They say that art has the power to heal and in the case of the just-announced Guillermo del Toro written and produced (and possibly directed) feature film version of the classic Disney attraction The Haunted Mansion, I hope that'll prove to be true. You see, I need del Toro's big screen Haunted Mansion to mend a bigtime trauma from my childhood in a way that Eddie Murphy's misguided 2003 Haunted Mansion adaptation could never have accomplished.
Back in the far-flung past, my newly remarried mother and my stepfather planned a family trip to Disney World as their honeymoon. We were going to drive from Massachusetts to Florida, hauling our trailer and stay in the Fort Wilderness campground at Disney World for a week full of Magic Kingdom enchantment. This was before Disney World expanded into all the Epcot Center stuff and the Universal Theme Park and whatever else they've got going on these days. But even with "just" the Magic Kingdom to look forward to, I was damn excited.
The one attraction that I wanted to see, the one ride that was going to make this trip unforgettable for me, was (surprise!) The Haunted Mansion. Even before any plans for us to go to Disney were hatched, I knew all about The Haunted Mansion. I had a book about it, a kid's illustrated book, that I used to read over and over. I would search for any kind of pictures about the actual attraction in books about Disney World. I was a Haunted Mansion junkie.
For the months leading up to the trip, being in The Haunted Mansion was nearly all I thought about. It was damn sure all I thought about during the long, two-day drive down to Florida. When we finally got to Disney World, it was agony waiting to get our trailer situated and to get over to the Magic Kingdom itself. I was done with waiting by this time - done with it!
Once we were through the gates of the Magic Kingdom, I dragged my mom and stepdad past whatever attractions were between me and The Haunted Mansion. The spinning teacups, Space Mountain, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride - all of that second rate shit could wait. As we got to the Liberty Square area, I could see the Mansion. It was finally right in front of me. But oddly, there didn't seem to be any line to get in. Hey, fine by me - I wasn't in the mood to stand around. But as we got closer, there was a sign on a post near the Mansion informing visitors that this attraction would be closed for renovation for the next two weeks. I repeat: CLOSED. FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS.
On reading those words, I literally dropped to my knees and cried out "NOOOOOO!!" My childhood had its share of let downs but Dear God, what a blow this was. The wind was completely knocked out of me. For all I cared, we could've driven back to Massachusetts right then. After that intial shock, I rallied and managed to have a reasonably good - sometimes great - time over the next seven days. I was, after all, a kid in Disney World. But for the rest of our stay, every time that I walked past that closed Mansion, it was like seeing the ghost of what might've been.
So while some might find the notion of del Toro tackling a Haunted Mansion movie as being beneath his prodigious talent level, I'm all for it. I never returned to Disney World since that trip thirty years ago and although I'd love to do so sometime - especially now that I'm married with a young son - the chances are slim that it'll happen. At least not anytime soon. So the thought of a truly outstanding Haunted Mansion movie - and in 3-D? - now that I can get behind.
Maybe I shouldn't get my hopes up too much. The last time I looked forward to The Haunted Mansion, it didn't work out so well. I can't help it, though - the kid in me is still dying to get into that ride.