The Graveyard Jamboree
The Phantom Five
Of course, the band would really be unimpressive without the fabulous vocal stylings of the "Phantom Five," a collection of singing marble busts. These singing statues (lead by bass vocalist Thurl Ravenscroft [second from left], who is famous for his "Grrrrrrr-REAT!" portrayal of Tony the Tiger) are projected faces on static bust props (in an effect very similar to that of the Madame Leota crystal ball.)
For the record, each filmstrip was labeled on the leader, and each bust was assigned a character name. They are, from left: Ned Nub (performed by Jay Meyer), Uncle Theodore (Thurl Ravrenscroft), Rollo Rumkin (Verne Rowe), Phineas Pock (Bob Ebright), and Cousin Al (Chuck Schroeder.) On February 14, 1969, all five vocalists gathered in Burbank at the Disney Studio to record the vocal parts for the "Phantom Five" scene, as well as a supplemental chorus that the five sing a capella at the end of the attraction as guests exit. The vocal session was arranged and directed by Allan Davies, a frequent Disney musical contributor.
The singing was recorded as a master soundtrack to which the faces would be separately filmed while lip-synching to the tape. Originally, five actors were to be selected to portray the busts on film, but when Davies saw the men recording the parts with lots of expression and character, he suggested that they be considered for the filmed roles as well. Photos of the singers were taken and sent to WED for reference during the sculpting of the busts, and the filming took place on February 21. In Persistence of Vision magazine, singer Jay Meyer recalls being placed in a harness (to restrict head movement) and being made-up to look like a statue. "You could wiggle your mouth, and your eyes... but don't move your head, or you're off camera," Meyer said.
As a special treat, you can now download a transcription of every note the Phantom Five quintet sing, in the form of sheet music. Composer and Haunted Mansion fan John Raines has painstakingly transcribed the entire graveyard singing bust sequence note by note (and he also included the a capella dirge heard at the ride exit), and has offered it to DoomBuggies.com fans free of charge. Download it here.
Meet the ghosts who have come out to socialize
Throughout the graveyard, there are a number of "pop-up" ghosts, which are a traditional part of dark ride and ghost train history. They are designed to provide light scares by catching viewers unaware.
In addition to the pop-up ghosts, there are a number of audio-animatronic characters milling about. Most are wearing translucent clothing and have translucent bodies, allowing the robotic frame to show through (which makes them appear vaguely skeletal.) UV black lighting is used extensively to illuminate flourescent colored clothing and props.
Pictured here and below are some sample images from the Haunted Mansion's graveyard. Notice the translucent bodies and robotic innards of the key performers. All throughout the graveyard, most of the characters are singing in sync with the band's soundtrack. Most of the characters pictured here appear shrouded in mist in the graveyard, because in addition to being lit dimly with black lighting, the scenes are set behind wall-to-wall thin black scrims, which are pieces of theatrical cloth used for various lighting effects. In this case, the scrims allow you to see through to the scenes beyond, yet retain enough opacity to make the scenes seem a bit hazy... as if a light fog is coating each set. Visit the DoomBuggies.com media pages for many more examples of isolated loops of sounds from the graveyard.
Pop-ups and Blasts
The Haunted Mansion has many amazing technological effects that require computer synchronization and constant attention, but it definitely hasn't forgotten its roots: the midway dark ride. Throughout the latter half of the ride, ghosts and ghouls pop-up from secret hiding places quite close to the Doom Buggy track to startle the unaware: a time-honored trick used by dark rides in carnivals worldwide. Pictured above: One of the Disney pop-up ghosts in the graveyard (seen from beneath the graveyard ground level), which is actually nothing more than a head and neck attached to a large piston that rams the assembly upward from behind a tombstone at a specific interval.
Here is a collection of shrieks, screeches, and howls used in the Haunted Mansion in conjunction with its pneumatic surprises (presented in .wav format for your computer's event-association enjoyment!)
An out-of-this-world diva
The opera singers pictured above were performed by soprano Loulie Jean Norman and tenor Bill Reeve. The recording session was directed by Buddy Baker himself, and he has spoken of recording a number of takes, because classically-trained Norman didn't want to stray too far from the actual melody line, which she had perfected. Talking to Persistence of Vision magazine, Baker recalls telling her that she was supposed to be playing "some kind of a nut... so just ad lib all over the place!" Of course she finally did give a suitably kooky performance, and her opera ghost has become a fan favorite.
By the way - if Norman's voice sounds somewhat familiar, that may be because she is also the soprano that warbles the famous theme to the Star Trek television series.
Pictured above are a few more behind-the-scenes photos of the graveyard's denizens: a lights-on view of an executioner and his victim; a couple enjoying a spot of tea from a levitating tea pot; another view of the executioner and the headless knight; a close-up of the mariner; and detail of one of the singing busts with the lights on.
A creepy crypt
After passing all of the ghosts who have responded to Leota's earlier summoning (including one apparition, right, that seems to be forming a familiar icon as it gestures toward you), your carriage passes under the ubiquitous raven, its eyes glowing red, as the Doom Buggies move into a large crypt the raven has perched upon. "Ah, there you are... and just in time," the Ghost Host intones, finally rejoining the Mansion's touring visitors. "There's a little matter I forgot to mention... beware of hitchhiking ghosts..."