the names of those who may want to join the grim grinning gang they've been schmoozing with for the previous ten minutes. That's why she's careful to remind you that they need a death certificate. She has to be a stickler about the paperwork, you see. It's her job.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

More Shots in the Dark

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Updated March 13, 2018

Before we get started, here's a gorgeous example of a green-and-purple color scheme used to spooky effect (a topic previously explored HERE). This is a background painting from The Adventures of Ichabod Crane (Disney's adaptation of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"). I'll probably stick it into that old post, but it's simply too nice to bury that way without calling attention to it.


Okay, attention called. Now, to the business at hand.

One of our favorite Long-Forgotten exercises is tracing the inspiration for things that wound up in (or in some cases almost wound up in) the Haunted Mansion. We do it gleefully, despite the hazards of claiming inspiration where perhaps all that is operating is coincidence. The key to retaining your self-respect, as we know, is to tread lightly in making any claims, resisting the temptation to push possibilities until they look like plausibilities, or plausibilities until they look like probabilities, or probabilities until they look like certainties. Today we have a couple more shots in the dark, things that could have been inspirations but . . . well, you decide.


"A Comedy of Terrors"

This 1964 horror-comedy is the sort of film the Mansion Imagineers would have wanted to see, and it falls neatly within the time-period we know they were doing such research. We know, for example, that a group of them had a private screening of the 1963 film, The Haunting, in 1965:


Being a horror-comedy, CoT would have been a natch. So . . . is there anything in the film that looks like it could have been influential?

Meh. Not much. There's been some speculation about the look of the Caretaker (the great Joe E. Brown in his last performance):


Sure, he looks a little like our Caretaker, but that's because the look of Caretakers had settled
into a stereotype by then. Mr. Dudley in The Haunting looks just as much like the HM guy.


And if we turn elsewhere we just keep running into the same man. Here he is in The Abominable Doctor Phibes:


Most of the other suggestions I've seen about possible influence from CoT fair no better, IMO. The one thing in CoT that does give me
pause, however, is the opening scene in the graveyard. It isn't difficult to find photos of the HM Conservatory that look a lot like this:




Furthermore, this is from the opening scene of the movie, so no story has unfolded yet, and it goes on for quite some time, so the atmosphere is pretty much all you're getting. At this early point in the film, then, it isn't hard to imagine someone like Claude Coats making a mental note of the colors and the set design, since there's little else to notice. But I'm not going to press the possibility of influence any harder than that. Filed as another "solid maybe."


"Thriller"

The late 50's—early 60's was the golden age of anthology shows on TV that featured the odd, the frightening, and the unexplainable. You've got The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. One show in this group that I didn't even know existed until relatively recently was Thriller, hosted by Boris Karloff. The show ran just two seasons (1960-61 and 1961-62) but still produced 67 episodes. If you've never heard of the show, get thee to youtube, where most of the episodes can be seen. Like all of the other shows named, there are some real clunkers as well as gems in the batch. I'm impressed with the production values and the often very intelligent scripts. The cinematography in particular often rivals what you might expect from a big-budget film produced at a major movie studio. Robert Bloch (he of Psycho fame) wrote a lot of the stories. Plus there's Boris as your host, and the man is simply irresistible.

So anyway, as I'm wending my way through all these Thrillers, my eye is ever on the lookout for Mansion inspirations. Can't help myself; it's what I do. And yeah, sometimes something pops up that's worth a second look. One such moment occurred during the episode called "The Weird Tailor" (which is excellent, btw). In one scene, a medium is looking into her crystal ball, and a death's head gradually appears.




This reminded me at once of a Marc Davis concept sketch of "Madame Z," the forerunner to what would eventually be Madame Leota.


Put 'em all side by side and stare at them long enough, and pretty soon you may feel the inner
needle moving in the "certainty" direction, even if you know it won't ever quite get there.


But beware. Here's a cautionary tale from another Thriller episode, "The Hungry Glass" (worth watching just for the fun of seeing The Professor and Captain Kirk chumming around while Elly May Clampett admires herself in the mirror). There's a creepy old attic in the house that looked familiar to me:


Yeah . . . reminded me of this Claude Coats concept sketch:


Same thing. Put 'em side by side and stare. The trophy head, the bird cage, the oval mirror . . .
seems too much for coincidence . . . keep staring . . . feel that needle a-twitching? 


Well, turn off the machine and sit down. There's virtually no possibility of influence here. See, I cheated. The top photo is actually my combination of several consecutive screen grabs. The attic is only revealed a bit at a time via the beam of a flashlight. At no one moment is the entirety of the scene visible:




So I guess the lesson to be learned is to be very skeptical of inner needles?

UPDATE. Reader "Stefano" calls our attention in the comments to another Solid Maybe. The 1964 Italian horror film Castle of Blood has a scene in which the protagonist, spending the night in a haunted castle, looks down from a balcony at an empty dining hall, when suddenly he sees ghosts from the past partying, including waltzers busy waltzing. Stef is right, it certainly is reminiscent of the Grand Ballroom in the Mansion and could be an influence. It'll get those needles twichin' fer sure.




Okay, not exactly a killer blog post, but fun anyway. At least my inner needle tells me so.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Tombstones and Milestones

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You know, it took five years and nine months for Long-Forgotten to chalk up a million views. It's only taken one year and ten months to get to two million, despite the fact that the blog sometimes lies dormant for lengthy stretches, silent and still as a cemetery. But as we know, at the Mansion no cemetery remains quiet for very long. Many thanks to all readers, commenters, and linkers out there. You make this thing worth doing.

Okay, enough mush. It's an established tradition at LF to celebrate our milestones and anniversaries with odds and ends of Mansionalia, and you may rest in peace, knowing that this post will be no exception.

