Sunday, June 24, 2012

Brave or Brat: Why I won't be seeing Brave in the theater

Over the past decades, Pixar has earned its reputation as the premier animation studio in the United States.  It took digital animation from being a quaint curiosity to being the most popular and accepted form of animation in the modern American cinema.  Rather than accepting animation as the realm of children and allowing it to fall into a simplistic, shoddy abyss, Pixar has fought to show that Walt Disney was right that animation was “the most versatile and explicit means of communication yet devised for quick mass appreciation.”  When other cartoons were focused on simplistic entertainment, Pixar took on society’s tendency to hate the exceptional with The Incredibles, the question of being human with WALL-E, and the question of true love, generative living, and adventure with Up

I am a huge Pixar fan.  Not all of Pixar’s films have resonated for me, but I find the studio’s handling of story and their dedication to deep literary and human themes admirable in an industry where pandering for profit far too often outweighs quality.  Because of that respect for Pixar and my unabashed love of princesses, fairy tales, and fantasy, I was giddy when I heard about Brave.  Pixar doing a princess fairy tale with a fantasized historical backdrop of Twelfth Century Scotland?  Oh yes, please! I’m a humanities teacher, so history is close to my heart, and I’ve taught courses on myth, fairy and folk tales. I’m familiar with the work of Propp, Bettelheim, Zipes, and Campbell, and I knew that with Pixar’s dedication to theme and detail they would be too.  I was psyched.

The initial marketing for the film fanned the flames of my enthusiasm.  Merida’s character design, with its moon-face and medusa hair didn’t thrill me, but the will-o-the wisp lights and the sweeping vistas promised wonder galore. And, of course, the tag line of changing your fate resonated – it fit in with the themes of classic myth and Campbell’s hero journey. 

Then I saw the archery trailer, and my hopes fell.  Where many other viewers thrilled to Merida as a strong, liberated heroine standing up against patriarchal values, I saw an homage to the increasingly accepted modern viewpoint that strong women have to be divas, brats or “bitches.”  It wasn’t Merida’s defiance; it wasn’t her desire to break free of her “princess” role; it was the fact that she chose to act publicly with open insolence against her mother in front of the whole kingdom.  It was a choice I saw not as being about liberation but about humiliation, and it made me lose a little respect for Merida.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Maintaining the Magic: Questions about the new Fantasyland

It seems fairly obvious at first glance. Eliminate two character meet and greet areas; add in a roller coaster. The tradeoff is immediately evident; a ride will draw more people than a meet and greet. It appeals to boys as well as girls. It offers a higher capacity, faster loading, quantifiable attraction. Seems idiot proof.

Obvious or not, however, making the move away from interaction and toward rides may not have been the wisest choice in the new revision of Fantasyland at Walt Disney World. Although it sometimes seems counterintuitive, people value the experience of being singled out, made to feel truly special, over an enjoyable, repeatable thrill ride.

Disney should know this. They’ve been practicing that basic truth in some form since the opening day of Disneyland, and if they had forgotten, recent success at their Orlando competitor, Universal Studios should have reminded them.

In Jan 2011, Universal Orlando resort reported a fourth quarter 2010 attendance increase of 46%. That increase was, of course, largely credited to the addition of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And, although the entire Harry Potter area of the park is drawing record crowds, one particular attraction outstrips the others, generating hour long waits when every other attraction has guests walking on. That attraction, contrary to most expectation, is not the new, thrilling Harry Potter ride. It’s Olivander’s Wand Shop.

The principle that people like to be singled out and made special is one of the oldest truths of entertainment. People have been getting pulled up on stage in one form or another since the beginning of time. But in creating the show at Olivander’s, the designers at Islands of Adventure took things one step further. What is it about the wand show at Olivanders, an attraction that, on paper, sounds more like a distraction than a “show,” that makes it so special?

Consider two factors:

1.) The lead-in. The people led into Olivanders are all “normal” – they’re just coming in to see an unusual location. And then, suddenly, one of them is singled out as being more than they appear: they are special. Okay, that’s the basis for most of the great adventure stories in world history. It’s everyone’s secret dream, no matter what their age. To be someone special, to have a hidden talent, to be part of a wonderful, magical world beyond the ordinary. Yeah, that’ll sell a few tickets.

