Eerie Audio Files, Continued
The Story and Song of the Haunted Mansion
The Haunted Mansion has three official story records: one is "The Story and Song from the Haunted Mansion," an LP featuring a pre-Happy-Days Ronny Howard; then there is a shorter children's record titled "Walt Disney Presents the Haunted Mansion," one of Disney's many "See, Hear, Read" records narrated by Robie Lester, a popular narrator for many of Disney's childrens albums. The third Haunted Mansion story album is the B-side of "Trick or Treat," a Disneyland Record starring Donald Duck, his nephews, and Witch Hazel, with the original "Story and Song" recording edited down to fit completely on the B-side of this 12" LP.
During this same 1969-71 period, Howard was teamed with Lester for other Disneyland albums, including The Tin Woodman of Oz and The Orange Bird. Along with Sam Edwards and Ginny Tyler, they were among the stock company for the children's albums during that period.
Recorded in 1969 (a year after he stopped playing Andy Griffith's son Opie), "The Story and Song from the Haunted Mansion" (Out of print; Disneyland Records 3947) featured the young "Ronny" Howard (above left) as "Mike," a young teen out on a date with "Karen" (voiced by Lester [ right], who was nominated for a Grammy for her work in The Aristocats.)
A "Grrrrrr-eat!" album
The story is narrated by the one-and-only Thurl Ravenscroft, who is one of Disney's best-known vocal talents (and is also known for being the original voice of Tony the Tiger, and the singer of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," from Chuck Jones' classic cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas). The ride's main scenes are faithfully represented, often with the original sound effects, making this an album worth buying a turntable for. Click here for a transcript of the record (which you might like to compare with the actual Haunted Mansion attraction transcript.) The album contains an 11-page book of beautiful illustrations by Disney Imagineer/artist Collin Campbell. Listen to our recording of the album to see how the LP's Ghost Host, voiced by Pete Renoudet, compares with the attraction's Ghost Host, voiced by popular Disneyland vocal talent Paul Frees.
In an excerpt from Mouse Tracks, an exhaustive history of Disneyland Records, author/historian Tim Hollis notes the following about the Haunted Mansion album:
"Instead of simply reproducing the ride's sound track, as had been done for it's a small world and The Enchanted Tiki Room, or letting a "second cast" recreate the dialogue, as in Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion album was produced as a complete story, although certainly elements from the earlier formats were used as well. The resulting production has attained a sort of cult status among Disneyland/Haunted Mansion fans, as much for its performances as for the fact that it incorporated several elements that either never made it into the final attraction as built, or which were removed and/or revised over time."
Cult status indeed. Visit eBay and find yourself a copy, if you're lucky enough.
Pictured here is the 1974 LP Trick or TreatThe Stories of Halloween (Out of print; Disneyland Records DQ-1358). The whole of side two is an abbreviated version of the recording made for the soundtrack album mentioned above. Side one is the unrelated (but famous) Donald Duck story"Trick or Treat," featuring Witch Hazel and Donald's nephews. Click the link below to listen to side one, the story of "Trick or Treat."
Click the link below to listen to side two, an abbreviated version of Disneyland Records 3947 - "The Story and Song of the Haunted Mansion."
No Rainy Day for Renoudet
"The final actor to be given a starring role [in the Mansion soundtrack project] was Pete Renoudet as the Ghost Host. Whereas the ride's narration was performed by Paul Frees in his most sinister intonations, his expected salary for such work precluded him from being used for the LP, so the versatile Renoudet was assigned what is probably his best-known role. As we shall soon see, it was far from Renoudet's only Disney performance, but it was certainly one of his most memorable."
"Yo-your Gh-ghost Ho-host..."
Peter Renoudet went on to make other significant contributions to the Haunted Mansion attraction as well. He loaned his voice to queue recordings used in the attraction's early days, and WDI sources have recalled him as one of the potential applicants for the original role of "Ghost Host" (although Renoudet himself doesn't recall that being the case.) Regardless, for many kids throughout the '70s, Renoudet was the voice of the "Ghost Host" due to his work on the album (and the spooky electronic echo effect that helped to give the role such distinction.)
Incidentally, Renoudet was also featured in dozens of Disney projects, as well as a few Disneyland attractionsmost notably as "Henry," one of the Country Bears.
Haunted Mansion fan Jeff Babb writes about discovering that Disney had just released a record of the Haunted Mansion at age 10:
"In August 1969 The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland opened, and being that the two things I dug the most in those days were ghosts and Disneyland, there was little else that could have excited me more... I begged my parents to take us to Disneyland the next weekend so that we could see it. My father squashed the idea with cold hard facts; it cost him fifty dollars to take his family of five for a day at Disneyland, and he wouldn't be able to afford that kind of dough until the next summer.
"As any ten year-old child will tell you, a few months is equivalent to forever, especially when that child is waiting for his birthday, Christmas, or a trip to Disneyland. I was no different, and I was sure I would never get to see the ghosts waiting for me in the spooky old house I had seen at Disneyland since I was six.
"I am not sure when I first discovered that Disney released the Haunted Mansion album, but I was once again overcome with joy when I did learn of it. In my little ten year-old mind I relished the idea that I could buy the album, and then enjoy the ride over and over whenever I felt like it. Sure, it wasn't the same as going to Disneyland, but hey, a 33 1/3 vinyl simulation was as good as a DVD in those days, and so I promptly got on the phone, and dialed up every record store I could find in the yellow pages..." You can visit Babb's blog to read more of the story - and as you can see in the photo, the quest does have a happy ending.
Digging up a great scriptThe "Story and Song" album was recorded on May 23, 1969, and one of the original "Storyteller Scripts" has been discovered!
