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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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Mariner

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The Mariner (aka "The Harpooner," "The Skipper," "The Sea Captain") does not appear anywhere in the Disneyland Mansion, and never has, but that didn't prevent the Disney Merchandising Division from including him when they were planning their trinkets for the 50th Anniversary of the Anaheim attraction:


They're probably still wondering why they sold so few Culpeppers. I remember looking at the "Madame Leota's Heirlooms of the Passed" merch cart set up to sell these and other little jars containing various HM characters, and after a day of sales the pile of yet-unsold Clyne jars behind the cart was noticeably larger than the rest.


The cart before opening. They even shipped in brand new Cast Members to work the registers! To the right you
can see one of them tearing open and emerging from the bag she arrived in, as if from a cocoon. Kinda creepy.

Bad enough they were celebrating the golden anniversary of the original Haunted Mansion by marketing a ghost that was never in it, and isn't there now, but they were selling the character as he is filtered through the wretched WDW queue. And on top of that, they made what was bad, even worse, with a sad, extra verse. How can you drown in a bathtub by forgetting how to swim?


A Salty Dog

The Mariner as we know him first appeared in a 1964 drawing by Marc Davis, where he's just one of several small, rough sketches on a single sheet of paper unpublished until 2019:

MDIHOW 342

If he's based on any particular character in artwork or photography, I haven't been able to find it. One problem with searching is that there
are just too many "old codger fisherman" photos that look a helluva lot like him. It doesn't take long to collect numerous photos like these:



For me, that hat always brings to mind well-known Winslow Homer paintings like "The Herring Net" and "Eight Bells."



In the present context I especially like "The Signal of Distress," because the shipwreck in the background is
reminiscent (at least to me) of the one in the Mariner painting, although I'm pretty sure there is no real connection.



You may have noticed I haven't (yet) called him "The Sea Captain," a throwback to the original HM backstory we all know so well. That's because he doesn't look like a pirate. In the '64 sketch there is nothing to suggest anything more than a common fisherman or whaler. Until very recently, I would have said the same thing about the following well-known sketch, but not anymore.

In 1968 Marc revisited the character. It's simply labeled "Phantom":


This one is everywhere. It's in all three editions of Surrell's book, at Doombuggies, in MDIHOW (Marc Davis In His Own Words), and was part of the 50th Anniversary exhibit at Disneyland. I have in the past asked myself, Why does everyone insist on identifying him with "the Sea Captain"? Nothing there to indicate anything more than a common seaman, right? Well, I'm no longer skeptical. He likely is a captain. Keep reading.


"Mystery Solved," He Trumpeted

Okay, it's time to settle once and for all The Big Mystery in this sketch: What the heck IS that thing he's holding in his left hand? I expect there are Forgottenistas among us who know enough about antique shipboard equipment to recognize it right away, but if you are one of those, I'll wager you are in the minority. The rest of us have been scratching our heads since the first time we saw this drawing. Some claim it's a wooden leg, but even in death he's got both of his lower limbs, so that doesn't make much sense. Perhaps it's a telescope with, I dunno, a jellyfish or something on the end?  A random, broken-off piece of the ship's wheel or something? What?

That, my friends, is a naval Speaking Trumpet, basically a megaphone, the kind of thing a ship's captain or some other senior officer might yell "All hands on deck!" and other cool, nautical stuff through. The oddly-shaped mouthpiece is the giveaway.


Marc doesn't screw up too often, but in this case I think he did. A speaking trumpet is not exactly an instantly-recognizable object, and in this case it's caricatured and presented as banged-up, which doesn't help. What it does do, however, is confirm that he is indeed a ship captain or senior officer and not just some random sailor, whaler, or fisherman. Without some such emblem of authority, that identification could well be questioned. (Now that I think about it, "screw up" may be a bit harsh, since it's only a concept sketch. Marc surely did not think it was ever going to be published, let alone re-published and re-re-published and hung on display.)


He Exchanged a Harpoon for a Harp . . .

. . . unless the Devil took him. When our Mariner was finally turned into a painting for the eyes-follow-you portrait hall in the WDW Mansion—one of the so-called "Sinister 11"—he was portrayed as a harpooner. Bit of a problem. The harpooner was not usually the actual captain of a whaling ship, so you could argue that in the only official incarnation of the Mariner (until the WDW queue), the rank of captain has indeed been dropped, leaving nothing there to connect him with the old Sea Captain backstory. On the other hand, you could counter that he's to be taken as captain just by virtue of the composition of the painting, with him standing proudly front-and-center against the background of the wreckage of his ship. 