2.) The use of technology to create credible magic. Once that special person is singled out, the operator of Olivader's places them correctly to have a wondrous experience. The technology in the shop is designed to create magic centered around that special person, magic which makes him/her a star and creates a breathtaking illusion, not only for the chosen individual but for those watching as well. Cynics that we are in the modern era, seeing “magic” – theme park technology – interacting with someone we know isn’t a plant taps into all of our childhood hopes and dreams in a way that sells product and gets people to stand in line.

Those elements, well handled, make Olivander’s Wand Shop the hottest location on Universal Resort property. One of the harshest online critics of theme parks admitted to waiting 2 hours in the blazing sun to get into Olivander’s, and then waiting afterward to tell the employee running the show that the wait had been well worth it. Children drag their parents back over and over again in hopes of being chosen. You don’t get those reactions out of a ride. Period. Does this tie into Harry Potter fandom as well? Certainly, but the interaction, well done, transcends Harry-Potterdom. It’s about being special and experiencing something that out of the ordinary.

With the new expansion of Fantasyland, touted by many as Disney’s answer to the Wizarding World, Disney had the opportunity to take that kind of personal interaction combined with technological magic, and show the world how Disney handled it, to create a guest experience that made “magic” real in new ways.

Instead, we’re getting a kiddie coaster.

Now, make no mistake; the princess meet and greets were not particularly boy-attractors, and it may have been a wise choice to add something more family friendly to the new Fantasyland. But falling back on a new mini-coaster supplemented by animatronics seems a step back rather than forward. Like Harry Potter’s dark ride, it lacks the innovation and personal magic of making someone special.

The descriptions of the originally proposed meet and greets hint at that sort of idea. The interactivity of the fairies in Briar Rose’s cottage, and the implied transformation sequence into Cinderella’s ballgown could have provided a whole new level of interaction. Yet even those proposed bits of magic fail to draw the audience in at the same level as demonstrating that someone in the audience is truly special.

Was there a fear that singling out one child would cause trouble? If so, then the Disney company needs to reference their own films. In the words of the Incredibles’ villain, Syndrome, “when everyone is special, no one is.” By failing to engage an audience member, you take away the chance of being the special one, the drive that brings us back over and over again and captures our imagination.

I’m still holding onto hope for the new Fantasyland. Both the Beauty and the Beast area and Toontown remain largely unspecific. There is still the possibility that Disney will offer something truly groundbreaking, magical, and innovative in those areas. But, counterintuitive as it may seem, I am sorry to see the personal interaction side of Fantasyland rubbed out. Perhaps there should have been a change from princesses to Peter Pan or Flynn, but there should have been something intimate – a discovery of a lost princess or a far more direct sprinkle of pixie dust.

Here’s hoping the magic doesn’t get lost in what Walt’s imagineers called “hopalog capacity.” If Disney intends to keep its crown as the king of the theme park industry, it needs to remember more than volume; it needs to pay attention to wonder, magic, and the things that speak to the hearts of its guests.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tron in Review

I hadn’t intended to read about Tron: Legacy before I saw it. I was planning to go in without any preconceptions beyond those that had been established by Disney’s marketing machine. But I guess that it was actually inevitable. My social media threads are full of geeks and Disney addicts, so in retrospect the comments were unavoidable. My surprise came from their vehemence. I logged onto my Twitter feed to find a debate over the merits of the film in full swing, and I found at least two links out to reviews on my Facebook feed, each claiming to be the definitive analysis of the movie.

So I went to the theater with some trepidation. I had read the allegations that the plot was simplistic, the editing was bloated, and that nostalgia was all the film had to offer. I was hoping that those criticisms were wrong, but I was worried that I would walk out of the theater disappointed.

They were wrong, and I didn’t.

Tron: Legacy is a film that lives up to its hype. Unlike its predecessor, it does not (unknowingly or otherwise) predict the future, nor does it offer some great sagacious moral or complex societal insight. It is not an epic, nor is it a social drama. Tron: Legacy is what a good movie should be – it is a window into another world that offers excitement, heroism, and a chance to hope for a better future.

I’m a child of the 80s, and I carry the nostalgia for that decade that many of my generation do. I’ve read all the sociological and psychological analysis. I know about the analysis of the 80s as a time of rampant materialism, glitz overlying corruption, and lack of social consciousness. But the 80s had something precious that the second millennium CE is lacking thus far – it had a hope for a better future.

