The Facade and Queue Areas
In memorium: A cemetery spills its secrets
The Walt Disney World Mansion queue wraps through a small graveyard outside of the Haunted Mansion. Disneyland once had a similar cemetery in the queue, though it has long since been removed, leaving a faux vault along the wall in its stead. Nevertheless, the silly epitaphs found on the tombstones at Walt Disney World are the same as the headstones that used to appear at Disneyland, and they are tributes to designers and Imagineers who worked on the ride (such as "Grandpa Marc," named after famed Imagineer/animator/illustrator Marc Davis.) Pictured below is the original Disneyland "cemetery," as it appeared in 1972 in a photo donated by Jeff Babb.
Many of the original show designers have the original tombstones named after them in their posession; some even display them in their yards at home. In fact, for many years, Disneyland and Walt Disney World both sold small plaster tombstone souvenirs designed by the Randotti Company, which guests could have personalized with their names for a fee.
The tombstones that remain at Walt Disney World (such as the samples pictured above) read as follows:
* In memory of our patriarch - dear departed Grandpa Marc.
* Requiescat Francis Xavier. No time off for good behavior. RIP.
* Rest in peace, brother Huet. We all know you didn't do it.
* R.I.P., good friend Gordon. Now you've crossed the river Jordan.
* Master Gracey laid to rest. No mourning, please, at his request. Farewell.
* At peaceful rest lies brother Claude. Planted here beneath this sod.
* Here lies good old Fred. A great big rock fell on his head.
* Here rests Wathel R. Bender. He rode to glory on a fender.
* Dear departed brother Dave, He chased a bear into a cave.
* Here lies a man named Martin. The lights went out on this old Spartan.
Giving a tombstone a little life
WDI created this new effect for the Walt Disney World Haunted Mansion queue, which features a mysterious tombstone for the infamous Madame Leota. Of course, since Leota was a medium during her tenure on the earthly realm, you might expect that her tombstone is somewhat different from the rest. According to Chris Caines, reporting for DoomBuggies.com, the new animatronic prop fits right into the decor outside of the Haunted Mansion, alongside the other tombstones. It's the last thing you see before you enter the ride. "The head movements are very subtle," Chris said. "The eyes only open for a little bit. This thing is definitely creepy. The funny thing was that kids were noticing it before the adults were, and they would tell their parents... and their parents would say "It's not moving." The kids would see it again and this would repeat. Very funny. It was cycling about every minute. If they increased the cycle time, it wouldn't be as creepy as it is now."
Since the tombstone was added in 2001, the timing, frequency and range of motion of the animatronic has been experimented with, to find the proper blend of mystery and surprise. The tombstone inscription, which was written by Imagineer Jason Surrell, is a sly reference to the character of Madame Leota, a disembodied fortune teller inside a misty crystal ball that haunts the attraction. It reads:
Dear Sweet Leota
Beloved by All
In Regions Beyond Now
But Having a Ball.
Remembering man's best friends
In the early 1980s, Disneyland added a pet cemetery to its rarely-seen side lawn (a portion of the attraction that is typically only seen by guests that leave the attraction before boarding the Doom Buggies. Pictured to the left is Mansion Hostess Ashley in the original pet cemetery, posing with the memorial for "Big Jake." ) The addition was the idea of Imagineer Kim Irvine, and she created the scene with off-the-shelf statuary, personalized with empathetic inscriptions written by WDI's Chris Goosman, such as those for "Miss Kitty" and "Bully" (pictured below left). Proving popular with the guests lucky enough to discover it, WDI decided to create a full-blown new pet cemetery to install in the front yard of the Mansion. This version of the cemetery (installed in 1993) adds a slight touch of humor to the queue as well.
Following are the inscriptions on the stones in the current pet cemetery planted amidst the wrapping queue at Disneyland. Note that some of the markers are simply in the form of the animal they represent, with either no inscription, or simply a date.
Freddie the Bat
We'll Miss You
August 9 1869
She was a poor little pig
but she bought
the farm 1849
Until the End
Beloved Lilac (Skunk)
Long on Curiosity...
Short on Common Scents 1847
In Memory of My Rat
Whom I Loved
Now He Resides in
the Realms Up Above
Long Legged Jeb
Got tangled up in
his very own web
Here lies my snake
whose fatal mistake
who carried a rake
A family affair
In keeping with this theme, all of the Haunted Mansions include an adjacent family crypt constructed next to the facade. This is where guests eventually emerge from the attraction, once their experience is completed.
The Haunted Mansion gets FastPass
As further proof of its popularity, the Haunted Mansion was an early choice to receive Disney's "FastPass" technology, which is a means by which more guests can be admitted to the parks on busy days by allowing them windows of opportunity for shorter waits in line on selected big-ticket rides. Adding the FastPass kiosks necessitated a redesign of the queue area to some extent, though the general theme has been maintained particularly well, considering FastPass constitutes an entirely new method of moving guests through the queue.
Disneyland's 50th Anniversary
The facades have received various adornments from time to time, such as funeral wreaths or holiday decorations. Throughout the 50th anniversary celebration at Disneyland, a spider web was placed over the front of the Haunted Mansion facade with a large "50," a decoration that was given to many of the park's favorite rides and "E"-ticket attractions for the duration of the festivities.
The layout of the attraction
The actual Haunted Mansion ride building is, of course, separate from the small facade. The example shown above is from the Disneyland Mansion, though it is similar in layout to the other two attractions as well. Note that the actual facade building visible from the park only contains the two load elevators (a.k.a. the "Stretching Rooms") and the surrounding equipment rooms. The rest of the attraction takes place in a large, well-hidden show warehouse painted dull green to blend with the vegetation concealing it. In the layout guide pictured above (which is copied from a sheaf of "standard operating procedures" which each Haunted Mansion cast member is expected to become very familiar with), the actual visible facade building is approximated in purple, and the Doom Buggy track is indicated in green. The numerals around the perimeter indicate exits from the building.
These aerial photos (Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion on the top, and Disneyland's below that) demonstrate the true scale of the ride, in comparison to the relatively tiny facade buildings that give the Haunted Mansion its visible appearance.