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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Sunday, August 28, 2022

Our Dearest Dorothea

Dorothea Redmond, that is.



We've talked about all the major players who brought the Mansion to (after)life. Anderson. Davis. Crump. Coats. Gracey. Atencio. Baker. We've also tipped the old LF hat to a number of artists who played lesser roles, some of whom were major Imagineers but just didn't happen to have the same degree of involvement as the Seven. What we're doing today is paying special tribute to one of those latter artists, rather belatedly (a word you're going to see many times in what follows).

Part of the problem is that Redmond's known concept artwork for the HM is a relatively small group of paintings, and decent reproductions of most of those few have only recently become available. For example, until this summer this mutilated monstrosity was the best I could do for one of her paintings:


And there was a time when this was the best available reproduction of her Séance:


The only available "Hallway" reproduction was just as bad. A fourth artwork was only available in a heavily cropped version, and a fifth was passed around only as a bootleg, with the understanding that it was not for publication. As a result, only two of her Mansion paintings have seen wide circulation, due to their inclusion in the Jason Surrell HM book (all editions).

Thanks in large part to Joshua Harris, to Chris Merritt, and also to the fact that the aforementioned bootleg has now been leaked on the 'Net so often that there's no real reason to refrain from showing it any more, at least eight pieces of Redmond's Mansion art are now available in decent reproductions.

Enough for a LF post, for sure.

Many of my observations below have been made before in the various and sundry places Redmond's artwork has appeared in other posts, but her work deserves to be collected and commented upon in its own right.


Here, in the gallery, you see rare paintings, some of our Redmondses, as they appeared...

Before we get into Dorothea's bio, let's hurry up and put the artworks on display, since that's really what y'all are here for.
Starting with the two that everyone has seen...


I love this hallway sketch, just like, oh, approximately 100% of all the other HM fans in existence. The execution of the concept seen here would have been relatively easy, I tend to think. Mirrors on front and back walls, floor, and ceiling, except that the mirror-wall closest to us is a two-way. The floating lights  would bob on thin wires hanging down or perhaps project from the wood-panel side walls, much like the fiber optic stars in Peter Pan. These would light up the interior enough so that we would see through the two-way as a window, but we wouldn't see ourselves reflected in it if we were in a dark enough space, and from the inside looking back, the two-way would then function like an ordinary mirror, creating with the back mirror an endless depth.


Easily the creepiest of all Séance Circle concept sketches. For many of us, that means it's the best. There isn't even a crystal ball. Nothing can be learned by asking who these two figures are, or what they're doing. We are utterly in the dark. And I for one wouldn't have it any other way.


Pure surrealism, and incorporating the Beating Heart ghost (I won't say "bride") in headless form.




More surrealism. I've commented before that this and the previous one have "watery" floors, enough to make you wonder if they were done during the short time they were toying with the notion of making the Mansion a boat ride. If it would have looked like this, I'd have been okay with it.


I've said before that there are two places in any respectable haunted house where the Awful Truth is locked up and kept secret: the attic and the cellar. In some of Ken Anderson's concepts, the chest in which poor Priscilla meets her demise is in the cellar rather than the attic; otherwise, this gorgeous Redmond watercolor seems to be the only serious attempt to conceptualize a haunted cellar tableau. It's also the only one of the five major works seen so far that does not have any surrealistic or fantastic features, and yet it fits in with them.

Is that wine . . . or blood? Dot only knows.


Not 100% certain this is Redmond, but it sure looks like her work. If so, she probably should get credit for the Conservatory design. Just scoot the coffin right in there, boys. Thanks.

I sure do wish I could show you another piece of artwork I've seen. Rolly Crump created a sign advertising the coming of his "Museum of the Weird" in 1966. The bleeding skull and cobwebs on it are obviously inspired by this Redmond design for the "Coming Soon" placard. Dorothea's concept is the prototype for the famous sign put up outside the Mansion at the beginning of 1965. This is proof that she did HM-related work the first year she arrived at Disney.


This is one of those fragmentary pieces that may be a Redmond, but I'm not sure:


I see Redmond's Mansion artwork as a cross between the hallucinatory fantasy of Rolly Crump and the moody mahogany atmospherics of Claude Coats. And that, friends, is a nice mix indeed. Dorothea's paintings may be my favorite collection of HM concept art to just sit and stare at.