Today we are going to look at more graveyards, believe it or not. Some are lost, some not. In the last post we took a little vacation on Tom Sawyer Island and learned about the three burial grounds that once were there. Since then I have been alerted to another long forgotten Frontierland cemetery (noticed by TokyoMagic! in a photo published at Gorillas Don't Blog last September and brought to my attention by Chuck in the comments on our previous post). I figure it kinda sorta belongs in the same file as the three on TSI, so we'll take a quick look at it—an excursus on an excursus, if you will—and then it's back to the Mansion, where we belong. There, we'll turn the spotlight upon yet another lost graveyard, and after that we'll provide updates about various doings in one of the current graveyards. I haven't seen anywhere an adequate discussion of the latter items, so as usual it falls to us at Long Forgotten to make good the deficit.


The Churchyard of Rainbow Ridge

You know about Rainbow Ridge, right? That's the quaint little town that formed the backdrop for the old Mine Train through Nature's Wonderland and which was partially salvaged in order to continue service as part of the Thunder Mountain RR backdrop. What you may not know is that the original Rainbow Ridge went through two distinct phases. (You can find an in-depth discussion HERE.) The miniature town was built in 1956, when the Mine Train opened. The Pack Mules, Stagecoach, and Conestoga Wagons all boarded in an area to the left of the Mine Train and in front of the tracks:


When the Stagecoach and Wagons attractions were axed, this whole area was heavily remodeled, including some major reshuffling of Rainbow Ridge, adding new buildings on the left side and moving existing buildings around. That took place late in 1959.


What we didn't know until "Chuck" brought it to our attention is
that the original 1956-1959 town had a graveyard next to the church:



As the foliage grew, the cemetery was obscured more and more, and during the 1959 remodel the "lonely little church on the hill" became an urban house of worship, with houses next to it and fencing suggesting a road going in front of it. The graveyard was gone, and eventually it was (need we say it?) long forgotten.



The 2000 Graveyard

(Updated with info from "Scott Bruffey" himself, Sept 17, 2018). Okay, back to the HM. There is nothing particularly mysterious about this item, but more than 17 years have elapsed, and it's probable that most people have forgotten it ever existed. How many of you knew that there was for a short time a graveyard in the Mansion's front yard?

On October 25, 2000, Disneyland threw an event featuring a dinner inside the Haunted Mansion itself. Temporary foam-core tombstones were created with the names of the participants on them, complete with the usual "boot hill" humorous epitaphs.




According to Scott Bruffey himself, it was a ticketed event limited to 30 seats. The tombstones were
only up for the few hours the event ran, and the set was immediately removed so that the stones could
be waiting for the participants in their hotel rooms as a surprise when they went back after the dinner!

Curiously, a similar temporary graveyard appears in a children's "Sing Along" video released in approximately the same
time period. Whether these were extra stones created for the event but unused, or something entirely other, we don't know.


It's all just another part of the Mansion's history.


Two New Items in the Old Pet Cemetery

For some reason it doesn't seem to have gotten much press, but a new tombstone appeared early in 2017 in the old pet cemetery, the one on the north side of the house, the one you don't see unless you ask to see it or are making use of the disability entrance/exit.


It's Kai, and we're told he has "gone to a betta place." Betta are betta known as "Siamese fighting fish," but our Kai looks less like one of those and more like a koi. If so, the joke may be that poor Kai the koi was done in by an SFF, and after having been eaten is now indeed in a "betta place." That's obscure, macabre, and witty enough to meet minimum LF standards, and besides, actual graves for pet fish are exactly the example we've previously used to illustrate the sort of Victorian eccentricity that may possibly be cited in order to justify pet cemeteries at the HM (although if I had my druthers I'd still get rid of them).


The other item is Penny the Elephant, added in 2016. This one has attracted notice,
and you may recall that we updated the old Pet Cemeteries post accordingly.

pic by Noah Korda on Facebook

pic by Noah Korda on Facebook

What I didn't know at the time is that Penny already has a history at the park, and we may be seeing here part of a new "megatheme" scheme at work, tying various attractions together in a common backstory. So long as it remains obscure and in the background, that's fine, but noisy, crudely imposed megathemeing is something we have denounced elsewhere, in one of LF's most popular posts, matter of fact.

For the following, I am heavily indebted to Dave DeCaro's splendid site and especially to Chuck, who left the following comment there:

I just dug into the history of the elephant and turned up this snippet, purportedly from the Disneyland Line cast member publication from this past June:

"With the recent refurbishment of the world-famous Jungle Cruise, you may have noticed the addition of a familiar face-- or shall we say trunk?-- keeping watch above Tropical Imports in Adventureland. The blue acrylic elephant is new to the jungle, but it's no stranger to Disneyland park.

The unpretentious pachyderm was originally created in the early 1990s for Disneyland Paris, but never made its way across the Atlantic. Instead, in 1993, it found a home here on Main Street, U.S.A.-- first at the Penny Arcade (where it became known as "Penny"), and most recently in the overflow seating area for the adjacent Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor."

Despite their best efforts, Imagineers couldn't find a spot for the elephant when both locations were remodeled in 2012. And the statue was placed in storage. That is, until the refurbishment of Tropical Imports presented the perfect perch, where 'Penny' is once again delighting eagle-eyed Guests."

Here's Penny in both locations:



So . . . who would want to tie the Haunted Mansion and the Jungle Cruise together?  Perhaps we are dealing here with the Imagineering team that wants you to see the S.E.A. everywhere you look. It's a fascinating phenomenon, but I don't want to steal Freddy Martin's thunder, so read all about it HERE. After that, come back and ponder the enigma of Penny the Elephant. And let the conspiracy theories begin!