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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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The "Enhauntsments" of 2021

Since the rather colorless term "enhancements" seems to be the only collective noun Disney is using for the changes and additions to the Anaheim Mansion this year, I have made bold to tweak it a bit and will henceforth use "Enhauntsments" as the official Long-Forgotten designation, inspired in part by the "Rehaunting" of the WDW HM in 2007. Now that I have visited the park in person, I'm in a position to give an eyewitness report.

When there is a major set of revisions or additions to a Haunted Mansion, I have found from previous experience that it's good to have a catalogue like this laying around somewhere, since it won't be many years before the memories will grow murky, and it will all start mooshing together in our overtaxed brains, and we won't remember exactly when this or that particular thing happened. 

I strongly suspect that most or all of these enhauntsments were intended as part of the Mansion's 50th anniversary in August of 2019. None of them were there, of course, but it seems like Disney gives themselves a generous, two year window for such things, so that anything that happens a year before or after the actual day being celebrated counts as being "on time." (Try using that same logic with your significant other's birthday and see how well it works.) Anyway, with COVID adding almost a whole additional year to the debut of the enhauntsments, it became absurd to try to connect any of them with the Golden Anny, so they didn't try. That's my theory, anyway.

Be that as it may, for posterity's sake, here's a catalogue of the changes made, at least as far as I've been able to glean from the many sources out there along with my own first-hand observations. If I've missed anything, leave a comment.


(1) Our Girl April!

First and foremost, of course, is the return of April-December. As pointed out in our April post, she's been restored beautifully, and the place they have created for her is perfect. She's done in a six-stage, morphing form, which is a new presentation for her but utterly authentic and true to the original Imagineers' intentions, as we now know. Zero complaints! A+. I don't like to brag (well, yes I do, some), but I had been saying for a long time that the obvious thing to do for the 50th Anny was to bring back April, and obviously someone else thought the same, because they did.


(2) April's Hallway

I'll lump into one bullet point all the enhauntsments that accompany April in her immediate environment, including (1) the wallpaper, the wainscoting, and the new candle lighting along one wall of what was previously the right side of the limbo-load area as you enter, plus the visually pleasing metal screen to the left of the guests; (2) a new door beside April in the classic style seen elsewhere in the house, with a moving blue light in its transom, indicating a ghostly presence; and (3) a one-eyed cat statuette.

As noted before, the urns that used to be in this area have not been tossed out but are now congregated over by the staircase where the doom buggies come down.

The cat is recognized as a shout-out to an old, unused concept of X Atencio. You will recall that a one-eyed black cat gradually asserts its demonic presence throughout the ride and serves as your host (or co-host). The connection seems valid, since the new cat has a single red, gleaming eye, as did X's cat, but I hasten to note (and not without appreciation) that this particular enhauntsment offers only a subtle or partial hint to the old concept, not the sort of blatant, elbow-in-your-ribs "tribute!" that characterizes PLQ. The cat is white, after all, not black.

As others have noted, the statuette is actually an off-the-shelf, commercially available item.

It's really only there as an intriguing object to look at briefly as you pass, which is fine with me.


(3) Enhauntsments to the Portrait Hall

A few related changes have been made in the Portrait Hall. The official video makes a point of this, calling attention to the new, lighter color of the heavy drapes around the windows, and I gave them a good hard look when I was there, as no photography can do justice to such things. They looked fine to me. Here's the old on the left, the new on the right.


Also, the wallpaper was redone so as to match the wallpaper behind April around the corner, which is sensible...


...but I deeply regret the loss of the original paper, which offered so many opportunities for finding hidden faces. You can find a face or two in the new paper, but let's face it: the new stuff isn't nearly as rich an environment for that sort of thing.



Pity. Also, when I was there, the rain effect in the stormy windows was gone, and I dearly hope that isn't a permanent change.


