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999 Happy Haunts: Meet The Hatbox Ghost

posted on October 10th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


This week’s look at the ghosts of The Haunted Mansion focuses on the Hatbox Ghost – aren’t familiar with him? That’s because he was originally planned as a part of the attraction but never, well, materialized.

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(Art by Austin Hillebrecht)

According to Jason Surrell’s book “The Haunted Mansion: From The Magic Kingdom To The Movies,” this ghostly apparition was supposed to appear across from the Bride in the attic scene, holding a hatbox. With every beat of the Bride’s heart, the Hatbox Ghost’s head was supposed to disappear and reappear in the hatbox he was holding. Alas, the Hatbox ghost was eventually cut from the plan due to technical difficulties.

Which Haunted Mansion ghost would you like to see featured here next week? Tell us in the comments section below!

For more about the ghosts from The Haunted Mansion, visit the post below:

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Behind the Scenes: Adding ‘Fantasia’ Magic to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

posted on October 6th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival features the creative talents of many different departments here at Walt Disney World Resort, including our excellent Food & Beverage team. But did you know that Walt Disney Imagineering and Horticulture also play an important part in getting the park ready for the festival?

Check out this video, in which our Walt Disney Imagineers and Horticulture cast members work together to transform the park’s Entrance Planters with “Fantasia”-inspired graphics and topiaries – in just eight hours.

Drawing inspiration from the film, the graphics and horticulture designs illustrate Chef Mickey orchestrating “magical forks” to spread flavor throughout the festival. This theme is carried out throughout the park’s other graphics and horticulture displays.

What is your favorite part of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival? Tell us in the comments section below.

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999 Happy Haunts: Meet Madame Leota

posted on October 3rd, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


In honor of the upcoming Halloween holiday, we’ll offer an up-close look at a different resident of The Haunted Mansion right here on the Disney Parks Blog each Friday. Today, we’re focusing on one of the ladies of the house – Madame Leota.

999 Happy Haunts: Meet Madame Leota

(Art by Cameron Garland)

Leota first appears in the Seance Circle room, summoning the Mansion’s spirits from within an illuminated crystal ball that appears to float on its own above the table. Her famous line, “Serpents and spiders, tail of a rat. Call in the spirits wherever they’re at!” was recorded by Eleanor Audley, then Disney’s go-to gal for voicing the perfect villainess. (Audley also supplied the voices of Lady Tremaine in “Cinderella” and Maleficent in “Sleeping Beauty”). Leota’s visage was a visual of Imagineer Leota Toombs, an Imagineer/model builder whose face fit the dimensions the team was looking for and agreed to participate in a demo – and nailed it.

The character of Madame Leota appears in another form later on in the attraction. Just before you disembark your Doom Buggie, “Little Leota”, appears up high and beckons guests to hurry back. Here’s a fun fact – although Eleanor Audley supplied the voice for Leota in the Seance Room, it’s both the voice and face of Leota Toombs that combined to create Little Leota.

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Sights and Sounds of Disney Parks: Celebrating One of Walt’s Major Magic Makers

posted on September 17th, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Marc Davis’ Disney career goes all the way back to “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” He animated Alice, Tinker Bell, Cinderella, Maleficent and Cruella DeVil. He designed characters for Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and the fondly remembered America Sings attractions. He was an accomplished painter and a caring, unforgettable teacher.

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Marc dreamed up enough major works to fill several lifetimes. Yet he was definitely not one of those “look at me, I’m so great, blah, blah, blah” kind of people. He was devoted to his wife, Alice (also a Disney Legend who was also a major contributor to Disney history as costume designer for many attractions), dedicated to Disney art and imagination, and, across the board, remembered as a genial, unassuming fellow.

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His admirers include some of the most accomplished individuals in the art and entertainment industry, who along with many of us, were waiting a long time for such a magnificent book as “Marc Davis: Walt Disney’s Renaissance Man” to come along. This book is their opportunity to reminisce about Marc for us, and our opportunity to look for hours at each and every vivid image in this new book—many of which seem to jump off the page.

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Imagineering and Disney Legend Marty Sklar expresses his awe at Marc’s work for Disney Parks. Peter Docter, Oscar-winning director of Disney•Pixar’s “Up” and “Monsters, Inc.” presents an extensive portfolio of Marc’s concept art and pencil drawings. “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King” producer Don Hahn elaborates on Marc’s fine art. Veteran Disney animator and historian Andreas Deja takes us on a tour of Marc’s animal studies. Glen Keane, acclaimed animator of Ariel, the Beast, Tarzan, Rapunzel, Aladdin and others, guides us through Marc’s vast collection of sketchbooks.