This script, unearthed from the archives of the Walt Disney Music Company, was used during the recording of "The Story and Song from the Haunted Mansion." While the script reads nearly the same as the actors' lines on the record (save for an extra line for the "Raven" at the end which was edited out of the project), it is interesting to note that Pete Renoudet maintains a similar inflection to Paul Frees' performance throughout the record's introduction to the "Ghost Host." Since Frees' "Ghost Host" was probably recorded in February of '69, Renoudet must have had an opportunity to hear the attraction soundtrack before recording his version for this record.
Click here to view the script.
A special cassette tape re-release in 1998
Walt Disney Records decided to rerelease "The Story and Song from the Haunted Mansion" in late 1998 as a special market release, though the cassette is now out of print. The recording was retitled "A Spooky Night In Disney's Haunted Mansion" (ISBN 0-7634-0489-6).
DoomBuggies.com spoke to Randy Thornton of Walt Disney Records, who was instrumental in bringing the re-recording to life. Click here to read an interview with Mr. Thornton about the project.
A child's tour through Disney's Haunted Mansion
In 1970 Disney released a Haunted Mansion record for children. Titled "Walt Disney Presents the Haunted Mansion" (Out of print; Disneyland Vista 339), this "See, Hear, Read" 7- inch record quickly became one of the most popular of Disneyland's "Original Little Long Playing Records." This 33.3 RPM recording is a children's version of the Haunted Mansion story, tamed a bit and narrated by Disneyland Story Reader Robie Lester (who performed the voice of "Karen" on the 12-inch soundtrack album, and narrated many of Disney's "See, Hear, Read" recordings.)
Side two includes two tracks from the original "Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House" album - ostensibly not the tracks that the original "Chilling" album recommends parents keep away from children, however. The 24-page book, which contained art that was more stylized than that of the soudtrack album, was also released separately by Golden Press to drug stores and five-and-dimes as a paperback story book without the record.
A spooky classroom
In 1976, this story was released to educators in a special "teacher's edition" for classroom read-along use (Walt Disney Read Along RA-42). While the book and art were essentially the same, the story was re-recorded with a male narrator, and the project is oriented toward a shared group experience. In an introductory recording, the narrator, Marvin Miller, explains to children what a "mansion" is, and prepares them for the story to come. After the story is read, a final wrap-up activity is given, in which children are asked to draw a picture frame and create a portrait - perhaps a "new spook who might like to move into the Haunted Mansion." The record was undoubtedly a hit in elementary schools around Halloween time, with the added plug for the Disney Haunted Mansion attraction a little icing on the cake for the publisher.
Incidentally, Marvin Miller was a very prolific announcer with a deep baritone voice who was a narrator on television shows such as "Batman" in the '60s and "Disneyland" in the '70s. He also voiced innumerous cartoon voices, appeared in many feature films, and narrated the entire King James Version of the Bible for Audio-Books. Characters he voiced in his career include Robby the Robot, Genghis Khan, and Mr. Proteus.
The story behind Disney's The Haunted Mansion: 30th Anniversary Limited Edition Compact Disc
On June 26, 1999, Disneyland released (in conjunction with the Art of the Haunted Mansion special event held at the park) a 30th anniversary limited edition CD honoring the Haunted Mansion. The disc was produced by Red Dot Net, a digital on demand company, meaning that each CD is burned individually, rather than being "pressed" from a glass master disc as most mass-marketed CDs are. Although there was a special edition sold on the first day of the CD's release, The "limited edition" tag on the cover refered to the period of time the disc was available for sale, since the "limited edition" cover remained on discs sold for many months. Eventually, "limited edition" was removed from the cover art, and one of the tracks (a Phantom Manor tour) was removed, though the discs remain on sale. In 2001, the same disc also went on sale at Walt Disney World featuring cover art with the Orlando Haunted Mansion facade.
As you can see from the cardboard point-of-purchase display pictured at left, Disneyland started promoting the release of the disc weeks before the initial release. The discs were sold for $19.99 through the same channels that sold the now-defunct on-demand "Disneyland Forever" custom CDs, although the Haunted Mansion discs came in special pre-assembled jewel cases with a very informative booklet designed by Walt Disney Imagineering that explained each track and contained many pieces of conceptual art. (Later releases from 2002 on didn't contain the booklet.)
A limited limited-edition
The first 999 copies of the disc were burned onto specially silk-screened CDs that pictured the glowing, green face of the 13-hour grandfather clock from the Mansion's Corridor of Doors set. These 999 CDs (which sold out approximately two hours after Disneyland opened the day they went on sale) also had a special 13th track included on the disc, and they were each hand-signed by both Disney composer Buddy Baker and Disney lyricist "X" Atencio, both of whom are responsible for the attraction's "Grim Grinning Ghosts" theme song. These special CDs came with a card inserted that contained the signatures.
The developers of the project
"We saw all the pirated discs starting to make their way among the collectors, and thought, hey, we can do this much better," said WDI's Chris Merritt in a conversation with DoomBuggies.com. He, along with a number of other Imagineers and Disney employees, started researching the archives to find the original pieces of tape that were remastered and rebuilt into the special project. "In one case that I can think of, we had to use pirated materials ourselves," he mused. "The clip of Paul Frees using a Lugosi accent just didn't turn up. We couldn't find it anywhere. So we had to use the best copy we could find out there. That piece has been circulating for some time."
The contents of the CD
In addition to numerous Marc Davis sketches in the booklet art, the 30th anniversary disc contains a wealth of audio treasures that only WDI could have supplied, making this CD a fascinating historical document. Click here for a track list, along with the commentary supplied in the CD insert.
Collectible editions of this CD occasionally become available on Amazon.com, and the disc makes a worthy addition to any audio library. Click here to check for availability.