Entertainment Weekly released an exclusive first look at Jamie Lee Curtis as Madame Leota’s floating head in her crystal ball in the upcoming “Haunted Mansion” film.
Jamie Lee Curtis as Madame Leota
“Haunted Mansion” director Justin Simien called Jamie Lee Curtis’ take on Madame Leota “a little subversive” and “a little funny,” but said it packs “the gravitas you’d expect” from the character.
“She starts off as one of the relics, one of the items, one of the aspects of the house that has to be discovered, but becomes a functional character and a useful ally in the film,” Simien told EW. Leota’s story in the film is “entirely new” although rooted in the lore of the Haunted Mansion attraction.
“When I got the job, the first thing we did was we extensively toured [the ride],” Simien said. The director is a former Disneyland Cast Member and Walt Disney World choir singer.
The Disneyland team gave Simien access to the ride’s physical set pieces and its backstory “bible.”
In translating the ride to film, Simien made direct copies of the Haunted Mansion’s chairs, doorknobs, paintings, and other set pieces.
“You really do meet the mansion the way you would as a guest at the park: through the eyes of a new cast exploring the lore along with you,” Simien said. When possible, he and his team aimed to use practical effects in the film — just like the 1960s attraction does.
“You know there’s a trick being played on you,” he said about effects and the magic of the ride, “but you’re not sure how they did it. The Pepper’s Ghost effect [in the Haunted Mansion’s ballroom scene], it’s so old school, you know it’s not a screen, but it’s because it’s so old school that it feels like it’s really there. There’s a practicality to the tricks on the ride that I felt was important. When I took the job I said, ‘I don’t want to make CGI soup. We have to build the house.’ Even if we’re not doing an effect practically, we have to make it look like we did, because there’s something about the groundedness of the ride that makes it what it is. It makes it charming.”
The Haunted Mansion
This classic Disney attraction can now be found at several Disney Parks around the world. The first iteration opened in 1969 at Disneyland as part of New Orleans Square. Two years later, it was an opening day attraction in Liberty Square at Magic Kingdom. And in 1983, it was an opening day attraction at Tokyo Disneyland.
The Disneyland Paris version of Haunted Mansion is named Phantom Manor. And at Hong Kong Disneyland, Mystic Manor is a completely different attraction that draws some inspiration from Haunted Mansion.
The Haunted Mansion is full of famous ghostly characters like Madame Leota, the Bride, the subjects of the stretching room portraits, and the Hatbox Ghost.
The Hatbox Ghost was in the original Disneyland Haunted Mansion on opening day. Technology had not quite caught up to the ghost’s vanishing and appearing head, however, so the ghost only last a few weeks before disappearing for nearly 50 years.
The Hatbox Ghost returned to the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland in 2015. He appears at the end of the attic scene, after the Bride. He will soon be installed in the Magic Kingdom version of the Haunted Mansion.
Haunted Mansion Movie
The upcoming “Haunted Mansion” film follows a doctor (Rosario Dawson) and her 9-year-old son (Chase Dillon) moving into the Haunted Mansion in New Orleans. Dawson’s character ends up calling in a priest (Owen Wilson) to exorcise the mansion. They also get help from a widowed scientist-turned-failed-paranormal expert (LaKeith Stanfield), a French Quarter psychic (Tiffany Haddish), and a historian (Danny DeVito).
Jamie Lee Curtis portrays Madame Leota and Jared Leto portrays the Hatbox Ghost. Curtis called the film “modern, fresh, old-fashioned, and scary, but not scary like a monster movie. It’s scary like a Disney ride, and funny. If you go on that ride, there’s a lot of humor as well as the scary, ghost-y stuff.”
During the “Studio Showcase Day 1: Celebrate the Magic of Disney and Pixar” panel at the D23 Expo 2022 in Anaheim, the new “Haunted Mansion” film debuted a trailer to fans. Director Justin Simien took to the stage to speak about the project and detail some of the cameos audiences can expect from Winona Ryder, Dan Levy, Hasan Minhaj, and more.
Previously, the “Haunted Mansion” film was due in theaters on August 11, 2023. However, the film’s release date was pushed up to July 28.
Below is the teaser trailer for the movie:
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