When I die please talk about the bad things
Don’t pretend I was perfect just because I’m gone
Explain how I would get pettily angry at people
Tell stories about my failed attempts at weight loss
Joke about the stupid music parodies that I loved
Don’t forget how neurotic I was, and at times OCD
Remember how I refused to do something
Just because someone of authority told me to
Never leave out how I managed to fall up stairs
And when people ask if I ever did anything good
Make sure for every nice thing you tell them
You include two annoying or weird qualities
Because I don’t want people glorifying my corpse
Because if you only say good things about me
You won’t even be honouring who I really was
Just the person that you wish I could have been
I know I haven’t been perfect, everyone should too
So please, when I die, please talk about the bad things
45 Years of Ghoulish Delight and Happy Haunts
Today marks 45 years of operation for one of Disney’s most storied and accomplished thematic attractions. Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion premiered on this date after nearly a decade of design and planning to ensure that the attraction would not only meet the demands of the growing theme park, but to also solidify the artistic experience that WED’s ‘haunted house’ wanted to boast.
1969 could perhaps be considered when WED began to hit their stride and when their technical acumen began to pay off in droves. The Haunted Mansion encapsulates this moment in time. Bolstered from success in 1963 with Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room and the 1964 World’s Fair, WED’s preceding attractions reflect their confidence and ingenuity. These attractions were also the last to be personally overseen by Walt Disney who passed away in 1967. Audio Animatronic figures quickly became the standard showpiece of attractions and high capacity people moving systems ensured that many Disneyland guests would get to partake in these new adventures. The first attraction to accomplish this was Pirates of the Caribbean. The Haunted Mansion followed, but in formula only, perhaps making the duo a sort of ‘call and response’ for WED’s attractions in the late 1960s. Where Pirates is joyfully meandering and appropriately takes place on the water, Mansion is bound to the confines of a labyrinth of a structure and follows a pattern of illusions and effects. Although not confined to a strict narrative, the Mansion does have its experiences follow a semblance of rising and falling action to better intrigue and interest guests.
These technical aspects giving way to the demands of experience and illusion are markers of the artists and engineers who took part in the design and creation of the attraction. The Haunted Mansion had its humble beginnings in Rolly Crump’s Museum of the Weird, a walkthrough attraction of historical and mystical oddities that would have found a home in the alleys of New Orleans Square. In time, this grew into a greater haunted house concept with Ken Anderson at the helm. And finally, the Haunted Mansion evolved into Claude Coats’ eerie and effect heavy first act, and Marc Davis’ jubilant finale.
This melange of styles and methods is perhaps what makes the Haunted Mansion so beloved after 45 years. It is archetypically chilling and spooky, but not overtly so- just enough to make you a little on edge and to elicit and nervous laugh. And its finale of happy haunts and of music and of a party offers a subtle message of morality: In the end, we’re all dead, but we’re all happy.
45 years on, WED’s haunted house remains one of Disney’s pinnacles of themed entertainment and a staple at the magic kingdoms around the world.