Things You're Just Supposed to Know

Most of the time, Long-Forgotten assumes that readers are already familiar with basic facts
about the Haunted Mansion. If you wanna keep up with the big boys, I suggest you check out
first of all the website, After that, the best place to go is Jason Surrell's book,
The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic (NY: Disney Editions; 2015). That's the
re-named third edition of The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies (NY:
Disney Editions, 2003; 2nd ed. 2009). Also essential reading is Jeff Baham's The Unauthorized
Story of Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion (USA: Theme Park Press, 2014).

This site is not affiliated in any way with any Walt Disney company. It is an independent
fan site dedicated to critical examination and historical review of the Haunted Mansions.
All images that are © Disney are posted under commonly understood guidelines of Fair Use.


Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Berm Graveyard Rises From the Dead

(pic: optimistzero)
It's baaaaaack.
Consequently-so-are weeeeeeeee.
Why-are-we-talking-in-this-Poltergeistish waaaaaaaayyyy?
I don't knooooowwww...

Something big has happened at the DL Mansion, so we must needs weigh in on it. The graveyard that occupied the berm at the Disneyland Mansion for nearly thirty years and has been gone for sixteen reappeared in late August of this year. (You can read all about the old berm graveyard HERE and the original "family plot" that preceded it HERE.)

I've been given to understand (albeit from watery, second-hand sources) that the fact that the new graveyard debuted with the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay signifies nothing. The thing was ready to go and would have gone in earlier if they had had the time.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good: "The Great Eight"

All eight of the stones that occupied the original family plot in 1969 have been reproduced (plus four new ones, discussed later). Those eight originals have been affectionately known as the "great eight" for some time ("for some time" = since 10 o'clock yesterday morning). The new epitaphs are identical to the old and the designs are similar.

This move can only be greeted with applause by HM purists. It echoes the respect for tradition that made the new Hat Box Ghost last year such a tasteful and welcome addition (for most of us, anyway). Unlike the wretched 2011 queue in WDW, this one does not keep nudging you and squealing about how cool the HM is. It is simply putting back something that never should have been removed in the first place (the berm graveyard), and it goes one step further by bringing back the tombstones that were eclipsed by that same berm graveyard. Here is a good example of a shout-out to HM fans that is contextually justified, fully in keeping with the imaginary world of the ride. It makes complete and immediate sense even if you know nothing of the berm's previous history or have no prior acquaintance with the ride at all. Compare this to, e.g., the raven on the organ pipes at the end of a crypt in the Orlando queue. There is no contextual justification for the raven to be there; it's only there because it's a "Haunted Mansion icon."

This team gets high marks for efficiency, restoring at one stroke and in the correct place both a missing thing and the thing it replaced. 

I figure the best way to review the new iterations of the great eight is in a side-by-side display of old and new, an approach greatly facilitated by Mr. Gregg Ziak. Bless his heart, Gregg did the following two things recently, and at almost the same time: (1) he published a glorious set of old photos he had of the original 1969 family plot, and (2) he took some fine new photos of the new graveyard and posted those. You will note a heavy debt to Mr. Z in much of what follows.

(left: Gregg Ziak; right: John Frost)

Vic Greene was a Disney architect who did a lot of work on the HM. Of all the eight originals, Greene's tribute stone was the one that vanished most completely when the family plot was removed in 1970. Not only was it never used on the berm, but no version of it ever appeared in Orlando or Tokyo or anywhere else, until now. Greene's grandkids have been hoping for a long time to see a really good photo of this tombstone, and now their patience has been doubly rewarded.

The new stone is a good example of how the overall designs faithfully reflect the contours of the originals without slavishly reproducing them. It also displays prominently a feature common to every stone in the new set but never seen in any outdoor HM graveyard previously: they're designed to look old. They've got cracks and gouges and worn, ragged edges. In this, the new berm graveyard conforms more closely than any of its predecessors to what is seen in the graveyard inside the ride, whether or not this was done intentionally. (And before someone says it; yes, I know, it also happens to be closer to the Phantom Manor approach, but big whoop, I doubt that means anything.)

