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.


23 comments:

  1. Welcome back to the world of the living! Always excited to see a new post. Excellent detective work as always. Trying to decipher that Graveyard Sign has stumped me for years!

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  2. Very interesting indeed! If you look at the first word on the plaque in the illustration, You can pretty clearly make out a "W" at the beginning, an "H" next to it and an "SP" in the middle. It looks like the word "Whispering" was over written with random marks and letters- which is the best way to change an already written word into something that says nothing. I wonder if the powers that be felt it was a too direct reference to a contemporary movie?

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  3. Hello, so nice to read something new here !
    I know for sure i'm going to watch this movie and make my opinion about it !

    And please, is there any way i can contact you ?

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  4. Fascinating as always, HGB2. Little Leota might be the creepiest thing about the HM. I certainly have never seen her as a bride, but as a hostess, but what do I know.

    Thank you.

    JG

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  5. This is a great find... I also think the "Master Gracey" changing portrait frame in WDW and Tokyo might have been originally designed as type of projection screen for a "Ghostess" as well, because there is audio of Eleanor Audley doing the "When hinges creak in doorless chambers..." intro that ends with her saying that "Your Ghost Host will be along presently, to conduct you on you tour of this sanctuary for the disembodied". It gave the impression that the Ghost Host and Ghostess were more of a double act initially

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  6. Do you think the "Little Horribles" series of sculptures by Hagen-Renaker might have been an influence? The timing (late 50s), location of the company (southern California) and weird style (they really look like something Rolly Crump might have appreciated) make me wonder. Their "little old man" figure, which is a short person covered with hair with a large nose is a dead ringer for one of the hitchhiking ghosts.
    http://hagenrenakermuseum.com/images/LHPurpleGuys.jpg

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    1. I had never heard of these, so thanks just for that. It's hard to say if they influenced anybody at WED. You're right that the little man looks a lot like Marc Davis's "Gus" HHG character, and some of them are surreal enough for the Museum of the Weird, but I suppose we'll never know.

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  7. Before "The Loved One" (1965) was a movie, it was a book."The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy (1948) by author Evelyn Waugh. He wrote " He wrote "I found a deep mine of literary gold in the cemetery of Forest Lawn and the work of the morticians and intend to get to work immediately on a novelette staged there." So the book was definitely inspired by "Forest Lawn". Was Forest Lawn unhappy about this? Oh yes. I have no doubt the line about Forest Lawn as a place that will take anybody (or any body), whereas Whispering Glades is supposedly more discriminating, was inserted into the screenplay, to make it clear "Whispering Glades" was not Forest Lawn to avoid legal problems. Now at the time the book was written, Forest Lawn was that discriminatory, but no doubt by 1965, that was no longer the case.

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  8. The Loved One was on Turner Classic Movies just recently. There's lots of great stuff in it, but the part that always fascinates me is Liberace's unctuous but understated performance as the funeral director. I wish he had gotten more roles like tgat.

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  9. Fascinating blog! Really enjoying it.
    My 'backstory' - I'm a diehard DL Mansion-head...but have never ridden it.
    Went on a family trip to DL mid/late '60's. Was already fascinated by the conceptual art in the travel brochure, so was crushed to find it wasn't open yet (I completely remember the sign, better than anything else from that vacation).
    Fast-forward a few years: The first LP I remember choosing myself?.... The story/song record. of course.
    I'm 57, and still love reading anything I can about it - though I should say I'm only interested in the Cali mansion - I doubt I'd ride any of the others.
    Again, fantastic work. :)

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    1. Thanks, and you're not the only one in the category of Mansionites who have never ridden it. It says something about the ride that it appeals even to people with no direct experience of it.

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  10. Thanks for your comment.
    Okay, that's nice to hear that I'm not a lonesome spirit.
    Off the top of my head, what works for me (apart from the theme!) is the combination of the high-tech aspects with the old-timey effects, and it works a treat. It's brilliant.
    I watched a recent (2018) ride-through video, and people were texting during it. Unbelievable!

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  11. Possibly of interest?: https://archive.org/details/Disneyland1968

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    1. Seen it before. It's a nice snapshot of 68 DL, but nothing Mansion related in it.

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  12. Love me some Haunted Mansion. You might call me an obsessive. Made my own fan-film starring puppets! Trailer is live on YouTube! Share some spooky love with me! https://youtu.be/klcgIlGwh_k

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  13. We haven't heard from you for a while. Did you see the new updates from phantom manor? It would be interesting to see your opinion about the new stretching room (painted by Chris Turner).

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  14. Anonymous beat me to it. Any thoughts on the Phantom Manor redo?
    I've been meaning to tell you for years that this blog has increased my already fanatical enjoyment of the Haunted Mansion a thousand fold. Thank you!

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  15. I'm quite intrigued, actually. Although, I'll miss some of the old content, I think this is for the best. My only complaint is that they decided to reveal the identity of the phantom, which in my opinion, takes away the mystery. And the fact that Melanie turns into a vile, treacherous person... not so sure about that either.

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  16. Thanks, people. I don't pretend to any expertise on Phantom Manor and have never seen it, so my opinions are strictly FWIW, but it looks to me like they're trying to incorporate story elements that will make PM feel more like the HMs. Melanie's disappearing suitors are obviously counterpart to Constance's husbands, and Melanie going off the beam is an attempt to make her less of a total victim and more like Connie. The storyline changes don't personally bother me much, since PM has had a backstory from its inception, and I've never cared a fig for it anyway. That's always been the main reason I'm lukewarm about PM. That, and the fact that I find Melanie a bland, uninteresting character. They've now given an explicit answer to one question in the old narrative that had been left as a mystery in favor of moving the unknown into the future. What will nutzo Melanie, now a ghost, do next? Revenge on daddy? Take it out on you nosy visitors? Maybe they agreed with me that not only was she a total victim but boring. As for the changes to the changing/stretching portraits, I'm sure the technology will be impressive, and with more plot line to play with, better opportunities emerge for variety in the subject matter of these paintings. I always thought the stretch paintings were boring. Melanie in peril X 4. It's the same joke told four times. All in all, I think the responsible parties will be judged to have succeeded in reaching their goals: (1) Refreshing the ride by revamping the storyline without utterly destroying it, and (2) making it feel more HM-ish by incorporating story elements (as opposed to plot elements) from the Connie saga.

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  17. I note too that they are using their strategy of throwing a bone to the purists in order to mute criticism/soften the blow. They're bringing back the Jekyl-Hyde chemist. Just like bringing back the Paul Frees/X Atencio dark passage in POTC at the same time that they butcher the auction scene. Maybe the HBG is partially to atone for Connie (probably not, though--too long a time gap). If April-December doesn't return this year, I'll bet they're keeping her in the bank in case they want to do something big and controversial in the HM in future.

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  18. I like the idea of a crazy Melanie, I've always kinda thought of her that way. Dead now but lived long enough to grow old and never change out of her wedding gown. Miss Havisham/Norma Desmond vibe IMO.

    Unrelated, HBG2; when Xavier Atensio passed I was going to ask you if that in your research you came across any docs or material showing the progression from working title 'Screaming Song' to 'Grim Grinning Ghosts.' If there was anybody that would know . . .

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  19. I agree about PM. I've always seen at as a great opportunity lost. If there had to be a story, why give it such an obvious, weak one? The art work looks far too cartoonish. The gags, while good, suffer because of context. And why rip off the Psycho house? There are certainly more sinister domicile designs than that. A swing and a miss in my book...

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