March 21, 2015

Haunted Mansion Tour and Its Ties to Pirates of the Caribbean

Count me in as a fan of old school Disney Imagineering. The first generation of artists really understood what Walt Disney was trying to accomplish at Disneyland. It's that crew of folks like Bob Gurr, Marc Davis, Herb Ryman, Claude Coates and more that really mentored the now retiring greats of our day, including the current torch holder Tony Baxter.

When New Orleans Square debuted at the park in the mid-60's, Imagineering hit its stride with the masterpiece Pirates of the Caribbean. The new land was a beautiful recreation of the famed city, drawing in guests to discover its beautiful ironwork, intricate back alleys, and delightful shops and restaurants. Somehow, just seeing the Mark Twain riverboat round the bend from the cafes seemed so right. So elegant. So Disney.

If Imagineering's stride was hit in 1967, the land itself hits its peak with the opening of The Haunted Mansion in 1969. It remains the cherry on top of a stunning theme park sundae. At once completing the area and further defining its mystery and romance. Being right next door to each other, Pirates and Mansion bring a knockout punch, giving guests an experience unrivaled from any other land in any other Magic Kingdom park.

This video, above, is the absolute best visual presentation to be found. It's fairly recent, as fans of the attraction will know by observing the attic scene, but it's a complete tour with plenty of opportunities to stop the video and discover some secrets.

Art by Eddie Sotto for the unrealized new attraction.

Speaking of secrets and the ties that bind...

My two of my favorite Disneyland attractions: Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion have an additional but not fully realized connection in Walt's park. Imagineer Eddie Sotto had once been involved in some new ideas to tie the two together using historical references to real life pirate Jean Lafitte. (I had forgotten about this but had heard an interview with him on the subject awhile back.)  Go to this post to see a number of photos and the story in full.  In the old days, Walt would have jumped all over this (along with other ideas like creating a dungeon walk through for Sleeping Beauty Castle). The parks were viewed as artwork then, not solely a tool to increase profits and pimp out the latest movies. 

Want more about the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean? Being these are my two favorite park attractions, this blog of more than 1800 posts contains dozens of articles, rare pieces of concept art, photographs, and more. Browse around and check it out!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

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