The History of & Changes to The Haunted Mansion | Disneyland

The History of & Changes to The Haunted Mansion | Disneyland

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To fully understand the Haunted Mansion
we’re gonna need to head all the way back to its beginning which, surprisingly
enough, actually predates the park itself. Now, the concept of a ‘haunted mansion’ had been something floating around at Disney since pretty much the beginning of when
Walt wanted to make a theme park. One of the main reasons it’s so hard to
pinpoint an actual time when someone first came up with the idea is because it had pretty much always been there in some form or another. When the concept was
first starting out the idea was for the Haunted Mansion to actually be a
walkthrough-style haunted house with tour guides taking small groups of
guests through the mansion one at a time. It would still be almost another five years
worth of development before the idea of turning the attraction into a ride was
even considered. The initial idea for the attraction came from Walt who wanted a
type of ‘haunted’ attraction somewhere in Disneyland. Something that had a bit of a
more mature theme and could entertain an older crowd amongst the other more
kid-friendly attractions. In it’s early stages there really wasn’t any solid
idea for the attraction itself, besides it being a pretty standard haunted house.
Instead, most of the focus was put on designing its exterior facade. Some of
the earliest pieces of concept art for the Haunted Mansion or, as it was called
back then, “the walkthrough ghost house” were done by Harper Goff, one of
Disneyland’s main conceptual artists. Originally the idea was to put the house
on the parks Main Street, but on an offshoot a little bit further back than
the other buildings at a dead end. This also somewhat tied into a few of
Harper’s earlier concepts that were now a little bit more simplified. After that,
a few different ideas were all considered for how exactly the house
should look, with other WED artists like Marvin Davis and Sam Kim also pitching
out their own ideas for its design. Eventually they all came to an agreement
on a 19th century Gothic style house on a crooked path leading up from Main
Street. However that idea didn’t exactly last for too long after Disneyland
officially opened in 1955. Seeing as how they didn’t leave any room for their new
haunted house attraction on or around Main Street they now had to move it
somewhere else in the park. After that, the ghost house was then relocated to an
unused area in Frontierland. From there, the idea sat for a few more years
without any real additions or improvements. It wasn’t until about 1957
the attractions concept was officially picked back up. By that point Disneyland
had been open for a few years and was already very well-received by a majority
of its guests. The obvious next step for the park was expansion. A few months
later, Disney began work on their newest addition; a brand new section of the park
by the name of New Orleans Square, the new area would actually be a rethemed piece of the
pre-existing Frontierland with a few new shops and restaurants. But, if you
remember from earlier the ghost house was recently
moved to Frontierland and more specifically, the same part of it that
would now become New Orleans Square. Once it was decided that the mansion was going to be in the new section of the park, they began to redesign its exterior to better
fit the new surrounding theming. That task was ultimately given to Ken Anderson
who was an animator for the company Anderson then drew up some new pieces of concept art for the facade now giving it a more 18th century plantation style,
mostly based off the Shipley-Lydecker house over in Baltimore. Anderson’s new
concept for the antebellum style house was then brought to Walt who, liked the
design but wasn’t a big fan of the overgrown and dilapidated state the
house was in. He didn’t really like the idea of having a run down and decrepit
building anywhere within his otherwise pristine park so, from that point on the
decision was made to have the mansion’s exterior be well-kept and preserved
while its interior would be old and run down. Not too long after Walt approved the
revised concept, construction began on the mansion, alongside the rest of the
New Orleans square expansion. Over the next year, Disney constructed the
mansion’s facade and its surrounding area. After Anderson had finished designing
the exterior of the mansion he began to focus his efforts as to what all was
inside it, over the next few years he drew up numerous pieces of concept art
for various scene ideas he had come up with. Over time and with the help of some
of the other Imagineers on the project those same ideas later turned into
full-blown storylines for the haunted house. One of the first ideas he came up
with was to base the attractions backstory off a character named Captain
Gore; an ex-pirate who was forced to kill his wife after she found out about his
past. After that he was then haunted by her until he eventually hung himself.
Another idea was that the mansion was an actual real-life haunted house. It wasn’t
until after Disney had purchased and moved it from Louisiana to California,
that he found out all the ghost stories surrounding it were actually real. If
