OK foolish mortals, your About Theme Parks guide (temporarily masquerading as an honorary Ghost Host) has unearthed some interesting nuggets of info about the legendary Haunted Mansion attractions at the Disney theme parks
From the fall season through the end of the year, California's Disneyland Park annually transforms the original Haunted Mansion into Haunted Mansion Holiday. Overlaying the classic attraction with characters and new scenes based on "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas," the ride gets a makeover that bridges the Halloween and Christmas seasons. For example, the Graveyard scene features ghosts decorating bizarre Christmas trees amid a blanket of snow.
There was a real Madame Leota! Well, sort of. An actual model-building Imagineer named Leota Toombs--how perfect is that name?--was the actress dispensing the disembodied incantations (although another character actress recorded the voice parts). After she died, Imagineers needed to film some new Madame Leota footage for Haunted Mansion Holiday. They turned to the Madame's daughter, Kim Irvine, who also works for Imagineering and bears a strong resemblance to her seer-saying mother.
Although many people think Orson Welles is the Ghost Host in the Disneyland and Walt Disney World versions of the Haunted Mansion, the voice actor is Paul Frees. He was also the voice of Ludwig Von Drake, the Pillsbury Doughboy, and Boris Badenov of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame.
Speaking of voices, if one of the singing statuary in the Graveyard scene sounds familiar, that's because it's the distinctive baritone of Thurl Ravenscroft. He's best known as the voice of Tony "They're Grrrrrreat!" the Tiger, and he sang, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" in the television version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
So, does the floor descend or does the ceiling rise in the Haunted Mansion's Portrait Chamber (aka the stretching room)? Well...both--it depends on the location. As with Pirates of the Caribbean, the space-strapped Disneyland in California needed to transport guests to a large building beyond the park's berm. The Chamber is actually an elevator that takes guests down to an underground passageway, which leads to the show building. Disneyland Paris' Phantom Manor uses the same concept. In the Florida and Tokyo versions however, space is less of an issue, so the ride building is directly behind the facade. In those stretching rooms, the ceiling rises, and guests remain on the same level.
In one of the Haunted Mansion's early drafts, Walt Disney himself recorded the narration for the attraction. It was eventually scrapped for today's Ghost Host version, but it would have been wonderful and fitting to have Walt's voice connected with the classic E-Ticket ride.
The Haunted Mansion film starring Eddie Murphy was not the first attempt to tie a movie to the ride. In the early 90's, when Dreamworks' Jeffery Katzenberg was head of the Walt Disney Studios, he wanted to produce movies based on theme park attractions. Katzenberg commissioned a Haunted Mansion script, but it languished in development. In the late 90's, Disney toyed with the idea of making a telefilm based around the ride for its "Wonderful World of Disney" ABC program.
The "Gracey" family depicted in the film is a nod to Disney Imagineer Yale Gracey, who was an animator and mechanical genius. He had a hand in developing many of the Haunted Mansion's illusions, including the "Leota effect" that brings Madame Leota to life in the Seance Room.
From movies to music, The Haunted Mansion theme song, "Grim Grinning Ghosts," received an odd alternative-rock update when the Barenaked Ladies performed it as a 1-minute-and-43-second ditty on the 1996 album, "Disney's Music from the Park."