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The Haunted Mansion is a 2003 American fantasy comedy horror film based on the Disney theme park attraction of the same name. Directed by Rob Minkoff, the film is written by David Berenbaum and stars Eddie Murphy, Terence Stamp, Nathaniel Parker, Marsha Thomason, and Jennifer Tilly.

Plot

In the eighteenth century, wealthy landowner Gracey is the proprietor of Gracey Manor. When he falls in love with a multiracial woman named Elizabeth, the Gracey family butler Ramsley views his actions to be disgraceful and misleads Gracey into believing that his love spurned him. Gracey later hangs himself in despair after believing her death by poison to be suicide when he reads a letter which supposedly was addressed to him by Elizabeth wherein fact, the letter was penned by Ramsley himself.

In the present day, successful realtors Jim and Sara Evers own a real estate firm and are happily married with two children, Megan and Michael. However, Jim's workaholism and continuous pursuit for new business deals causes him to have little time for his family. After missing his own wedding anniversary to seal a business deal, Jim makes amends to his family that they go on a weekend away to a nearby lake. Before they can go on the trip, Sara is contacted by the occupants of Gracey Manor, located in the bayou swamps of New Orleans. An eager Jim drags his family along to do business at the house. They meet Master Gracey, his stern butler Ramsley, and two servants Emma and Ezra. Gracey invites the family to stay the night after a rainstorm floods the river. Jim is taken to the library by Ramsley to discuss the deal with Gracey but when he waits, he becomes trapped in a secret passageway. Michael and Megan encounter a "ghost ball" which leads them to the mansion's attic where they find a portrait of a woman resembling Sara and are confronted by Ezra and Emma, the latter revealing the woman's names as Elizabeth. Sara converses with Master Gracey in the library and as Gracey gives her a tour of the mansion, he explains that his ancestor's lover Elizabeth Henshaw seemingly committed suicide via poison, and his ancestor followed suit via hanging despite their plans to wed.

While trying to find a way out, Jim encounters a gypsy woman named Madame Leota, whose head is encased in a crystal ball. After briefly being scared away, Jim and his children return to her for answers of Elizabeth's likeness to Sara. They eventually learn that all of the mansion's residents are actually ghosts, cursed a century ago by Gracey and Elizabeth's suicides and can only move to Heaven when they are reunited, and Gracey believes Sara is Elizabeth's reincarnation.

In order to break the curse, Madame Leota sends the Evers family, minus Sara, into the mansion's expansive cemetery to fetch a key that Madame Leota claims will reveal the truth behind Elizabeth's unusual death. Jim and Megan venture to a crypt beneath a mausoleum where they locate the key, but inadvertently disturb all of the mausoleum's undead residents. They escape unharmed with Michael's help, who overcomes his arachnophobia. Madame Leota leads the family to a trunk in the attic, where Jim finds an old letter from Elizabeth to Edward with the promise of marriage, revealing that her suicide was false. Ramsley appears and reveals himself to be the mastermind of the curse and that he murdered Elizabeth with a poisoned goblet of wine to prevent Master Gracey from abandoning his home and heritage. To hide the truth, he traps the children in a trunk and literally throws Jim out of the mansion, enchanting the mansion to prevent Jim from breaking in.

As Gracey and Sara rendezvous in the ballroom, the former asks Sara if she can recognize him which confuses her. Desperate, he insists to Sara that she is his beloved Elizabeth. The room fills with dancing ghosts of the past which causes Sara to flee. As she runs up the stairs, Gracey reveals his true ghostly self to Sara begging her to understand and that they can finally be together. Sara insists that she is not Elizabeth, but Gracey continues to persist. As Gracey begins to have second thoughts, Ramsley insists that it is her and in time she will remember. Ramsley tells Sara to get ready for her wedding to Gracey but Sara refuses. He then blackmails her into marrying Gracey in return for her children's safety.

During the wedding ceremony, Ramsley poisons Sara's drink so that she will die and return as a ghost and end the curse. Outside, Madame Leota gives Jim the confidence to break in again using his car. They successfully do so by crashing through the conservatory, thus causing so much damage that the curse cannot repair it before he enters the house. Jim saves his children and stops the ceremony. He gives the letter to Master Gracey, revealing to him the truth about Elizabeth's death and that Ramsley had lied to him about it all those years. As Gracey rages at Ramsley for what he had done, an enraged Ramsley reveals that despite all his work to care for the family, he was angry at his master's apparent selfishness for loving Elizabeth and summons wraiths to kill the group, but a fiery dragon emerges from the fireplace during the chaos and drags Ramsley into Hell for his actions. Ramsley seizes Jim and attempts to pull him down with him for ruining his plans, but then Master Gracey rescues Jim and the two watch as Ramsley falls through the fiery pits.