And there’s so much more. Walt Disney Family Museum Creative Consultant and historian Paula Sigman-Lowery explains Marc’s fascination with the art and people of New Guinea. Author/filmmaker Mindy Johnson helps us get acquainted with the wondrous Alice Davis. Renowned animation historian and critic Charles Solomon presents a look at the unproduced animated feature, Chanticleer. Award-winning animation director Bob Kurtz recalls Marc’s skill as a teacher. There are even selections from Marc’s unpublished book on how humans and animals move (Parents’ alert: some tasteful nudes in this section.)

You can find “Marc Davis: Walt Disney’s Renaissance Man” at select Disney Parks shops now (even though it will not be available to the general public until October 7). Call Merchandise Guest Services at 1-877-560-6477) to locate it at either Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort.

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‘Lakeside Casual’ Attire for Servers at New Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s BoardWalk

posted on September 9th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


As the new Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s BoardWalk gets ready for a December opening, here’s a look at the classic server attire, designed by Walt Disney Imagineer Celina Lung, who’s been a Disney costume designer for nearly 20 years.

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“My inspiration comes from the trattoria’s interior and lakeside setting,” says Celina. “Like the restaurant, the server attire is charming, casual, a little upscale.” The warm décor matches the restaurant color palette, she explains. Celina’s research also took her to a seaside bistro in Southern California to come up with a look that’s “not overdesigned, but simple and elegant.”

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The burgundy shirts and blouses with gold contrast echo the décor, with khaki-colored pants for a more casual look. “We’re in America, not Italy, and I wanted the servers to look casual but polished,” says Celina. One detail, for instance, is the bladed leather belt with an antique brass buckle to lend a more refined finish.

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For colder months, she designed a jacket with a relaxed fit in classic tweed. Servers will also wear long bistro aprons, weaving the elegance of traditional European restaurant with the experience of a neighborhood restaurant.

Her expertise is in many costumes throughout Disney Parks, from the server attire at Coral Reef Restaurant at Epcot to various lands and restaurants at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, Tokyo Disney Resort, Shanghai Disney Resort (her current project) and Disneyland park. And she’s always got something in the works.

Meanwhile, interior work and recipe development continues on Trattoria al Forno, more details to come!

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Exclusive Merchandise Revealed for Destination D: Attraction Rewind

posted on September 4th, 2014 by Jeffrey Epstein, Manager, Marketing


A few months ago, D23, Disney’s Official Fan Club, unveiled some of the exclusive merchandise that will be available at Destination D: Attraction Rewind this fall at Walt Disney World Resort. The event, which takes place November 22 and 23, celebrates beloved attractions and entertainment of yesteryear while also looking at what’s to come with Disney Legends, luminaries and Imagineers.

Just for the occasion, Mickey’s of Glendale — the famous Walt Disney Imagineering store — is setting up a pop-up shop with exclusive merchandise just for event attendees. Earlier this summer, D23 previewed a few of the items that will be available, and now we are happy to share even more of the collection here on the Disney Parks Blog.

Exclusive Merchandise for Destination D: Attraction Rewind

In addition to all this, there will be a Mystery Box pin set featuring the Pleasure Island club marquee logos including Mannequins Dance Palace, Comedy Warehouse, 8TRAX, Pleasure Island Jazz Co., Rock ‘n’ Roll Beach Club, and Adventurer’s Club.

And just wait … there’s even more to come! So pick up your tickets today.

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Interview with Imagineer Lisa Girolami Aboard Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland Park

posted on September 2nd, 2014 by Erin Glover, Social Media Director, Disneyland Resort


Disneyland park guests have been wowed by the updates to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ever since it re-opened this spring. I recently took a ride on the attraction with Imagineer Lisa Girolami, who oversaw its extensive refurbishment. The wildest ride in the wilderness might not be the best place for an in-depth interview, but it sure is the most fun!

What do you like best about Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland park? Tell us in the comments!


See the posts below for more on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad:

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All in the Details: Imagineers Unveil the Storyline of Disney Springs

posted on August 19th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


How does Walt Disney Imagineering re-imagine an area of Walt Disney World Resort that guests have enjoyed for more than 40 years?

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That’s the creative challenge our Imagineering team, including Executive Creative Director Theron Skees, has been tasked with – to transform the area currently known as Downtown Disney into Disney Springs, a destination that’s being expanded to include more than 150 shopping, dining and entertainment experiences. From an Imagineering perspective, this means developing a storyline and creating a sense of time and place that influences everything from the architecture to the costumes.

We were also excited to share that our Imagineers will continue to share updates here in our “All in the Details” series in the coming months as their work progresses. Here’s the first piece, in which Theron introduces the Disney Springs project and Imagineering’s role in it.

The first “neighborhood” in Disney Springs – the opening of The Landing – is set for 2015. Construction on Disney Springs will continue into 2016, so be sure to stay tuned to the Disney Parks Blog for more behind-the-scenes looks at the progress happening as Downtown Disney transforms into Disney Springs.