(4) The Rolly Chair

At least that's what everyone seems to think it is. There's a new chair hanging around in the Séance Circle that is widely regarded as a tribute to the talking chair in Rolly Crump's unused "Museum of the Weird" artwork, but as far as I can see, their designs actually have very little in common.




The chair isn't animated in any way, and much of it is in deep shadow, so it's not even 100% certain that it has "eyes" (although that does seem likely). Very mysterious, this one.  Which bothers me not at all . Hmm. More may be coming with the new chair, but for now, it's a curious addition to the ride.


(5) Spruced, Juiced, and Loosed

The ballroom dancers and the ghosts in the graveyard (and perhaps others) have been spruced up and are now much more visible. When I visited in 2019 for the 50th Anny, I was unhappy to see that the vague gray blobs to which time and ultraviolet lighting had reduced the ghosts in the graveyard had not been refurbed for the Mansion's golden anniversary that year, but I now suppose that there were plans to do so soon enough thereafter to count as being part of that year's celebration, as described earlier.

pic by Matthew Bumgardner

pic by Matthew Bumgardner


(6) Another Cat Statuette

Yep, they've added not one but two kitty statues. The Disney video calls attention to the new cat in the birdbath out front.

(It's behind/beside the hearse, for those of you who have never noticed it.) That birdbath has been there, unmoved, since 1969, but it became a planter after only a few years and remained in such employ until this year. It's gratifying to the purists among us to see it restored to its original function. And with a macabre bit of statuary added for good measure, we are a happy crew.

The video also highlights the garden landscaping throughout the Pet Cemetery, but in all fairness, the horticulture department at Disneyland has ALWAYS done a great job everywhere, including here, with appropriate plants around the various fixtures, so that what you find there now is not really as big a deal as they make it out to be, but only a sprucing up of something that had not and never has been allowed to fall into ruin in the first place. Incidentally, they had to take out the large Magnolia tree that had been in the Pet Cemetery area since before the HM was even built, and it's a relief to see that another large tree was brought in to replace it. I'm sure there was a good reason to remove the old gal (diseased? causing structural damage?).


(7) The Telescope

Hip hip hooray, the telescope on the upper balcony is back after a 20 year absence.

Intelligently, it's on a tripod rather than attached to the railing like the earlier model, so it can easily be removed for the HMH and put back afterwards. (That's what doomed the old one.) Really happy to see this one.


(8) Phineas Gets a Wardrobe Upgrade

Sharp-eyed Forgottenistas like yensidtlaw at the Micechat "Thread" have noticed that Phineas has been given a new cloak, one which more closely matches the concept art for the figure. Subtle stuff indeed, and well done. That's the old Phineas on the left, the new on the right.



Other Items

Some changes may not be changes at all but merely temporary flukes. The deaf guy with the mummy had lost his long beard, but last week it looked to me like it had miraculously grown back. I've mentioned the rain effect in the Portrait Hall windows. I also noticed that the door knockers in the Corridor of Doors were much quieter than they used to be. I hope this isn't a deliberate muffling. I like the clack-clack-clack. It gets your attention and has you looking for the cause, which is a good thing. I also liked that they were a "practical" effect and continued clacking noisily away even during "pranky spirit" interruptions. It makes sense, doesn't it? Some ghosts care not one bit what their prankier brethren are doing and are going to keep up their racket regardless. Screw you all; clack we shall. More power to them.

When I was there, the blowing drapes were not blowing—in either doorway. The rotting fruit on the ballroom table is not yet rejuvenating. Little Leota's projection was out of alignment, like it was last time I was there. I wonder when the last time it was correct? Other stuff that is obviously just temporarily busted I won't bother mentioning, but I must say something about the pop-up spooks in the graveyard, which I saw July 20-22. They were a disgrace. One didn't pop at all, some did manage to pop but were unlighted, and some popped so anemically that the word pop almost seems like a dishonest use of language, unless, perhaps, in some such sense as "great-grand-pop." Ol' Blasty was working, but he barely cleared his sarcophagus lid. None of the seven were in tip-top shape, I'm afraid. Bad show, that.