you’ve ever been on the ride yourself you’ll know that a lot of these same
ideas ended up in the final version of it. The stories aren’t as explicitly
stated as they are here but, some of the elements are there. In 1958, Ken
Anderson left the project to work on the upcoming Disney film; Sleeping Beauty. In
his place, Walt brought an Imagineers Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey. Together the two
worked on new illusions and special effects to be used throughout the
attraction. Not too long after that, Rolly Crump also began work on the attractions
post show; a new concept he called the “Museum of the Weird” which would be an
exhibit showcasing different oddities from around the world. Fast-forward about
five years later to 1963 and the Haunted Mansions facade as well as it’s a new
surrounding land were both finished in terms of their construction. The only
issue was that the attraction itself wasn’t anywhere near finished.
For the most part, work on other projects ended up getting
prioritized over the mansion, and continually pushed back its development.
Namely the attractions Disney was creating for the 1964 World’s Fair.
Things like the Ford Skyway, is a small world and The Carousel of Progress. It
wasn’t until after the World’s Fair was finished that work really picked back up
on the attraction. Around this same time two more Imagineers joined on the project
as well, those two being Marc Davis and Claude Coats. Both of which were tasked
with creating new story elements and tying the pre-existing ones together.
Sometime later that year the world got its first sneak-peek of the Haunted
Mansion on “The Wonderful World of Color”, Walt Disney’s TV show. Walt Disney: “Marc, I want you to meet uh, Julie Reihm. This is Marc Davis. Julie is Miss Disney- land Tencennial, and Marc Davis is the
master in charge of our house of illusions or uh, what do we call it?” ” A Haunted Mansion”
“Haunted mansion and supernatural.” From that episode, we can
tell that effects like the stretching portraits, the changing portraits, and the
infamous Pepper’s Ghost were all established illusions that would eventually
make their way into the mansion. Really all there was left to do now was work out
some of the attractions logistics and they could begin construction on its show
building and later debut the attraction. But the Imagineers pretty
quickly ran into a few issues. One of the biggest problems they faced was capacity.
You see, if the Haunted Mansion were to be a walkthrough as Walt had
originally intended, its hourly capacity would have been extremely low. Only
allowing a couple hundred people through per hour and, in a park as popular as
Disneyland was at that point, that just wouldn’t have worked. Now, this wasn’t
exactly a new issue, Disney had known that capacity was going to be an issue as far
back as to when Ken Anderson was still on the project. Since then there had been a few
different ideas on how they could convey guests through the attraction that never
really stuck. Mainly because of the fact that Walt really wanted the attraction
to be a walkthrough. In trying to keep it that, Imagineers experimented with a
lot of potential solutions. They considered removing certain scenes, to
moving the Museum of the Weird to the front of the attraction so it’d now
function is the pre-show, to even suggest building a second identical walkthrough so
they could, in theory, double their hourly capacity but, after a while of being
unable to find an effective work-around, The Haunted Mansions developed stopped yet
again. It wasn’t until after Walt Disney’s death in 1966 that the Imagineers
picked back up on the project, now with the idea to turn it into an
omnimover-style ride like the PeopleMover or Adventure Thru Inner Space.
Now that the Haunted Mansion was officially a ride, all of its original
scenes had to be redesigned to fit the new track layout. Along
that, and now that they had a better idea of the space they had to work with, new
scenes were also created, utilizing some of the emerging technology like audio
animatronics for example. But, as all these new additions and improvements
were coming about there began to be some debate amongst the Imagineers over the
attractions storyline. This of course led to one of the most infamous battles of
ideas in Imagineering history. Basically what had happened was that WED was
split into two groups the Marc Davis group, who favored a more lighthearted
and family-friendly ride and the Claude Coats group, who pictured a darker and
more scary experience for the mansion. The debates went on for some time, with
Imagineers on both sides arguing why their version of the ride was better. However the two sides eventually reached an agreement in 1967 thanks to Xavier
Atencio to combine both ideas into the attraction. Now the first part of ride
would be the foreboding and scary experience that Coats wanted while the
latter half would be the more jovial and light-hearted one that Davis had envisioned. After that, Atencio revisited all the different backstories
that the Imagineers had come up with over the years, essentially combining the
best elements of all of them into the attraction. He also put together the
final script for the ride’s narration and wrote the lyrics for “Grim Grinning
Ghosts”, the same song that later plays in the graveyard. But, once all the planning