Tron: Legacy has many merits. Its visuals are stunning; its score is wonderful; its production design and special effects are groundbreaking. Even its emotional beats are on target with the writers and editors allowing time for character interaction and development between the sweeping visual set pieces. But those merits are not what sold me on the film.

Sitting in the darkened theatre, I found myself thinking back on the discussions I had read about the movie. I realized that, to me at least, those people had missed the point of the film, the theme running behind the cinematic elements. They missed the joy.

Tron: Legacy does indeed rely on nostalgia, but that nostalgia is not merely references to the earlier film, although those do litter the digital landscape. It relies on nostalgia for a cinematic era where fun and adventure were viable bases for a movie, where the future was brighter than the present, and where man’s touch in shaping and creating was not always a death sentence for all that was good. It is an homage to the optimism and the occasionally unhealthy glitter of an earlier era, but it combines that nod with a purposeful optimism for the future that refuses to denigrate the past or complicate the future.

Take, for example, its characters. Flynn the elder is half hippie, half jedi, a decidedly dated, yet deeply empathetic character. His aggressively idealistic vision has been replaced with a refusal to do anything. Flynn the younger is a rebel without a cause, a capable, intelligent young man who consciously refuses to take responsibility. The villain of the piece, CLU, is the embodiment of an impossible and unyielding ideal. And the catalyst that makes it all move forward is a type of program described as innocent and wise who, the film makers are sure to tell the audience, has been nurtured on the literature of human experience and dreams, not unbending ideals. That cast of archetypes leads the viewer through a dazzling world occupied by creatures like the utterly outrageous Zeus (a being whose essence is so deeply embedded in the 80s that he summarizes much of the era). But the denouement is neither an apocalyptic end of all nor a promise for a happily ever after. Instead, it is the affirmation of hope and wonder as a compliment, not negation, of responsibility – a reminder to appreciate the things we take for granted and to cherish the hope that what we bring with us from our experiences can be the key to a better tomorrow.

Will most people walk away from Tron: Legacy with some great truth? Hardly. The film is intended to be a Christmas blockbuster, and I hope it meets that goal – the Walt Disney Company could certainly benefit from the cinematic success. At the very least, it’s some of the finest eye candy out there right now. But beyond the visuals, audiences are offered something more valuable by Tron if they are willing to enjoy it. They are offered a world where human beings can see the potential of the unfathomable, where rebels can find a cause and take responsibility, and, most importantly, where the beauty of the sunrise is something to be recognized and savored.

Tron: Legacy is a film worth seeing. It’s fun, pretty, and it dares to urge us to dream of a better tomorrow and to enjoy all the imperfections of our greatest dreams.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Unknown

Everyone likes to be scared, right? Well…sort of? I must admit that I’m not a thrill junkie, at least not when it comes to horror films and in-your-face gore and evil. Madness, mayhem, and revving chainsaws are not at the top of my “too much fun to miss” list. And yet…and yet…Halloween remains one of my favorite holidays (right between Christmas and Easter), and most of the people I know are impressed by my wide ranging familiarity with superstition, stories of the supernatural and urban legends.

So what’s a nice girl like me doing with information about 25 ways to kill a vampire and an ingrained hesitation to look between the ears of a dog or horse when it’s acting strangely? Simple. It’s the unknown that scares me. That strange cold spot in the corner of the kitchen. The place next to the close where your dog just stares. Yeah. The half seen, the suspected, the things that gnaw at the corner of your imagination. To me, that’s a lot scarier than a burly man with a chainsaw. To paraphrase the immortal words of Predator – if it bleeds I can handle it. It’s the other stuff that bothers me.

And that, perhaps, is a large part of the reason that Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion remains high on my list of beloved attractions. And, as silly as it is, high on the list of attractions that creep me out.

Okay, let me clear the air. I know that thousands of small children go through the dim doors of the mansion each year and come out cheerful and psychologically unscathed. This is, after all, Walt Disney World. The 999 happy haunts are certainly far less traumatic than many of the proposed original ideas for the attraction. And it is, unquestionably, possible to breeze through the haunted halls of the mansion without a single “scare.”