This could be kind of a big deal, conceptually. The stones of the original great eight looked new, in keeping with (1) the graveyard's placement and (2) the familial language used on them (Grandpa Marc, Cousin Victor, Brother Claude), both of which unmistakably identified that little graveyard as a private burial plot tied directly to the house's history. The berm graveyard that replaced it, on the other hand, was more ambiguous in this regard. Was it also supposed to be seen as the Mansion's private family plot? The persistence of familial vocabulary pointed in that direction (Cousin Huett, Brother Dodd, Brother Dave), but in spite of that, it's probable that many people saw it as part of some random old graveyard that happened to be nearby, like the public cemetery "back there somewhere" that provides the venue for the show's climax. Indeed, I expect some people assumed the berm tombstones were part of that very cemetery, spilling over the top, as it were. Whatever the case may be, it must be admitted that the decrepit look of the new berm tombstones is more congenial to such a reading than anything that preceded it.


(left: ©Disney; right: Ziak)

We now know that Ken Anderson intended to make use of Wathel Rogers' mechanical genius already in his 1957-58 plans for a Disneyland "Ghost House," so he was not new to the project when he earned his tribute on the front lawn. Appropriately, that beautiful close-up photo of the original on the left was taken after it had been transplanted to the berm, Wathel being one of only two stones that were thus transplanted (and yes, I realize I pointed that out in the earlier posts). It would have been cool if the new one had been placed in exactly the same location, but alas, it doesn't seem so, although it's difficult to determine that location precisely. What about that lower-case "r" on "rest"? A mistake? Hardly. That comes from consulting and following the original blueprint for the original stone:


(both pix from Ziak, taken approximately 47 years apart!)

This is a tribute to Claude Coats, of course, another Imagineering giant with relatives always on the lookout for this sort of thing. WDW has always had a Brother Claude, and the old berm graveyard at DL had a very similar stone inscribed with "Brother Dodd."


(left: ©Disney; right: ITM video)

Pock is the other transplant up onto the berm from the great eight. You will recall that this one isn't a tribute to anyone but just a funny name the guys came up with and used in connection with the HM in various and sundry ways. They even considered it as a name for the Mansion's "Lord and Master" at one point. After only a year or two on the berm, Phineas disappeared and was not seen again until the name showed up on a new stone in the 2011 WDW queue area.

Phineas Pock is my personal favorite, the stone I remember best from my own first visits
to the HM in 1969. For some reason it also seems to be the one most photographed:

(that's Ziak's new old photo in the lower right)


(left: Eddison Esteban; right: Ziak)

Rolly Crump's tribute stone is the only one of the great eight that has never been retired from service. It still sits in the graveyard scene inside the ride. Let's not hear any griping about the duplication, kids. The interior graveyard is loaded with duplications already, remember?


(left: Ziak; right: ITM video)

The other oldie I remember best is this tribute to Marc Davis (something I of course did not know it was at the time). Thanks to its location, it's difficult to get a clean photo of the new one. Once again, the differences in lettering (the design of the "G" and the "M") are due to the team's faithfulness to the original blueprint:


(right: Ziak)

As always, I have to cheat when it comes to Yale Gracey's tribute stone. I've never found a good photo of the great eight original, although you can see part of it behind Grandpa Marc in the previous photo montage. Directly above, I've substituted for old-new comparison the original Gracey stone from WDW, which had a slightly different design than Disneyland's. The indented name on the new one is actually more faithful to the DL original than any of the WDW versions.


(right: ITM video)

As you already know if you've read the earlier posts (and may have already known even before you did that), X Atencio's tribute stone ended up in his back yard and is still there today, making it relatively easy to acquire photos of this original member of the great eight. What's with the "T" on "REQUIESCAT"? Well, it wasn't there on the original 1969 blueprints . . .

. . . and it wasn't on the original stone when it was in front of the Mansion . . .


. . . and so it's understandable that it's not been put on the new stone either. We have already seen that the WDI team used the original blueprints for reference. What apparently happened is that X (or someone else) painted the "T" on the stone after it moved to X's back yard. There are a number of photos around showing it after it has already been back there taking a beating from the LA smog for many years, and in some of those the "T" looks like it's fading away:

(main pic: Carrie Vines)

This alteration from REQUIESCA to REQUIESCAT became official when a Francis Xavier stone was created for the original WDW graveyard:

Incidentally, that WDW stone was on display at the Disney Treasures exhibit in Simi Valley a few years back:

In fact, both forms are correct. "Requiescat In Pace" ( = Rest in Peace, R.I.P.) is the usual formulation, but on occasion "Requiesca" is also used. According to reader Ann-Kathrin Wasle in the Comments, it's simply the imperative form ("Rest [in peace], bud, and that's an order"). Whoever it was that convinced X his stone was irregular or ungrammatical was simply mistaken.

