Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Park Mysteries #5

For many years my main method of revisiting Walt Disney World was a thick tan hardcover book with a big color picture of fireworks over Cinderella Castle pasted into the center of gilt-line drawings of fleeting images from around the resort: Spaceship Earth here, Discovery Island there. Although it's badly dog eared I still have it and love it dearly, and it is perhaps a testament to my early fixations that it opens naturally and neatly to a two page full color spread on The Haunted Mansion. Those seven or eight photos are forever burned into my mind, and one of them, in particular, haunted me for many nights before my memory of what exactly was inside the old brick house was fully firmed up.

This photo is much circulated around the internet, and is featured on both Doombugies.com and Walt Dated World as pictures of the "original bride" from the Haunted Mansion. And how spooky she is! Little yellow slits for eyes and a graphical heart with the crack running down the center. Despite all of WED's and WDI's trying over the years, this may be the scariest bride of them all. The problem is that I'm not sure she was ever installed in the ride.

Why? Well, first of all I may point out that there are an awful lot of things wrong with the figure, especially her hands. They're clearly just dummy rubber hands, not even actually clutching her candle or bouquet of roses. Furthermore, that's a real candle, not the light-up, "show" version WED would've used in 1969. And finally, those flowers aren't even in her hand - they're weirdly tacked to her body. But most importantly: it's just a badly made figure which WED would never have actually installed in the attraction.

What we're looking at, I wager, is an early mock-up of the bride figure, perhaps to go along with her other famous, much reprinted mate:

Thanks to Chris Merritt and Jeff at Doombuggies, we now know that these "only known photographs"of "the ghost too scary to be in the ride" are actually publicity photographs of an early, non-operable mock-up of the figure. We know that WED was building these in certain situations in this era - not only because of this famous photo of the hatbox ghost which looks quite different from the photos of the final figure, but that Daveland has posted over at his Pirates of the Caribbean blog a photo of what appears to be a full-scale mockup of the Auction Scene.

We also have a set of blueprints from Haunted Portraits clearly showing a blueprint schematic of the original bride figure, complete with a wire visibly running up inside her candle to keep it lit. Moreover, this figure clearly has a face i.e. a head, which the mockup version clearly does not.

The blocking of the figures and effects in the attic must have been quite difficult to gauge on paper, so it makes sense that WED would've built cheap dummies to see the scene in real space before going ahead and starting on the real thing. I therefore posit that the popular myth that this photo constitutes the original bride is both true and false: true in that she does represent the first ever Haunted Mansion bride ever built, but false in that this crude figure was never (and would never pass WED's show quality standards to be) installed in the actual Haunted Mansion attraction.

So there's one less Haunted Mansion mystery to resolve!


Tangaroa said...


So I'm not the only one who notices these things. That picture has puzzled me for years, especially as it was nearly ubiquitous in promotional literature from specific eras. I know it so well, but only in later years did I bother to think, "what in the world is that from?"

The weird way the heart looks when the picture is printed (and the fact that it's in fake 'heart' shape) almost made me think as a kid that it had been drawn in. I knew something was off, but at the time I didn't know what.

As an aside, weren't those souvenir books just so much better back in the day? New rule: no Photoshop allowed in the marketing department...

-- Ryan P. Wilson said...

Thank you for your tireless work in pursuit of the eternal, and seemingly endless, WDW mysteries. As always, a stellar piece.

As for new rules with souvenir books, could we also keep the use of the fish-eye lens to a minimum?

Tangaroa said...

Agreed on the fish-eye lens, as long as we can also ban the use of over-emoting, 'zany' 'fun-having' families (aka, paid actors) having over-the-top reactions to things. I want to see fun things myself, not watch other people have fun. I've already been to WDW - you don't need to sell me on the fact that it's fun.

Also banned: staged setups of attractions that don't actually represent the attractions themselves. The first overt offender in this regard, as I recall, was the Tower of Terror. They still use that ridiculous footage of the Melrose Place wannabes walking into - and standing - in the elevator as it falls. This started a downward spiral of faux representation, which makes early WDW promotions so remarkable - they would just show the actual attraction and let it speak for itself.

FoxxFur said...

Hey Tangaroa, have you seen this very early effort from me on this very blog?
Promotional Prose

Pretty much hit on everything you mentioned, and it has awesome scans from awesome 70's promotional material. I've been thinking of revisiting this one with even more cool art, plus the infamous Child Vs. Dwarf image. ^^

Stephen said...

"Promotional Prose" is one of my absolute favorite entries of yours--it is so spot-on. I immediately thought of it when I saw the bride photo in this post...such an effective shot, and sadly such a far cry from what we'd ever see today.

And back to the bride herself, thanks so much for this excellent post--a really fascinating "Park Mystery" (perhaps because this one has a solution?). I had no idea full-sized mock-ups were used to the extent we see in that POTC photo.

Biblioadonis aka George said...

One of the articles in an E-Ticket Magazine (can't find that issue) has a letter from an Imagineer proclaiming that the bride was installed and in operation for the first six months of the Disneyland version. They offer a maintenance ticket that show the replacement and maintenance of the figure.

And for some reason, I remember seeing Tony Baxter with the late Bruce Gordon talk about how the bride was at Disneyland in the beginning. They had proof too. I think it was on the new Disneyland Treasures DVD.

But for the life of me, I can't find that E-Ticket!

FoxxFur said...

Yeah, I'm not contesting that the bride was installed in the Disneyland Mansion - I'm contesting that the mock-up bride pictured at the top of this blog post was ever installed in the Haunted Mansion. The final figure was always there. If I had my CD-ROMs of Haunted Mansion stuff with me I could show you her exact original placement on the blueprint! She's called "Beating Heart" and she's on the bend in the attic across from the "Hat Box Ghost".

Josh said...

As always, I love your blog. This is fantastic!

Another piece of WDW was reported vanished this week by Jack Spence on his All Ears blog (www.allearsnet.com): the stage in Adventureland where the steel drum players used to perform in the long ago has now been transformed into Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial stage.

I miss the sounds of the steel drums - they were just part of what immersed me in Adventureland when I was younger.

FoxxFur said...

Hey Josh --

Thankfully the Caribbean Plaza stage appears to be a temporary conversion for the Pirate & Princess Parties (gag), since during daylight hours the Jack & Mack show still happens at its' original location next to Pirates.

The dearth of steel drums in Adventureland is indeed depressing - not even the recorded ones in Caribean Plaza Pre-Depp have survived. Hopefully one day such things may return - the ongoing popularity of Frontierland's strolling bands gives me hope.

J Gall. said...


Thank you so much for mentioning my comment on 2719 Hyperion. I was very touched. I suppose this means that I am a footnote in the Disney blogsphere. I am a very busy graduate student, so I don't post on blogs very often. Just thought that you needed my help. Love your work and plan on being a constructive voice for your work in the future, if you don't mind.


Omnispace said...

That is one creepy bride!! She's much more dark and ominous than the bride that's there now. Sometimes it's better that you don't have everything explained, you simply have a mysterious figure that stares at you with it's faceless eyes. I can imagine what the effect would be if they designed the face to have the eyes follow you like the busts in the hallway.

Dreadnought said...

Wow - I've never considered this before, but always thought it was strange the hands were so poorly positioned! Does anyone out there have a pic of the actual first bride - every site or book I've seen says this pic is the original.

Dreadnought said...

Just did a search and came up with something I have never run across about the Orlando mansion -