had wrapped up, Disney began construction on the attractions show building and
subsequently installed all of its set pieces and animatronics. By the time they
were finished with all that in 1969 the attraction was finally ready to be
opened. After over 15 years of development, Disney officially opened the Haunted Mansion on August 9th of 1969. The mansion very quickly gained traction,
and became one of the most popular dark rides in the park and, for the most part,
the mansion’s popularity kept it from being altered in any major way. Which is
more than I can say for some other classic Disney attractions from that
same time period. By and large, the ride we see today is near-identical to the
same one guests first saw almost 50 years ago. However there have been quite
a few changes or additions to the mansion so let’s go through those now.
Keep in mind that what a ride is this old there are gonna be countless minor
changes throughout it, pretty minute stuff like pictures on the walls getting
changed or some set pieces getting moved around, stuff like that is bound to
happen quite a bit so, for this next section we’ll just be focusing on the
bigger changes. Sometime in the mid-1980s Disney added a
night in the corridor of doors scene towards the beginning of the ride, what
most riders were unaware of was it was actually a costumed cast member who would
suddenly come to life. The new addition proved to be very effective when it came
to getting in a quick scare, so much so that it had to be stopped only a couple
years later, due to the fact of the knight was either punched or had something
thrown at him on multiple different occasions. What we
see now in its place is an audio-animatronic knight that, really
doesn’t do too much of anything. The next change can be found in Madame Leota’s
seance room. Besides the multiple upgrades her projection saw over the
years to make the illusion more convincing, they also recently changed it so that her crystal ball is now floating as opposed to just sitting on the table
like it originally did. The ballroom scene also saw similar changes in terms of its
lighting effects and updated animatronics sometime in the 80s but,
nothing to noticeable or different from its original version. Next up is the
attic scene, in the Attic the main focus point is undoubtedly the bride character.
But, the animatronic itself has gone through quite a few changes in the last
couple of decades, being redesigned in late 70s and again towards the end of
1995. Eventually she was replaced altogether in 2006 with an entirely new character
named Constance. The new animatronic also came with an official backstory, that
being, that she killed all of her husband’s with a hatchet. there also
used to be some pop-up ghosts in the attic as well but, those were eventually
removed in 2006 alongside the original bride. Another more minor change in the
Attic was a shadow of a ghost playing a broken-down piano on one of its walls.
The effect was added sometime in the 90’s and was actually based off one of the
original Ken Anderson concepts for the attraction. Way back when it was still a
walkthrough. However, the most infamous change in the attic and, perhaps the
entire attraction came in 2015, when Disney added a character called the
Hatbox Ghost, an animatronic figure whose head would disappear and then reappear
in the hatbox he was holding. the Hatbox Ghost was actually an opening-day
effect that guests back in 1969 we’re actually able to see before it got
removed a few months later. Ultimately they removed the Hatbox Ghost because
the ambient lighting in the attic just about always made both heads visible at the
same time, and pretty much ruined the effect. In more recent years, Haunted
Mansion fans had become so interested in the forgotten-about Hatbox Ghost that
Disney ended up bringing him back just a few years later. Now with new technology that
made the effect work as originally intended. Besides all those changes there
really haven’t been any other major ones to the ride. A few upgrades to its
lighting and animatronics in the graveyard as well as some updates to
its queue to better handle capacity but, really nothing story-wise was
significantly altered. Aside from its yearly “Nightmare Before Christmas”
seasonal overlay but, there’s more than enough change in that alone to warrant
its own separate video so, expect that soon enough. In reality, the Haunted Mansion hasn’t
actually been changed all that much, especially when you consider how
frequently other attractions from that same era have been. And, it’s not that
hard to see why, the ride itself is iconic. Nowhere at Disney or anywhere
else are you gonna find an attraction as interesting, creative and
groundbreaking as the Haunted Mansion. And on top of that, it’s just a really
entertaining ride everything from it’s really morbid backstory, to the weird
characters, to even just the music make it a lot of fun. At the end of the day I
really do hope the Haunted Mansion can continue its streak of remaining, pretty
much untouched for at least a little while longer. Just about everything in that
ride is great enough on its own that I think it’s earned its spot is one of the
best dark rides out there. Oh, the Haunted Mansion’s always been one
of my favorites… Hitchhiking ghosts… Heh heh, I don’t think so. ( ͡ ͜ ʖ ͡ )


