Welcome to Jim Hill Media - Entertainment News : Theme Parks Movies Television

A special what-might-have-been version of Why For

Jim Hill

Jim's musings on the history of and rumors about movies, TV shows, books and theme parks including Disneyland, Walt Disney World. Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.

A special what-might-have-been version of Why For

Rate This
  • Comments 18

First up is Dan Ling, who wrote in to ask about the Imagineers' initial concept for the Haunted Mansion:

Jim,

Jeff Lange's "Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party" story earlier this week got me thinking about the Haunted Mansion. Especially the early, early version of this attraction, back when Walt wanted to do the Haunted Mansion as a walk-through. Do you have any stories to share about that version of the Mansion?

Dear Dan,

Well, just as Disneyland's Jungle Cruise was inspired by a non-Disney film (I.E. John Huston's 1951 classic, "The African Queen"), the Imagineers' very first pass on the Haunted Mansion was actually inspired by two Bob Hope films, 1939's "The Cat and the Canary" and 1940's "The Ghost Breakers."


Copyright Paramount Pictures

Hope co-starred with Paulette Goddard in both of these very popular Paramount Pictures releases. Which skillfully mixed spine-tingling thrills with big belly laughs. Walt hoped that a walk-through attraction that tried to replicate the feel of "The Cat and the Canary" and "The Ghost Breakers" would prove to be popular with Disneyland visitors.

So -- with this concept as their leaping-off point -- WED's story guys worked up a scenario where small groups of people would be taken on tours of a haunted house by this smart-alecky tour guide. And the basic running gag of this version of the attraction was -- as you toured the mansion -- your tour guide would continually be menaced by mysterious creatures ...


Copyright 1958 WED Enterprises

... Yet he'd always manage to avoid being attacked by these ghouls through skill and/or just plain dumb luck.

Anyway ... Just as it does today, a trip through this early, early version of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion would have featured some very elaborate set-pieces. Here you seen a sketch of a scene where guests would have looked down from above to first observe an invisible musician enter the hall. Then this unseen organist would begin playing a sinister solo.


Copyright 1958 WED Enterprises

Sound like a pretty intriguing take on the Haunted Mansion, don't you think? So why didn't Disney actually go ahead with this version of the attraction? Well, to be honest, Walt's main concern was capacity.

To explain: If the Haunted Mansion had been done as a walk-through attraction, then meant that only a fraction of the people who were visiting Disneyland each day would have actually be able to experience this attraction. Which wouldn't have gone over all that well with the paying customers.

Mind you, the wizards of WED tried for a number of years to come up with a way to make the walking-tour version of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion work. Among the ideas that were floated in order to increase this attraction's hourly capacity was building two identical versions of the walk-through. So that -- in theory -- twice as many guests could then enjoy touring this haunted house every hour.

Another intriguing aspect of this early, early version of the Haunted Mansion is that Walt didn't want people to be bored while they were waiting for their tour to begin . So -- borrowing a page from Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room (Where guests waiting in that attraction's Tiki Gardens area are treated to an elaborate pre-show featuring the Tiki Gods) -- the walk-through version of the Haunted Mansion was also supposed to have featured an elaborate pre-show, the Museum of the Weird.


Copyright 1963 WED Enterprises

Designed primarily by Disney Legend Rolly Crump (Who -- appropriately enough -- had just finished sculpting all of the Tiki God statues that appear in the Enchanted Tiki Room's Tiki Garden area when Walt handed Rolly this Haunted Mansion-related assignment), this outer lobby area would have featured some truly bizarre creations. Take -- for example -- this aquarium which was supposed to have had a pair of ghostly fish swimming around inside of it.


Copyright 1963 WED Enterprises

Sadly, after Walt's death in December of 1966, the entire Haunted Mansion project went through some pretty radical revisions. And when the dust finally settled ... What was once supposed to be a walk-through was now an omnimover-based ride-through attraction.

And as for the Museum of the Weird ... Well, for a while back in the early 1970s, the Imagineers gave some semi-serious thought to resurrecting many of the creatures & effects that Rolly Crump had originally created for the Haunted Mansion's pre-show as part of Professor Marvel's Gallery. Which was a " ... a tent show of mysteries and delights, a carousel of magic and wonder" that was supposed to be built as part of Disneyland's Discovery Bay expansion area.


Copyright 1975 WED Enterprises

And speaking of things that never got built, Whitney G. just sent me this note concerning her recent visit to the Disneyland Hotel.

Jim,

This past summer, while my family and I were waiting to get into Goofy's Kitchen, we killed some time by wandering around the Disneyland hotel. Have you seen all of the concept art that's on display there? There are some really amazing pieces there. Stuff I've never seen before in either the Disney Gallery or in any of the Disney history books that I own. Perhaps you could sometime do a story about all of these paintings for JHM? Let your readers where they could go to see specific images at the hotel.