The Good The Meh: The Four New Stones

Along with the great eight come four new stones, deferentially located two to the left and two to the right. Forgetting their placement for the moment, let's decode what's on them. As you might expect, they are new tributes to new Imagineers, probably members of the team responsible for the overall project. On the far left:
Julia Shrub
Such a Good Sport
When People
Would Tease Her
For Being So
(pic: optimistzero)

The tombstone was too short to squeeze the last word of the epitaph on to it, get it? Anyway, this is a tribute to Julie Bush, a WDI landscape architect. Julie is, and I quote, "responsible for design and site construction oversight for all Disneyland Resort area development capital work and rehabs." [I typed it, but don't ask me what the hell it says.] "She led the Area Development design of Disneyland's 10-year Resort-wide paving plan, New Tomorrowland and the Rivers of America projects. Julie also works closely with the on-site Horticulture and show maintenance teams on show quality issues."

Next to Shrub is this new one:

Aqui Descansa
Bradford Clemente
De La Fuente

 (ITM video)

Brad Clemens is a Senior Show Set Designer at WDI and used to be a Facility Designer at Disneyland Resort. Beyond that, I know nothing about this guy, and I don't have a picture either. The stone translates loosely: "Here lies Bradford Clemente. Too much drinking from the fountain." I imagine the grape cluster at the top is there to tell us which "fountain" they mean.

Collect all the photos of this one you can, kids, because I'm betting this stone will be out for repair or replacement as soon as they realize that they've essentially written the Spanish equivalent of "to much." It's DEMASIADO, not DEMAISIADO. (More on this when we get to "The Bad.")

Skipping across to the other side, on the right, we have a double tombstone:

                                                                           In Final Rest                      Loyal  Friend
                                                                             M. Dibjib                          Esteban Pine
                                                                            He Had To                           No Longer
                                                                             Eat That                                Has To
                                                                          One Last Rib                       Wait In Line

(pic: optimistzero)

"M. Dibjib" is Michael Dobrzycki, a Concept/Graphic Designer at WDI. This guy has an impressive resumé: “Michael Dobrzycki is an accomplished painter, carpenter, puppet maker, and sketch artist whose work has been featured in more than a dozen children's books and small press publications over the last few years. In 2001, Michael was inducted into the Disneyland Entertainment Hall of Fame. He received a master's degree in illustration from California State University, Fullerton, and holds bachelor's degrees in both art and history from Whittier College. He is currently a visiting professor at Whittier College. Michael lives in Whittier, CA.”

I'll bet some of you Forgottenistas already have one or another of his books:

In contrast to all of this, I have very little information about Steve Pinedo ("Esteban Pine") and no photograph. He's a WDI Design Administrator (another hat he wears or has worn is "Creative Design Services Manager"). For this latest project, he was apparently the Show Coordinator.

Unlike the other new ones, the final new tombstone is not hard to decode at all:

Cam Irving
Thought of

This is obviously for Disneyland Art Director Kim Irvine, already familiar to many of you as the spawn of Dick Irvine and Leota Toombs, two Imagineers heavily involved in the original HM. Kim has herself done some HM work over the years. She was involved in the pet cemeteries, and she generously loaned out her face for use in producing new Madame Leota mask models, since her facial planes are uncannily close to her mother's. Her resumé is a long one. (She founded the DL Imagineering office in the early 80's, worked on the updated Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and It's a Small World refurb, et cetera. Google if you want more info on Kim.)

You may have noticed that I haven't said yet what I think of this four-stone addition. For moi,
they're meh. The stones aren't terribly objectionable per se, but I've got two complaints.

Firstly, I think the boot-hill epitaphs are pretty mediocre efforts. The counterparts in the 2011 WDW queue are actually much better. Seriously, guys, "Should've"? And the rhythms are there but don't fall into place as immediately and effortlessly as they should've (at least for me). There's also the embarrassing misspelling on the Spanish-language stone. Should've put in a bit more effort here.

Second, nothing against these guys, but none of them had anything to do with the original ride. Do they really belong out front alongside the great eight? They strike me as much more akin to the tombstones inside, in the graveyard scene. As we know, those tombstones are also sly tributes to various and sundry Imagineers, some lower level, some higher level. It seems to me these new ones would have been more appropriately placed there and frankly would have been more fun.

Those aren't deal killers for me, but this next one is.

