Friday, September 02, 2011

Haunted Mansion: Original Marc Davis Art

Two years ago in August 2009, Disneyland's Haunted Mansion celebrated its 40th Anniversary. To commemorate the event, there was a special 40th Anniversary Event that included a panel of speakers such as Disney Legends Alice Davis & X Atencio. Alice let it be known she felt that much of what Marc put into the Mansion (the gags, the humor, and his skill as an artist) had either been ruined or removed. Moderator Tim O’Day attempted damage control by saying that Marc's stretch portraits were still in the mansion, but Alice quickly corrected him that the versions being used now were not by Marc, nor was the coloring correct.

This recent acquisition shows what the Alexander Nitrokoff portrait looked like on December 7, 1969, just a few months after the Mansion first opened. It's pretty fantastic that the photographer put the cool little quotes on the back of the photo; this attraction must have made quite an impression on him!

You can clearly see the difference between the portraits of some 40+ years ago with the ones of today. Davis' have his signature humor mixed in with just enough of a sinister quality to let the guest know that there is more to this elevator than one might think.

Sure, the gag is the same, but the realistic style minus the humor doesn't make the gag quite as effective. Davis knew what he was doing.

Here you can also compare the original Davis version of The Widow Patecleaver alongside the contemporary one.

Same thing...the creepy yet humorous nature of the portraits is virtually nonexistent.

See more vintage & current Disneyland Haunted Mansion photos at my Haunted Mansion web page.


Snow White Archive said...

My vote definitely goes to the original Davis renditions. The photos with the notes on the back are a nice find.

HBG2 said...

Fantastic acquisition Dave! You amaze me.
Much as I love and admire Davis's work, I prefer the more realistic style. The ORIGINAL original Davis paintings (which everyone has seen) had daring, unusual coloration. That was when they were still thinking the interior of the HM was going to be kinda bizarre and surreal. But eventually they decided to make the house normal looking inside. Davis's originals never made it past the sketch phase (although they look close to being finished paintings). The so-called Davis portraits you're featuring here preserve the Davis characters faithfully, but the coloration has been normalized. IMO, it's not a successful hybrid, and the decision to let go of the slightly cartoonish characters as Davis drew them and reinterpret them as normal-looking portraits was sound. They work better, I think.

Major Pepperidge said...

Gosh, I disagree with HBG2. He's not wrong, I just feel differently!

I've seen some other comparisons on another website (can't come up with it at the moment), and the current portraits are pretty awful. Marc Davis' artwork has a certain delightful, whimsical-yet-evil quality. The eyes on his characters speak volumes! The gentleman in the first image has a crazy "Svengali" glare, whereas the new version looks like he's had a lobotomy. Yes, they are not "realistic", but neither are the newer examples, really. And I like the unusual colors.

The new versions are dull and, worst of all, not particularly well painted. The face on that old lady, yeesh. With all of the talent at Disney's disposal, this is the best they can do? I hate to bash an artist's work, but I calls 'em like I sees 'em, in this case.

Presumably the portraits are now Ink jet prints on canvas - if only they could reproduce Davis' originals. No wonder Alice Davis is upset!

Ha ha, I'm all riled up!! ;-)

Daveland said...

Major - Head over to Trader Sam's at the Disneyland Hotel, have a cocktail, and hopefully the stress of my post won't ruin the 3-day weekend.

TokyoMagic! said...

I agree with Snow White Sanctum and Major Pepperidge. Maybe this is an extreme comparison, but wouldn't it be the same as changing any other artist's if they took down the Mona Lisa, put it in storage and then put up someone else's altered version of her. I can already hear people screaming that it's not the same thing, but in my opinion, it is.

I say, bring back Marc Davis' originals! And while they're at it, bring back the original bride in the attic!

Connie Moreno said...

Wow, I had no idea things had changed so much!!

PsySocDisney said...

I'm just wondering why they were replaced to begin with? I mean, not that this isn't a common theme in recent Disney past, but still I would like to know the reason.
I think the humor is still a key element in the HM today, no matter how subtle, so I do agree that the originals were best.

HBG2 said...

I delved into this topic in a couple of posts at my own blog, so I won't regurgitate it here on Dave's bandwidth, but yeah, I agree with Major P that the current set is pretty lackluster, and sadly will continue to be so for some time since they are now reproduced mechanically. But they used to be hand-painted, which meant they could undergo subtle reinterpretations by different artists, and some of those were excellent in their own way. Again, I love the Davis original sketches; I just don't think these hybrid paintings work particularly well (i.e. Davis designs with the colors drastically naturalized).

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave - - Tim O'Day here. Yes, I remember that night all too well. Alice is a dear friend (as was Marc) and there is no arguing with her points. The originals are always best. Nonetheless, it was a fun evening, if not slightly awkward at points ; )

JG said...

What the Major, TM, and SWS said.

Although the new ones are fine, The old ones were better.

Sigh. Why can't they leave these things alone?


Unknown said...

I own the original concept drawing of the "hitchhiking ghosts" for the haunted mansion. I bought from an auction at Cal Arts in Valencia. I am very disappointed that the haunted house is not the same. In Marc's drawing it has a ghost, a man with a top hat and bag, and a long haired man with a ball and chain. I bought it because in my childhood (late 60's) it was my favorite part of the ride.

Daveland said...

Laura - The Hitchhiking Ghost animatronic figures are still at the end of the Haunted Mansion attraction. They look very similar to what was originally there. What exactly are you angry about?