But for me, the devil (if you will) is in the details. It’s in the small things that casual guests might not notice, but repeat visitors will – or at least repeat visitors with overactive imaginations. It’s the voices waiting for you if you stay behind in the stretching room; it’s the details on the hanging corpse over your head; it’s the wildly grotesque portraits along the walls of the hallway of doors.

And, for me…it’s in the unknown represented by that damned chair.

It took me forever to even notice the chair. In all of the glorious detailing of a classic Disney attraction filled with enough elements to sustain repeat visits, a chair is not something that immediately draws attention in the attraction. It wasn’t until my husband bought me Jason Surrell’s excellent book on the haunted mansion that I discovered it. Tucked away in the description of the Endless Hallway was a sketch of a wingback chair and a note in the text stating “If you look closely, you will also be able to mke out a face in the decorative pattern on the chair….This was part of the Imagineers’ effort to make guests feel as though they are constantly being watched, as well as create the sense that the house is alive.”

“Ah,” I thought. “I’ll have to look for that the next time I ride the attraction.”


What I discovered as I rode through the mansion was that the same chair, embroidered “face” and comfortable rocking by invisible inhabitant, did not just appear in the endless hallway scene. It appeared over and over again throughout the attraction. For me, that repetition of an object, the strange sense that an inanimate object was somehow following and watching guests throughout the ride was…disturbing.

I’ve read about the role of the raven and the original intent that he represent the “ghost host,” leading guests through the attraction. But for me, the “ghost host” is the unseen, the occupant of that strange chair, watching me with his broken neck and outdated funeral suit and following me as my trusty little doombuggy works its way through the attraction. And, like all of the creepiest things in my universe, he is completely unseen, represented by his location, a chair that should not be able to move from one location to another.

As silly as it is, that chair still gives me a little chill when I ride the Haunted Mansion. I try not to let it dominate my ride experience. It’s just a minor detail, and there’s so much more to look at. Besides, it’s just a chair.

And if it follows me home, I’m going to cry.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Journey into Imagination: The Missing Spark

I grew up on old movies. You know the old joke - "my parents didn't have a '60s or '70s; they had three '50s"? Yeah, that was my family. But in those old movies, with their schmaltz and sometimes simpler view of the world, were some overlooked truths. Take, for example, Miracle on 34th Street.

The classic 1947 film features a mother who has raised her daughter "realistically" with no fairy tales or stories of wonder, an upbringing that little prepares her for the entrance of a gentleman who believes he is (and may just be) Kris Kringle. As the characters in the film prepare Thanksgiving dinner, the young daughter, Susan, expresses her frustration with the other children playing zoo and their refusal to play with her because she insisted on the truth - that she was a little girl. The scene becomes a lesson in imagining, with Mr. Kringle tutoring Susan in how to use her imagination to be a monkey.

It's a simple, charming moment, full of face pulling and silliness, but it also expresses a deeper truth - something that more modern times seem to have forgotten: imagination requires guidance.

In our world, filled with computer graphics, digital billboards, and universal connectivity, the concept of imagination has become rather passé. Of course we have imaginations; human beings come with those. But there's a serious flaw in that casual attitude. Human beings are complex creatures, and like most complex beings, we are not equipped with some magical instinct that guides us in using our ability. We do not naturally reach our potential or see the possibilities in things that do not come naturally to us. We need to be taught. And our imaginations are no exception; unless we are taught to use them, they atrophy or turn selfish or sour.

The original iteration of Journey into Imagination understood that need, and underscored it to its audience, cloaked in whimsy and joy not unlike that of Ed Gwynn's Kris Kringle. By introducing audiences to the Dreamfinder, Tony Baxter and Steve Kirk established a guide, a teacher who could nurture and broaden the boundless enthusiasm and childish delight of Figment. Dreamfinder was the experienced one, not bereft of imagination, but a wise guide who could help Figment (and the audience) see the real potential of imagining.

Take, for example, the lightning captured in the opening sequence; it frightens Figment with his charming, childish nature. It is the Dreamfinder who points out its potential for "a tale of fright." It is the teacher, not the student, who is able to see the possibility in something not immediately appealing, and point out that wonder.

Without Dreamfinder, that dynamic of teacher, guide and mentor is lost. And, sadly, so is the underlying lesson about nurturing imagination. The newest iteration of the attraction again introduces an "adult" figure in the form of Dr. Nigel Channing, but now rather than guide and mentor, he is a figure sadly lacking in imagination. Rather than teaching Figment about using and enjoying imagination, he becomes the student - learning a lesson about how imagination benefits scientific innovation.

