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The Haunted Mansion (2003)

With so many ghosts...You're never alone in the dark

movie poster Eddie Murphy stars in this movie based on Disney's Haunted Mansion ride. When the ride was first built, it was to tell the tragic story of "The Bride," her would-be wedding, the ghosts of guests still dancing in the ballroom, and her headless groom (his head in a hatbox). But Walt Disney, who was still alive at the time, nixed much of the idea, saying it should just be a haunted house "experience," with no storyline. When Euro-Disney themepark opened near Paris, the "Bride" storyline was restored to the Haunted Mansion ride and most reviews of the movie credit the Paris ride as the movie's storyline, ignoring the original Disneyland writers.

The headless groom, by the way, was removed from the Disneyland ride after just one month, because the figure's head was supposed to appear in the hatbox when the black light was turned off on the identical head on his body, but Disneyland riders could still make out the head without the light on it. I don't know if the "hatbox ghost" was restored in the Paris version. Anyway, the movie version did OK business at the box office, but nothing like Johnny Depp's "Pirates Of The Caribbean" the same year. For more on the "Haunted Mansion" movie see Trivia below. No relation to Vincent Price's "The Haunted Palace" (ancient warlock casts a spell over the new inhabitants of his New England mansion, based on an H.P. Lovecraft story) or Roger Corman's The Haunted Symphony. Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff remade "The Haunted Palace" five years later as "The Crimson Cult."

"Haunted Mansion" availability on video and on DVD from Amazon.com

Tower of Terror (1997)

movie poster Third-rate reporter Steve Guttenberg (of the Police Academy movies) inherits a 1930s hotel that's been closed since a tragedy on opening night when a child star and others were killed in an elevator crash...but was it an accident? That's what the now elderly child star's sister wants to know. And only the ghosts know the answer. They are doomed to haunt the hotel until someone repairs the elevator and runs it up to the top for them.

Timed to promote the "Tower Of Terror" ride at Disneyland and Disneyworld, which is notable mainly for the Twilight Zone themed 1930s hotel lobby you go through while waiting in line for the ride. No relation to 1970 British sex/slasher flick "Tower Of Terror" (aka Assault), or 1942 British movie "Tower Of Terror" about concentration camp escapee in a lighthouse being stalked by a psycho who thinks she looks like wife he just killed - a B-movie notable only for cast member Michael Rennie of Day The Earth Stood Still.

"Tower of Terror" availability on video and on DVD from Amazon.com
No relation to Goosebumps: A Night in Terror Tower (1995), which is available on video with Goosebumps: Stay Out Of The Basement & The Haunted Mask
Broadcast schedule for Disney's Tower Of Terror
Also no relation to Kurt Russell's first movie as an adult, The Deadly Tower, about a maniac on the roof with a gun

Trivia (courtesy the Internet Movie Database)

* The movie is based on the ride (of the same name) at the various Disney theme parks.
* One of the Singing Busts is a bust of Thurl Ravenscroft, according to "The Haunted Mansion: From Magic Kingdom to the Movies", written by imagineer Jason Surrell. He is often mistaken for Walt Disney. The Bust of Ravenscroft is to pay tribute to the fact that he sang the voice of that bust in the theme park attraction. Another Bust is that of Paul Frees, who narrates the Disney Ride.

* The Gracey family that haunts the Haunted Mansion is named for Yale Gracey, one of the original Imagineers (Disney designers) of the Disneyland ride, which opened in 1969. Although a ghostly Gracey is never officially named in the ride narration or press, the name has long been associated with the disembodied "Ghost Host" in the attraction through fans' speculated narratives (contrary to popular belief, the ride does not have a definite story).

* Madame Leota, the medium whose head is enclosed in her crystal ball, was named for Imagineer Leota Thomas, who worked on numerous Disneyland projects in the 1960s.

* The Dapper Dans, a barbershop quartet who perform in Disneyland's Main Street USA, make a special appearance as the voices of the film's singing busts.

* The ride's theme song, "Grim Grinning Ghosts", makes a short appearance in the movie, but the all of the background music is some version of the song. Thurl is the soloist for this song on the Disney ride, but he wasn't able to sing for the movie version of the song. Stay for the end of the credits. There's a reference to the ride.