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Saturday, June 5, 2021

The Least-Noticed Ghostly Effect in the Haunted Mansion?


Sounds Long-Forgotteny to me, babe.

The Imagineers who created this most fascinating of all Disney attractions filled it pretty thick with groovy special effects (yes, groovy; we ARE talking 1969 here). By "special effects," I'm not referring to static design elements like faces in the wallpaper or gryphons carved into furniture. I'm talking about things that happen in the ride, spooky occurrences that betray the presence of a ghost. Some are spectacular and impossible to miss. Others get noticed after a few rides. Still others are entirely missed by some but nevertheless seen by others. To my own everlasting shame, I never noticed the Hatchet Man portrait in the COD until well into the 21st century, when it was called to my attention.

Having nothing better to do one afternoon, I asked myself, "Self, what is the least noticed ghostly effect in the Haunted Mansion? Something that was made to be seen and yet is rarely noticed, even by Mansionological veterans and fanatics of standing?" I figured it would be worth a post, because said item is supposed to be part of the overall experience of the ride, and yet for 99.9% it is not.

There's some stiff competition here. I did an informal poll among the inmates over at The Haunted Mansion Fan Club and pretty much got the results I expected. It seems to me there are four strong contenders for this dubious distinction. As it happens, we've covered three of the four before, so I won't waste too much bandwidth on them here, but I will make a few new remarks about some of them before turning to number four.

One reason these are rarely noticed is because they are often out of commission, sometimes for years or even decades, before they get fixed. Currently, three and possibly all four are inoperative, and in such cases one wonders if they have been permanently decommissioned, or "Yesterlanded" in Disney parlance. What makes these four different is that even when they are there, they are missed by the vast majority of guests.


The Traveling Light

This first one was the subject of a post, HERE, and there's nothing more to say at this point. It's not certain whether it's currently in operation at Disneyland, because the shorter hours in effect since reopening in May of 2021 mean it doesn't really get dark enough long enough to see if it's there. It's easily my favorite of the four.


The Cold-Air Blast

This one too has been discussed in an earlier post. Of the four, it's the one most likely to be permanently Yesterlanded, at least at Disneyland. (It still works at WDW and presumably Tokyo.) To briefly recap, there are air-conditioning ducts pointed at you in the Endless Hallway area, with the intention of creating a "cold spot" in this location. It's been missing for so long at DL that some doubt it was ever there, but according to Paul Saunders, it certainly was, at least in the beginning.

Again, the difference between a missing and possibly-Yesterlanded effect like this and other such effects, such as the attic popups and bats, or various and sundry Séance Circle items (second drum, good ol' Purply Shroud, the ectoplasm ball), is that even when operative it was easily missed, and hence few remember it at all.


The Blowing Drapes

These were discussed in the same post as our previous remarks about the Cold Air blast, but some additional comments are in order about how difficult the effect is to notice.


The effect was there in the beginning, and in the past (alas, increasingly distant) I noticed it on numerous occasions, but it's been a long time since I've seen it in operation. I can't see any reason why it would be canceled altogether, since it's so simple. It's just a fan, for cryin' out loud. It's probably like the Traveling Light, an effect so little noticed that when broken, it tends to stay broken for a long time.

When the drapes in the door next to the so-called "Donald Duck" chair are blowing, even though easily overlooked, they are still noticed by enough visitors to knock this puppy out of the competition for any "least-noticed effect" award. Not so with the other door where the effect is supposed to be. At Disneyland, that one was / is virtually invisible. 

The problem is in the way the doombuggies turn. On the blueprint above you can see that the first door on the left should easily be visible to riders, with drapes a-blowin', but when they put the actual ride together they adjusted the buggies so that they start turning to the right much sooner, with the result that by the time you pass the doorway it's behind you.

Whatever you do, my friends, don't look behind you!!!

