August 9th was the official 40th Anniversary of The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. As I've been working late into the evening hours, this post comes as the attraction celebrates its 40th and 2 day anniversary.
The Haunted Mansion. There are several inspirations in my life, which have made a huge impact on my creative spirit, one of the strongest is The Haunted Mansion. The attraction opened its doors to on August 9, 1969 and has been a favorite of Disneyland guest ever since.
The Haunted Mansion has remained one of my favorites, along with the original version of The Pirates of the Caribbean, (minus the addition of the franchised Jack Sparrow crew). The Haunted Mansion remains a stunning example of how WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering), used to be able to transport us on adventures so enveloping and relevant that 40 years after its premier, The Haunted Mansion is still one of the top visited attractions in Disneyland. A testament to the amazing talents of the original WED Imagineers who have slowly vanished with the passing of time, taking their amazing talents with them.
I am very fortunate to have worked at Walt Disney Imagineering with some of the original and very talented Imagineers. One of these amazing people was Leota, who appears in The Haunted Mansion in the Séance Circle and again as Little Leota at the attractions exit.
Leota remains one of the most influential people in my life and I am honored to say she was one of my closest friends. Not only a friend, Leota was my mentor, teaching me more about the art of Imagineering than I could ever have imagined. When I think of Leota I see her jet black hair, her amazing smile and I hear her contagious laugh. Leota was a creative spirit, never afraid to share her knowledge and talent with me, for fear of giving away her trade secrets. The skills Leota taught me I use everyday in everything I create.
Words cannot express the gratitude I have to have known Leota, for her friendship and the gift of sharing her talents. After Leota left us, I was honored to be given the opportunity to design a new stained glass shade to hang over Leota's crystal ball in the Séance Circle at Disneyland's The Haunted Mansion. It was created in her favorite colors and if you look closely, you'll be able to see a stained glass spider on the front top of the shade, adorned with a vibrant red "L" on its abdomen in her honor.
Thank you Leota for being such an amazing friend, one who changed my life forever. I think of you everyday.
Another original Imagineer I was blessed to have worked with was Collin Campbell. Collin was like a grandfather, very soft-spoken, very funny and very talented.
As with Leota, Collin was excited to share his knowledge and I was a sponge, absorbing everything he shared. While working with Collin, I told him I still had my original Haunted Mansion LP. He laughed and said he’d not see it in years, and I told him I could remedy that. I brought my original childhood copy of The Haunted Mansion LP to work the next day and he laughed when he saw how worn or “loved” as he put it, the LP was. As he looked through the pages of the album, he told me stories about every painting he created for this now legendary piece of Disney history. When he reached the end he asked if I wanted him to sign it. The only answer I could give was yes.
Who could have known, the attraction that inspired me to play my Haunted Mansion LP hundreds of times as a child, in latter years, would provide me the opportunity opportunity to meet, learn, and work with two legendary WED Imagineering masters Collin and my dear friend and mentor Leota.
For me, The Haunted Mansion represents more than one of the most amazing attractions ever created, it reminds me of the amazing WED designers who created the masterpiece and how blessed I am to have known, worked, and learned from them.
Please do leave your comments, I've been, "Just dying to meet you." You can also find more on my Facebook page and at www.jimmypickering.com
My new book Skelly & Femur has been released, the follow-up to Skelly the Skeleton Girl. The first book, Skelly the Skeleton Girl, is about Skelly finding a bone, Skelly & Femur follows Skelly and her new best friend, Femur, on the mystery of searching for objects which have gone missing inand around Skelly Manor.