* The red couch in Gracey's study was used in 20000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).

* Originally, Don Knotts (Pleasantville) was cast as a character called the Groundskeeper, but the character was cut as the script developed.

* Several references to the ride include:


the singing busts
the breathing door (even the doorknob is the same)
Madame Leota (and the spectral instruments)
the busts that follow Eddie Murphy
the ghostly carriage (a prop outside the ride)
the old man and the dog in the cemetery
Master Gracy's hanging
the ghostly ballroom dancers.
the Raven seen throughout the movie
the hitchhiking ghosts
the hangman
the eyes in some of the walls
morphing pictures in the hallway.
several lines throughout the movie that are also used in the ride's narration, such as:
"Welcome, foolish mortals",
"Final arrangements have been made",
"There's always my way"
the floating candelabra in the credits
the bride's dress in the attic
the screeching cat sound effect in graveyard scene
the skeleton's hands that start to open coffin in the mausoleum
the knights in the hallway attacking Jim
the door knockers heard rapping in the bedroom hallway
the pipe organ in the ballroom

* When the two new homeowners start singing: "Happy Anniversary!" and Jim reacts very annoyed, it's a tongue-in-cheek joke about a commercial that aired on the radio for the Disneyland theme park anniversary, sung the exact same way by a child. The commercial was reacted to badly by listeners because it was so obnoxious and eventually pulled.

* Hidden Mickeys: - when Jim and Sara are at the gate to the mansion, Sara picks up the lock on the gate which is shaped like a Mickey head. - When Ramsley pours the powdered poison in Sarah's drink, a Mickey forms when the powder and drink mix.
- There is also a hidden Mickey in Pirates Of The Caribbean, which came out the same year (2003)

* The movie takes its plot from Phantom Manor at Disneyland Resort Paris. Unlike the other Haunted Mansions in the other parks, Phantom Manor is based extensively on the story of The Bride, her lost lover, and her haunting the mansion.

* Anthony Hopkins was asked to play part of the Butler (Terence Stamp) The make-up designed by Rick Baker for Ramsley (Terence Stamp) was to make him resemble Boris Karloff.

* The Hitchhiking Ghosts were more prominent in early drafts of the script, but were trimmed back because it became too overwhelming to have three supporting characters chiming in all the time.

* The large columbarium (mausoleum for crematory urns) in the Gracey cemetery could not have existed because the first legal cremation in the United States did not take place until 1876, and the practice did not become common until the 1890s - long after the circa-1855 Gracey backstory.

* Look for a "special" message from Madame Leota at the end of the credit roll. It sounds deadly familiar to the ending of the Disneyland ride.

* Official website: Disney.com/hauntedmansion - Disney official homepage: www.Disney.com o

* There was an unrelated TV-movie called "The Haunted Mansion Mystery" (1983, originally shown in 2 parts) that featured a young Christian Slater as Billy, just 2 years after playing a character with the same name in the TV-movie "Sherlock Holmes: The Strange Case of Alice Faulkner." 5 years later he was in the MonsterVision movie Heathers

* Scarlett Johansson (Lost In The Translation, Match Point) says her favorite Disneyland rides are The Haunted Mansion and Pirates Of The Caribbean

Fun fact:
The police were called when an old hotel in Chicago was being torn down and a number of bones were found at the bottom of an elevator shaft. It turned out they were chicken and pork bones. Hotel or construction workers had evidentally thrown the bones from their lunches down there while the hotel was originally being built.

Teen actor Kurt Russell goes behind the scenes of Disneyland's new Haunted Mansion
(1969, with Donny Osmond and his brothers)


What to do when zombies attack (free online 1950s spoof)

"You best start believing in ghost stories...you're in one." Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl
Here, there be monsters

Back to Monstervision

Tower Of Terror virtual ride, with sights & sounds Note: each holiday season, Oct-December, Disneyland allows the characters from Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas to take over the Haunted Mansion: Haunted Mansion virtual ride, Nitemare narration

The official Haunted Portraits website

Disneyland Haunted Mansion blueprints (click on any to see full-size plans for that room)

Bill Laidlaw. All Rights Reserved. I ain't afraid of no ghosts