Disney Has Done Its Homework for the Haunted Mansion Movie
When hinges creak in doorless chambers....
Welcome, foolish mortals … to Disney’s second stab at bringing the beloved Disney Parks attraction, the Haunted Mansion, to the big screen. Though the film itself has been in production for years (with Guillermo Del Toro at one point attached to direct), Disney’s Haunted Mansion has at long last dropped a teaser trailer. As expected, the spooky glimpse at Disney’s latest live-action flick didn’t just feature an all-star cast; it also included plenty of subtle (and not so subtle) references to the classic Disney ride, which was an opening-day attraction at Walt Disney World. So, without further ado, here’s a breakdown of every ride reference we caught in the Haunted Mansion teaser trailer, from character costumes to music queues. WARNING: exorbitant amount of screenshots ahead.
From the jump, the trailer starts off with a subtle musical reference to the attraction: the trio-tone introduction of the Haunted Mansion foyer music can be heard over the trailer’s opening shot, before blending into the score. Then, of course, we get our first look at the Mansion itself—a faithful recreation of the Disneyland building facade, which is a grandiose, plantation-style home in keeping with New Orleans Square, the area of the park in which the ride is located.
After a shot of the exterior, we’re led inside for a blink-and-you’ll-miss it glimpse of a Travis (Chase Dillon) opening a heavy wooden door with a carved lion head and a snake-shaped handle. This door is a nod to a similar ever-knocking door found in the Haunted Mansion’s “Corridor of Doors” show scene, which features in both the East and West coast versions of the attraction.
Following the door handle, we see Travis exploring a dusty old attic—which could, granted, be any old room, but looks very similar to the staging and layout of the attic scene in the haunted mansion. In the attic, of course, is a portrait of a bride, a reference to Constance Hatchaway from the attraction, who can be found in the attic show scene. This shot is the first of many references to Constance/the Bride—a beloved character from the attraction who features as one of the trailer’s most prominent ghosts.
After a few shots of Travis exploring the attic and being menaced by Constance, we see him and his mom Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) being chased by a suit of armor that seemingly comes to life out of nowhere. This is a nod to two similarly styled suits of armor that stands just before the endless hallway in the Haunted Mansion ride. In the current iterations of the attraction, the suit of armor (thankfully) just shudders in place, but the armor sprinting suddenly in the trailer could be a reference to when a cast member used to inhabit the suit and jump out at guests: an effect which was scrapped from the ride after too many guests were frightened.
Behind the suit of armor, there’s a large portrait hanging on the wall. This is a portrait of April-December, one of many transforming portraits in the Haunted Mansion ride. In the Disneyland version of the ride, she starts out as a young woman (April) before transforming in front of guests’ eyes into a scary old woman (December). Additionally, in the Walt Disney World version, the April-December portrait is a member of the “Sinister 11”, a series of 11 changing portraits dotted around the ride and its queue. Other members of the Sinister 11 can be spotted across the trailer, and presumably, eagle-eyed viewers may be able to spot all 11 portraits in the full film.
We then get a few more glimpses of Constance, our first tease of the Hatbox Ghost (don’t worry, I’ll get to him later) and a look at the Ballroom, which has been faithfully recreated from the dancing ghosts show scene, down to the baroque tan wallpaper. Following the Ballroom, we get a couple of major references in the same scene: a look at Ben (Lakeith Stanfield) walking through the endless hallway, another scene ripped directly from the ride.
Not only does the never-ending hallway reference the classic effect from the ride, but the Haunted Mansion’s famous purple wallpaper can be spotted in the background. On the walls of the endless hallway are portraits of what looks to be the Hanging Man/Ghost Host—not only a member of the Sinister 11, but the corpse who hangs at the end of the stretching room scene, and the narrator of the ride.
At last, we finally get an up-close and personal look at the fan-favorite Hatbox Ghost, played by (bleh) Jared Leto. The character is nearly identical to his appearance in the attraction—his customary collared cloak, hatbox, and bright floating head are unchanged from his appearance in the ride. Hatbox is spotted making mischief across the trailer (and seemingly responsible for the disappearance of the windows in the stretching room), so it’s possible he’ll serve as a secondary antagonist alongside Constance.
It’s also at this point in the trailer that the chorus to Roy Orbison’s “House Without Windows” begins to play—a reference not just to the disappearing windows later in the trailer, but also the Ghost Host’s monologue in the stretching room: “Consider this dismaying observation: this chamber has no windows, and no doors.”
Speaking of the stretching room, we get our first good glimpse at it: complete with the signature red-and-green striped wallpaper. We also get our first look at another famous set of Haunted Mansion portraits: Constance Hatchaway, Sally Slater, Alexander Nitrokoff, and the Gibbs Three. The stretching room gargoyles (who can be heard whispering if guests linger when exiting the stretching room) are also present on their usual mounts.
We then move into the library, yet another room of the mansion that’s an exact recreation of the scene from the same name in the ride. In the back of the room, the library’s “Ghosts Writers” can be spotted—in the attraction, the marble busts turn their heads and watch as guests ride by, though they aren’t moving (yet) in the clip.
We move from the library back towards the endless hallway, where the Grandfather Clock stands, spinning backwards (as usual) with its tail-like pendulum and viscous fanged face. The eyes glowing red is a new addition, but the green glow remains, and the customary ’13’ at the top of the clock face is present, just like the ride.
We return to the ballroom for a shot at the organist seated and playing his rendition of “Grim Grinning Ghosts”, complete with the spinning ghosts above the organ. They form the shape of a music box’s pins, playing (of course) the same song. We can also see a ghost (possibly Napoleon) sitting at the organist’s side, watching him play.
At last, we head outside to the graveyard, where Ben stumbles upon six graves—not a ride reference, but a possible indication of our protagonists’ fates. It’s also a good time to point out that Ben’s costume seems to lift closely from the Groundskeeper in the haunted mansion. His brown hat, reddish coat, and green scarf are indicative of the animatronic character who can be found in the graveyard scene of the ride.
Then, in the first real shock (and possibly the biggest reveal) of the trailer, we get a look at Jamie Lee-Curtis’ Madame Leota—but surprise! She’s not a floating head (yet). Madame Leota, of course, is the woman in the crystal ball in the middle of the Seance Circle scene of the ride, whose gravestone can be spotted outside the mansion. If the crisp white state of the mansion and the flowering trees are any indication, this is a flashback to when Madame Leota was still in the land of the living—if her ornate costume is anything to go by, she’s just as magical as she is in the ride.
The shot of the Leota is the last real Easter egg of substance—but there’s no doubt about it, the writers (or at least, the production designers) of the upcoming Haunted Mansion film have done their homework. Even just this brief teaser trailer references dozens of ride elements and directly replicates a number of classic scenes and rooms from the original ride, an attention to detail which (hopefully) speaks to the quality of the film as a love letter to Haunted Mansion. But until the 999 Happy Haunts make their way to theaters this July, you’ll have to head to one of the Disney parks to get a taste of the Mansion for yourself.
(featured image: Walt Disney Studios)
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