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JHM Exclusive: "I was an extra on Disney's 'Haunted Mansion' movie" set report

JHM Exclusive: "I was an extra on Disney's 'Haunted Mansion' movie" set report

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Greetings, folks!

(And for those of you reading this in Massachusetts, Happy Patriots Day!)

One of the nicest things about running a website like JimHillMedia.com is that -- every so often -- something truly cool turns up in your inbox. Such was the case Sunday morning when I received this note from A.K., a long-time JHM reader.

It seems that -- two weeks ago today -- A.K. got to do something that sounds extremely fun. Which was to take part in the shooting of the ballroom sequence for Walt Disney Pictures' forthcoming "Haunted Mansion" movie.

What follows is a lightly edited version of A.K.'s description of her day on the set. Which -- I think you'll agree -- makes Rob Minkoff's "Mansion" movie sound most intriguing. (Which kind of makes me feel bad. Given that I actually sort of bad-mouthed this motion picture prior to the start of its production with this article.)

By the way ... The following article only covers what A.K. experienced during her days on the ballroom set of the "Haunted Mansion" movie. If you'd like to get a better sense of what the rest of the sets for this upcoming Disney motion picture might be like, then you really need to go over to Doombuggies.com and go check out Wolf's recent report.

For that matter: If you just want to spend some time poking around a well designed, incredibly informative and flat out Disney-related fun website, then a trip to www.doombuggies.com is definitively in order anyway. Or -- better yet -- go check out Chef Mayhem's latest triumph, www.TellNoTales.com (which is his newest creation, an "Unofficial Tribute to Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean"). You can thank me later.

Okay. Even with the cross promotion. Let's get to A.K.'s letter, shall we?

Monday, April 14th, I was an extra in the Haunted Mansion movie! I would like to tell you about it, if I may.

The scene (that I took part in) was a kind of haunted flashback sequence, I guess. It was (set) in the ballroom, which (looked) absolutely gorgeous (More on that in a moment).

(All of the performers in this particular scene were wearing) costumes (that ranged) from ancient Rome to the 1800s. My costume was this big gold dress a la 1700s. Instead of the bustle focusing on the butt, it focused on the hips. My hips were literally three feet wide. I kept bumping into stuff and people.

I fortunately had a built-in corset in my dress. Most of the other women had to wear corsets separately. One girl actually passed out early in the day. Poor thing, wardrobe doesn't know any better. They just lace you up super tight -- for the movie's sake.

I heard (that) a couple (of) girls (who were dressed in corsets) passed out (during the production of) "Pirates" as well. And my big war story ... from (the production of) "Hidalgo" (an upcoming Touchstone Pictures release): they laced my corset so tight, my waist became seven inches smaller than its original size. (The end) result: I threw up four times the first night. They loosened (up my corset) a bit after that.

Anyway ... So the party (sequence in the film). None of the (big name actors in the "Mansion" cast) were there. No Eddie Murphy, no Jennifer Tilly (thank goodness), no Don Knotts (genius casting, in my opinion, as the spooked old graveyard man). But there were a few people of note. Marsha Thomason was there. She plays Eddie Murphy's wife (in the movie), and was in "Black Knight" previously. An actress from the TV show "Greg the Bunny" was there and played the maid from the past.

That's what makes me happy about this film, by the way. (Rob Minkoff and Don Hahn) are (actually) covering the storylines of the ride's characters. The way (the Haunted Mansion movie has) been described by the press, "a busy businessman learns the importance of family from some ghosts", makes it sound like "Casper the Friendly Ghost" by Disney.

But this makes me happier. (Terrance Stamp plays) Master Gracey. And do you know who plays the butler (in the Haunted Mansion movie? I got to stand ten feet away from him, I was so ecstatic.

Have you ever seen The Princess Bride?

"Inconceivable!"

Yes, Wallace Shawn plays the butler from the past in Disney's Haunted Mansion movie. I was so happy (to hear that).

I spoke with Ms. Thomason's stand-in, and she (was nice enough to fill me in on some of the film's) storylines. POSSIBLE SPOILER: Apparently, (the ghost of) Master Gracey thinks Eddie Murphy's wife is (a reincarnation of) his wife from (a previous) lifetime.

(I heard that) there was a scene shot a week before (I arrived on the set) where Master Gracey was carrying his dead wife up the cascading staircase in the ballroom. That's going to be some shot, if they did it right.

So Marsha's character has these haunted flashbacks a la Mummy Returns, and the scene we shot is one of them. She walks into the ballroom, sees the bad guy, and walks out. At one point she dances with Master Gracey, but I'm not sure when that is.

Incidentally, I should be very visible in the movie. In the beginning of the scene, Marsha walks down a hallway towards the ballroom, and there are some people standing around and walking behind her. I'm walking in my huge dress in the opposite direction. I curtsey to some gentlemen on the right, I curtsey to a couple on the left, and then I curtsey to some more gentlemen to the right and extend my hand. That is currently my big moment in Disney film history.

Also, in the morning the director and producer walked around to see us and meet us. Rob Minkoff (I hope I spelled that correctly) and the producer (Don Hahn) are (both) very nice guys and were happy to converse with all of us.

So the sets (for Disney's Haunted Mansion movie): It looks like the set designers made the mansion look like it might have before it was haunted, which was very clever. Our holding area (where extras stay when not working) was actually on a stage (where lots of) set pieces (for the film were kept when not in use). (In this area) was the long hallway where I'm pretty sure the ghosts are supposed to be "having a little trouble getting through". There are many doors, and peacock feather wallpaper, with the eyes of peacock feathers staring at you rather than creepy eyes staring at you.

There is one part of the hallway with old portraits of relatives on the walls, and there are silver plates that depict various scenes from "Midsummer Night's Dream" as well.

Pretty intriguing report, don't you think? A.K. has promised -- in a future letter -- to provide even more inside information on this upcoming Walt Disney Studios release. Here's hoping that she comes through with that info soon.

In the meantime, if you enjoyed A.K.'s on-set report today but would like even more information about what it might be like to tour the sets of Disney's "The Haunted Mansion" movie, be sure to check out Wolf's story at Doombuggies.com. You'll find a wide selection of production sketches from the film on display ... not to mention a killer article about what it was actually like to poke around the set of this increasingly-intriguing sounding film.

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