Belatedly

"Belatedly" tolls like an iron bell throughout any discussion of Dorothea Redmond. She began her career at Selznick International Pictures in the 1930s and worked on quite a number of famous pictures, including Gone With the Wind. But while other art directors and designers (the male ones) got screen credits, Dorothea did not, even though she designed Tara, fer cryin' out loud. Belatedly, her contributions to GWTW and many other famous pictures have come to be recognized and appreciated, but I'll leave a fuller discussion of that part of her career to the links (HERE and HERE and HERE).


She came to Disney in 1964 and went immediately to work on a number of then-current projects. Her Mansion stuff seems to date from 1964 to 1967, and in keeping with the belated recognition that seems to dog her career, hers is the last truly notable body of HM concept artwork to become available for online posting in decent reproductions. She is also among that group of HM Imagineers who belatedly got tribute markers on the grounds of the actual ride, in the 2011 queue addition at WDW:


She died at the age of 98 on February 27, 2009, so this marker only postdates her actual death by a little over two years. It's a real pity she never got to see it or hear about it.


Beyond the Mansion...

She only worked at Disney for ten years, but she was incredibly prolific, and her skills at design were much in demand at the studio throughout that time. What folks say is that she was a helluva nice gal, one of those people without a nasty bone in her body.

Long after she retired in '74 she was officially recognized as a Disney Legend, in 2008, a mere thirty-four years after leaving the company. Rather belated, I'd call that.


Since HM fans also tend to be POTC fans, I don't think anyone will mind if I include here this amazing Blue Bayou concept painting.


The most prominent public exhibition of her artistry anywhere in the parks is the large Cinderella mosaic inside the castle at WDW.



There's plenty of other Redmond artworks from her Disney years out there. Check it out. (Google is your friend.)
Meanwhile, our belated Long-Forgotten tribute to one of the Mansion's minor contributors is done (minor only in quantity; major in quality).


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Sunday, June 19, 2022

The Hatbox Ghost that Never Was

We've had two of them. First of all, there's the original 1969 model, the legend, he concerning whom there is still a lot of misinformation bruited about. Here are the facts. Clip and save: 

  • He was there for the soft opening on August 7th, seen only by Cast Members.
  • He was immediately pulled out because you could still see his face after it had "disappeared."
  • He was still missing two days later at the unofficial official opening on August 9th, which is why so many people who rode the Mansion on that first day reported later that he was not there, and that's why the story got set in concrete that he was never seen by the public. It took a long time and a lot of jackhammering for that concrete to get broken up, but the claim still crops up now and then.
  • There is a credible report that he was already reinstalled by the very next day, the 10th. Whether he remained there over the next few days we don't know, but he was certainly there on Thursday the 14th. (That's the day I saw him, kids.)
  • For the next several weeks (not days) Hattie either stayed in continuously or was in-and-out while they tried to get him to work successfully, unsuccessfully. (I think the latter scenario is the more likely.) No one knows for sure when the plug was finally pulled for good, but probably in September.


And then there's the brilliant 2015 rediscarnation. Of course, we know all about him.

(Since ghosts are not incarnate to begin with, having no flesh, they technically can't be reincarnated, can they? Now, if you're not incarnate, what you are is discarnate. That's the correct term. So if you're a ghost and you cease to exist but are subsequently brought back into existence, you've been rediscarnated.  Don't look at me like that. You think I don't know what I'm doing?)


Jolly good, but what about the Hatbox Ghost that almost, but never, was?

Ah, how quickly we forget. *puffs pipe wistfully* It's a historical episode that for some of us seems almost too recent to merit a Long-Forgotten post, but when I consider that (1) these things need to be chronicled before memories start turning hazy (which doesn't take long) and that (2) there are oodles of young doombugs running around and chattering away at the HM fan sites, some of whom were in kindergarten when this all happened, it becomes obvious that someone needs to put together a record for posterity.

Because yes, we came THISCLOSE to getting a new Hatbox Ghost at Disneyland in 2009.


2004—2005

We could begin the story back in the 90s, when the whole "bring back the Hatbox Ghost" movement felt its first stirrings, especially with the publication of photos of the original HBG in 1999, but the real beginning of this particular chapter in Mansion history is in 2004, when the first plans were being drawn up for Disneyland's 50th anniversary the following year. Among the ideas proposed at WDI for enhancements to the Haunted Mansion was bringing back the Hatbox Ghost. This was also when plans for Constance and her five hubbies were in development, and originally Hattie was going to be George, Connie's fifth husband, the poor sap with the hatchet in his head on the widow's stretching portrait. (I have to wonder how they intended to deal with the fact that the HBG has no handlebar mustache.) As if to test the waters, a Hatbox Ghost "big fig" was released by WD collectibles in 2005 and was a smash hit. If you're a HM fan at all, you've no doubt seen these figures or pictures of them. They command high prices these days, if you can get one at all.

