The Haunted Mansion was always my favorite Disneyland
attraction growing up. Sure, I enjoyed singing and clapping with the Country
Bears. I had fun sailing with pirates in the Caribbean, and I really loved
Adventures thru Inner Space. However, it was the Haunted Mansion and its magic
that remained the attraction I would choose to go on first.
This year marks the Haunted Mansion’s 50th anniversary. Because of that, I wanted to delve deeper into its history and its links to creative principles. From the late 1950s when Ken Anderson was the only imagineer assigned to the project through to Yale Gracey and Rolly Crump’s shenanigans to opening day and beyond, “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity” takes you on a tour of the home of 999 happy haunts linking attraction details and designs as well as stories of its creation to creative principles as revealed through scientific studies and interviews with people who create for a living.
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.
On April 14, 2019, my 8th book “Penguinate! The
Disney Company” will be released on Amazon Kindle. (That’s just in time for my
birthday!) “Penguinate! The Disney Company” looks at aspects of the company
that Walt Disney would recognize. It includes thoughts on Disney Parks, Disney
creativity, and Disney movies, including “Frozen 2” plots Disney probably never
This wholly unauthorized look at the Disney Company is designed to help you think deeply and share your thoughts. The more you practice deep thinking, the more creative you’ll become. Preorder the Kindle version today at Amazon, or preorder the paperback here.
The Table of Contents:
Acknowledgements iv About This Book 1 The Disney Family 3 Walt Disney’s Road to Creativity 4 Diane Disney Miller, Grandma and Disneyland 6 The Disney Parks 8 Standing in Line Is Part of the Appeal 9 FASTPASS Is too Fast 10 FASTPASS, Reservations and Time 11 Why the Characters at the Parks Matter 12 Disney Parks Don’t Need New Rides to Increase Attendance 14 How Disney Can Save Itself and the World 16 The Disneyland Resort 19 The Birth of Disneyland 20 The Submarine Voyage (1959 to 1998) 22 Star Wars Land Vs. Tomorrowland 23 Put the ‘Tomorrow’ Back in Tomorrowland 26 Investing in Parks Is the Best Way to Deal with Crowds 28 Mickey Mouse Foods and Happiness 30 Disney California Adventure Is still No Disneyland 31 World of Color – Winter Dreams 2013 33 Eulogy for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 34 Walt Disney World 35 Reflections on the College Program 2012 36 Why Would Walt Want to Build a City? A panel with Paul Anderson at Salt Lake Comic Con 2013 38 Walt Disney World’s Internal Communication 40 Walt Disney World’s External Communication 41 Walt Disney World and Change 42 Why MyMagic+ is Genius 43 Crew Spaceship Earth with Aaron Wallace and the Rest of Humanity 45 Critique of Epcot Misses Context 47 The American Idol Experience Will Suck You in like the TV Show 49 Disneyland Paris 51 Disneyland Paris 2015 Is Like Disneyland 2000 52 La Taniere du Dragon: Magic at Disneyland Paris 54 Disney’s Synergy 55 Disney Does the Dumb: No Longer Going to Infinity and Beyond 56 Disney/Fox Merger Sounds Death Knell for Small-Time Writers and Creatives 58 Did Disney Cut the Cord? 60 ‘Agent Carter’ sets stage for Captain America vs. Batman and Superman 62 Let’s Get Dangerous: Disney Dominates Movies and Music 64 Why Fox’s Fantastic Four Flop Is Good News for Disney 65 Disney Jumps to Light Speed with Creative Properties 66 ESPN Fishes for Its ‘Little Mermaid’ 68 The Disney Princess Stories 72 The Saving of Snow White: Rethinking Criticisms of Disney Films 73 Dying Ugly: The Misguided Actions of the Evil Queen 75 Cinderella’s Choice: Rethinking Criticisms of Disney Films 76 ‘Frozen’ 78 ‘Frozen’ Warms the Heart 79 Hans: Clever Schemer, Opportunist, or Love Corrupted by Power 81 Scarcity Fuels ‘Frozen’s’ Fire 83 Possible ‘Frozen 2’ Plots 85 ‘You Can’t Top Pigs with Pigs’: ‘Frozen 2’ on Thin Ice 89 ‘Frozen’ vs. the Super Bowl 92 ‘Frozen Fever’ opens for ‘Cinderella’: What’s at Stake? 94 The Rise of Olaf and Baymax 96 Disneyland’s Frozen Paradise 2015 97 How Disney Changed the Princess Story for Success in the Modern Age 100 ‘Maleficent’: Visually Stunning, Epic Fantasy 111 ‘Frozen’ and ‘Maleficent’ Create Instant Cliché 113 Evil Isn’t Complicated; It’s Easy 115 Maleficent Changes Her Character 117 ‘Maleficent,’ Misogyny and Metaphor: Disney Hits a Cultural Nerve 118 An Alternate Ending for ‘Maleficent’? 119 Other Disney Films 121 ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ Explores Ways to Fix It 122 Why Maui is the bad guy in ‘Moana’ 124 Disney Stuck in a Rut: Sequels Rule the Box Office 126 Keep Moving Forward with ‘Tomorrowland’ 128 ‘Tomorrowland’ Brings to Screen What Theme Park Lacks 129 Society Needs Its Dreamers 131 What Kid’s See in Disney Films May Not Be What Adults See 133 Disney Products 135 Disney Products: D23Expo 2017 Explores Past and Future 136 Appendix 1: Other Disney Books to Consider 139 Appendix 2: Disney Vocabulary 141 About the Author 143
Big ideas are what people are told businesses want and the
world needs. Humanity needs ideas that will solve problems that threaten the
planet’s habitability and human beings with extinction. Businesses need solutions
that will generate billions of dollars of profit. Big ideas are what propel
people to fame and fortune, and they allow us to live up to our full potential.
