Saturday, October 8, 2016

Haunted Mansion Books

A short entry this week, as I am still recovering from a cold, a busy week at work, stress over a sick cat, and a week’s vacation in Walt Disney World. However, I thought it would be fun for the month of October to celebrate Halloween and my love of Disney Parks by focusing on some Haunted Mansion merchandise. This week, I wanted to talk about two recent books focusing on the attraction.

The first is a new picture book, described as the first in a series of Disney Parks Presents books. Illustrated by James Gilleard, the book takes the reader a journey through the Haunted Mansion. The story is simply the song from the attraction, Grim Grinning Ghosts, by Buddy Baker and Xavier Atencio, and the book includes a CD with the song. 

I love the Haunted Mansion, and I thought this was a great way to re-experience the ride. The journey actually begins on the title page, in the room with the stretching portraits, and continues through the first set of spooky tableaux before passing Madame Leota in her crystal ball and then the classic ballroom scene.

I felt the art really captured the tone and feel of the ride, while still expressing a clear, individual style. I liked the idea that the reader is following a raven (seen in every image) through the attraction. What particularly impressed me was the fact that I was able to spot almost every detail I remembered from the ride in the art. Every time I looked for a specific ghost in the ballroom, for example, I found them. The only thing I was disappointed not to find were the graveyard cats. Otherwise, the attention to detail is remarkable.

Because the book illustrates a song and scenes from the ride, it probably works better as a memento of the attraction than a story book in its own right. When this book was announced, Disney said this was only the first book in the series, and that we could expect future volumes to illustrate Pirates of the Caribbean and the Jungle Cruise. If those books are as well done as this one, I’ll be happy to add them to my library.

Another fictional Haunted Mansion book that recently materialized is the children’s chapter book, Tales from the Haunted Mansion Volume 1: The Fearsome Foursome. I was pretty excited about this book as well, particularly since it is illustrated by one of my favorite comics artists, Kelley Jones. 

The story, by “Amicus Arcane,” (actually TV writer John Esposito) is a fun quartet of juvenile horror stories told to a group of four schoolchildren by the Mansion’s librarian, Arcane. I was surprised that the stories were actually about the four kids; I had expected the stories to be about the established residents of the Mansion. However, I found the stories surprisingly gruesome, given the intended audience. 

Esposito’s writing experience has been on shows like Stephen King’s Graveyard Shift and RL Stine’s The Haunting Hour, and the book is similar in tone to those shows. While the stories may not be directly about the ghosts from the Haunted Mansion, there are some cute nods to the attraction. For example, in one story, one kid is dared to spend an hour inside a closed coffin. When he gets into the coffin, the lid is held up by a safety bar. His friend tells him, “Don’t pull down on the safety bar. I will lower it for you,” a line familiar to riders of the attraction.

Because the book was only tangentially related to the stories of the Haunted Mansion, I didn’t find it as compelling as the picture book, or Marvel’s Disney Kingdoms Haunted Mansion comic, which I hope to discuss next week. But it was a diverting couple of hours, so while perhaps not essential to Haunted Mansion collections, it’s not a waste of time either.

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