Just a helpful suggestion from a loyal reader,
Keep up the great work!

Whitney G.

Dear Whitney G.

You know, I've actually been toying with doing something like for a few years now. In fact, two years ago, Nancy and I spent a very pleasant afternoon wandering around the Disneyland Hotel snapping pictures of various paintings in preparation for doing a piece just like that.

And -- you know -- you're right, Whitney. The concept art that's on display at this Anaheim resort really is out of this world. It ranges from rides that were originally supposed to be opening day attractions at Disneyland. Elaborately rethemed versions of old amusement park favorites like this Monstro shoot-the-chutes ...


Copyright 1953 WED Enterprises

Or -- better yet -- this Donald Duck-themed bumper boats ride (Please note the "Old Mill" -themed ferris wheel -- where the guests would have ridden inside of enormous wooden shoes -- just off to the right of the bumper boat pool) ...


Copyright 1953 WED Enterprises

... to this circus-themed outdoor dining area that was initially supposed to surround Disneyland's Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride.


Copyright 1953 WED Enterprises

Sometime it makes you kind of sad to look at these images. Why For? Because they then make you realize what Walt had originally hoped to do back in 1955. Take -- for example -- the much more elaborate, ornate version of Fantasyland that Disney had hoped to build ...


Copyright 1953 WED Enterprises

Or the Imagineers' first pass on the park's Peter Pan fly-thru attraction. Which was originally supposed to have had guests enter this dark ride by first walking by the Darling House ...


Copyright 1953 WED Enterprises

Then -- once they were aboard their pirate galleon -- these Disneyland visitors first would have flown over London town, then transitioned to Neverland by soaring through the Second Star to the Right ...


Copyright 1953 WED Enterprises

Which is a pretty cool idea, don't you think?

Speaking of cool ideas: You're right, Whitney. A series of photos that document all of the concept paintings that are on display at the Disneyland Hotel would be a great addition to JHM. Let me see what I can do about getting a series like that up out of the ground fairly quickly.

And speaking of things that come up out of the ground, Robin M. writes in to ask:

Can you please settle a bet for me? I keep telling my friends that the Imagineers were going to build a Space Mountain type roller coaster at Epcot back in the 1990s out behind the Japanese pavilion. Yet nobody ever believes me.

You've got access to all that cool WDI concept art, Jim. So could you please post some images of Mount Fuji so my friends will finally believe me.

Thanks!

Robin M.

Dear Robin M.

Ask and ye shall receive! Here's a concept painting for Mount Fuji (Which was also known as Fire Mountain)


Copyright 1990 The Walt Disney Company

Here's a photograph of several Imagineers working on the model for this proposed World Showcase addition ...


Copyright 1990 The Walt Disney Company

... as well as a painting of the interior of this thrill ride. Which should give you some sense of what the track layout for this indoor roller coaster would have been like.


Copyright 1990 The Walt Disney Company

And -- finally -- here's a photo of a model for the proposed post-show area for Mount Fuji. Which was supposed to have been modeled after Tokyo's Ginza shopping district.


Copyright 1990 The Walt Disney Company

Hopefully, these four photos will give you all the evidence you need to prove to your pals that -- at one time -- Epcot's World Showcase really was slated to get its very own Space Mountain-like indoor roller. Unfortunately, like so many attractions that were proposed as part of the ambitious "Disney Decade" project, Mount Fuji never actually made it off the drawing board.

And that's it for this week at JHM. Here's hoping that you enjoyed this week's assortment of stories and that we'll see you all back here again on Monday morning.

Have a great weekend, okay?

j

Blog - Post Feedback Form
Your comment has been posted.   Close
Thank you, your comment requires moderation so it may take a while to appear.   Close
Leave a Comment
  • * Please enter your name
  • * Please enter a comment
  • Post
  • Thanks, Jim... these are my favorite type of story!!!
  • Jim,

    The shoot-the-chutes Monstro ride was actually much more complicated than that.  The drawing there (I'm almost sure) is a Bushman drawing.  You need to locate the area drawing that also includes the Monstro Ride to see what I mean.  (It's in the Art of Disneyland book.)  Behind the whale was a large show building.  And in that show building were to be various scenes from Pinocchio.  After guests passed the various scenes in their boat they would be swallowed by Monstro and then--as pictured in the art above--sneezed out of his mouth, down the 20-foot drop and into the landing pond.

    Also, though I've never been to Paris Disneyland, I'm fairly sure a version of the Old Mill ferris wheel for children exists at that park.  Someone correct me if I'm wrong about that.  

    The Donald Duck bumper boats ride--called Duck Bumps--in part became the inspiration for the 1960's Arrow-designed Flying Saucer attraction over in Tomorrowland.  You can see the overall design of the Flying Saucer attraction not only in the Duck Bumps cars and ride action, but in the Disney-devised sweeper arm that keeps loading boats at one end, active boats at the other.

