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"The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion"

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Chapter Two: Rolly Crump's Odd Ideas

A Master of Illusions

Rolly Crump, another WED visionary, worked closely with Imagineer Yale Gracey, forming a team that would invent many of the Mansion's amazing illusions. Crump came to WED from Disney's animation studio, though he also has claimed to be inspired by avante-garde filmmakers Jean Cocteau and Federico Fellini. Crump had made himself known in the animation department for an interest in 3D artwork and his own original "kinetic sculptures," so to bring him over to WED to create characters and effects that would be realized in three dimensions was an easy decision for Walt.

Using techniques both new and old, Crump and Gracey developed incredible methods of enabling the Mansion's guests to see "transparent" ghosts and other eerie apparitions. But as early as 1964, Crump was simultaneously developing gags for a related venture, known within WED as the "Museum of the Weird." Below, Crump is pictured in 1965 with a collection of some of the oddities he created for the project.

Rolly Crump creating models for his museum of oddities.

A test of the Pepper's Ghost Organist.At right, you can see a test filmed by the Imagineers of an illusion Crump and Gracey worked on to make a ghostly organist disappear and reappear at will. This illusion, called "Pepper's Ghost" by stage magicians, has been used in the theater since the late 1800s, and the technique is one of the ideas Gracey embraced from The Boy Mechanic by D.R. Klien, a book published in 1913. Crump and Gracey eventually took over an entire warehouse at the Disney Studio, setting up their different special effects to demonstrate for their co-workers, Disneyland tour guides, and Walt Disney himself.

In an interview with the "Extinct Attractions Club," Rolly Crump discusses creating special effects with Yale Gracey and demonstrating their work for Walt Disney himself. Listen to a brief excerpt:

At a special event held in 1999 in honor of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion's 30th anniversary, Crump described one evening during this period of development in which the effects and props were secretly left operational after hours, unbeknownst to the night cleaning crew:

"Here is a great story about the Haunted Mansion effect "Imagineering" room. Yale had all his ghosts and magic strewn throughout this room. Once, we got a call from personnel saying that the janitors asked that we leave the lights on in there due to the creepiness of all the audio-animatronic ghosts and such. They complied, but put motion sensors in the room that would extinguish the lights and turn on all the ghost effects, when triggered. The next morning, they came in and found all the ghost effects still running and a broom lying in the center of the floor. Personnel called and said that the janitors would never be back."

After managing to scare a hapless custodian half to death, they knew they were on to something.

Imagining a "Museum of the Weird"

In an idea Walt explored with Crump for the Haunted Mansion, the attraction would have two portions: the main body of the walk-through attraction, and a queue, or "spill area," at the entrance. This "spill area," which was also considered to be utilized as a themed restaurant (in a manner similar to the Blue Bayou aside the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction), would be a showcase of curiosities supposedly discovered and unearthed from around the world.

Crump's Lizard Man
Crump's Demon Lady

While Crump designed most of these concepts, samples of which you can see at left, Gracey took the lead in engineering the illusions, and Crump and Gracey's creations were to grace the walls of the "Museum of the Weird" as a pre-show to the Haunted Mansion. Alas, with Walt's passing and more new ideas within WED regarding the Haunted Mansion, Crump's Museum was left on the drawing boards. However, some of the designs he created have been faintly echoed throughout the attraction as it was finally realized, and a few of his designs appear in the attraction just as he designed them to appear. "Some favored the old dark house tradition of sliding panels and so forth," Crump told Disney News in 1993. "I wanted to do something different - something with a tremendous amount of fantasy."

Recently, Crump has spoken freely about his work for the Mansion to DoomBuggies.com. "Working for WED in the '50s and '60s was heaven until Walt passed. Things really changed after that," he said.

The death of Walt Disney in the midst of the Haunted Mansion project could only have been tumultuous, and Crump's work was caught between two divergent theories of the attraction: would it be scary and eerie, as many theme park haunted attractions tend to be (with a greater or lesser degree of success)—or would the ride be goofy fun, like much of Disneyland was already? Crump's ideas were both creepy and silly, and proved hard to place in an attraction that had yet to embrace a unified concept.

Rolly Crump's Living Cart


Crump's Conceptualizations

Pictured above is one of Crump's concepts that never made it into the attraction per se, though it did inspire a cart used to sell souvenirs outside of the Walt Disney World Mansion (pictured). In Crump's vision, his magic cart would have come to life on a regular schedule, interacting with the guests in various ways. It is interesting to note that the ideas Crump was pursuing did eventually make their way into a Disney attraction in a sense. Orlando's "Pleasure Island" at Walt Disney World has an establishment known as "The Adventurer's Club" which is stocked with artifacts from mysterious locations around the world, which regularly "come to life" and interact with the guests.

"None of my sketches made it to the Mansion," Crump recalled for DoomBuggies.com, although his work directly inspired many of the most memorable bits of the attraction. It's hard to imagine that the chair pictured below on the right, which appears in the Haunted Mansion, wasn't inspired by Crump's sketch to its left.

Rolly Crump Chair Design

"And here's a little trivia. I did all the original concept sketches for the stretch room, and Marc Davis told me that he was going to redo them because mine were no good!" Crump continued, although he did have a pedigree in art. "I moved into [WED] in 1959 after being in animation for seven years," he said.

Crump's Corridor WallpaperAs the sketches on this page demonstrate, Crump's imagination had no bounds. Clearly, his contributions had a direct effect on the Haunted Mansion—both his designs for the "Museum of the Weird" and his collaborations with Yale Gracey. "My favorite parts of the Mansion are the illusions that Yale did," he recalled.

Weird Corridor Eyes

And to clear up a longstanding question among Haunted Mansion fans, Crump also shared this bit of news: "The wallpaper in the 'Corridor of Doors' was a copy [based] on my designs that were for the Museum of the Weird." So the faces hidden in the wallpaper design of the "Corridor of Doors" are from Crump's artwork—a fact that is also backed by the clear stylistic similarities between Crump's sketches and the wallpaper design.

Read more of Rolly Crump's memories about the development of the Haunted Mansion by reading our exclusive interview.


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