Long before this new version of the Haunted Mansion came about, Disney previously tried creating a theatrical adventure based on the iconic Disneyland ride.
In 2003, Eddie Murphy led a Rob Minkoff-directed adaptation of The Haunted Mansion. To put it lightly, the movie did not do well. It currently sits at a 14% critic approval rating, boasts a 31% with its audience score, and brought in roughly $75 million at the domestic box office.
Despite its lackluster reception, it's always and forever a part of The Haunted Mansion’s legacy, alongside the ride itself. With early reactions consistently pointing out all the references and Easter eggs in the new movie, one can’t help but wonder how often Disney thought of Eddie Murphy’s original tale.
This Haunted Mansion Will Differ From Eddie Murphy's
Haunted Mansion Director Justin Simien exclusively spoke with The Direct’s Russ Milheim about the upcoming Disney movie and how it compares to Eddie Murphy’s 2003 adaptation of the same Disneyland ride.
When asked if there were any specific ways he aimed to be similar to Murphy’s first movie, the director shared how he “poured over a lot of the production notes and images and references:”
“There's a lot of love in that movie. There's a lot of intention in that movie. I poured over a lot of the production notes and images and references and stuff. You know, I don't know how successful the movie was for me, but a lot of people also really love that movie.”
Despite the movie not landing personally for Simien, “there were some elements” from that original movie they wanted to include. But, at the end of the day, this new story was “pretty much a total departure:”
“And there were some elements that I wanted to make sure that we gave in our movie, that people who were fans of that movie, you know, would feel like this movie wasn't just a total departure. But to be honest, it's pretty much a total departure. It takes place in New Orleans, but our mansion, you know, more closely resembles the Disneyland mansion that's in New Orleans Square. And it's a totally original story, in spite of being kind of IP driven and working with characters that have already been established.”
The director gave lots of that credit to the film’s writer, Katie Diploid, who already figured out most of the story elements by the time he came on board.
Simien admitted that he did try to keep previous iterations of the movie’s concept “out of [his] thoughts:”
“And so a lot of that was Katie [Diploid’s] work and was kind of figured out already. But I didn't really--I really tried to keep that movie, whatever Guillermo [Del Toro] was planning, kind of out of my thoughts.”
According to the filmmaker, he “had a really personal connection to this film,” and he finds the culture of New Orleans, in general, to be “really inspiring:”
“I had a really personal connection to this film. This movie was about a man that is funny on the outside because he's going through a lot of difficult emotions on the inside. I really related to that. This is a movie that takes place in New Orleans, it's a town in a city that I care very much about and whose culture I find really inspiring. It's an ensemble, a lot of my movies. So much of what I make is ensemble comedy. [There’s also some] Trojan housing some bigger ideas. So for me, it was personal. And I leaned into my instincts, and I leaned into my collaborators. And just, you know, the rest is sort of, it's not really my job. You know, so I didn't really spend too much time in those worlds.”
What Comes After Haunted Mansion?
It’s clear from the marketing and promotional material alone that this new Haunted Mansion is extremely different than what came before in 2003.
As Justin Simien mentioned, one of those key differences is how visually faithful this new take is. That’s something that holds incredible importance to fans and can extend the longevity of an adaptation like this, no matter what the movie’s actual quality ends up being.
So far, those who saw early screenings seem generally positive about their experiences. More detailed reviews won’t be hitting the web until closer to the movie’s release date.
One can't help but wonder what iconic Disneyland rides could be next on the studios’ checklist. Should fans start looking forward to Space Mountain or Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride? Perhaps Matterhorn, an Abominable Snowman-centric action-thriller, could be the way to go?
Haunted Mansion hits theaters on Friday, July 28.