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Heroes of the Haunted Mansion: Claude Coats

Claude Coats started out in backgrounds in animation; through this experience, he became a master at establishing moods through the use of atmosphere. In the 1950s, Coats designed the building for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, pioneering the idea of sculpting ideas before they were built. He told imagineer Tony Baxter that Baxter should remain hands on. Drawing can trick people into believing that something can be done. Those same tricks can’t be done to a sculpture.

He worked alongside Marc Davis on the Pirates of the Caribbean, and at the completion of that attraction, he was assigned the Haunted Mansion. While both Coats and Davis wanted to be the headman on the Haunted Mansion, it was there interaction that made the Haunted Mansion a classic attraction. The tension between the two came from their differing ideas about what the Haunted Mansion should be. Coats wanted a scarier attraction. Marc Davis wanted some humor in the attraction.

Walt Disney recognized that Coats had a knack for being able to translate two dimensional images into three dimensions. Coats was also able to lay down tracks that maximized the use of a building’s interior. These talents were put to good use by the Disney Company. Find out what your talents are and find the best way to use them.

Sources: “The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic” by Jason Surrell.

Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park” by Jeff Kurtti.

For more on creativity and the Haunted Mansion, get “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity” online or at the Candy Cane Inn in Anaheim.

For more on Disneyland and Creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” For deep thinking about the Disney Company, check out “Penguinate! The Disney Company.”

You can also find more articles about Disney, Disneyland and creativity at our archive website, www.penguinate.weebly.com, and on our blog. If you would like to get even more articles about creativity, join our Patreon and become a Penguinator.

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Heroes of the Haunted Mansion: Marc Davis

Marc Davis is one of Walt’s Nine Old Men, who worked many of the early films designing characters that included animals from Bambi and Maleficent. When Marc Davis came over to WED, he brought his sense of humor with him. He added humorous scenes to the Jungle Cruise and was one of the main designers of the Pirates of the Caribbean.

When he was brought on to the Haunted Mansion project, he had to struggle with Claude Coats and his design preferences. The two men were equals in the office. Coats wanted a scary Mansion; Davis wanted something funnier. A compromise of sorts was reached, and Coats’ influence can be seen at the beginning of the attraction with Davis’ scenes becoming stronger in the end.

“I think that’s the whole thing with creativity is if there’s something new out there, why not give it a try?” said Marc Davis (Disney Family Album). Use Marc Davis as your motivation and give something new a try.

Sources: “The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic” by Jason Surrell.

“Disney Family Album #17 – Marc Davis” at https://youtu.be/pVf6DdqkpjU

For more on creativity and the Haunted Mansion, get “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity” online or at the Candy Cane Inn in Anaheim.

For more on Disneyland and Creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” For deep thinking about the Disney Company, check out “Penguinate! The Disney Company.”

You can also find more articles about Disney, Disneyland and creativity at our archive website, www.penguinate.weebly.com, and on our blog. If you would like to get even more articles about creativity, join our Patreon and become a Penguinator.

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Heroes of the Haunted Mansion: Rolly Crump

At about the 7-minute mark: Rolly and his Museum of the Weird.

Walt Disney assigned Rolly Crump to work with Yale Gracey on the Haunted Mansion in 1959. Rolly maintains that he learned a lot from Yale during their time together. They were given a room on the second floor of the animation building, and they had a year to develop illusions specifically for the Haunted Mansion.

Rolly came to Walt’s attention when Ward Kimball told Walt about Rolly’s propeller sculptures. IN 1964, Rolly would apply his knowledge of kinetic sculptures to the “Tower of the Four Winds” for the 1964-65 World’s Fair.

Rolly’s Haunted Mansion concepts were considered too weird by his fellow imagineers. Walt, however, thought they could be used in a spillover area where guests could interact with a chair that talked, the melting candleman, or a coffin-styled grandfather clock. Rolly also came up with a concept for a haunted gypsy cart. Walt called it the “Museum of the Weird.” The concept failed to materialize after Walt’s death.

Rolly and Yale were giving time and freedom to do what they wanted with their day. The created the illusions that are part of one of the most beloved attractions at Disneyland. Even though the Museum of the Weird never materialized, Rolly’s willingness to try new things made him a great imagineer. You can follow his example and try new things, too!

Sources: “The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic” by Jason Surrell.

Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park” by Jeff Kurtti.

For more on creativity and the Haunted Mansion, get “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity” online or at the Candy Cane Inn in Anaheim.

For more on Disneyland and Creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” For deep thinking about the Disney Company, check out “Penguinate! The Disney Company.”

You can also find more articles about Disney, Disneyland and creativity at our archive website, www.penguinate.weebly.com, and on our blog. If you would like to get even more articles about creativity, join our Patreon and become a Penguinator.

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Heroes of the Haunted Mansion: Yale Gracey

Yale Gracey joined the Disney Company in 1939 as a layout artist. He worked on “Pinocchio,” “Fantasia” and “the Three Caballeros.” In 1959, Walt Disney set Gracey up with Rolly Crump and gave them a large room on the second floor of the animation building. They were instructed to come up with effects for the Haunted Mansion.

As the son of an American Consul, Gracey grew up in various places and had to learn to entertain himself. He filled his days with “Popular Mechanics’ and the book set called “Boy Mechanic.” He also practiced magic.

Gracey had no formal training in special effects, but his curiosity often led to him building miniatures to see if he could get an effect to work. According to Bob Gurr (Kurtti, p. 72), Gracey was given the time and space to tinker without deadlines, and Walt was fine with whatever new thing Gracey invented.

Gracey projected the face of the Magic Mirror on everything in the room one day. It led to the development of the Madame Leota effect (Kurtti, p. 73). Gracey also put the Pepper’s Ghost effect to use in the Haunted Mansion to create the Ballroom scene. Gracey died under mysterious circumstances in 1983.

Gracey tried to do new things. He tinkered, and he followed his curiosity. You can do the same thing. Follow your curiosity and create something new.

Sources: “The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic” by Jason Surrell.

Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park” by Jeff Kurtti.

For more on creativity and the Haunted Mansion, get “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity” online or at the Candy Cane Inn in Anaheim.

For more on Disneyland and Creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” For deep thinking about the Disney Company, check out “Penguinate! The Disney Company.”

You can also find more articles about Disney, Disneyland and creativity at our archive website, www.penguinate.weebly.com, and on our blog. If you would like to get even more articles about creativity, join our Patreon and become a Penguinator.

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Check out my Interview at the Sweep Spot!

Haunted Mansion Is Creativity cover

I was interviewed by Ken Pellman and Lynn Barron from The Sweep Spot for “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity!” My newest book uses the history and structure of the Haunted Mansion, just in time for its 50th anniversary, to illustrate creativity principles.

Ken and Lynn are former cast members from Disneyland. The Sweep Spot is a podcast that talks about all things Disney, including current events. The two hosts have written “Cleaning the Kingdom” and will be releasing their second book “Cleaning the Kingdom: Night, Day Past and Present” on July 17. Visit their website and check out their books, t-shirts and Patreon.

During Podcast 263, I am at about the 30-minute mark for stories about the Haunted Mansion, Journey Into Imagination and creativity. After my interview is Alastair Dallas, author of “Inventing Disneyland.” Check out the podcast and get some books!

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Heroes of the Haunted Mansion: Ken Anderson

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

For more on creativity and the Haunted Mansion, get “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity” online or at the Candy Cane Inn in Anaheim.

For more on Disneyland and Creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” For deep thinking about the Disney Company, check out “Penguinate! The Disney Company.”

You can also find more articles about Disney, Disneyland and creativity at our archive website, www.penguinate.weebly.com, and on our blog. If you would like to get even more articles about creativity, join our Patreon and become a Penguinator.

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We got Table A1 at Lilac City Comicon 2019

Booth set up for Lilac City Comicon
Booth set up for Lilac City Comicon

Lilac City Comicon 2019 released its floor plan for their June 1 and 2 extravaganzas in Spokane. Penguinate.com got table A1! We’re like a steak sauce! Or maybe we just make the grade. Either way, we’re super excited to have an amazing table. But we’re not the only ones who are excited…

Our penguins haven’t been able to keep themselves quiet since they heard about our next adventure. Penny Penguin has been wanting to fly for a long time now. Since she is our most traveled penguin, she’s taken on the fathering role of making sure all the younger penguins know what’s going to happen. They’ve packed their bags – mostly, fish – and create a commotion every time we go to the door to leave the house. (They have no sense of time, so they think every day is THE day.) For every penguin that gets adopted, we will send $1 to the Global Penguin Society.

marching penguins
marching penguins

I am personally excited because Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion is turning 50 this year and I will be presenting “Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion: 50 Years of Creativity.” This panel will highlight principles of creativity using the Haunted Mansion as our guide. Be prepared for stories about the Haunted Mansion and we’ll have a swinging wake!