One particularly interesting feature was the certificate of authenticity that came with the figure.

It including some tantalizing tidbits of backstory information about this particular ghost.

Other Disney souvenirs featuring the Hatbox Ghost trickled out over the next few years, and he sometimes

appeared in Disney artwork in various venues. Hmmm. Were they trying to tell us something?





2006

The Constance version of the attic debuted in May of 2006 with Hattie nowhere to be seen, but a month earlier, at the beginning of April, word had already begun leaking out that the Hatbox Ghost may be coming back. Something must have happened 'round about April 24th, because a number of reports came out over the following couple of days confirming that a new Hatbox Ghost was definitely on the drawing board. According to one source, an early prototype was rumored to have already been built in Glendale. At this point he was still identified with George, Connie's fifth husband.

2007

In 2007 a completely different concept was proposed, and according to a reliable source it almost made it to reality. The idea was to forget about the attic and bring back Hattie somewhere else in the Mansion, like the Ballroom or Graveyard. He would be hidden in the darkness somewhere and would only make a sort of cameo appearance when briefly lit up. No time for the vanishing head gag. Not only that, but only Annual Passholders would see him, and even then only once per visit. During the regular part of the year, when the HMH was gone and the Fastpass area was idle, a special sticker on a Fastpass ticket would be dispensed for AP holders only. The sticker would be read by a sensor as they got in their buggies, telling the ride to light up the HBG when that buggy went by. Whether this idea survived into 2008, I can't say, but needless to say it was scrapped. The one good thing about it was that it would have preserved a sort of mystique about the character. He'd still be "missing" to most people. On the other hand, it smelled like a dirty trick to get more people to shell out $$$ for the AP.

2008

In preparation for the Mansion's upcoming 40th anniversary, the Merchandizing division and WDI began working in coordination with each other. This is EXTREMELY rare. Normally these guys can't stand each other, but sources are adamant that this time they did indeed work together. In truth, I don't think the input from Imagineering went much beyond tipping off the Merch guys that they were planning on bringing back the Hatbox Ghost for the 40th, and that it was a big deal. That was enough. The Merch guys went bonkers, especially the Pin people. When 2009 arrived, they were ready to pounce.

2009

And pounce they did! Suddenly, Hattie was everywhere. The overexposure was nauseating. They made him a "real estate agent," the host and mascot for the whole 40th celebration.


Pins, pins, and more pins . . .

Note the triptych, with Hattie on left and Connie on right. And these are just some of them. A box set of pins was marketed with Hattie standing right in the doorway of the Mansion, and he's even listed as one of the characters "found inside the attraction," as if his comeback were a fait accompli. Subtle as a hand grenade. 


They even had the poor guy writing copy for them:


One thing that came out of all this was a clue that the storyline had been changed. It seems the Hatbox Ghost was no longer George but apparently was going to be introduced as a sixth husband (or fiancé). It's not explicit, though.


Haunted Holidays

As if all of this weren't enough, Disney put together a "Haunted Holidays" website featuring a CGI Hatbox Ghost, voiced by Cory Burton, doing his best Paul Frees "Ghost Host" impersonation.  Say what? So...the Hatbox Ghost is now the Ghost Host? Never mind. Once Merchandising gets ahold of things, nothing needs to make sense. He isn't the GH any more than he's Cousin Huet (see that gravestone prop above). Some of the Connie pins jumbled characters around in impossibly silly ways, too. This sort of thing is why I suspect the "coordination" with WDI was rather limited.





Enter Kevin and Jody

Another big deal during 2009 was a project by model-builders and Disney artisans extraordinaire Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily. They created a replica of the original Hatbox Ghost to be sold at the D23 auction on September 9th. The figure was remarkably accurate in every way and put on display before the auction for several days.

Kevin&Jody

Ricky Brigante


It sold for $9400, which was less than I expected, actually. Today, I'm sure it would fetch a lot more.

But that's not the most interesting part of this story. It occurred to someone that it would be fun to install the Kidney-Daily figure in the attic of the Mansion for the big event on September 9th, as a surprise to Mansion fans riding that evening. Just think of it. You would see an exact replica of the original Hatbox Ghost in his original spot! And think of the enhanced value to the figure as an auction item. Kevin and Jody thought it was a great idea.

