Coloring the Haunted Mansion

The Long Forgotten blog hits another one out of the park (Disneyland park, that is), with a thought-provoking post on the history of the color scheme for the Haunted Mansion, and the way that color is used to set and maintain the mood:

“For Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, we wanted to create an imposing Southern-style house that would look old, but not in ruins. So we painted it a cool off-white with dark, cold blue-gray accents in shadowed areas such as the porch ceilings and wrought-iron details. To accentuate the eerie, deserted feeling, I had the underside of exterior details painted the same dark color, creating exaggerated, unnaturally deep cast shadows. Since we associate dark shadows with things hidden, or half hidden, the shadow treatment enhanced the structure’s otherworldliness. The park maintenance painters like the haunted effect. I even received calls from guests who wanted to know the brand and swatch number of the paints so that they could use them on their own homes.” . —John Hench, Designing Disney (NY: Disney Editions, 2003) 116.

These painting tricks are an example of signals sent from the Imagineers that are received unaware. It's extremely unlikely that guests consciously notice the artificial shadowing, but very likely that it affects them psychologically, be it ever so slightly. It's an interesting sort of interaction between artist and audience: An expression fully intentional, very carefully thought out, and yet by design much too subtle for the conscious mind to engage. I don't know. Sounds illegal to me.

What Hench does not mention is that a radically different color scheme for the Mansion exterior was being contemplated practically from the moment it was first built. You never hear about it, and were it not for the fact that a mysterious and unique document from those days survived and surfaced, it truly would be long forgotten.

Stroll Around the Grounds Until You Feel at Home, Part One