History of the Disney Haunted Mansion’s stretching portraits


The always-brilliant and always-exhaustive Haunted Mansion blog Long Forgotten has a great article on the history of the stretching portraits from the ride’s pre-show. These portraits have to be repainted periodically (rolling and unrolling all day as the gallery stretches is hard on the materials), and different artists have interpreted them differently over the years, making the Mansion’s early scenes comic or menacing by turns.

The first thing I always notice about [Imagineer] Marc [Davis]’s original is that this widow is not very old. She’s put on a few, but she’s still cooking on all burners. Secondly, there’s a huge contrast between the fried-egg madness in the eyes of Marc’s Tightrope Walker and the nimble intelligence of this widow. If this is madness, it’s an utterly different form of madness. This is truly a classic Marc Davis sketch, in my opinion. The self-confidence is there, the cold-bloodedness, the wicked edge. She seems quite pleased with herself. She keeps her secret without a trace of guilt feelings. And check out the colors in that face! Yellow skin, grayish-green shadows, pink ears–and yet, mirabile dictu, she doesn’t look sickly but very much alive and well. Unless someone had called your attention to it (like I just did), would you ever have noticed how daring and original Marc’s palette is in this sketch?

…When we get to Clem Hall’s widow, we have a real revolution. She’s quite a bit older. She’s drunk. She’s got a droopy, somewhat vacant look as a result. But she’s still got a few essential qualities remaining from the Davis original. She’s smug and self-satisfied. She knows something that you don’t know, but that woozy look keeps her from looking pompous about it. You suspect that there’s definitely something going on in there when she’s sober.

And then there’s the current version. Another disappointment. That woman has been drinking iced tea, not wine. Too friendly, too sincere, and like the current Ally Gal, seriously lacking in personality. Does she look to you like she’s keeping a secret? Pthh. On to the next…

The Many Faces of…the Other Stretching Portraits