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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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), 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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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Penn & Teller on the Haunted Mansion (except for Penn)

Everyone knows about Penn & Teller, I trust. The quieter half of the magical duo is Raymond Teller, and you may be interested to know that he is one of us:

"As you might imagine, I'm a long-standing fan of the Haunted Mansion, mainly because it contains such beautiful use of the classic Peppers Ghost in the ballroom scene. In fact, this version is even more classic than that. It harks back to Dircks, who actually invented the principle in 1858. The very idea that the lame amusement park Spook House, with its air-jets to blow up girl's skirts, could become such a work of art just thrills me.”


From Carlene Thie, Homecoming Destination Disneyland (Riverside, CA: Ape Penn Publishing LLC, 2005), p. 108.


  AP


And just WHAT, pray tell, is wrong with air-jets up girls' skirts? Here, at least, we'll just have to agree to disagree. Anyway, Teller is correct that Henry Dircks was actually the man who rediscovered what is called the "Peppers Ghost" effect. (I say re-discovered, because the illusion had been around for centuries.) He didn't have the money or the know-how to successfully market the trick, but John Henry Pepper saw Dircks' effect, and he DID know how. He figured out a cheaper and simpler way of achieving the effect and actually partnered with Dircks. "Pepper," however, is the name that stuck, so he gets the credit that probably should belong to Dircks. Since both of them have "Henry" in their name, maybe it should have been called "Henrys Ghost." But who said life has to be fair, or even make sense?


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