With enough effort you might be able to see it, but it's usually so dark over there that even if you do you're not likely to see much. I doubt that one rider out of a hundred even knows that the door is there. In this night-vision video from 2013, you can see how difficult it is to see its full length, even if it were light enough. The other doorway's drapes seem to be blowing on this occasion (hat tip ThemeParkHD): 

I can find no irrefutable evidence that the drapes in that first door were ever blowing. I do have vague memories of seeing blowing drapes there back in the very earliest days of the ride, but they are not the sort of memories I would trust, so neither should you. However, the fact that the effect is there at WDW does suggest that it was used at DL at least in the beginning. The doombuggies at WDW (and probably Tokyo) turn less sharply and quickly in this area and are more like in the blueprint, making the doorway more easily seen. Here's a 2018 WDW vid in which you can see the drapes in that doorway blowing (hat tip JohnYChen):
I don't know why I think so, but wouldn't it be cool if the curtains were flapping around back there even now without anyone knowing it? A ghost ghosting away in vain. Pleasantly melancholy if you think about it. If the blowing drapes are there and haven't been officially given the axe, and it's just a case of a fan being broken or something, then they win our award hands-down, at least at Disneyland. This is something for you die-hards to try to photograph somehow, holding your phone out the left side of the doombuggy at just the right moment.

But like I said, those drapes really aren't what I came here to talk about.


The Rotting Fruit

At last, the true raison d'être for this post. In the eye-popping spectacle that is the Grand Ballroom, there's a lot to take in. In such a busy environment, it should come as no surprise that not very many people ever notice that the fruit bowl atop the table centerpiece is the scene of a special effect.

The rotting fruit effect goes back to a Marc Davis concept for a changing portrait:


This is very similar to the unused wilting flowers changing portrait. Thematically, what we've got is a sort of botanical April-December.

When the ghosts at the table are visible, the fruit in the bowl is luminous and luscious, but when the Birthday Gal blows out the candles and the ghosts disappear, the fruit returns to its previous state of decay. Cool.

Investigating this effect has been a challenge. You can make a good case that it is NOT original to the '69 Mansion.
  • (1) There are no references to it on the effects blueprints or on maintenance lists, at least not the ones that I have seen.
  • (2) The fruit bowl is missing entirely from pre-opening publicity photos and WED test film footage.
  • (3) It doesn't seem to be there in the 1974 "Sandy Duncan visits the HM" footage, and in fact clear video proof of the fruit bowl effect doesn't show up until 1992.
  • (4) The centerpiece on the Pepper's Ghost set-up directly beneath your doombuggy as you pass by was certainly altered at some point from a black post with a fruit bowl on top to a more complete fixture with both the fruit bowl and the foliage on either side. Perhaps the older, post version was just a mask for the centerpiece and the change actually marks when the rejuvenating fruit effect was first introduced.
That's an impressive list, but some counterarguments are possible:

(1) Absence from the blueprints and maintenance lists is not decisive, because there are numerous minor effects in the ride that are missing from those prints and lists and are nevertheless authentically of 1969 vintage, such as the rain effect in the Portrait Hall windows and ghost projectors in the graveyard.

(2) This argument cuts both ways. In those pre-opening photos, the place is not yet fully decorated. For instance, the cobwebs aren't there yet. But the table is pretty much set, so why is the centerpiece incomplete? Is it because there was a special effect intended for that spot that wasn't ready to go yet?



