Thursday, May 6, 2010

IT'S THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH least to me it is! I'm sure you've guessed it....but I've been a huge fan of Disney World's Haunted Mansion since I was a little kid.

We spent a lot of time in Florida, and I would bug my parents for days on end until I would get to go to the Haunted Mansion. (Hard to believe that I was such an annoying child, wasn't it?)

In case you haven't been there in a long tine, or you've never's a bit of history about the "hauntingest" place on earth.

And by the's a bit of trivia. Did you know that in the famous dining room of the mansion, there is a place setting of dishes that are arranged in the shape of the famous Mickey Mouse ears! Betcha' didn't know that, did ya?

The attraction's roots date back to even before Disneyland was built, when Walt Disney had just hired the first of his "Imagineers". The first known illustration of the park showed a main street setting, green fields, western village, and a carnival. Disney Legend Harper Goff developed a black and white sketch of a crooked street leading away from main street by a peaceful church and graveyard, with a run-down manor perched high on a hill that towered over main street.

While not part of the original attractions when Disneyland opened in 1955, Disney assigned Imagineer Ken Anderson to make a story around the Harper Goff idea, and design of his new 'grim grinning' adventure. Plans were made to build a New Orleans themed land in the small transition area between Frontierland and Adventureland. Weeks later New Orleans Square appeared on the souvenir map and promised a thieves' market, a pirate wax museum, and a haunted house walk-through. After being assigned his project, Anderson studied New Orleans and old plantations to come up with a drawing of an antebellum manor overgrown with weeds, dead trees, swarms of bats, and boarded doors and windows topped by a screeching cat as a weathervane.

Despite praise from other Imagineers, Disney did not like the idea of a run-down attraction in his pristine park, hence his well known saying, "We'll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside."  Ken came up with stories for the mansion including tales of a ghostly sea captain who killed his nosy bride and then hanged himself, a mansion home to an unfortunate family, and a ghostly wedding party with previous Disney villains and spooks like Captain Hook, Lonesome Ghosts, and the headless horseman.

So, the decision was made to place it in the New Orleans Square section of the park, and thus the attraction was themed as a haunted antebellum mansion. In 1961, handbills announcing a 1963 opening of the Haunted Mansion were given out at Disneyland's main entrance. Construction began a year later, and the exterior was completed in 1963. The attraction was previewed in a 1965 episode of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, but the attraction itself would not open until 1969. The six-year delay owed heavily to Disney's involvement in the New York World's Fair in 1964–1965 and to an attraction redesign after Walt's death in 1966.

Many Imagineers contributed ideas after the fair and showed Walt some designs for their version showing bizarre things like coffin clocks, candle men, talking chairs, man eating plants, tiki like busts, living gypsy wagons, and a faced mirror. Walt liked this and wanted to make the proclaimed "Museum of the Weird" a restaurant side to the now named Haunted Mansion, similar to the Blue Bayou at Pirates of the Caribbean. Although the idea died off, most of it lived on in the final attraction.

Two of the mansion's main designers, were in a constant argument over whether the ride should be scary or funny. One, who had a life of a background artist, made moody surroundings like endless hallways, corridors of doors, and characterless environments, wanted to make a scary adventure. the other, who designed most of the characters and zany spooks, thought that the ride should be classic Disney, silly and full of gags. In the end both got their way when they put all the scenes together.

After Disney's death in December 1966, the project evolved significantly. The Museum of the Weird restaurant idea was abandoned, and the walkthrough idea was replaced by the Omnimover system used in Adventure Thru Inner Space, renamed the Doom Buggy, a promising solution to the problem of capacity. Imagineers had been fighting the low-capacity nature of a walkthrough attraction for years, even going so far as suggesting building two identical attractions to get double the number of guests through.

On August 12, 1969, the Disneyland version of the attraction was officially opened to guests, though there were Cast Member (employee) previews on August 7 and 8, 1969, the attraction officially opened at Midnight on August 12th. The opening brought in record crowds and helped Disney recover from Walt's untimely death.

Click here to visit the Haunted Mansion!