Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Mystery Project

Greetings Ghost Fans,

This week will be a slightly different style of posting. Joe (Datamiester of Disneyland3D blog) has been working diligently over the past 2 months to create something really amazing. Considering that I only contributed files and a few constructive criticisms, I can't really take credit for any of these. So, I will now hand you over to someone who can, Joe himself.

"I’m sure that building what is there at DL sometimes gets a little boring. So have you ever considered modeling some concepts of what never made it?...Honestly, if you did that with Mansion, I’d totally help you out if you give me dibs on being the first to post about it on my blog."

Brandon, the owner of this blog, wrote these words to me in an email on May 2nd. He was referring an old, unused design for Disneyland's Haunted Mansion, a design that Sam McKim had put on paper over forty years ago. This was before Walt made his famed remark about only granting the ghosts jurisdiction over the inside, so McKim's concept offers a ramshackle, more traditionally creepy look for the attraction. The idea of modeling this vastly different version appealed to me more than I would have expected. And thus began what would become known as my "mystery project." Completing it would take nearly two months, with sporadic breaks to work on other, more conventional parts of my Disneyland model. I'm very happy to finally be able to share it now.

In re-creating this haunt that never happened, I've tried to be as accurate as possible. Whenever McKim's artwork gave me information about a part of the facility, I attempted to reproduce it faithfully. However, some parts of the concept simply aren't visible in any of the artwork I've seen. The backside of the show building isn't visible, for instance, and both sides of the mansion were problematic—the left side because of the difficulty in discerning what McKim drew there, and the right side because the house blocks the view of it altogether in the aerial illustration. In cases like these, I had to invent reasonable, realistic, consistent detail, as you'll see. I also took certain artistic license in places where it seemed really appropriate. For example, I decided to add backstage details to the side walls of the show building, though McKim's aerial view clearly shows none on that left side. The way I figure it, he was designing the onstage look, not the utilitarian behind-the-scenes elements. Given my experience in the last few years replicating real-world backstage areas, I felt like I could come up with a fairly realistic layout.

Here's an overview of the whole model. You can see the onstage facade at the near end of the structure, with the show building located behind it. Notice that the facade and show building are visibly connected aboveground, unlike the design that WED Enterprises ended up going with, which features a large berm over the underground passage between the facade and show building. Additionally, the show building in McKim's design is much smaller than the one that was later built, a fact that may be explained by original intent for this attraction to be a walkthrough. The buildings to the right and left are other parts of this version of New Orleans Square that was never built. The water off to the left is the elephant bathing pool in the Jungle Cruise.

This render shows what you'd see as you walked around the grounds. Notice the wrought iron fences and gates, quite similar to what today's New Orleans Square mansion is surrounded by. In keeping with the dilapidated visual aesthetic, though, I've ripped and twisted the iron in several spots as if something were trying to get in...or out. You can also see the guardhouse next to the main gate; guests would apparently have entered through the guardhouse, not the gate, and their tickets (or FastPasses) would be collected at that point.

Sitting on the upper veranda of a nearby building, you'd be treated to this view of the mansion. That's the exit of the attraction winding its way directly toward us, right out of those cellar doors. Guests would walk up steps out of the attraction (which would largely occur below ground level), returning to the outdoors after passing through that bulkhead. The queue is off to the left. Yes, you can see some of the ventilators on the show building roof, though those'd likely be obscured by foliage on the nearby hill.

This gives a pretty good feel for the way the facade interfaces with the show building. The much of the backstage detail you'll see is, again, from my own imagination, not McKim's, though he was kind enough to provide locations for the green ventilators on the roof. =D

I added a gate in the side yard of the mansion that leads down this backstage walkway to a service road at the back of the show building. (That service road already existed, in some form, in the early 60s.) Notice how the theming stops as it reaches areas that are no longer visible from onstage, at least not in any appreciable way.

This is a wider view of the service road behind the show building. That berm on the far right slopes down to the Jungle Cruise's elephant pool, though in real life, that scene would later be moved further south (to the left in this render). Also visible are the railroad tracks off to the left; the service road crosses the tracks just before the tracks enter New Orleans Square. The angle of the service road prevents passengers from seeing too much of the industrial-looking show building.

This is what you, as a cast member, would see after climbing the caged ladder at the back of the show building. That large, cream-colored block in the background is a placeholder for the chicken plantation restaurant, which existed in real life and was originally going to be included in New Orleans Square.

The Jungle Cruise does a pretty good job of secluding itself from the rest of the park, but it's not perfect. Much like the attraction currently allows brief, partially-obstructed views of the first Pirates show building, the catwalk above the bamboo canyon of the Indy queue, and the backside of Main Street, this version of the Haunted Mansion would have been visible from the elephant bathing pool. This is the most you'd be able to see, and that's only if you turned around as you were leaving the scene—and keep in mind that there'd be a lot of foliage to help hide this half-onstage, half-backstage view.

