Ken Anderson was laid off by MGM in 1934. He was married and spent a month “living on the beaches and eating canned beans and what-not” (The Disney Family Album). He applied to the Walt Disney Company at the urging of his wife Polly even though his education was in architecture. Anderson’s additional accomplishments include work on “The Goddess of Spring,” “Ferdinand the Bull,” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”
Anderson was the first imagineer to really work on the Haunted Mansion as an attraction. Harper Goff did a drawing of a haunted house as part of the Mickey Mouse park Walt Disney was considering in 1951, and Marvin Davis gave a haunted mansion a place in Disneyland that never materialized.
In 1957, Anderson wrote his first storylines for the Haunted Mansion. He researched houses in the south and went to the Winchester Mystery House to look at group movements and timings. His storylines included a captain/pirate who killed his new bride, a ghostly family that kept the mansion from being renovated, a tour led by Walt Disney, and a mansion that used the Headless Horseman and the classic monsters of literature.
Anderson suffered a stroke after the release of “101 Dalmatians.” He lost the ability to move and was left blind by the stroke. He had “absolutely no control” over his body. He came back with the inspiration from a grove of trees and worked on Shere Khan for “The Jungle Book.”
Ken Anderson worked for Disney for 44 years. He is one of the few unsung heroes of the Haunted Mansion. Without his first treatments and ideas for the inside, we may not have the classic attraction that exists today. Let his example help you improve your work situation, perseverance and creativity.
Sources: “The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic” by Jason Surrell.
“The Disney Family Album: Ken Anderson” aired on the Disney Channel in 1984. Accessed at https://youtu.be/mSPnwK2yPtQ
“Ken Anderson; Disney Art Director, 84” in the New York Times. Accessed at https://www.nytimes.com/1993/12/19/obituaries/ken-anderson-disney-art-director-84.html
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