For more about Disney Springs, visit the stories below:

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The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling: Haunted Mansion at Disneyland Park

posted on August 8th, 2014 by Tyler Slater, Public Relations Manager, Disney Destinations


Haunted Mansion at Disneyland park is one of the most treasured theme park attractions at Disney Parks around the world. It’s almost hard to believe, but this week those 999 happy haunts celebrate 45 years of welcoming foolish mortals to their beloved estate in New Orleans Square. To mark the anniversary of these grim, grinning ghosts, I’ll be your host as “The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling” series shares the story of how Walt Disney’s masterpiece materialized.

The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland Park

As my fellow Disney Parks Blog author, George Savvas, explained in his excellent post this morning, the Haunted Mansion was years in development. Then, when Walt Disney passed away in December 1966, the team was at a loss for inspiration. Without their captain, conflict arose in the development team. One camp believed that the attraction should be atmospheric and scary, and the other felt that the experience should be fun and lighthearted.

A compromise was reached by the show’s writer, Disney Legend X Atencio. He structured the attraction into three acts:

  • Act 1 focuses on the creepy environments, without actually showing any ghosts. When guests are asked “Is this haunted room actually stretching?” they are given a hint at the frights that wait for them around each corner.
  • Act 2 begins as Madame Leota summons up the ghostly spirits, who would soon be visible. “Rap on a table,” she says, “it’s time to respond.” And soon, they do.
  • The tour of the Haunted Mansion culminates in Act 3, where the happy haunts gather in the graveyard for a swinging wake and “grim, grinning ghosts come out to socialize!”

With this storytelling design, the entire team of Imagineers felt their visions were fulfilled. Within one week of the attraction opening, Disneyland park celebrated what was then the highest single day of attendance. Even after 45 years, the Haunted Mansion continues to blend horror with humor – filled with exquisitely detailed environments and memorable characters.


For more from “The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling” series, visit the links below:

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Celebrating 45 Years of Ghoulish Delight at the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland Park

posted on August 8th, 2014 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


“When hinges creak in doorless chambers, and strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls … Whenever candlelights flicker where the air is deathly still, that is the time when ghosts are present, practicing their terror with ghoulish delight. Welcome, foolish mortals, to the Haunted Mansion.”

As a six-year-old boy, hearing those words spoken by Disney Legend Paul Frees as the “ghost host” became an indelible Disney memory for me – and don’t get me started on the stretching room, Madame Leota or the ghost that was sitting next to me on the way home! For me, there was no turning back then – or now – from one of the most uniquely entertaining Disney Parks attractions ever created.

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The 999 happy haunts of the Haunted Mansion have been throwing a swinging wake for 45 delightfully frightful years, and they’ve received the sympathetic vibrations of millions of Disneyland park guests who have come out to socialize.

The disquieting tale of the Haunted Mansion actually began more than 50 years ago when Walt Disney approved the creation of a riverfront mansion even while he hadn’t yet decided exactly what would go inside. Walt insisted, however, that the house appear well kept on the outside and not look dilapidated.

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This rare concept drawing from Ken Anderson, courtesy of our friends at the Walt Disney Imagineering Art Library, was made in 1957.

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The library also provided this color artwork created by Sam McKim in 1958.

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In 1962, construction began on the beautiful southern plantation-inspired home, and in the years that followed, as Imagineers developed (sometimes competing) themes and stories of a Haunted Mansion attraction, a sign was placed in front of its closed gates to tease what was (possibly) to come.

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The idea for the sign was reportedly sparked by a comment Walt made upon returning from a trip to London when he remarked that he had been searching castles and old English countryside estates for ghosts looking for a new place to haunt. The sign would remain in place until the Haunted Mansion opened its gates more than six years later, in August of 1969.

During those years, with their combined talents, Imagineers, including Marc Davis, Claude Coats, X Atencio, Rolly Crump, Bill Justice, and Yale Gracey, Disney Legends all, developed the attraction we know today.

Near the time of its completion, some publicity photos were taken to help illustrate the attraction’s unique blend of macabre humor and to celebrate the artistry of those responsible for bringing it to … life.

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Here, special effects designer Yale Gracey tries to keep the lid on one of his latest creations.

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In this photo, Bill Justice tries to celebrate some of his technological accomplishments with a grim grinning ghost.

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Finally, cameras captured a sighting of the elusive Hatbox Ghost with Yale Gracey.

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“There’s a little matter I forgot to mention. Beware of hitchhiking ghosts!”

Whether your first “doom buggy” ride was today, or 45 years ago, the Haunted Mansion is what it has always been: a true original that’s pure Disney magic.

Hurry baaaaaack…

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