The next time you exit The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, pause a moment just after the turnstiles and listen for one of my favorite little gags. It seems that the Haunted Mansion is the one who gets the last laugh.
The design of The Haunted Mansion is a reflection of two very prominent Imagineers. Claude Coats and Marc Davis worked together brilliantly under Walt’s direction to create one of the great theme park attractions of all time – The Pirates of the Caribbean. Now certainly there were dozens and dozens of other talented people connected with these projects. But it is the distinctly different visions from these two men that make The Haunted Mansion what it is. Davis is the creative genius that used his animation talents to invent the art of the memorable three-dimensional site gag. Coats was the master of atmosphere. He painted backgrounds for animated films and created the environment where Marc Davis’s pirates plundered and pillaged.
When it came time to build The Haunted Mansion, Davis and Coats did not have somebody playing Walt’s role as a strong central force. Instead, they created a marvelous mash up of two different visions. The first half of the ride is all Coats. It is as if you stepped into a horror movie. The second half is all Davis. The little vignettes provide maximum humor with minimal action.
Now I do not know who is responsible for this little gem but next time you exit the attraction, listen for one of my favorite gags. Just beyond the turnstile at the top of the speedramp is a small speaker that was silent for many, many years. After Disneyland completed on of the refurbishments that come along with the Nightmare Before Christmas overlays, somebody found this speaker and reconnected it to the sound source. What they found was this very ominous deep laughter. The joke is not only will a ghost follow you home but the house is going to get the last laugh. Love it.
For more from Sam, buy his book Walt and the Promise of Progress City.