First Trailer For Disney's Haunted Mansion Should Put Park Fans' Worries To Rest

"When hinges creak in doorless chambers, and strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls ... wherever candle lights flicker, though the air is deathly still ... that is the time that ghosts are present, practicing their terror with ghoulish delight."

So runs the opening narration, provided by Paul Frees, at the entrance to the Haunted Mansion, easily the best thing Disney has ever produced as a company.

Justin Simien's new film "Haunted Mansion," due in theaters on July 28, 2023, is the third attempt to adapt the 1959 Disneyland attraction to the big screen. As Disneyland attractions go, The Haunted Mansion stands out. It's one of the few attractions that is meant to explicitly elicit fear rather than wonderment or thrills. There are ghosts and images in the Haunted Mansion that are still, to this day, genuinely scary. The Mansion is also, like many of Disneyland's early attractions, not attached to any particular film or pre-existing Disney film properties, a notion that has been slowly disappearing for years; as of this writing, the car-based ride Autopia has been transformed to resemble Pixar's "Cars," and the submarine ride is now re-skinned after "Finding Nemo." 

The first "Haunted Mansion" film came in 2003. That film was directed by Rob Minkoff and starred Eddie Murphy as the hapless boob who tries to move his family into the titular haunted mansion. The film made extensive use of the ride's iconography and dialogue. It was a modest hit, but isn't terribly well regarded 20 years later. In 2021, director Kirk Thatcher made a 49-minute, straight-to-Disney+ special called "Muppets Haunted Mansion," which saw Kermit and Co. in the titular manse. 

Now, in 2023, Simien ("Dear White People") will try again. It seems from a recent teaser trailer that the iconography is spot on.

A ravishing bride

Fans of the Haunted Mansion will instantly take note of several things. For one, the movie Mansion is replete with three-candle candelabras, twisted, snake-shaped doorknobs, and wallpaper that is a very particular shade of purple. These are all readily seen on the Disneyland ride, wherein guests sit in moving pods — nicknamed "doom buggies" — taking in a series of terrifying tableaus. In one sequence, actor LaKeith Stanfield wanders down a hallway, and the portrait behind him seems to change each time he passes it. This is a reference to the changing portraits on the ride, wherein a horseman becomes a skeleton, a ship becomes a ghost ship, and a young woman becomes Medusa. 

One of the ghosts on the Haunted Mansion ride has been nicknamed the Hatbox Ghost, as it sports a sizeable top hat and carries a box at its side. In the hatbox is a desiccated human head. In the new 2023 film, the Hatbox Ghost will be played by noted method actor Jared Leto

Another notable ghost from the Disneyland ride is a faceless bride who lives in an attic diorama. Her eyes glow out of the darkness, and visitors can see her glowing heart beating inside her chest. A long string of ghostly grooms appear next to her, say "I do," and then vanish in pain. The implication is that this bride had murdered multiple husbands in her life. Because the Haunted Mansion was stringently scripted in 1959, the Bride actually has a name: Constance Hatchaway. On the French version of the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland Paris — called Phantom Manor there — a narrator even has a small poem about her, saying: 

"Join now the Spirits in Nuptial Doom,

a ravishing Bride, a vanishing Groom..."

Is this haunted room actually stretching?

The first chamber in Disneyland's Haunted Mansion is an art gallery, "where you see some of our guests as they appeared in their corruptible, mortal states," so says the attraction's narrator. The chamber is, in fact, an elevator that takes guests down to the ride level, but it has a fun twist. As the elevator goes down, the ceiling remains static. The walls appear to stretch, and the portraits elongate and are revealed in their entirety. Each of the portrait subjects is, in fact, meeting their doom. This haunted chamber — with no windows and no doors — appears in Simien's film. 

Many fans of the ride also will take note of Madame Leota, a fortune teller reduced to being a severed head in a crystal ball, added to the ride in 1969. She recites couplets, evoking ghosts in a room swirling with disembodied instruments. On the ride, Madame Leota was performed by actress Eleanor Audley. In the 2003 film, Madame Leota, similarly trapped in a crystal ball, was played by Jennifer Tilly. Her face cannot be seen in the preview for Simien's film, but there are distinct shots of her crystal ball. It's implied that Jamie Lee Curtis, wearing a wild outfit, might have been Madame Leota, prior to her balling. 

There are other brief details from the ride as well. There is a grandfather clock on the ride that has snake-like hands and reads 13 hours which also appears in Simien's film. During a ghost party — a "swinging wake" — an organist serenades the dancing spirits. According to Disney lore, the organist is named Herr Victor Geist, and he is seen in a brief shot in the "Haunted Mansion" teaser. 

No "grim grinning ghosts" in the new teaser, but everything else is accurate. "Haunted Mansion" hits theaters on July 28, 2023.