Added Nov 10: Incidentally, this painting is the ONLY one of the Sinister 11 or of the changing portraits that actually depicts a ghost.

For full-size version, click HERE

And besides, didn't the most famous whaling captain of all time (Ahab, in Moby Dick) end up handling the
harpoon? People are more likely to think of that than typical, real-life whaling ship protocols, so there you go.


Davis himself did a rendering of Ahab with his harpoon in his
concept artwork for the American Pavilion exhibit at EPCOT.

MDIHOW 697

As we've pointed out before, the "Sinister 11" painting leaves no room for doubt that the man it depicts is the ghost of a whaler who drowned in a shipwreck. You can see through him, and he's covered with seaweed, barnacles, and a starfish, indicating long submergence, and the shipwreck is obviously there to indicate cause of death. All of this makes the "Culpepper Clyne" tubsoleum at WDW completely impossible. Everything about the tubsoleum is designed so as to cement the identity of its occupant with the man in the Mariner painting, and yet the tub says he did not drown at sea but in his bathtub. Stupid stupid stupid. Sorry to regurgitate all this, but if they're determined to find new ways to market the character, I figure I have legitimate excuse to restate my objections, especially if they insist on making the whole thing even dumber than before.



One Last Gasp

The old Mariner made one further appearance on Marc's drawing board. In the early 70's, Marc was asked to jazz up parts of WDW, and one new idea was the "Treasure Island Shipwreck," to be located on Bay Lake. There was to be a walk-thru attraction there based on that trusty concept, the pirate ghost, in this case a certain "Captain Flint." Some spooky tableaux were planned, including one scene depicting a ship's galley, where a ghostly figure would appear and speak (via Pepper's Ghost, natch). Concept art from 1975, first published in 2019 (MDIHOW 608), presents us with a very familiar figure.




Starfish and everything. And with this we've come almost full circle, since what we have here is plainly based on the infamous Rolly Crump/Yale Gracey 1959 mock-up of a scene intended to be used in the Haunted Mansion. You remember, that's the one in which the ghost of a piratical sea captain appears in exactly this soggy form and is frightened away by the ghost of his murdered wife. If you're not familiar with that episode, listen to Rolly explain the whole thing:

Rolly Crump on the "Sea Captain" Tableau
(from "The Haunted Mansion Story volume one" Extinct Attractions DVD)


Reportedly, everyone who saw the mock-up was dazzled by it, and it may very well have been included in the attraction if it had remained a walk-thru. (As many of you know, when they went with the doombuggy conveyance system, lengthy tableaux like this became impractical.) It's unlikely that Marc was there to see the '59 mock-up, as he was still working in Animation at the time, but he probably heard about it, and after all those years he thought it was a good enough idea to try out again. It's true that all of Marc's sketches were at least indirectly based on the Crump/Gracey figure, but only here do we see the ghost with water literally showering down upon him.

Alas, the "Treasure Island Shipwreck" came to nothing, but at least there's some cool artwork. It's interesting to me how this final attempt to bring to realization the murderous sea captain harked all the way back to the original concept, almost. Almost, because before Rolly and Yale's waterlogged version there was Ken Anderson's "Captain Gore," which started it all. Who knows, maybe some day they will finally find a way to bring this illusion to life (or should we say death?).

At least for Marc, though, this last gasp was indeed a complete return to the beginning.


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9 comments:

  1. The WDW line is the most horrid misstep ever pushed pon a classic attraction. Even messing up the auctipon scene in POTC wasn't nearly as bad. If given permission, I would gladly take a sledge to it all.

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  2. Excellent post! I have always been fascinated by the Mariner, and baffled by what they did to him in the 2011 queue.

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  3. Where did you find the high-res picture of the final portrait at the start of the He Exchanged a Harpoon for a Harp… section? It's… quite awful. Why give him a wry smile and bored sideways glance? And although the Caretaker has had worse, it feels weird to have him sporting a beard.

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    1. I added a link for the full-size version. It's a photo by Craig Conley

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  4. Actually, I now realize the beard is there in earlier versions of the portrait, though not in the early Davis sketch. Hm. I dunno.

    The facial expression is at any rate still all wrong.

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  5. It feels like Christmas with all these neat posts!

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