When you hear sayings like:
Go big or go home.
Shoot for the moon! If you fail, you’ll at least
wind up among the stars (Les Brown or Norman Vincent Peale).
Big, hairy, audacious goals (James Collins and Jerry
You get inspired. Elon Musk’s SpaceX isn’t exciting because
it’s successful; it’s exciting because it’s doing something that’s never been
done before. Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Disneyland were
exciting because they had never been done before. There’s something
intrinsically motivation about doing the something that people say can’t be
“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible” – Walt Disney.
“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’”
– Audrey Hepburn.
But oftentimes, the person with the big idea is shutdown by
management, circumstances and other people. Even if the idea is sound, people
are afraid to implement it. The would much rather rely on what has already been
produced. No one wants to be the first through the door because that’s when
things get bloody. The status quo is easy. Maintaining the current situation
doesn’t threaten anyone. New ideas do, even when people understand that new ideas
are necessary for the survival of the business or the species.
For people who are looking at trying to maintain the status
quo while moving forward, S.M.A.R.T. goals are the answer. The anacronym stands
Ugh. If you know they’re attainable and realistic, there’s
no challenge in these types of goals, even if you think you’re stretching
yourself a little bit. People weren’t meant to be just stretch a little. But
S.M.A.R.T. goals are a lot less risky than the “impossible” dream. Businesses
jump all over these types of goals. A new flavor of chip? A new edition of a
phone? A car model based on a successful car from last year? These are all S.M.A.R.T.
goals that are profitable and easy to green light. They won’t get you to the
next level, but they will most likely keep the profits rolling in.
The truth is it’s a little of both. Set the big goals, go
after the grand ideas, and use the S.M.A.R.T. goals to get you there. If you know
where you want to go, you can get there, step by step. Cutting the big goal
into smaller pieces will help get you there without getting overwhelmed.
In a story about Ignaz Semmelweis, the survival rate of children and their mothers, and handwashing included in his book “How to Fly a Horse,” Kevin Ashton points out that even in a “field as empirical and scientific as medicine… Creation is seldom welcome” (74 – 76). People need creativity and change, and they resist it at the same time. It’s part of the dichotomy of being human.
When Walt Disney wanted his imagineers to envision and
create a haunted house for his theme park, they all came up with the same idea:
a decrepit, run-down building that had ghosts. Walt didn’t like it. He didn’t
want a run-down building ruining his pristine park.
According to Sam Gennawey’s “The Disneyland Story,” Ken Anderson, the original lead on the Haunted Mansion as we now know it, wanted to hide the run-down mansion behind trees native to Louisiana. Walt didn’t go for it.
Harriet Burns built three models for Walt to choose from.
The imagineers put the pristine building behind the other two decrepit versions.
Walt chose the beautiful building every time. He wanted guests to feel welcome
in his park; that meant everything had to be clean and in good repair, even the
Walt was working with some of the most creative people in the planet. Imagineers knew Walt, had experienced his success and demeanor first hand. Even when he told them, “We’ll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside” (Surrell, Jason, “The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic,” p. 13), they insisted on trying to convince him that a haunted house needed to look a certain way.
“Everyone expects a residence for ghosts to be run-down. But
Walt was always looking for the unexpected,” (Genneway, p. 180) said Claude
When those who consider themselves creative and create for a
living have trouble accepting new ideas and ways of doing things, everyone else
has even greater problems to accept the changes that come with innovations. It’s
okay. We just need to realize that creativity is just as necessary for the
advancement of humanity as being wary of the change that it brings is. As soon
as we can embrace our seemingly opposed sides, we can see they are working
together to make us more successful, as long as we don’t let one win over the
other all the time.