I fully understand the importance of change in any venue, and in the theme park milieu in particular. And, inexpert as I am in Disney history, I know very, very well that Walt Disney was infamous for demanding change with little consideration for nostalgia or longevity. But change inevitably brings with it new ideas and themes, and it is the alteration of those basic themes in Journey into Imagination that sadden me.

Perhaps the change is timely; the message that adults have lost touch with childish joy and imagination is, arguably, important. But the limitation of the importance of joy and imagination to a scientific venue is strangely uncomfortable. What about scary stories on a stormy night? What about theatre? What about the arts? Have we wandered so far from valuing those in our society that they deserve only a passing mention? Have we truly come to a place where imagination is presented more as the Freudian Id, a creature of mischief and subversive, if sometimes charming, desire?

Maybe it's the fact that I did grow up with old movies and the values they espoused, but I miss the idea of imagination as a boundless resource that must be taught, nurtured, and encouraged. I remember spending hours in the ImageWorks play area, not feeling as if I were being pushed toward scientific endeavor, but reveling in exploring the possibilities and wonders created by opportunity...and my own imagination.

Perhaps my disappointment and resentment comes from being an adult and seeing myself re-cast in the attraction. Instead of a nurturing mentor deeply in touch with the wonder and joy of the imagination, I see an up-tight scientist who must be tortured and taught by a spark of imagination. That's a sad commentary on our world, and a loss of the idea that "Adults are only kids grown up, anyway."

I don't like the new Journey into Imagination. It seems lacking in its titular element - imagination. Instead, it explores mischief and playful subversion as inspiration for scientific achievement. And while that may be an important goal, it fails to encourage its viewers to nurture wonder and to look for and shape wonder in the coming generation. To me, that is a tragic loss.

I still believe in the power of imagination and its potential to be shaped and to shape worlds. I believe in Dreamfinder and a world of wonder. I believe in the importance of teaching and training imagination to become an integral part of everything we do and of the way we see our world. If we lose that focus on shaping ideas, mischief and childish delight, then we have a grim future in front of us. I still believe that with just that spark in me and you...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Haunting the Mansion: Burton & Del Toro

In the course of my internet travels recently, I ran into an article discussing the announced Disney Haunted Mansion project.  In the discussion, the author made it clear that most fans felt Tim Burton would have been the preferred director for the film; del Toro was an acceptable second. I passionately disagree.

I guess the essential difference lies in what one expects out of a film and what one expects from the Haunted Mansion. The mansion and I have a long history – having the ride car get stopped in front of the giant spiders on my first childhood ride made what could be called an impression. As an adult, it's one of the "must do" attractions that never loses its chill and its wonder. For me, the mansion is a place of juxtapositions.  It blurs the lines between the natural and supernatural; it traipses without hesitation from disturbing to whimsical, and it blends the truly disturbing with the charming at every turn.  It is a surreal ride, a disturbing experience, and a fun attraction, all while maintaining a personal connection to the viewer and keeping the promise of chilling atmosphere and occasional moments of wonder.

Translating that to the movie screen is no small task.  Of course, a slavish adaptation of any of the various haunted mansions in parks around the world would be an utter failure.  The Mansion (whichever one may be under discussion) is an attraction, not a movie.  Furthermore, the “stories” of the attractions in California and Florida are more than a little up for speculation.  I think the key to creating a financially successful Haunted Mansion franchise is the same as the uncovered secret that makes the Pirates of the Caribbean films a success – capture the spirit, not the letter of the attraction.

To me, del Toro is a far better choice for doing just that.  In my opinion, Burton’s films tend to careen between charming and garish with little in between. When he finds the heart of a film – Edward Scissorhands or Nightmare Before Christmas – he can create a charming, almost childlike cinematic gem.  When he focuses on his signature bizarre elements – Sleepy Hollow or Alice in Wonderland – he creates a visually stunning film that fails to connect to the audience on a level deeper than its “coolness” factor.  To me, Burton’s imagery is rooted deeply in the visual tradition of the German expressionists. And while The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari and Bride of Frankenstein remain classics, Burton’s interpretations of expressionism serve to emphasize the almost cartoonish un-reality of his worlds.  He draws a clear line between "here" and "there," and although his fantastic worlds certainly commentate on reality, they are unquestionably not as real and nuanced as our own.