  1. Can I Devon Tennison as Cookie Masterson Stifler Indiana Jones recommend you communicate about the history of the Indiana Jones ride for Devon Tennison as Cookie Masterson Stifler Indiana Jones rescuing the cast of American Pie's acting careers with some olden prehistoric classic films from the 1930s to the 1970s that yes regards YDKJ Movies please?

  2. The "Dark Rides" are the main reason I go to Disney. There is just something about them that really allows me to feel the Disney magic.

  3. I remember that live person knight they had for a while…but there was also live person monster looking guy that would hide and then jump out at you…in that same area during the same years.

  4. My one visit to Disneyland so far was in May 1977, for high school grad night.
    The Haunted Mansion was the one ride I was not going to miss, no matter what, and it was pretty good.

  5. I personally don’t like how the bride looks now. She looks weird and after riding the ride a couple of times this past summer, it just looks weird to me

  6. This dark ride rocks. My parents and I like the Hatbox Ghost even though he's supposed to be a bizarre spirit. PLEASE upload a Skyway history video for Disneyland when you get a chance.

  7. I was originally going to watch this video in October but I chose to watch Offhand Disney's Halloween special about The Haunted Mansion instead. That doesn't mean that this video was bad though. It was informative and entertaining. It's just that I wanted to wait until the 1 year anniversary of its upload. That was today! 🎂

  8. Can you do the Indiana Jones ride for Devon Tennison as Cookie Masterson Stifler Indiana Jones rescuing the cast of American Pie's acting careers with some olden prehistoric classic films from the 1930s to the 1970s that yes regards YDKJ Movies please?

  9. This video history is pretty accurate overall, but there is one glaring mistake: the suit of armor next to the Endless Hallway has always been there, from day 1; it was not a replacement for the live-actor knight of the mid-80's. Also, there are some errors in chronology, but they don't have much effect on the overall presentation. For example, when the building went up in 1962, the plan was already for two identical walk-thrus side by side. That sort of thing.

  10. The knight in the hallway scared the crap out of me in the 80's – was disappointed in the 90's to see him just be another mostly static set piece 🙁

  11. This cunt was closed when I went to Disneyland. And Jaws was closed at Universal. It was a family holiday and we're now estranged. Cunt of a holiday it was.

  12. I about crapped my pants as a kid when the hitchhikers came on board. I do know that the effect was completely changed last time I went though

  13. How far can we be from the day when someone thinks children shouldn’t see someone hanging himself

  14. Thanks for this video! I love the Haunted Mansion and made my own fan-film!

  15. Although it’s entertaining but it would be nice to see the house the Actually inspired the Haunted Mansion but that would actually need research .

  16. Constance was easily the worst addition to the ride. I’ll be quite happy when she’s removed

  17. New video "The Evolution of The Haunted Mansion" covers all this info and more. Check it out here:

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