As for #3, yes, the effect does seem to be missing in the 1974 Sandy Duncan special:
But all kinds of things were turned on and off in order to film that program. It's not a true reflection (pun intended) of the ride in normal operation. And while it's true that good video evidence for the effect's existence comes late, that's more a reflection (no pun this time) of the state of video camera capabilities in the 70s and 80s than anything else. It's hard to find any decent video of the HM interior before the 90s.
The effect does seem to be present in the 1990 "Woody visits the HM" vid (the "Cheers" thing for the park's 35th Anny). You have to look quickly and closely. The lighting on the fruit bowl does seem to change, and the fruit actually brightens a little at the very beginning of the clip.
 But if you're skeptical about that footage, the earliest unambiguous video evidence for the fruit effect dates to 1992 (hat tip Mark Raymond):
It remained there through 2001, although one absence is recorded in June of 1999. Here's a 2001 vid (hat tip FireByNite):
It disappeared in 2002 and did not reappear until 2015. Those dates suggest that when the effect was shut off for the first HMH in 2001, it was forgotten about and not turned back on again until 13 years later! Perhaps when they were installing the new HBG in 2015, someone finally remembered the fruit effect and noticed that it was gone. Here it is in 2015 (hat tip UndercoverTourist):
Then it's a rollercoaster ride. 2016? It's there. 2017? It's gone. 2018, 2019, 2020? It's there. So far, with the reopening of the Mansion in 2021, it's missing.* You get the impression that it's there and functional, but someone keeps forgetting to flip a switch somewhere. The otherwise inexplicable absences in 1999 and 2017, both of them in the middle of a run of "on" years, certainly suggests this.

(4) It does appear to be the case that originally, they just propped up the fruit cluster on a black post on the table where the AA figures actually are, but the date of the introduction of the fruit effect does not correspond with the date of the change from the "ghost post" to the fuller-foliage arrangment. As we shall see. You can see the "ghost post" in these three photos:




They exchanged the "ghost post" for a duplication of the fruit bowl and its surrounding foliage sometime before 2002, the date of these pix:




Note in that 2002 photo how the fruit has been painted with gray highlights, probably to make it look decayed from a distance and in low lighting. In more recent photos, you can see that the centerpiece has been entirely repainted with dull and dark colors, in order to enhance the "springing back to life" effect. Or maybe just to get the damn thing noticed!



Incidentally, this effect is exclusive to Disneyland, as WDW and Tokyo have a different kind of centerpiece altogether:


Getting back to our discussion about when the effect first appeared . . .
 
The "Cheers" footage gives us a latest-possible-date of 1990 for the introduction of the effect (1992 if you prefer the Mark Raymond footage). Those "ghost post" shots supply the earliest date. In two of the photos that show it, the fruit appears to be painted black, which means it's only a mask and the rejuvenating fruit effect was not yet there.
 


That second photo was probably taken in 1986, and it's interesting because the photographer has actually scooted the thing back because it was blocking the "toaster" ghost. Hence, the centerpiece does not line up well, and that enables us to see in the reflection that the fruit is just as black as the post itself. However, in the third "ghost post" shot the fruit is colorful, which indicates that the effect was put in before they switched to the fuller-foliage centerpiece, so the two things do not precisely coincide.
 

Perhaps the look of the thing when it was first tried out triggered the change. They may have decided that the effect was okay, but it would look better if more of the centerpiece was magically transformed.
 
To sum up, I think the fruit effect was introduced between 1986 and 1990.
 

Disneyland Only
 
Since the Cold Air blast and the billowing drapes (easily visible in both doorways) are functioning just fine at WDW (and Tokyo, one must assume), and since the Traveling Light effect at those Mansions is quite noticeable when it is working, and since there is no fruit bowl in those ballrooms, our results here apply ONLY to Anaheim, and the "least-noticed effect" at those other locations is going to be something other than any of the four discussed here. Those with more direct experience of those rides than I do should answer that question. The outdoor wolf howl, perhaps? The whispering gargoyles?

If some of the preceding seemed tedious to any of you, bear in mind that part of our job around here is to point out things in the HM that are easily missed, and in this case we have something that has hardly been talked about at all, so some of it is bound to be a bit dry. The fun thing about the fruit bowl is that now you frequent Anaheim visitors have something new to check out each time you go. We all like to know when things disappear and reappear in the Haunted Mansion, right?


*For the record, I've examined videos for every year from 2007 to the present. Before that, it's '04, '02, '01, '00, '99, '92, 90, and '74. There are plenty of videos from that earlier time frame, and I've looked at a lot them too, but in them you can't see anything on the table.