Guillermo del Toro is, without question, a less established director.  His vision is less familiar to most audiences, and, certainly, he too has made films that fail to find an emotional center or connection with his audience.  Yet his films, perhaps because of his cultural heritage, display a mastery of juxtaposition – a refusal to see the world of the inexplicable and fantastic as discrete from mundane reality or to acknowledge one as more “real” than the other – that seems perfect for interpreting the spirit of the mansion.  Just as Burton seems to echo the German expressionists of the early cinematic world, del Toro’s style seems much of the same piece as the literary magical realism of Central America.  Like Borges or Marquez, del Toro has a sense that the fantastical has a reality of its own, and its hyper-real beauty and horror is embedded in our world.  Take, for example, Pan’s Labyrinth; its two worlds are equally viable and nuanced as well as deeply interconnected. Rather than merely bizarre, cartoonish, or childishly innocent, del Toro's fantasy world embraces those elements and reaches beyond them to create a world as complex as "reality," filled with laughter and fear genuine enough to win his audience's credibility and emotional investment. 

I guess for me, the Haunted Mansion is a place of atmosphere and heightened reality.  It is a crossroads where different worlds – beautiful, terrifying, dead, living, whimsical, and horrific all intersect.  To put the spirit of that place on screen, with its genuinely chilling moments and its charming whimsy, and to let us, as the audience, walk out the door with both a smile and a suppressed chill at the thought that a ghost might follow us home…I think we need someone who can weave a world that is more than visually stunning.  We need someone who can make the magic a new reality, not an expression of an opinion or moral.  Here’s hoping del Toro can live up to that.                                  

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Hatbox Ghost

Talking to a few people about the announcement of Guillermo del Toro's new Haunted Mansion film, it dawned on me that not everyone has read Jason Surrell's amazing book on the Haunted Mansion.  Of course, everyone should run out and buy it,  but for those who can't, I wanted to disseminate Mr. Surrell's description of our friend the Hatbox Ghost for those who saw del Toro's comments about the Hatbox Ghost being central in the film and went "what's a hatbox ghost?"  

And I quote...

In a departure from some of Ken Anderson’s early stories, Imagineers did not originally plan to leave the bride stranded at the altar.  For a short period of time, she did have a groom – the infamous hatbox ghost, whose very existence fans have theorized and argued about for years.  The sinister groom character did, indeed, exist, but unfortunately for the bride, the honeymoon was over before it could even begin.

“He was originally going to be where the bride is now,” Imagineer Tony Baxter explains.  “The bride was going to be in the exact opposite corner.  In fact, for years, the Doom Buggy turned you directly that way so you could see her, but there was nothing to see because we had moved her to the other end of the attic.  Now, that spot is occupied by the playing harpsichord. The Hatbox Ghost just disappeared – the molds, the figure itself, everything, so all we have are photos and renderings.”

But why? Was he just too frightening? Was it his chilling visage that caused a reporter to have a heart attack, to tie him to another unfounded urban legend?  The true story isn’t nearly as ghoulish. The Hatbox Ghost effect simply didn’t work.

As originally planned, the Hatbox Ghost stood near the Attic’s exit, leaning on a cane in his right hand and holding a hatbox in the left. “With every beat of his bride’s heart, his head disappeared from his body…and reappeared in the hatbox,” as it was described in The Story and Song from The Haunted Mansion. The illusion was created by a carefully timed lighting effect. The standing ghost’s head was illuminated by black light, and the head in the hatbox was lit by a small pin spotlight. When the black light faded down and the pin spot came up, it did, indeed, look as though his head had vanished and reappeared inside the hat-box.  The effect was then reversed on the next beat of the bride’s heart.

Due to guests’ proximity to the figure and the Attic’s ambient light, it could never be dark enough for the effect to be truly convincing.  The speed at which the Doom Buggies moved by the figure also ensured that there would never be enough time to run the entire gag.  It was removed by the time The Haunted Mansion opened to the general public, never to be seen again.

Surrell, Jason.  The Haunted Mansion: from the Magic Kingdom to the Movies. New York: Disney Editions, 2003.
Buy the whole book on Amazon!