This will also be the first time I get to present my new book to the world. “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity” is a tour of the Haunted Mansion and a look at its history. I use those events and the structure of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion to illustrate principles of creativity. If you want to be creative and love the Haunted Mansion, this is the book for you.

Of course, I will bring my other books. You can see a list here and preorder for Lilac City Comicon, so you don’t have to worry about books or penguins being sold out. Ask us about our motivational posters, photos of Disneyland, and Russian lobby cards (mini-movie posters from Russia).

Good news, if you’ve made it this far, then you’re in the know. We’re going to have a secret giveaway… But for now, it’s a secret… Stay tuned to this blog for more information. (You can sign up in the corner for notifications.)

We’re looking forward to a great con! Come by and say “Hi!”

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The Secrets of Creativity: Play (and the Haunted Mansion)

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion

When Walt Disney assigned Yale Gracey and Rolly Crump to the Haunted Mansion, he gave them time and space to play. Gracey and Crump were assigned to come up with ideas and effects for the Disneyland attraction. They would come into the studio and work on whatever they felt like. As Marty Sklar put it in the forward to Jason Surrell’s “The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic,” “Yale and Rolly Crump, especially, were free to experiment, to try out their wildest haunting ideas… to ‘play ghost’ if you will.”

They came up with so many different, convincing effects that they received a call from Personnel asking them to leave the lights on for the janitor when they left for the night. Gracey and Crump complied, but rigged an infrared sensor in the middle of the room. When triggered, the lights turned off, the black light came on, and the effects activated. They arrived the next morning into find a broom in the middle of the room. Later that day, they were told they would have to clean the room themselves; the janitor would not go back in the room.

Gracey and Crump kept a playful attitude, worked with humor and were open to new ideas while they designed, researched and tested the effects for the Haunted Mansion. Their play made the Haunted Mansion the classic attraction it is today.

Playing can help you become more creative. When you play, mistakes become a part of the story and you can’t fail. You free your mind to explore possibilities and new ideas while limiting your inhibitions. R2-D2 builder Tony Dyson believed that play was an important part of the creative mode.

For more on creativity, preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” Get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” For more on the Disney Company, order “Penguinate! The Disney Company.”

Join us at Lilac City Comicon 2019 and Ogden UnCon 2019 to experience our panel “The Haunted Mansion: 50 Years of Creativity.” Make sure you tell them penguinate.com sent you!

To read more about play and other secrets to creativity, join our Patreon.

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Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, Storytelling and Ken Anderson

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion

Walt Disney turned to Ken Anderson to work on the Haunted Mansion in the late 1950s. There had been other concepts before, usually one or two drawings and not much else. Anderson got to work and began coming up with stories for the mansion, which he referred to as the “ghost house.” Anderson came up with the design based on a building in Baltimore, and he came up with several different stories, especially suited for a walk-through.

There was Captain Gore, who killed his bride when she found out that he was an infamously blood-thirsty pirate; she haunted him until he hanged himself. There was the Blood family, whose ancestral home where they all died was transplanted at Disneyland. Anderson worked on various effects and storylines within those concepts, including one with the Headless Horseman and naïve guides, but none of them worked for Walt. The Haunted Mansion resisted cohesive story-telling.

Instead, it needed to be more like the Pirates of the Caribbean, which wasn’t developed at the time Anderson was working on the Haunted Mansion. Walt told his imagineers to think of Pirates like a cocktail party. People wouldn’t be able to hear all of the conversations going on. This was a good thing because it meant that they would have to come back to see it again. That approach worked for the Haunted Mansion, too.

While the façade of the Haunted Mansion was completed in 1963, the attraction wouldn’t open until August 9, 1969. The years it spent in development and the amount of time the mansion stood empty only worked in favor of Disneyland where it opened to large crowds and earned the hearts of millions of guests.

Celebrate 50 years of the Haunted Mansion with us and preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” A wholly unauthorized look at the history of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland and what it can help us learn about becoming more creative.