    I enjoyed this week's Why For.  Thanks.
  • "small groups of people would be taken on tours of a haunted house by this smart-alecky tour guide. And the basic running gag of this version of the attraction was -- as you toured the mansion -- your tour guide would continually be menaced by mysterious creatures ..."
    That's so cool!  I love the Haunted Mansion as is, but that's so neat!

    Those attractions that never were, or those versions at least, are making me kinda sad.  But thank you so much for posting the pictures/telling us about these attractions.

  • re: Japan ride

    If you use Google Earth or any of the satellite-photo sites, you can actually see the show building built behind Japan (another behind Germany, I believe) that was laid out for another attraction but, alas, has become storage and non-guest area.

    So close and yet so far...
  • >>  Also, though I've never been to Paris Disneyland, I'm fairly sure a version of the Old Mill ferris wheel for children exists at that park.  Someone correct me if I'm wrong about that.  

    Yes, The Old Mill WAS an attraction at DLRP.  But it's closed for many years now.

    Here are some photos:
    http://www.photosmagiques.com/gallery/pirouettes
  • You know what? I was one of the ones ready to post negative things when we went through that spell of movie/business articles, so I need to chime in and say how I've really enjoyed the articles the last couple of weeks.

    Thanks, Jim!
  • Hi Jim,
    Long time reader, 1st time poster - Great article, I love reading about "projects that never happened" it is somewhat upsetting to see all these great ideas that were never built.

    I know other people have posted this, but I would REALLY LOVE to see some stuff on Disney's America.  There is very limited info on the net about this...

    Also, how about an article on the future of WDW, I know thi isn't really a "rumours" site.  But there is so much discussion lately about a new theme park there......
  • Thank you photosmagiques for the info about the old mill in DLP.  I've been there twice, once in 99 and then again in 05, and I kept marveling at how elaborately themed and beautiful a dessert shop was.  I just thought it was in honor of the pioneering short.  Now I know better...it really did used to be a ride!

        and to Mr. X
    "Also, how about an article on the future of WDW, I know thi isn't really a "rumours" site.  But there is so much discussion lately about a new theme park there......"
    It's not going to happen, nor should it until they pour some money back into the existing parks and erase some of the poor upkeep and lackluster replacements that have plagued the last decade.  Let's start at EPCOT, and get all of the pavillions open!
  • As an addendum...God I wish they had built Mt. Fuji.  It looks beautiful.  Maybe it's not too late?
  • Smilee306 said:
       and to Mr. X
    "'Also, how about an article on the future of WDW, I know thi isn't really a 'rumours' site.  But there is so much discussion lately about a new theme park there......'
    "It's not going to happen, nor should it until they pour some money back into the existing parks and erase some of the poor upkeep and lackluster replacements that have plagued the last decade"
    ---
    If X was talking about fanboy pipe-dreams like "Retroland" or "Villains Park", they never WERE going to happen. (At least, in the second case, not since Pressler left.)

    We know from experience that Bob Iger's visions for the parks are:
    1) Improving and "reclaiming" deadweight attraction space, which -especially- includes
    2) Reclaiming "the biggest deadweight of them all", California Adventure, although
    3) Seeing how parks like Epcot and AK can be improved by importing or re-theming new ideas originally developed for improving DCA.
    For now, Disney's management has a view for upkeeping the parks...Just don't raise too many "new ride" fanboy hopes about WHICH park they plan on upkeeping the most for the next few years' time being.
  • Mr. X wrote:
    "I know other people have posted this, but I would REALLY LOVE to see some stuff on Disney's America.  There is very limited info on the net about this..."
    ----
    I'll second (fourth? ninth?) that vote for a "Disney America That Never Was" piece--Or at least showing where the ideas eventually wound up:
    We know that a Civil War piece and a "Sounds Dangerous" 3D-audio show were eventually retooled for the DLR Lincoln, and there was brief Pressler talk about using DA's Presidents show as a replacement for Hall of Presidents...But what other attractions are now confined to the concept-art vaults, now that the Boy Scouts own the territory?
  • I hope KNRG read this.
    The show building was built, according to David Mumford, for "Meet the World".  They were going to mirror it there, but ran out of money.
    We were standing in front of the gates at the Japan Pavilion at the time, between statues of two horses.  "This was going to be the entry." he said.  Every time I've gone there since, I've imagined what would have been beyond those gates.
  • And what thrills would've gone on, inside Mt. Fuji?
    Well, there's a JHM answer for that, too:
    http://jimhillmedia.com/blogs/jim_hill/archive/2005/04/03/572.aspx
    (Great...ANOTHER reason to hate Dean Devlin.)
  • I actually would have liked to see "Meet the World" in the Japan pavilion - although it wouldn't have to have been in place of Mt. Fuji, it could have been in addition to it. I guess I'm just a AAs and Carousel Theater kind of Disney geek...
  • AMAZING...
Page 1 of 2 (18 items) 12