You may have heard the theory that you metaphorically die on the Haunted Mansion ride. When you enter the mansion the Ghost Host says the only way out is to die. As the ride starts, the unseen ghosts are trying to scare you. In the middle, you can slightly see their ethereal forms in the ballroom, because you called them during the séance part of the ride. At the end, they are fully formed and visible, and the human graveyard worker is terrified by you in the doom buggy. The theory goes, the moment of death is as you pass the axe wielding bride and your buggy rotates, and you descend backward down in the graveyard. The séance plays a pivotal role in the evolution of the story as it bridges the gap between the unseen and the seen. Also, I believe it has the distinction of being the area where you spend the most time. Usually you are moving through hallways and twisting around the graveyard, but in the séance scene the Imagineers are so confident in the illusion that they let you rotate almost 360° around the table inspecting the floating crystal ball from almost every angle.
Over the years the floating head has been achieved in a variety of ways. Initially, it was a film projection on a static white face; in the 1990s the image was projected via fiber optics from inside an opaque head; in 2004 it switched back to an external HD projector that could sync with the head that would now be floating around in the air on a planned trajectory.
The video was the first thing to procure and version of the original recordings are easily found on YouTube, most have all the lines spliced together and some even have been enhanced with effects. The recording is amazing quality and would look great just projected on your wall. The recording is a combination of two women; the face is a Disney employee Leota Toombs while the voice is none other than Eleanor Audley who also did the voice of Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty and Lady Tremaine in Cinderella.
To actually project the head, I would be combining a little bit of the original static head with a battery powered cordless HD projector. The head came in the form of a Styrofoam mannequin head. For the projector I bought the Deeplee projector on Amazon. It is small, has an internal battery, built in speaker, remote, and can play videos from a USB cable or micro SD card. The wig was purchased on Amazon along with the neon green extensions. I recruited the services of my mother-in-law to tease the hair out and hairspray it to voluminously fill up the sphere.
I realized quickly in early tests that the eyes and mouth of the projection moved while the static lips and sculpted eyes of my head did not which created a less than convincing effect. I sanded away the features and sculpted a smooth face over the head with the Smooth On Free Form Air I used in the Leota Tombstone blog (to read about the product go here). The effect was much more convincing now.
As for the base and ball that was achieved with an ornate candle holder bought on a 50% off week at Hobby Lobby. While there I bought a large 12” wooden plate to serve as the base for the globe. The crystal ball itself came from Lightbulbsurplus.com lamp supply store where they even custom cut the opening for you. I went with 16″ sphere with a 10″ opening.
To hide the projector, I devised a way to place it in a custom made wooden book stand that holds the book. It was cut, glued, nailed, and stained. This book is in the ride and would easily hide the small projector.
I found an old, large dictionary that would serve as the book and found some of the pages from the ride online. I printed them out to match the size of the dictionary pages.
To finish it off I got an large round beach blanket, I know the colors don’t match the ride but they did match the green and purple color scheme for our haunted house/party.
The tarot cards were made by printing off a design on line, cutting to the right size and laminating them.
The LED flickering candles have an actual wax exterior and were obtained at Hobby Lobby (on sale of course). The finished product looks convincing and who knows, maybe next year I’ll make the head float.
Until next time…
The Imagine Ears features the DIY projects, adventures, and thoughts of a father and daughter who use a shared love of all things Disney to create memories together through encouraging her interests in architecture, design, Imagineering, while exploring history and science.