The Bad: Once Again, Impossible Gravesites

I realize that the WDI teams at the various parks operate independently of each other, but nevertheless I would think that before embarking on a new project you'd want to check out audience reaction to a very similar project recently done in another park. When the 2011 WDW queue debuted, one of the criticisms was that in their geekish zeal for epitaph tributes the Imagineering team there completely forgot that these epitaphs are found on tombstones, not plaques. They put their "Francis Xavier" and "Grandpa Marc" stones high up in a narrow planter much too small to have actual bodies buried in it. Apparently in reaction to such criticism, project leader Pete Carsillo unconvincingly tried to explain to guests during personal tours that the bodies were buried down below the walkway where people pass in front of the stones.

Well, even that lame explanation won't work this time. There is literally, quite literally, no possible place where a body could be buried beneath or adjacent to either the Julia Bush or Bradford Clemente stones. They are mere inches from the wall in front of them and mere inches above existing concrete crypts that are already occupied.

Have we really reached the point where "Hey look, a gravestone! But wait a sec, where's the grave?" is an example of "thinking too much"?

You want irony? In the case of Julia Shrub, this absurdity is intended as a tribute to a landscape architect! As they say, you can't make this stuff up. Gad. I'm choking on my spittle here.

And there is a similar problem with the new Cousin Victor stone. It's inches from the wall in front of it. Where's the body? THE VICTOR STONE NEEDS TO BE PUSHED BACK. (I'm withholding judgment on some of the others since photos can be deceiving and I can't yet be positive that some of them are also too close to the wall.)

Look, you WDI guys. You're going to have to pull out the Clemente stone anyway to fix the spelling error, and the switchover from HMH to classic Mansion is coming up in a few months. There's your opportunity. FIX THIS. Please. Pretty please? With buckets of sugar on it? It's embarrassing.

PS: The easy fix? Put big urns on them.* Shrub already has a design that would easily modify to allow it, and Clemente has to be redone anyway.

The Ugly: What a Sorry Sight

Some of what follows is WDI's fault, but a lot of it isn't. Let's just say it: the new berm graveyard is visually unappealing, to put it as kindly as possible. All you have to do is compare it with a photo of the old graveyard and the argument is over, QED.

Says it all, says it all.

Well, the bothersome HMH decorations are cluttering things up. Maybe it would all look better without the pumpkins and lanterns and dead vines evidently put there to conceal the wiring. The problem is, we DO know what it looks like without those, since the first photos of the new berm were taken by people peeking over the fence before the HMH decorations went in, and it really doesn't look that much better.

(pic by Dusty Sage for MiceAge)

The real culprit is all that new fencing and the brick wall ruins. But that's not WDI's fault. The fences are there for safety reasons—not the public's safety but the safety of Disney employees. (It's the same kind of thing that gave us that horrible new outside track on the Alice in Wonderland ride.) The brick walls I don't understand. They don't make any sense as part of the graveyard and don't seem like safety features. Retaining walls? Whatever they are, I'm sure that aesthetically, the Imagineers can't be happy about the way it all looks compared to what was there before, but they had to make lemonade out of the lemons handed to them.

But thank heaven, the nightmare is over. No more parade of grisly news reports of employees injured or killed on the HM berm. In recent years the total number of serious injuries here has risen to a number just barely less than one. Obviously, something had to be done.

I wish that were all there is to say, but it isn't.

Micechat reader sourdough made a good point a few weeks ago. The Imagineers missed an opportunity here to use forced perspective effectively. The tombstones in back should have been smaller, to give an illusion of size and spaciousness. To which I would add: ALL the stones seem too big to me. Compare the "Good Old Fred" stone in the old photo with the Pock stone in the new. They're similarly designed and in roughly the same location. Isn't Phineas noticeably larger, and in fact too large? Did the team's concern for legibility override their basic aesthetic sense here? Not good.

In Conclusion...

A real mixed bag, sorry.

By the way, before I crawl back into my cave, I should note with appreciation the large number of new readers the blog suddenly picked up a few months back. Ironically, since the blog went into a state of hibernation, traffic has never been higher. The last post celebrated our millionth visit, a point reached after six years. Only nine months have gone by since then, and already we've added almost 700,000 new hits.

Take care.

*I will add here, that if by some chance Disney decides adding urns would be a good idea, I do here state that I do not ask nor will I seek any future remuneration for the idea. I'm offering the suggestion freely.