Surreal, contrafactual Haunted Mansion that never was

The always-unmissable Long Forgotten blog has an astounding post on the Disneyland Haunted Mansion that almost was, when the design team of Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey were in charge of the team. Crump was an enormous fan of Jean Cocteau's 1946 surrealist film La belle et la bête and he and Gracey created some of the most memorable effects that grace the Mansion today. But the stuff they didn't make — lovingly researched and presented herein — is just astounding, weird and gorgeous. Even with that stuff on the cutting-room floor, the Cocteau influences are unmissable, as you can see from this comparison between the arm wall-sconce and a prop from La belle et la bête.

Suddenly we've got concept artwork out the wazoo. (That's where the other Imagineers thought it came from, too.) By this point, Walt had added Davis, Coats, and Atencio to the team. All of them had their individual ideas to pitch to Walt. Then came that infamous episode in late fall, 1964 (summarized two posts ago), in which Walt made it crystal clear to everyone working on the attraction that he really liked Rolly's nightmarish creations and wanted them incorporated into the finished project in the form of a "Museum of the Weird." The Museum never happened, of course, and it's difficult to know exactly how all of this surreal material was going to be used in the house itself. Heck, Rolly freely admits that he himself didn't know, which is why Walt had to find a solution to the problem. So you wonder, would a 1963 Mansion have included things like this? Or did these 1964 creations represent a fresh departure after the Fair? Or . . . well, it's not clear.

Recall that the Museum was Walt's idea, but it really wasn't what Rolly had wanted. Rolly wanted a weirder Haunted Mansion, not just a spill area before or after the main attraction. He has repeatedly said that he wanted to avoid the usual haunted house clichés ("corny") and to go for something more fantastical. As discussed in an earlier post, he was particularly intrigued by the castle in the Jean Cocteau 1946 film, La belle et la bête, and he wanted something similar for the HM, with the entire building enchanted and alive, and with things like human body parts merged into the very architecture, as in the Cocteau film.

Long-Forgotten: A Weirder Haunted Mansion