The Haunted Mansion Memorabilia Headlines Potter & Potter’s Disney-Themed Auction

James Ardis
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Harper Goff’s original concept art for what would become The Haunted Mansion. Image from Disney Parks.
Harper Goff’s original concept art for what would become The Haunted Mansion. Image from Disney Parks.

Artist Harper Goff created the first sketches of an imposing haunted house back in 1951 for Walt Disney. At that time, Disney was planning a modest park across from his Burbank offices to indulge fans. Eventually, though, Disney’s vision became more ambitious. The park Disney imagined transformed into Disneyland, which opened in 1955. After many setbacks, Harper Goff’s 1951 sketches came to life as The Haunted Mansion in 1969. The ride is now one of Disneyland’s most recognizable attractions.

On July 30th, 2021, Potter & Potter will offer hundreds of lots related to Disneyland and Walt Disney World. That includes memorabilia tracing The Haunted Mansion’s development over the decades. Learn more about this attraction and the lots on offer before the Potter & Potter sale begins.

Recruiting Ghosts for the Mansion

The Haunted Mansion’s original sketches technically predate the idea for Disneyland. Still, the attraction languished in production for years. One of the reasons why The Haunted Mansion had to wait so long for its Disneyland debut was contrasting creative directions. 

Writer and animator Ken Anderson believed the mansion needed a linear story to guide each guest’s visit. Animator Marc Davis complicated that vision when Walt Disney brought him on to the project years later. Davis imagined a more playful and less narrative-driven experience. Another lead on the project, Rolly Crump, was brainstorming surreal artwork for The Haunted Mansion. Walt Disney found all of these pieces interesting but hard to implement into a cohesive attraction.

Disneyland attraction poster for The Haunted Mansion. Image from Potter & Potter.
Disneyland attraction poster for The Haunted Mansion. Image from Potter & Potter.

Eventually, the team moved away from the narrative Ken Anderson wrote. The Haunted Mansion would instead feature a wide variety of ghosts presented in a less linear fashion. Together, these ghosts represented the macabre, surreal, and playful elements that different leads brought to the project. 

“We’re going to bring ghosts from all over the world,” said Walt Disney in the early publicity for The Haunted Mansion. “And we’re making it very attractive to them, hoping, you know, they’ll want to come and stay at Disneyland. So we’re putting in wall-to-wall cobwebs, and we guarantee them creaky doors and creaky floors.”

A poster featuring some of The Haunted Mansion’s most well-known residents is available in Potter & Potter’s upcoming sale (lot #152, estimate: USD 10,000 – $15,000). Known collectively as the Hitchhiking Ghosts, these three spirits haunt guests at the end of the ride. The poster proclaims the Hitchhiking Ghosts are “dying to meet you.” This tongue-in-cheek message helps keep the balance between comedy and scares. Collectors will also notice the poster is signed by Marc Davis.

Design Choices for The Haunted Mansion

Constance Hatchaway stretching portrait from The Haunted Mansion. Image from Potter & Potter.
Constance Hatchaway stretching portrait from The Haunted Mansion. Image from Potter & Potter.

When Walt Disney brought Marc Davis on to The Haunted Mansion project, one of his first tasks was making the initial elevator ride down into the attraction more interesting. Ideally, the descent would not only entertain but also set the tone for The Haunted Mansion. Davis’ solution was a series of stretching portraits that would slowly reveal stories with a morbid sense of humor. 

One of these stretching portraits, uncovering the story of Constance Hatchaway, is available in this auction. (lot #48, estimate: $50,000 – $80,000). At first, visitors see Constance smiling with a rose in hand. Then, they discover she is sitting on the grave of her late husband, George. Finally, the stretching portrait reveals how George died: a hatchet to the head. 

Known for decades only as “The Bride,” Constance Hatchaway eventually became enough of a fan favorite to earn both a canonical name and a larger role on the ride. The Constance Hatchaway stretching portrait available in this auction was produced in the 2000s based on Marc Davis’ artwork.

Design choices like the stretching portraits helped The Haunted Mansion set an eerie yet comical tone. Another example featured in the Potter & Potter sale is a ghost hand used on the ride in the 1970s (lot #37; estimate: $6,000 – $8,000). The shadow of this metal cutout gave the illusion that the hand of a ghost was circling a clock.

No “Groovy Movement” at Walt Disney World 

Beyond The Haunted Mansion, other lots in this auction offer a look into the early days of Disneyland and also Walt Disney World, which opened in 1971. That includes a collection of Walt Disney World employee documents given to the late magician and clown Bev Bergeron (lot #11; estimate: $50 – $100). Bergeron spent many years performing in Walt Disney World’s Diamond Horseshoe Revue.

Walt Disney World employee documents given to Bev Bergeron. Image from Potter & Potter.
Walt Disney World employee documents given to Bev Bergeron. Image from Potter & Potter.

The rules and regulations document for the Diamond Horseshoe Revue reminds performers that the show is a period piece. That means “there is no place for any ‘groovy’ movement.” Meanwhile, Bergeron makes his own contribution to the cover of Walt Disney World’s retirement plan, drawing a mustache and long eyelashes on Mickey Mouse. 

Potter & Potter’s Disneyana & Pop Culture auction begins on July 30th, 2021, at 11:00 AM EDT. Register to bid and view all 800+ lots on LiveAuctioneers.

Want to learn more about the intersection of the auction industry and pop culture? Auction Daily recently took a closer look at Sir Elton John’s touring piano.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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