But it didn't happen. Union rules stated that items for auction had to be on site two days before the actual event, so the figure had to be at the convention center on the 7th. No, I don't understand it either, but Union rules are Union rules. Too bad! It would have been one of the coolest Mansion events evuh.

photoshop by Darkfairy

What this also shows is that the actual HBG figure WDI had been working on was not going to be ready for the 40th anniversary no how, no way. Plans were quickly changed. The official word now was that he would be there in January 2010 after the HMH overlay came down. They even had the CGI Hatbox Ghost at the "Haunted Holidays" site tell viewers in December that he would "see them again in January."


2010

Oh no he wouldn't. January came and went, and again, disappointment. It was all hush-hush, but already by the time of the convention in September plans for the new HBG had been scrapped. We are told that the cancelation was at the last minute and that the reason given was that they needed the funds for the Space Mountain "Ghost Galaxy." It's true that it was "last minute" (as Al Lutz reported at Micechat in May of 2010), but only if you mean "last minute before the big convention" and not "last minute before the January installation." At any rate, the HBG project was postponed indefinitely. Tony Baxter, who had been shepherding this project all along and who had been an early and enthusiastic Hatbox booster was not happy about this, let me tell ya. He was very much looking forward to seeing the new HBG installed in January, which in itself is evidence that the figure was ready to go or very nearly so.


What Did He Look Like?

The special effects wizard in charge of bringing Hattie back to life (or afterlife) was John Gritz, by all counts the right man for the task.


We know that some of the same technology that had recently enabled the floating Mdm Leota at WDW to go to an inner-projection system was going to be used. As for his appearance, we have one clue, and you will have to judge for yourself how much to make of it.

We saw how the Pin people just went crazy over the Hatbox Ghost when WDI told them about their plans. Well, one of the products they came up with was a limited edition HBG figurine housing two pins, and there's something mighty weird about him.


You immediately notice that stack of stuff underneath the hatbox. Nothing quite like that has ever been seen, before or since. For some reason the Pin people also posted at their blogsite what looks like a schematic drawing of the figure, including front and side views, and it doesn't even show the pins. Furthermore (and not to get too picky), the resemblance to the actual figure, although very close, is not exact.



I may be wrong, but I suspect that the schematic drawing was something given to them by WDI and may actually represent the Gritz figure in production at the time. It is easy to imagine a "Pepper's Ghost" illusion with a tilted glass inside the main hatbox reflecting a head directly below it in the stack, facing upward. We could be looking here at the only publicly-released depiction of the Hatbox Ghost that never, but almost, was.





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Saturday, March 19, 2022

"With Love Affectionate" UPDATED

 A sequel and update to the previous post.

UPDATED March 27 and May 5. These items have apparently been there for years, but no one seems to have noticed them until recently.

During his last DL trip in March, my brother got lucky on his fifth Mansion trip and was pranky-spirited right in front of the new display, so we have a very nice photo of it:



We may have to wait for an obliging CM before we get a good look at the rest of it. Because there IS a "rest of it." The two floral arrangements to the right of this main one have small cards attached, and the banner on the wreath above "Affectionate" here has writing on it, as I suspected.


FIRST UPDATE: An acquaintance  of Jeff "the Chef" Baham was fortunate enough to have some pranky-spirit cooperation on his most recent DL trip and got a terrific photo of the Conservatory, which Jeff put up at the Doombuggies Facebook page:

Julia's boyfriend

The banner reads, "Dearly Departed Father."


Very authentically Victorian:


One of the smaller cards is an authentic Victorian funeral invitation:



"...The Coach to Attend at Half past Seven a Clock in the Morning"

SECOND UPDATE; Until now (May 2022), I have theorized that the "With Love Affectionate" card, the "Dearly Departed" banner, and the smaller cards were all part of the "enhauntsments" of April 2021 and that they were entirely overlooked until the "Love Affectionate" card was repositioned in a very conspicuous spot following the 2021-22 HMH. Here's the scene in April of 2021. It's all easy to miss:




But thanks to the eagle eye of MasterGracey, it seems that these items have been around for years. You can see what looks like the "Love Affectionate" card as well as a smaller card (unidentified) in the bouquet on top of the coffin in this 2016 video grab. (Incidentally, the presence of some sort of floral arrangement on top of the coffin has alternated with bare nothingness between the candlesticks over the years. The flux has been so constant and the floral arrangements have been so varied that it's not worth the bother to try to track it.)


The "Dearly Departed Father" banner is in the wreath to the right of the coffin, not visible in the above photo, but it IS visible in photos going back as far as 2011! Here it is on the right side in 2016 (top pic), and that's probably it also in 2011 (bottom pic). (I've turned the pix sideways to make identification easier:)

Adapted from pix found at Davelandweb


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