NOT-SO-GRIM GRINNING: A rare photo in color of the original Hatbox Ghost.
As many of you wise mortals know, it was foretold that I would re-materialize inside the attic of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion earlier this year — January, to be exact. Despite what many reporters of matters Mouse have been saying, that was not a rumor; it is fact. I was slated to be re-installed; but, at the last minute, there were problems, both financial and technical. The financial problems were the result of corporate decision-makers "reallocating funds," the businesslike way of saying, "pulling the plug" and putting a project on hold indefinitely while cash is spent elsewhere (or not). And the technical problems were, once again, due to me not being seen in my best light, a problem that can be remedied (hopefully) with a little switcheroo of set dressing, prop placement and lamp diffusion and blocking. (Although, I have my own solutions, in addition to some great ideas on how to build a better Hattie. But no one listens to a ghost, and especially not one that's man-made.)
HOW IT MIGHT'VE BEEN: Some of Imagineer Marc Davis' original concept art for The Hatbox Ghost.
Today, MiceAge Columnist Al Lutz revealed a little more about the ongoing saga concerning my whereabouts. According to Lutz:
"The Hatbox Ghost is one of those projects that [Walt Disney Imagineering Senior Vice President of Creative Development] Tony Baxter still wants to finish up and get installed at Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. The new version of the Hatbox Ghost was all ready to begin fabrication in the early summer of 2009, for installation into a slightly reworked Attic Scene after the popular Holiday overlay was removed at the end of the Christmas season. But a rather last minute shifting of funds by Team Disney Anaheim (TDA) execs put the project on hold as the money was spent on another ghostly attraction instead. In short, all of the money originally dedicated to the Hatbox Ghost for 2009 was shifted over to the Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy project at the last minute, and that budgetary infusion helped boost the exterior dome show from what was just supposed to be some basic lighting effects into the much more impressive audio and visual projection show Disneyland ended up with.
"It can't be stressed enough how last minute the decision was to move the funding for the Hatbox Ghost over to Ghost Galaxy, but that's exactly what the top TDA executives are paid to decide in oftentimes stressful planning sessions held in a fancy conference room on TDA's 4th floor. TDA knows the Hatbox Ghost will be a big hit with the diehard Mansion fans and hardcore Disneyland experts [Yeah, now they do! More about this later.], but they also were trying to ensure that their second attempt at a Space Mountain makeover was a success with a wider and far larger audience.
"The Hatbox Ghost is still kicking around on the short list of Tony Baxter's projects for the park. But he only has so much money to work with on these smaller projects, as the big ticket expansion funds for major new attractions coming to Disneyland have to be voted on by the Board of Directors up in Burbank. Tony's pot of cash is basically given to him by TDA year to year and project to project, and it's TDA's money to spend or re-allocate to keep the park fresh. [SNIP-SNIP!]
"It would be nice if Tony had access to a larger fund for all these little pluses he wants to add to Disneyland [HECK, YEAH!], but compared to the situation out in Orlando where the executives there hate to spend money on anything that doesn't involve a time share condo or a pin cart, Anaheim is doing pretty well with this financial setup between a sympathetic TDA and a passionate Disneyland fan like Tony Baxter. [Fan??? He's Walt incarnate!!!] If the Hatbox Ghost gets the green light (again) [If? IF???], we'll try to ensure that our readers will be among the first to know, outside of that fancy TDA conference room of course."
(For more on this and other Disney-related subjects, the entire column can be viewed HERE.)
IMAGINEER TONY BAXTER: He's not giving up on the ghost.
While I'm not at liberty to disclose the source of my information, let it be known that Mr. Baxter is a hero and champion among Haunted Mansion and Disney fans, because a lot would not get done in the parks, were it not for this visionary's heartfelt passion, fan sympathy and keen insight. And I do not use the term "visionary" loosely, because there are so few of them left. But if anyone has his Midas touch on the pulse of what Disney attraction lovers want and enjoy, and what would bring more guests to the parks, it's Baxter. And it's Baxter and a small corps of his colleagues who've been vying for my return — for quite some time. Furthermore, I have it on more-than-good authority that this old ghost is "kicking" on more than just a short list. He's been built and preliminary tested. But the suits just aren't getting it, when it comes to my importance to Haunted Mansionistas. For the afterlife of me, I don't know why or what it's going to take. (Although Mr. Lutz's report gives me some hope.)
Disney pays hundreds of millions of dollars to outside companies to troubleshoot and build new effects and animatronic figures for their attractions, especially those that can be tied-into products and/or projects for marketing purposes. But this rather inexpensive ghost, who has so much more potential than what's being tapped and who's managed to create a stir, cause buzz and develop a cult-like following, despite being absent for more than 40 years, is repeatedly shoved aside.
That's corporate thinking for you. Execs will search far and wide for the next big thing, throw money into all manner of research, studies and reports, retain smooth-talking consultants (outsiders) for their advice; restructure, revamp, reorganize, remodel and re-everything, when the very thing they need and what consumers want is sitting right underneath their very noses. And they've been told that! — but not by their marketing experts, only by the good souls struggling to carry on Walt Disney's original promises, vision and creative legacy. And only the fans.
I wanna go home! Please, if you haven't already, sign the petition to restore me to The Haunted Mansion. And if you're on Twitter, you can add your user name to a similar Twitition as well.
ON A ROLL: The original Hatbox Ghost, all wrapped up with his strangely simple machinations.
THESE LOAFERS WERE MADE FOR HAUNTING: What part of this went to Eagle Sam?
Also, for those among you who might still think that I'm wearing pants, breeches, tights or other legwear, not only am I not but I have a flat rear end and a little pot belly! (Well, groin really, if I'd show you my entire disproportionate profile.)
A GHOST, A HEAD OF HIS TIME: Making use of clear vinyl before the days of disco.
(Images courtesy of an anonymous private collector.)