Leonardo da Vinci wrote his backwards. Walt Disney is rumored to have had one by his bed, so he could jot notes down as they came to him at night. They help with feelings and can be used for different reasons. Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison and Frida Kahlo are other creative people who kept journals. If you want to improve your creativity, a creative journal can be a big help.
Popular stories about solutions to problems and creative
leaps forward often feature some sort of relaxed state of being. The person is drifting
off to sleep, in the shower, out for a walk, or driving a vehicle and the idea
presents itself. Far too often people complain that these ideas fade quickly.
They can’t remember them, and they didn’t write them down.
Keeping a journal and a pencil with you at all times, or
using a recording device to make notes when your hands are otherwise occupied,
will allow you to capture these ideas. More importantly, by keeping a journal
that tracks ideas and inspirations, you’re telling your brain what you find to
be important. Write it down, or transcribe it later, and keep these ideas
together. When you’re ready to work on something, go to your idea journal. If
you experience a block, the idea journal can help.
If you want to find a form of journal taking that gamifies
ideas, check out Takeo Higuchi’s Idea Marathon
at our archive website. Higuchi’s method provides a way to keep track of and
have ideas while scoring points!
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
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
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.
“I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when
you’re young. I learned a lot out of that” – Walt Disney.
As students, we grow up learning that failure is bad. A big
red “F” accompanied by red marks on the page looks like spilled blood and marks
an academic death. Too many failures, and you won’t get into the right college,
you won’t get the right job, and you won’t make any money. Unfortunately, it
doesn’t stop there.
As an employee, failure is never applauded and often leads
to your boss directing stern words (if not outright yelling) at you or
dismissing you from the job entirely. Failure isn’t seen as the stepping stone
it can be, but rather as the end of the journey. It doesn’t have to be that
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t
work” – Thomas Edison.
Failure is not only important for creativity. It’s
inevitable. Any time you’re doing something new, you’re going to fail. Your
first ideas won’t necessarily be the best, and they won’t necessarily work.
They may even cause more problems than they solve. Whatever happens, if you’re trying
something new, you will fail unless you get lucky.
The most successful sports figures fail all the time. Ted
Williams had an on base percentage (OBP) of less than 50 percent. He failed to
get on base more than half the time he was at bat, and he has the best all-time
OBP in the MLB. NBA player DeAndre Jordan hits a little more than 2/3 of his shots
from the field and has the highest shooting percentage in NBA history (so far).
If in-game shooting were a test in school, he’d only score a “D.” NFL
Quarterback Drew Brees is in a slightly better position with his over 67
percent completion rate, but in school it would come down to being the same
grade. Other than Ted Williams, who was happy with $30,000 a year, these guys
are making millions of dollars and failing a lot on a very public stage.
The important thing about failure is to learn from it. Failing
without learning doesn’t help anyone. Most people learn more from their
failures than their successes. When you fail, find out what you missed and what
went wrong. You’ll find yourself set up for greater success as you harness the
power of creativity and learn lessons from failing.
The Pirates of the Caribbean auction scene, as presented in
2018, shows Scarlett going head-to-head with the Auctioneer in a sales pitch of
sorts. The Auctioneer is trying to sell off Tiny’s egg-laying hens while
Scarlett is trying to sell her rum. The pirates who are bidding want nothing to
do with the egg-layers, but the Auctioneer refuses to give way and allow
Scarlett to auction off the rum. This scene replaces the infamous “Take a Wench
for a Bride” scene where the Auctioneer was attempting to auction off the
overweight Tiny while Scarlett showed off her gams and the men in the audience
shouted, “We wants the red-head,” as well as other more derogatory comments
directed at Tiny.
This isn’t the first change that Pirates of the Caribbean
has gone through. In 1997, the pirates stopped chasing women and started
chasing food. Captain Jack Sparrow and his friends were added to the attraction
in 2006 and beyond.
Those who deride the change in the auction scene as pandering to the political correctness miss the point of Disneyland entirely. Walt Disney, a man who had his fingers on the pulse of American culture for three decades, said that as long as there was imagination left in the world, Disneyland would never be completed. The same holds true for its attractions.
Walt Disney’s first goal was to entertain and make people
happy. Pirates of the Caribbean was never about historical accuracy, or even,
edutainment. Instead, it was about helping people be happier and allowing them
to explore an extremely sanitized version of an historic population – pirates.
Those who wish to teach their children about the realities
of pirating and a pirate’s life can use the Pirates of the Caribbean as a
starting point. They can address the inaccuracy of pirates as depicted in
movies and other forms of entertainment and how media affects the way people
view those that came before. Pirates and their lives weren’t clean, friendly or
fighting for justice. As the song says, they pillaged and plundered and rifled
and looted; they kidnapped and ravaged and never gave a hoot about it. So, for those who choose to go that route
with their children, “properly warned ye be, says I, arrrr.”
