The Grand Hall
Ghosts and ghouls from around the world
The actual animatronics are situated in a "mirror image" set of the ballroom, which is behind and above the ride track, invisible to you except through reflection. Notice that the actual animatronics (examples pictured below) are positioned against flat black props. This is to prevent the props from reflecting over their counterparts in the mirrored stage.
Pepper spices things up
Note the empty ballroom set, above top, with the ghostly "occupants" in the duplicate set behind the glass. Pictured beneath it are two ghosts partying it up on a chandelier, and a photo of the Pepper's Ghost effect in action at the Disneyland Haunted Mansion (taken by Robert Miller). There are two Grand Hall "sets," each mirroring the other. One (the darkened set containing the audio-animatronic figures) is set above and underneath the Doom Buggy path, and the other (which is the dressed set) is in front of the Doom Buggy path.
The darkened set is positioned to correspond exactly with the props in the dressed set in front of the Doom Buggy track. For example, the organist animatronic actually plays against a black block, designed to reflect as little as possible. This way, his reflection combines optically with the physical organ to create an illusion. All of the ghosts interact with blackened replicas of the props they encounter in their "ghostly" form in the dressed set.
As in the other scenes, no detail is overlooked in this awe-inspiring set. Pictured above (and in the video below - click the image to play) are some of the ghostly party guests, and the hearse which brought them to this "swinging wake."
Notice that real woodwork meets Trompe L'oeil in various places in the ballroom. From this rare view looking up the back banister (left), it is apparent that the molding and woodwork on the rear wall is actually a photo-realistic mural. A vase of peacock feathers and thick cobwebs add to the musty grandeur of the opulent room. To enhance the apparent size of the room, some forced perspective is employed by building the staircase smaller than lifesize.
Captain Nemo's organ resurfaces
The organ at Disneyland's Haunted Mansion is a piece of Hollywood history, being the actual organ played by Captain Nemo in Disney's own 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. (The still above left, which is from the film, is the actual organ that you see today in the Disneyland Haunted Mansion. Exact duplicates have been built for the other Haunted Mansions. Incidentally, the very same organ first appeared at Disneyland in an early Tomorrowland exhibit showcasing props from the 20,000 Leagues film, pictured above right.)
The Grand Hall Organist
The Haunted Mansion's organist plays a crazed version of Buddy Baker's "Grim Grinning Ghosts" theme while howling banshees rise out of the pipes and vanish into the air. As you can see below, the banshees are rotated from a central hub. The organist is on risers to match his position to that of the real organ in the mirrored set.
As in the case of the organist, all of the animatroic figures are primarily white or pastel with very light colored clothing. Color is accented in the faces to bring out expressions and wrinkles. The animatronics are colored to glow in black lighting or to reflect as much light as possible, to give them a "ghostly" appearance. Accents are added just to give the objects some depth. The apparent colors are determined partially by the lighting. Many of the ghosts in the graveyard scenes, for example, wear translucent apparel, so that their skeletal bodies can be seen through their clothing.
The photo of the Disneyland Haunted Mansion organist at left is from a National Geographic book called "Vacationland," which was published shortly after the attraction opened to the public. The photo shows how the effect appears under proper show lighting conditions.
Build your own "Grim Organist"
Want to re-create this illusion yourself? Assuming you have an antique organ and a huge, empty ballroom (and a duplicate space next to it to house your Pepper's Ghost illusions,) prop-master Doug Ferguson has created a great set of detailed plans showing how to construct the "Grim Organist's" animatronics. Click here to check it out.
Up in the rafters
Having passed the Grand Hall, looking down into the ballroom from an upper floor, the Doom Buggy now passes a small end table against the wall and spins into the dark. Turning a corner, it is about to enter the Haunted Mansion's attic - one of the most mysterious rooms in the entire attraction...