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Don Hahn

Producer, Walt Disney Pictures ("The Haunted Mansion")

"The thing that is so wonderful about the Mansion [attraction] is that it is one show, yet it is placed in four different theme parks—Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Tokyo, and Paris—and each of the four shows has its very subtle distinctions that make it a different and interesting part of the family," Don Hahn said on the set of the Haunted Mansion movie.

"What I hope we can do with this film is create a fifth Mansion—another creation, a different part of the family that retains the feel of the others but builds on the premise." DoomBuggies.com staffer Wolf recently spoke with Hahn about the film as the DVD was being prepared for commercial release. (Pictured at right, from left: DoomBuggies staffers Nate, Wolf, and Artdude, with Hahn (standing) on the set of "The Haunted Mansion.")

Wolf: Your films have been nominated for a total of 17 Oscars including the first-ever Best Picture Oscar for an animated feature (Beauty and the Beast). Is that an animation record second only to Walt himself?

Don Hahn: If this number is accurate, it's less of a tribute to me and more of a testament to the great artists that I work with. This is especially true of Beauty and the Beast. It was a one of a kind film with a fantastic group of artists led by directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise. It's a movie where the animation, story and Howard and Alan's music all came together in perfect amounts to create something special, and the best picture nomination is a real tribute to the team that made it.

Some folks in the business are saying that traditional 2D animation is history, yet films like Triplets of Belleville and the work of artists like Miyazaki, as well as Disney's own films likeL ilo and Stitch, are proving to be both commercial and critical successes. Is the death knell of 2D premature?

Great animation works because of great stories and great characters regardless of technique.

You've said The Lion King was "a movie no one wanted to work on." With a hugely successful run, a well-received DVD release and a very popular Broadway adaptation, do you ever fight the urge to call some of the people who passed on it today and say "I told you so?"

I really can't blame people who didn't want to work on Lion King. If I told you that I was making a movie about a lion cub who gets framed for murder, with Hamlet overtones, with a funny flatulent warthog, set to Elton John's music, you'd probably run too. It worked out though thanks to a great story, great characters, great music, and once again, a great crew.

The Haunted Mansion is your first foray into totally live action films rather than a mix of live action and animation like Pete's Dragon and Roger Rabbit. Is it easier or harder filming totally live action?

They're all difficult in their own way, except live-action production moves along a lot faster. I've always loved animation, live combo movies. And, there was a time when combo movies like Mary Poppins or Roger Rabbit were an oddity. Now it seems that nearly every movie has animation components (Lord of the Rings, Hellboy, Spiderman, Van Helsing). Haunted Mansion is no different. It's loaded with animated effects in hundreds of shots, and sometimes in very subtle ways that the audience might not notice.

The sets of the film were staggering in size and scope, yet the cinematography didn't really capture that sense of vastness. Was the decision to have tight cinematography in an expansive environment intentional-to create a sense of claustrophobia or tension?

Yes, certainly Rob Minkoff and our cinematographer Remi Adefarian discussed every shot in great detail. I think what they captured is a feeling of suspense and cinematic tension by staying close to the characters and their point of view. Then when you do break out to see the great scope and scale of John Myhre's sets, it takes your breath away.

Having seen all of the changing portraits created for this film firsthand, I was surprised they weren't featured more prominently in the finished film. What was a favorite part of the film you wish would have escaped the editor's blade?

We managed to at least give the audience a glimpse of some of the set pieces from the attraction like the changing portraits, but not stay too long on these elements. I think Rob used these things really well as texture behind the main story. There was a little more to the back story of Gracey Manor that I would have loved to have expanded on in the film. A little of it was filmed, but much of it was not, but I always thought it was interesting.

I hear Terrence Stamp had a few choice words regarding his wirework the first day of shooting. Would you tell that story?

Well actually it was his last day of shooting, and simply put: after a couple of days of literally hanging from wires over the fires of hell, he was ready for a break. Who wouldn't be.

From a technical standpoint, this film is stunning... the costumes, the makeup, the effects, the sets. What, in your opinion, was the single biggest innovation?

There is so much beautiful film craft on display in Haunted Mansion, it's hard to put a finger on the single most innovative thing. Certainly the special effects were magnificent, but so were the sets, costumes, music and make-up. I think the way that Rob integrated it all was spectacular. He and the crew made it look easy and of course it really isn't at all.

I have to ask this, or I'll be pilloried by the fans: Will we ever see a release of The Haunted Mansion with outtakes and bloopers? In films like A Bug's Life, the animators created flubs for the end credits. There have to be genuine flubs from this live-action film.

I'm very happy to say that there's a bloopers and outtakes segment on the DVD and it's the real deal. We didn't concoct anything or make up any bloopers. When you spend four months in a crypt with a bunch of zombies, bloopers happen.

Fans also want to know if the unused Mardi Gras footage in the ballroom will ever see the light of day.

Yes, also on the DVD is a segment of out-of-picture material that includes the full Mardi Gras ball scene. It's a spectacular treat.

One final question on the minds of fans everywhere: Haunted Mansion 2?

Not yet, but who knows. Ghosts do have a way of reappearing.

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