Before shouting for the red-head, check out the new version and see if it fits the story line better. There is no slippery slope here. It’s just a chance to keep the ride fresh and accommodate the changes in American society and culture. Keep your ruddy hands inboard and embrace the magic of the new version. (And if you’re still concerned about the sanitized version of the pirates ride, do some research to see what Walt said about scalps in front of the Indian Village in Frontierland.)
On a visceral level, the new “Lion King” trailer strikes all the right notes. The sunrise, the building crescendo, James Earl Jones, the beginning of the stampede scene as James Earl Jones talks about his demise, and the African Call that is the original movie’s signature. It inspires goosebumps and causes the heart to speed up. Remember! Let’s face it. People are going to see this remake, and they are going to love it. That doesn’t mean there aren’t problems with the idea of it.
Same Old Stories
Disney has gone into their film vault, dragging their beloved animated classics into the light and exposing them to live-action remake status. Some may point to 1996’s “101 Dalmatians” with Glenn Close as the first successful live action remake. It was successful enough, and possibly sold enough toys, to inspire a sequel. However, 2014’s “Maleficent,” with Angelina Jolie who was born for the role, started the current era of live action adaptations. It was followed by “Cinderella,” “The Jungle Book,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and Christopher Robin.” With one movie released every year. “Dumbo,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King” and “Lady and the Tramp” are on the docket for 2019.
That’s four live action adaptations in a single year. Those aren’t new stories; they are recycled stories that required less creativity to make and provided more stability for the financial side of the ledger. People may say they want new stories; they don’t. They want properties they know they are going to enjoy, especially when they are spending $15 a ticket. If people wanted new stories, “Kubo and the Two Strings” would’ve been a box office hit. And from the looks of it, “The Lion King” is going to give the audience what it wants. The trailer shots are ripped straight from the animated film. This isn’t a remake or remodeling; it’s a straight up rerelease.
Sequels and Remakes
The Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars film factories are releasing, or distributing, 12 films next year, including “Glass,” a sequel to “Unbreakable,” and “Split.” Of those 12, only “Artemis Fowl,” the DisneyNature release “Penguins” and, possibly, the Marvel production “Captain Marvel” are not sequels or remakes. Giving “Captain Marvel” the benefit of the doubt, the same universe doesn’t necessarily make a sequel or prequel in this case, only 25 percent of Disney’s 2019 releases are new stories. That’s bad for writers and people who are creating new ideas. And let’s face it, “Penguins” is more like a public service, which I’m totally going to go see because, uh, PENGUINS! (Shameless plug: Come on, my website is “penguinate”and my wife makes stuffed penguins, which you should buy!)
Not Live Action
“The Lion King” is being lumped in with Disney’s live action remakes of animated films, but it isn’t live action. No matter how beautifully rendered, the characters are computer animated. At least in “The Jungle Book,” Mowgli was a real actor on screen. (Props to Neel Sethi who had to act against the green screen.) “The Lion King” is computer generated images that, at least as far as the trailer is concerned, will match the animated classic in every way. Fire up the computer and redo every Disney Classic that way; maybe, it will allow Disney to extend the copyright, again, of “Steamboat Willie” before it expires in 2024.
Disneyland and Mary
There’s a story that at the end of the premier of the original “Mary Poppins,” P.L. Travers had some suggestions for making the film better. Walt looked at her and said something to the effect of “Pamela, that ship has sailed.”
One of the many reasons that Disneyland exists is because Walt wanted something he could change. Once the movie was done, there wasn’t any going back and redoing it to make it better. That ship has sailed, except now, The Walt Disney Company is remaking the films. They just aren’t making them necessarily better.
Where’s the Creativity?
The original “Lion King” made just under $1 billion dollars worldwide in 1997. It was the highest grossing animated film of all time (not adjusted for inflation) and remained at the top of the list until “Toy Story 3.” The new “Lion King” might not live up to the original, even if Disney gets it right – whatever that may mean. Maybe only die-hard fans will see it a second time, but judging by the Twitterverse… God, Disney’s going to make some cash, and that’s bad for creativity. (See Pixar.) Why take a risk when you can take a known commodity, change its medium slightly, and make a boatload of money?
Want More Creativity?
If you want more creativity in the world, I urge you to find several independent authors and artists and support them. Give up one movie this year and use that money to pledge $1 a month to someone on Patreon. Go to a comic convention and find an artist in Artist Alley; buy something from them. I’d love for it to be me. Mostly, I’d love for us to get more original stories out there. We all have a story to tell, but they need to be supported financially in order to get heard.