Sara succumbs to the poison, but the ghost ball arrives and possesses her body, revealing itself to be Elizabeth's ghost. Elizabeth and Master Gracey kiss, and Sara is revived. In gratitude and seeking redemption, Master Gracey gives the Evers the deed to the house, allowing them to do what they want with it as long as they remain happy. The ghosts all depart the mansion and move on to Heaven.

The film ends with the Evers driving off to a proper vacation on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, accompanied by Madame Leota and the four Singing Busts, which Jim and the kids met earlier, who end the film with their own rendition of When the Saints Go Marching.

Cast

Production

Main article: Unproduced Haunted Mansion Film

This wasn't the first attempt at adapting The Haunted Mansion into a film. Back during the early 1990's, screenwriters Jim Hill and Sheila Greenberg pitched a script to then Walt Disney Pictures head Jeffrey Katzenberg, who, at that time, was interested in adapting Disney Parks rides into movies. The mythology and myth-laden script circled through the studio for several months, but was dropped due to the box-office failure of the supernaturally-based comedy, Hocus Pocus.

In 1997, the project was picked up again, this time by Keystone Productions. It was not, however, a theatrical release, but rather, as a TV movie to be shown on "The Wonderful World of Disney" in the Fall of 1998. However, Keystone's other theme park TV movie, Tower of Terror, didn't pull in decent enough ratings, which resulted in both ABC and Keystone dropping the project. [1]

In the spring of 2000, there was, yet again, renewed interest in adapting Disney Parks attractions into motion pictures. Brigham Taylor, Walt Disney Studios Vice President of Production, and Nina Taylor, President of Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group, selected three attractions to be adapted to film: The Country Bear Jamboree, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Haunted Mansion. Along with Pirates Of The Caribbean, the film was scheduled for a 2003 release.

Writing

Instead of using the Hill-Greenberg screenplay, Taylor and producer Andrew Gunn decided to create a new screenplay from scratch. They hired staff writer David Berenbaum to create a script that incorporated and expanded the attraction's original story and source material. Berenbaum spent months on several story treatments, making small changes and adjustments. For example, the Mansion's location changed from upstate New York to upstate New Orleans, and the character that later became Jim Evers was changed from an attorney to a real estate agent. After settling on a story that later became the plot for the final product, Berenbaum spent the next two years working on the script. After many drafts and rewrites, studio executives approved the final draft.

Directing

The studio selected Rob Minkoff to direct for various reasons.

Trivia

  • Early teasers for the film featured an entirely different Mansion architecturally, which was referred to as the "Gracey Mansion". [2]
  • This was the first film to air on Disney Channel to contain any profanity besides "hell" or "damn". It also contained the phrase "Big ass termites!", uttered by Murphy.
  • The design of the mansion's exterior is loosely based on Disneyland's version of The Haunted Mansion while the iron/glass conservatory was based on Walt Disney World's version of the ride.
  • The film features the Ghost Host's line, "Welcome Foolish Mortals" as a tribute to Paul Frees, the Ghost Host's original voice. Corey Burton provided the character's voice for the film.
  • The film's "Overture" features a new arrangement of the Foyer Organ in the ride, with strings added as a backup while the main melody is played.
  • Numerous characters from the ride appear in the film aside from Madame Leota; the Hitchhiking Ghosts, the Beheaded Knight, the Duelists , the executioner, the singing busts, Ballroom Dancers, as well as the caretaker and his dog.
  • The Breathing Door appears in the film along with the portrait gallery and the staring busts. One of the changing portraits, the skeletal man on horseback, is based on Napoleon Bonaparte instead of the Black Prince. 
  • The singing busts are reduced to a quartet.
  • Skinny actors play the zombies in the mausoleum.
  • The mausoleum and crypt scenes in the film were inspired by the Coffin Occupant in the Conservatory portion of the ride. The key-bearing corpse is a nod to the character.
  • The ride's library and conservatory are mashed into one for this film.
  • The attic in the ride also appears in the film wherein the wedding dress references the bride.
  • Although the ballroom appears in the film, while the organist does not appear, the botched wedding ceremony scene pays tribute to the character wherein one of the servants, Ezra, garbed in a cape and hat similar to the organist, plays an out of tune rendition of the Bridal March. The scene also pays homage to the attic scene of the ride as well as the Bride character on account of the off-tune rendition of the Bridal March and Sara wearing the wedding gown.
  • The hanging of Edward Gracey in the film references the Stretching Room.
  • The first version of the script had Don Knotts playing the part of the caretaker. He later dropped out before filming, but the caretaker and his dog were retained, and they cameo in the film as ghostly versions of themselves.

Gallery

References

  1. http://www.doombuggies.com/movie_hill.php
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sc9Zgpttc3M