If you don't understand what all the "mask" talk is about, hopefully this will help. Without a blackened figure to reflect in the glass, lined up with the real item out there, anything passing behind that item will be seen through it, ruining the illusion. That's why the ghost on the mantelpiece has his arm around a blackened duplicate of the "Aunt Lucrecia" bust. Without it, you'd see his arm through the bust and the illusion that he has it around her shoulders (and therefore out of sight) would be gone.


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Sunday, May 9, 2021

"Regions Beyond" Identified!

They're in . . .  Czechoslovakia.   You're welcome.

Or, they might be in Czechoslovakia. Or could be. There's a non-zero chance that they are.

(There's also a chance they're in Jeannie's bottle.)

 

Theory #1: Dvorak

We dedicated a (very popular) post to the musical roots of "Grim Grinning Ghosts" some years back, but it all had to do with the history of comic ghost songs, with the genre, in other words, and the results were fascinating. We did not try to find possible inspiration for the melody itself. In fact, nobody has, to my knowledge. Barring the discovery of a document somewhere in which Buddy Baker declares that this or that piece of music inspired his tune, we are not likely to ever establish such influences with anything close to certainty. But that doesn't mean we can't search for possibilities, or maybe even plausibilities, right? I mean, what else is there to do?

 

With all those qualifiers in mind, I think there is indeed one particular piece of music that may have consciously or unconsciously inspired "Grim Grinning Ghosts": Dvorak's Symphonic Variations for Large Orchestra, Opus 78 (1877).

Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) was a Czechoslovakian composer who enjoyed great success during his lifetime, a refreshing change from all those, you know, "He died a penniless alcoholic" stories we've almost come to expect when it comes to great artists.

He reminds me a little of Orson Welles...

 
The story goes that a friend challenged him to incorporate musical themes into a symphony that ordinarily would have been thought impossible to adapt to such a genre. His Symphonic Variations was the result, successfully incorporating things like Moravian folk tunes. No problem, it turned out.

Opus #78 in the series is built around a short musical phrase, the first part of which sounds exactly like the first notes of "Grim Grinning Ghosts." You have to wonder whether echoes of this piece were bouncing around somewhere inside Buddy Baker's head when he composed his immortal tune. (Yes, that's right, you have to wonder. If you don't wonder we'll have to send someone over there with a stick.) Wonder away, because we'll never know. The musical phrase in question is especially noticeable during the first few minutes of Symphonic Variations 78.

Go ahead and give it a listen. 

 
The opening movement:


 Or if you want to hear the entire thing:

 

Theory #2: Jeannie

Reader "Anonymous" points us to a performance by Barbara Eden in 1967, singing a song called "Beautiful Things" (an old Bobby Darin number). This tune is also vaguely suggestive of GGG. And if it's not, well, I wasted your time making you stare at 1967 Barbara Eden for a minute or two. Sue me.

The consensus seems to be that in such cases we are dealing with pure coincidence, and I have no quarrel with that, provided the window is open a crack to allow for a "just possibly not" in the equation.

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Friday, April 23, 2021

Our Elevendieth Year and Other Anniversaries (Plus: April in April!)


It's our eleventh anniversary! Pop the corks, and let the undecennial festivities begin! We're all familiar with "silver," "gold," and "diamond" anniversaries, true?  Well, unless I am very much mistaken, the eleventh is the "particle board" anniversary.

