Charles Addams, uncredited co-creator of the Haunted Mansion

Ken Anderson, Marc Davis and the other Imagineers who created Disney's Haunted Mansion were clearly influenced by Charles "Addams Family" Addams's cartoons, but until I read this amazing post on Long Forgotten, I had no idea how much influence he exerted on them.

As we discussed in Two Taboos, Disney is all about portraying the universe as a place generally hospitable to goodness. In any Disney story, if you're brave and true and keep plugging, things may look bad for awhile but you will come out on top in the end. Always. Walt once said that he himself was not a cynical person and didn't want cynical people working for him. That's much the same thing as what I'm saying here. So the point that Gorey wants to make is a point that Disney will not make, and even when that point is softened by silliness as in Charles Addams, he was still too far out of the light for Disney in the sixties.

In view of all that, it makes sense that those Davis gag ideas for the Mansion that give tacit recognition to the fact that sometimes the Devil wins were precisely the gag ideas that in the end were not used. The closest thing to an exception is the merry and murderous widow in the stretching portrait. Ironically, Walt said it was his favorite! Not ironically, it was the only element in the original Mansion that worked as a gateway for the Constance addition (as the widow is now identified as she).

But it's possible to take even the widow as a deluded fool who will not escape justice in the end, as we have argued elsewhere. You can partner up with Death, dear lady, but only for a time. It's a Faustian deal. He'll come for you too eventually. Maybe that's why Walt didn't read it as being too cynical, too "unDisney"?

But times do change, and a certain degree of recognition that the universe is not quite so consistently stacked in favor of the good guys as we would like to believe has become more and more accepted as appropriate information even for children. Like it or not, we have to take steps to protect them from molesters and abductors, so . . . whispers of Gorey reality will have to be part of their pre-K education. We sacrifice some of their innocence earlier than we used to.

This means that modern kids even at a very young age have been made at least vaguely aware of the dark side. Not surprisingly, this in turn means that even in entertainment venues, little kids routinely see stuff today that would have scared teenagers yesterday and even their parents a few days before that. What passed for "horror" in 1950s films wouldn't cut it as Halloween decorations today.

Charles Addams and the Haunted Mansion
[Long Forgotten]