"Welcome, foolish mortals, to the Haunted Mansion. It's going to be a bumpy ride."
Over the weekend, Kubo and the Two Strings co-creator Shannon Tindle shared a brief pitch video for The Haunted Mansion, a potential animated series that he developed during his time at Disney Television Animation. In the clip currently making the rounds online, Black-ish star Marsai Martain's lead character provides the narration as she appears to crawl out of a ghost ship painting. And while this particular incarnation of The Haunted Mansion isn't going forward — Tindle is no longer with Disney — he gave SYFY WIRE some intel on what might have been.
Tindle's first exposure to the Haunted Mansion came when he was just 5 years old, but it "made an immediate impression." He went on to say that he immediately attempted to develop the property as a series as soon as he joined Disney's animation team.
"The Haunted Mansion has a such a specific tone, mixing funny and scary, and I wanted to echo that tone in the series," he said. "So I began with a character who would be invited to the Haunted Mansion (just like the ride) but needed to engage with the ghosts in order to deal with a very personal conflict. I love fantasy and feel that the most successful fantasy stories engage the audience with very relatable situations."
According to Tindle, Martain's character was named Annie, and the proposed show was about her emotional journey. "I don't want to get too specific, but I really wanted to show how someone deals with grief after the loss of a loved one. The main character NEEDS the Haunted Mansion in order to move on."
And what about the other "999 happy haunts" living in the mansion? Tindle and his collaborators had plenty of plans for them as well. "It was still very early, but I was very interested in the Hitchhiking Ghosts and the Hatbox Ghost," he said. "Everybody is interested in the Hatbox Ghost, because he was taken out of the ride for several years. I believe Guillermo del Toro's version featured him prominently."
He added that Disney Imagineering "was made up of an incredible team of storytellers and artists" who "gave backstories to virtually every character inside the mansion."
As part of the initial pitch, The Haunted Mansion animated series was also envisioned as a potential limited series. "I wanted the show to deal with several generations, ghosts, the living, coming into each other's lives then fading into time, like real life," recalled Tindle. "We hadn't dived deep enough to dig into the obscure characters, but we definitely would have. I was also interested in bringing in other Disney characters. Their vault is HUGE!!!"
The impressive animated pitch utilized Tindle's character design, and it was animated by Matt Williames, Sunmin Inn, and Daniel Hashimoto, with color styling by Rachelle Reyes. Tindle said that the project was in development for a little over a year, then it was carried on for a bit longer by Dave Thomas after Tindle left to write and direct another project.
Sadly, there is no completed version of the pilot episode hiding in the Disney vault. However, Tindle was quick to say that he would return "in a heartbeat!" if the renewed attention to the project sparks new life in the Haunted Mansion.