Haunted Mansion movie

Here’s some unexpected news: Disney is in negotiations with Justin Simien (Dear White People) to direct the new Haunted Mansion movie, based on the classic theme park attraction. Katie Dippold (Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, The Heat) wrote the most recent draft of the script for this film, which will not be connected to the much-maligned 2003 movie starring Eddie Murphy.

Deadline brought the news about Simien’s involvement, reporting that Disney has wanted to work with the filmmaker for some time now. He had met with them to potentially direct other projects, but the studio took a liking to his pitch for how he could revitalize this franchise. It’s also worth noting that Simien is already in the Disney family, since he’s been hired as the creator/showrunner of Lando, a Star Wars show centered on Lando Calrissian. It’s still unclear if that will feature Donald Glover reprising his role, but it shouldn’t be long until we hear more about that project.

Dan Lin and Jonathan Eirich, two of the producers of Disney’s live-action billion-dollar grosser Aladdin, will be producing this new Haunted Mansion movie through their Rideback Productions shingle, with Nick Reynolds executive producing.

Simien’s take on this movie has not been made public, but the theme park ride has been a Disney staple since its debut in 1969, with some mega-fans – including /Film’s own Jacob Hall – citing it as one of the best pieces of American pop culture art ever made. I’m not nearly as big of a theme park fan as some of my colleagues, but even I can see the magic in the Haunted Mansion attraction: thanks to its unique and immaculate design, it’s one of the few rides that’s able to create a truly immersive atmosphere that makes you completely forget about the rest of the park when you’re on it, and actually warrants the fanatic levels of devotion and mythologizing that have sprung up since its debut.

Simien is best known for directing Dear White People, the 2014 indie breakout that he has since adapted into an excellent Netflix series (the fourth and final season of that underrated show is coming out soon). But The Haunted Mansion won’t be his first stab at a horror film (or a “horror-adjacent” film, depending on how intense Disney lets him get with this property): he recently directed Bad Hair, a horror satire that debuted at Sundance in 2020 and was acquired by Hulu.

Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has long expressed interest in making a Haunted Mansion film, going as far as to write multiple drafts of a script for it, but it sounds like a combination of scheduling conflicts and competing visions resulted in that version never coming together. I’m glad Disney is going with someone unexpected like Simien, rather than hire a director who would give us a pale imitation of del Toro’s style.

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