Here's a closer look at the attraction entrance. You would not enter through the front door on the porch, which is boarded up. Instead, you'd pass below this wrought iron arch into a very small courtyard next to the house. In there, you'd find a doorway into the house that you can't quite see in this render. What'd happen from there? Your guess is as good as mine, unless you happen to be a veteran Imagineer, in which case I'd REALLY like to hear from you! All I do know is that you'd somehow end up a good six or seven feet below ground level at least—since there are steps leading up to the exit, the show building evidently had a basement that allowed for more vertical space. It's not a very tall show building, after all.

And finally, as a reward for reading through all of this, enjoy this wallpaper image free of charge. =D It started out as a normal daytime render, but I used a variety of digital painting techniques to put the sun to sleep, create the foliage on the berms, light the lamps, age the house itself, and add a few more goodies to it.
(Note: Click the image to view the full wallpaper.)
Thanks for reading! I hope the couple of months I spent working on this will be worth it to y'all, and if not, don't worry—I'm already hard at work on the main model again. ;D (You will want to check my blog tomorrow, however, since I'll be posting renders that show my process of creating this model, starting with just a couple of gray walls and pushing it all the way to what you've just seen. Furthermore, I'll be posting all the renders of this project on my Flickr photostream, where you'll be able to see them with descriptive notes that hover over the images.)

So at this point, I would like to thank Joe for all of his hard work and making something SO awesome that gives both our viewers a better insight to the Disneyland that never was. - The Ghost Relations Dept.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok, that's awesome. I love how in the wallpaper render, the foliage even has the look of oil painting concept art...that's just too cool.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Datameister said...

Thanks, conjurdude! =D I'm glad the foliage came across well; I was hoping that it'd mesh well with the 3D elements, since it was painted two-dimensionally in Photoshop.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Wow. That has to be one of the coolest things I have seen for Disney fandom in a while. It reminds me of all the fun I had reading the E-Ticket magazine's stories about the mansion.

The wallpaper looks great as well.

Brian Kolm

1:33 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Absolutely incredible.

Thank you so much for making a model like this.

What an outstanding project...

7:29 PM  
Blogger BrainToad said...

An awesome mystery project, great work.

10:38 PM  
Blogger Trader Sam said...


10:47 PM  
Blogger Trader Sam said...

I forgot to add that I REALLY love the wallpaper! It'll go great with my Haunted Mansion system icons on my computer when I switch to them this Fall. How did you do the "Virtual Magic" text? I like how the glow reflects off of the fog.

I'm curious to see what you'll have for the Doorless Chambers event.

10:56 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Excellent work! Very much worth the wait.


8:27 AM  
Blogger Datameister said...

Thank you very, very much, guys! =) I'm so glad this wasn't a disappointment.

Trader Sam, you asked about the "Virtual Magic" text. I created a new layer filled with black and set the blending mode to Screen. Then I used my Wacom tablet to write in the letters by hand in shades of gray, using a custom brush that has sort of a cloudy look. I layered a few times so that the letters were brighter at the centers of the strokes. Then I duplicated the layer and alt-clicked the line between the two layers on the layer palette. For this duplicate, I used Gaussian Blur to add a more diffuse glow to the letters. I also painted in some tentacly sort of tendrils, as well as the areas where the fog reflects some of the light.

Up to this point, the "Virtual Magic" layers were all grayscale. But then I created a Color Balance adjustment layer (making sure it was still indented with the little arrow on the Layers palette) and played with all the sliders to get a colorized effect. This could be done with Hue and Saturation, but using Color Balance allows different brightness values to take on slightly different colors. It's more realistic and interesting.

The last step was to go in on yet another black layer set to Color Dodge and hand-paint some very blurry, faint highlights. I think I also slightly colorized this layer with Hue and Saturation just to get a subtly different effect.

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very awesome work, man. Im super impressed!!

1:37 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

When I heard Joe was working on a special project, I was excited, since I've been following his Disneyland renderings for a while now and they're spectacular.

This amazing rendering of the Haunted Mansion that never was surpassed even what I was expecting. Great job!

12:38 PM  
Blogger Haunted Mansion Collectibles said...

Fan-freaking-tastic!!! Love it. Absolutely love it.

4:29 PM  
Blogger Datameister said...

You guys rock. =) Thanks for appreciating what I'm doing!

Back to work on the inside of the Indy queue...

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really nice, Joe! Heh. You know you're hardcore when you start creating fake behind-the-scenes pictures.

I could not help but notice how well the shape of the building matches Ken Anderson's original layout for his "Ghost House":

8:46 AM  
Blogger Datameister said...

Great catch, Dan! It's definitely not the same design, but there's a strong similarity in the shapes of the show buildings—and you've given me reason to be enormously proud of myself, because Anderson put a large "service door" in exactlythe same place I did, at the center of the back of the show building. =D Woo hoo!

10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok honestly this is way too cool!!!!! you did a great job I am in Awe!!!!!

8:40 AM  

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