Inspired in part by a post over at Dinner with Max Jenke and news which dropped on Thursday, this post is a bit of a personal trip down memory lane. Disneyland played a central role in my life while growing up in Southern California. San Diego to be exact. Prior to moving to Dallas at the ripe age of 27, I'd been to the classic theme park no less than 30 times. Sometimes twice in one year. From family gatherings to birthday parties to grad night in high school, many of my life's fondest memories are from my experiences at the park.
One of those is one of my earliest 'horror' memories. I was about 6 and someone in the family thought that I was ready for something far more ghoulish. To this day, The Haunted Mansion still peers over the other attractions in New Orleans Square and it still gives me a shiver or two down my spine when walking up to it (especially at night when the lights cast a particuarly green hue).
Let me set the stage for you during my first visit to the mansion: as you wait in line, you zig zag through a garden which is filled with headstones. Each one containing a cutesy saying or phrase. The mansion itself kind of looms over you and it's one of those iconic homes (think The Overlook Hotel) that forebodes of a certain impending doom. The 'caretakers' of the home play the part of an unemotional, brooding overseer and yes, even at the age of 6, I caught on to that. Gone were the silly sing song-y worker types which you can find throughout the rest of the park and in their place, were people that gave you a cold glare or two.
Making your way through the mansion and into the house itself, you are quickly ushered into a downstairs study. People shuffle in until the room is at capacity and one of the caretakers closes the door behind you. An ominous voice rings through the room and begins to tell a little bit about the history of the home. He then tells about the paintings which surround you. There is one of a woman holding an umbrella, a man and his brother in the woods, along with a few others. As the voice continues talking, you are directed to look at the paintings as the floor below begins to move downwards. The walls then appear to be expanding, so too does the actual paintings which reveal something altogether terrifying: the woman who's holding an umbrella is doing so while straddling a rope which is tied to two trees, an alligator below waiting for her to fall with its mouth wide open; the brothers are shown with bears chasing after them. As the voice continues, the floor stops from dropping, the lights cut out, and a blood curdling scream cuts through the room. Lighting cracks and as you look to the ceiling, in the flash, you see a man hung from a noose. This all occurs before even stepping on to the ride. So you can imagine me as a 6 year old being completely terrified and clinging to the leg of my father.
As the trip downward stops, the doors open again and we are lead to our 'carriages' which transport us to the spirit world and through the various haunts within the mansion. Seated two to a carriage, you are quickly whisked away and are thrown right into the ghastly haunts: winding through hallways with floating candelabras; 'floating' above the main dining hall as ghostly guests dine on food and dance in the adjoining living room; then onwards through a graveyard with ghosts and other creatures flying overhead and lastly, through to your final destination as you pass a mirror that reveals a passenger which has hitched a ride with you back to the land of the living.
So what's the point of me telling you all of this? With Thursday, came the news of Guillermo del Toro producing and co-writing a new Haunted Mansion film. The visionary director behind films like Pan's Labyrinth and The Orphanage, del Toro couldn't have been a better choice for bringing (accurately) to life an experience from my childhood which is so rich and striking. I still don't know how Disney pulls off some of the effects on that ride. I can't wait to see his take on it. Especially after the lucky few who got to catch a sneak peek at the San Diego Comic Con and happened to hear del Toro exclaim: 'We are not returning Eddie Murphy's calls...and we are not making it a comedy,' Del Toro told the audience after showing a teaser. 'We are making it scary and fun, but the scary will be scary.' (Source: Shock Till You Drop)
Cortez the Killer