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[D23 Expo] Haunted Mansion 50th: Happy Haunts & History

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Photography from D23

Starting off with a collection of Imagineers’ Haunted Mansion stories, the 50th Anniversary presentation included innovation, history, special guests, and plenty of fun.

Hosted by Kevin Lively (how punny), the presentation first remembered and discussed Marty Sklar. This is the first D23 Expo without Sklar’s direct influence, and his contributions have been recognized throughout the Expo weekend.

The first guest was Daniel Joseph, an Illusion-eer, who discussed and demonstrated the technology that creates the illusions of the Haunted Mansion. Lasers, fans, black light, and more—Joseph even showed how household materials, like laundry detergent, can be used to create similarly spooky effects.

The presentation was also joined by Chris Merrett, a close friend of Marc Davis and an author who recently put together a massive Marc Davis art book with Pete Docter. So much of the Haunted Mansion as it exists today was designed, or at least inspired by, Davis’ artwork. Merrett discusses interviews and his experiences exploring Davis’ personal collection of Imagineering concept art.

Having been a Jungle Cruise skipper himself, Lively decided to represent those memories with a Skipper’s Tour of the Haunted Mansion, a cheesy and punny journey through the iconic ride. Plenty of ghostly humor abounded.

Jillian Pagan, writer, and Kelsey McCullough, granddaughter of Imagineering writer X Atencio, also joined the panel to discuss the iconic writer. X Atencio worked on many facets of Imagineering and is noted for writing the now-classic Pirates of the Caribbean song in addition to scripting the Haunted Mansion. In fact, one of the previous drafts of the Haunted Mansion script was on hand. Not only did McCullough step in as the voice of Madame Leota, or simply the “medium” as she was called in this early version, but the dramatic reading also included tightrope-walker Sally Slater and exciting surprise guest, Uncle Deadly of the Muppets as the Ghost Host.

While plenty of history was discussed, the panel largely focused on the personal nostalgia of fans and Imagineers alike, and finding ways to have fun with uncovering the archives related to the 50 years of the Haunted Mansion. Most of Day Two at the D23 Expo was dedicated to our favorite grim-grinning ghosts, and a lot of that happy haunting fun is online to watch too.

You can find video of the on YouTube AND on the Rotoscopers Instagram Live video story.

Have you been to the Haunted Mansion? Let us know if you saw any ghosts!

Edited by: Kelly Conley

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