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"The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion"

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Randy Thornton

Producer, Walt Disney Records

Randy Thornton, an award-winning producer for Walt Disney Records, is well-known for his theme park albums and remixes. He is responsible for recreating the feel and emotion of an attraction by mixing its audio elements to describe a memory for the listener. Thornton is also largely responsible for maintaining and remastering the Walt Disney Records archival recordings.

Randy Thornton describes the difficulty in recapturing the feeling of an attraction, such as the Haunted Mansion, below:

"When I select a track to be included, I contact Imagineering's Sound Department. At the same time, I have to get legal clearance from our lawyers before WDI will allow me to transfer any material. The work at WDI is merely for the transfer. It was when I was there for the Theme Park Sing Along that I discovered that there are no linear versions of any of these materials. For example, the music for The Haunted Mansion is a series of 1 minute loops (music designed to play over and over with no real beginning or end). All this music plays at the same time throughout the Mansion - so I have a loop that is 1 minute long, but 32 to 48 tracks deep. So as you can imagine, transfer time is minimal but the figuring out of what goes where and in what order is where I spend the most time. (The extended mix of "Grim Grinning Ghosts" took three days to complete). I have found that there is no documentation (like a typical track list) where these things are.

"I also feel that not only should the album have a flow, a beginning, middle and end, so should each song. Now these songs were not composed and/or recorded for use on an album. So I combine elements of the songs to create a listening experience focused on the music. I've always wanted versions of these songs that will allow me to close my eyes and imagine that I'm on the ride. I don't included dialog or the narrative unless it's like a trademark (like "Dead Men Tell No Tales," etc.). Just a smattering of dialog. It's the musical impression of the attractions and the park I really want to convey - for the only true way to experience these attractions is to actually be there."

In 1998, Disney rereleased the classic 1969 album (The Story and Song from the Haunted Mansion) on a limited edition tape cassette only, retitled A Spooky Night in Disney's Haunted Mansion. Randy was one of the folks behind the rerelease. Here are a few quick notes from Randy on that project.

DoomBuggies.com: It's interesting that the title of the album was changed for the rerelease. Any particular reason for that? Was it deemed to be a more marketable solution?

Randy Thornton: I suggested the name change. If this album was to be released through The Archive Series (as I had originally planned) the name would not have changed (because I would have used all of the original artwork). However, the deal that was struck with the distributor positioned the recording as a new release. I didn't want people to think that by using the original title that it was the actual soundtrack to the attraction - the masses may not know of the original album which is a story about a night out that goes awry. If we had used the original artwork, I wouldn't have suggested the title change. But everything looked different and could be misleading.

Was anything really reworked from the original master?

Nothing was changed from the original album master.

Why was it a cassette-only release? Do you know if the HM web-site community had anything to do with the re-release of this album?

It was just a Halloween special release for a specific distribution client. It was they who only wanted cassette.

Why was the release transparent on the Disney Records web site? They seem to list every little release they make, down to each sing along cassette and compilation, yet this release was never mentioned anywhere. I couldn't even find mention of it via a keyword search.

It was a client specific release and not a general release. It's like the samplers that are sometimes put together for places like Target. Those don't make it to the Disney website either.

Thanks for clearing some of this up, Randy.

Hope I answered your questions. Thanks for asking!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Following is a little bit of information about the original 1969 release that was referred to in the previous interview. The original long-playing album, titled "The Story and Song from The Haunted Mansion" (on Disneyland Records, No. 3947) had an 11-page illustrated book. The album was narrated by Thurl Ravenscroft, the voice of Tony the Tiger, singer of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" (from the holiday classic The Grinch Who Stole Christmas) and voice of one of the singing busts in the graveyard scene. Two teenagers on the album are played by an adolescent Ron Howard (yes, THAT Ron Howard) and singer Robie Lester (voice of Jessica in another holiday classic, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town and singing voice for Eva Gabor in The Rescuers and The Aristocats.) The Ghost Host is created with a creepy double-phase stereo effect, and was voiced by Pete Renoudet (a.k.a. "Renaday"), frequent Disney film bit actor and voice of Henry in Disneyland's Country Bear Jamboree. The head in the crystal ball is Eleanor Audley, voice of Cinderella's stepmother (from "Cinderella") and Malificent (from "Sleeping Beauty.") The album contains the song, "Grim Grinning Ghosts," written by Buddy Baker and "X" Atencio

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