 

This is not to say that 2021 is a nothing year as far as Mansion milestones are concerned. Far from it. As some of the gang at "the Thread" have noted, 2021 is a banner year for anniversaries:

  • 50th anniversary of the Walt Disney World Haunted Mansion
  • 20th anniversary of the Nightmare Before Christmas/Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay
  • 15th anniversary of the original Long-Forgotten Haunted Mansion thread at Micechat
  • 15th anniversary of Constance Hatchaway's debut
  • 10th anniversary of the interactive queue and digital hitchhikers at the Orlando attraction
  • 5th anniversary of the return of the berm graveyard at Disneyland

Mind you, your blog administrator is not necessarily happy with all of those changes. You ... know ... he's ... not. But love 'em or hate 'em, they are significant events in the Mansion's history. Too bad the Long-Forgotten blog is off by one measly year and so misses inclusion on that impressive quinquennial list. But, *sniff* the same can be said of Phantom Manor (29 years), the attic Pianist (26 years), Doombuggies.com (24 years), the "Rehaunting" of the WDW HM (14 years), and the new Hatbox Ghost (6 years).

 

May April March?

So now we have another item to add to that column: the return of April-December after an absence of seventeen years, plus about half a dozen lesser "enhancements." What shall we call this cluster? When the WDW was spruced up and received a set of new and improved effects in 2007, the clever collective name for it was the "Rehaunting" of the Florida HM. For the new changes to the Anaheim attraction, the only buzzword WDI seems to be throwing around so far is "enhancements."

I realize that most, if not all, of this blog's readers have already heard the news and seen that video. It makes for an awkward situation in that I can hardly pass by this announcement in silence while I kick back and salute our undecennial, but as I write, the return of April has only been announced, not witnessed, because the park won't reopen for another week or so. I will have more to say once first-hand reports start coming in. Plus, I'm planning on a DL trip in July, so I'll have my own observations. Eventually some old blog posts will need updating, but for now, I'll restrict myself to some remarks on the return of April-December as far as it can be observed in the materials currently out there, ignoring for now the other "enhancements," most of which are pretty sketchy at present.


March, April May!

Yes, march April may. In other words, if the pictures and videos can be trusted, Miss April will now be permitted to once again strut her stuff. The team responsible for the new April, led by Michele Hobbs, is to be warmly congratulated for their tasteful restraint and their respect for the prototype. The much-coveted Long-Forgotten seal of approval is hereby bestowed. As was the case with the new Hatbox Ghost in 2015, any temptation to overdo the new April-December appears to have been successfully resisted. April looks exactly as she did when she left us, except that she morphs through all six stages as originally painted by Ed Koch, not just two:
 

You will recall that "April" and "December" originally flashed back and forth with the lightning (i.e. two images), but at a very early date the effect went to a slow morph. There exists some remarkably good video of her from 1989, just twenty years into the ride's existence:
 
That two-panel set was the only version ever used in the ride, but it has long been common Mansionological knowledge that Marc Davis originally conceived the effect with four panels. It was not until November of 2015, when the above slide set came to light, that we learned that Marc's four was expanded to six and came very close to actually being used that way, morphing through the whole series. It appears to be the case that the new April reproduces exactly this full set, looking much like she would have looked if she had materialized in accordance with plans still in effect mere months away from opening day in 1969.

Granted, the new team's conservatism may have been more than simply a matter of respect for the original. If they had gotten cute and April had been singing and dancing and blowing bubbles, she would have created a slowdown in the line at that point. As it is, the full effect can be appreciated in a matter of a few seconds and shouldn't cause any traffic jams.
 
The setting for the New April is a new hallway cleverly carved out of one side of the Limbo Load area:
 


©DISNEY

 
©DISNEY
 
Here are a couple of "before" shots of the same area:
 
 yentsidtlaw1969
 
 Looking back:
 
 
 
From 2008, before the wheelchair access gate was installed:
 

Some props are apparently gone, alas.  C'est la vie, or should we say, C'est la mort?

[Spoke too soon. The urns are now collected together by the staircase.]




The folding metal screen on the left reminds me of a 2011 sketch
by "WDITrent," concerning which I have little information:
 

There are some among us who think that they may be trying to capture some of the beautiful
and mysterious indoor/outdoor ambiguity seen in this famous Claude Coats concept sketch:


That's all for now. We'll know more once eyewitness reports start trickling in.


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